Elizabeth Burgess

May 2010

A 107 year old woman who spent forty years living in Doonbeg has passed away at a Dublin nursing home where she was placed by the Simon Community. Elizabeth, known as Daisy, Burgess died last week in St Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park where she spent the last ten years of her life. Ms Burgess was born in Calcutta where her parents were missionaries and was sent home to England for her schooling. She traveled and lived in Germany for a time but left when World War two began.  After that she came to Clare and made her home in Doonbeg for many years.


Elizabeth ‘Daisy’ Burgess: A year before she died Daisy expressed the wish to return to England before she got too old; she was then 106.

She died a year later at the great age of 107. One of the social workers who knew her described her as the original hippy and this is fairly accurate. Daisy never settled down and led a most remarkable and unconventional life.

Elizabeth Burgess, who was called Daisy by those who knew her, was born in 1902 and spent her early childhood in India where her father was a non-conformist minister with The London Mission Society. When she was 10, she was sent, with her eight-year-old sister, to boarding school in England. The girls didn’t see their parents again for nine years.

After Milton Mount school, Daisy studied languages at university before embarking on her travels. She spent some time in Paris before moving to Germany where she worked for a time.

Unhappy about the political climate there she left Germany in the 1930s and returned to England for a while before moving to Ireland shortly before the outbreak of the second World War.

Daisy spent the next 40 years in the west of Ireland, travelling the roads and sleeping anywhere she could find to rest her head. A nurse in St Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, where Daisy spent her final 10 years, remembered her sleeping in her father’s hay-barn in Co Clare. There were suspicions that she was a German spy, due to the stamp on her passport, but it was decided that no German spy would live like that.

She fell foul of the law on one occasion and found herself before a judge for selling cigarettes. The cigarettes, she explained to the judge, were “roll-ups” made by herself and so not strictly speaking covered by the appropriate law. “I got off on a technicality!” she was proud to say.

About 30 years ago, Daisy moved to Dublin where she lived in a number of hostels. On arrival at one of the hostels where she had stayed before she asked in her loud upper-class English accent, “is nobody going to help me with my bags?” She then demanded her usual room. It was as if she was in the Shelbourne!

When she was 97, social services felt she should move into St Mary’s Hospital and she finished her days there. She never touched alcohol; milk was her drink and she would leave a glass a number of days before drinking it – she believed this kept her healthy. She ate fruit so over-ripe that others would describe it as rotten; but she never had any medication and remained healthy throughout her life.

Despite her parents’ missionary zeal, she was not religious and her death was followed by a Humanist funeral in St Mary’s attended by Simon Community staff and others who had known her. She was buried in Mount Jerome.

Violin music was played in recognition of the fact that Daisy had won a prize at school for her playing… all those years ago before her adventures began.