Independent Online

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by locationView market indicators

'I gave birth at 60'

Published Sep 15, 2006


By Gemma O'Doherty

When strangers see Liz Buttle and her little boy together near their home in rural Kerry in Ireland, they usually assume she is his ageing grandmother. Their mistake doesn't bother her.

Story continues below Advertisement

Britain's oldest mother moved to Ireland recently to get away from the raised eyebrows and hushed whispers that had become part of her daily life back home.

Today, the 70-year-old hill farmer from Wales is quietly raising her nine-year-old son Joe in an idyllic country setting, and, for the most part, is enjoying the anonymity she craves.

But when it was announced that another woman, a 63-year-old child psychiatrist from London, is to take her place in the record books, Liz Buttle became the subject of another media frenzy as journalists from around the world tried to track her down.

Story continues below Advertisement

Flashy cars carrying paparazzi scoured the quiet lanes near her remote home desperate to reveal her location and way of life.

At times like these, the reclusive pensioner, whose typical attire is a woolly jumper, leggings and a pair of Wellington boots, goes into hiding.

Although her story could make her a rich woman - she was recently offered a five-figure sum just to stand in front of a TV camera for 20 seconds - she says that money is not her God.

Story continues below Advertisement

In 1997, Elizabeth Buttle made headlines around the world when she gave birth to a baby boy at the age of 60. The grandmother of three earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the longest interval between two births. She had her first child, Belinda, in 1956, then 41 years later, delivered her son Joe.

At the time, the controversial mother caused outrage when it was revealed that she had lied about her age in order to receive fertility treatment at the London Fertility Centre.

Buttle told doctors at the Harley Street Clinic that she was 49 when she went for treatment, when in fact she was ten years older.

Story continues below Advertisement

It is also alleged that she gave doctors incorrect information about her daughter's real age and the date that her husband died.

Buttle had been widowed several years earlier when her husband died of a heart attack. She had started a new relationship and was desperate to have another baby.

Joe's father, her then boyfriend, returned to his wife when their story made international headlines around the world.

At the time, Buttle claimed she had no choice but to "tell little white lies in order to get treatment." She said she was "fitter and more energetic" than a woman half her age.

Today, Buttle says she has no regrets about the choices she made almost a decade ago. In four years' time, her son will be a teenager and she will be half way through her 70s, but the bond between them is believed to be strong.

When Liz returns to her isolated farmhouse in Cwmann, Wales to check on horses she still keeps on her 120-acre farm, Joe is cared for by one of her grandchildren, his 25-year-old nephew, who also lives in the south of Ireland.

Mike Lewis, a Welsh journalist who recently interviewed Buttle during a recent visit to west Wales, describes her life in Ireland as "fairly primitive."

"Stepping into her life is a bit like stepping back in time. Her farmhouse is rundown and pretty basic but that is the way she wants it. That's why she loves rural Ireland so much, because it is a bit like going back in time."

Liz moved to Ireland to get away from what she calls "the totally unjustified" press intrusion in Britain.

"Now she just loves it there," says a close friend. "She doesn't miss the cold and damp of mid-Wales or the heavy traffic that thunders past her home. She has found peace and quiet in Ireland and people just leave her alone. At one point, she considered moving to Portugal but decided such a move would be too drastic. She decided on Ireland because she has Irish blood."

Despite her remote location, Buttle is still tracked down by British reporters from time to time.

"She was out driving one day when she noticed she was being followed by a big red Mercedes with English number plates," says her friend.

"She was laughing over the fact that a car like that stood out like a sore thumb in the Irish countryside. Anyway, Liz put her foot down and gave them the slip. That part of Ireland is full of little back lanes where you can hide.

"What Liz loves most about Ireland is there are fewer people and life is so much more laid back. But she says the only downside is that Irish bread is so awful."

After the birth of her son almost ten years ago, Liz Buttle could not understand what all the fuss was about.

"I don't consider myself too old and I don't worry about the age gap between Joe and me. No one asks any questions if it is an older father," she said.


She has been called selfish, grotesque and cruel to her unborn child, but Britain's oldest mother-to-be, Patricia Rashbrook, is the envy of a growing number of Irish women in their 50s desperate to be parents.

According to one of Britain's most controversial fertility hospitals, the London Fertility Centre, where grandmother Liz Buttle received treatment, at least four Irish women over 50 have travelled from this country seeking egg donation and IVF at the clinic in the last three years.

The clinic would not confirm if the treatment had been a success.

Most Irish IVF clinics have a cut-off age of 45 for fertility treatment, though they are increasingly approached by women, some as old as 55, who have lost their chance to conceive naturally but want nothing more than to have a child.

A fertility centre in Kilkenny this week confirmed that it has referred a number of women over 50 abroad to hospitals in Britain, Cyprus and Finland. In the near future, a Clare woman treated at the clinic will give birth to twins at the age of 50.

"We see more and more women in their early 50s who want to have a baby," says Dr Martine Millett-Johnston, consultant gynaecologist and medical director of the Kilkenny Clinic.

"They have either put off pregnancy to build a career and financial security or are separated and have met a new partner. Sometimes, they are single women hoping to meet Mr Right but he never seems to come along.

"Our cut-off point for fertility treatment is 49 but we see some women in their 50s who could run a marathon and have an excellent ovarian reserve. It's very hard to turn them away.

“In past generations, women gave birth naturally into their early 50s but stress, smoking, drinking and our modern lifestyle has reduced fertility in countries like ours.

"In all of this, the welfare of the child has to be paramount but every woman should be judged individually according to their health and not their age. If you have a very fit 50-year-old giving birth now, there is no reason why by the age of 80, when her child is 30, she wouldn't still be healthy and active and able to drive a car. Maybe we just need to change our attitudes to age."

The oldest woman in the world to give birth is thought to be Adriana Iliescu, a retired Romanian professor, who had a daughter in January at the age of 66.

Related Topics: