February 8, 2011
To songs from an African gospel choir, philanthropist Dame Elisabeth Murdoch has celebrated her 102nd birthday in Melbourne.
The mother of media titan Rupert Murdoch, a wheelchair-bound Dame Elisabeth was greeted by about 500 guests including Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and some of her children and grandchildren, although her famous son was absent.
Daughter Anne Kantor recalled a recent conversation where her mother discussed ageing.
“She said `it is very tiring to be so old, but I do love living’,” Ms Kantor told those gathered at the Melbourne Recital Centre, which was opened two year’s earlier, on Dame Elisabeth’s 100th birthday.
In a pre-recorded video address to the crowd Dame Elisabeth thanked those in attendance.
“Music has been a source of enlightenment, comfort and great enjoyment throughout my life,” Dame Elisabeth said.
Dame Elisabeth plunged a knife into a birthday cake that was topped by fresh yellow roses and a single sparkler and the Soweto Gospel Choir sang Happy Birthday.
The 102-year-old dame was dressed in a decorated dark blue dress, with red lipstick and had her hair pulled back into a bun.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard sent her best wishes.
“Dame Elisabeth, you are a wise and wonderful woman who has won a place of affection in our community across decades and generations,” the prime minister said in an address read out on her behalf.
“We recognise in you a rare grace and happiness of spirit borne out of great humility and character,” it said.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu paid homage to Dame Elisabeth as a “great guardian of the state” and one of his mother’s best friends.
“She can still wield the knife … It made me frightened,” Mr Baillieu said, referring to the enthusiastic way Dame Elisabeth cut her birthday cake.
“I just think she is the most wonderful woman. She is attentive, she is knowledgeable, she is passionate and involved,” Mr Baillieu said.
Dame Elisabeth reportedly supports morethan 100 charities annually.