Tuesday, 21 September 2021

I’m 107, I think God must have forgotten me

A WOMAN from Mill End has celebrated her 107th birthday and is still in good health.

A WOMAN from Mill End has celebrated her 107th birthday and is still in good health.

Jean Webster, who is a great grandmother, reached the milestone on Wednesday and joked: “I must be about 300 — I think God’s forgotten about me.”

She was born in Belfast in 1906 when Edward VII was King, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was prime minister and Theodore Roosevelt was the American president.

Many members of her family worked for Harland and Wolff, the company which built the Titanic, but her parents died when she was in her twenties, leaving her to look after the rest of the family.

Mrs Webster met her husband Walter when she was on a cycling tour of Northern Ireland and they moved to his home town of Aberdeen. When he asked her to marry him, she said: “I haven’t got time!” The couple eventually married when she was 30 and moved to Dundee. They later moved to London to find work and Mrs Webster became a cook and cleaner.

The couple had one child, Maureen, who was born in London. Walter died in a motorbike accident in 1973.

Mrs Webster, who had six brothers and one sister, has lived in Mill End with her daughter Maureen Cleary, 74, and son-in-law Jim, 76, for the past 12 years.

Mr Cleary said: “Just think, in her 107 years she has survived the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, two world wars and the Great Depression of the Twenties and Thirties and was around when Ford’s first Model T was built and lived to see men walking on the moon, women win the vote and the electronic revolution.

“She is in remarkable shape for her age. A doctor examined her earlier this year and could find nothing whatsoever wrong with her. There was no problem with blood pressure or anything, which isn’t bad for a 107-year-old.”

Mr Cleary said Mrs Webster had been active throughout her life.

He said: “When she was 100 we hired the New Orleans and took 100 guests down the river. She was doing Irish dancing with her grandchildren and great grandchildren and was full of life.

“She used to play the piano by ear and was good at badminton. She attributes her long life and good health to hard work and will tell anyone who asks — and some that don’t — how hard it was, particularly as a young girl, in Belfast. When I first met her she had a very strong Belfast accent but she’s lost that over the years.”

Mrs Cleary said: “She’s been a very good mother and used to let me do whatever I liked. We used to go Scottish dancing together and played practical jokes on each other.”

Ms Webster was joined by her family on Good Friday to celebrate her birthday. Her grandson Andrew, 48, and his family came back from Spain, where he works as an English language teacher.

Her granddaughter Ellen Leith, from Sonning Common, said: “She said, ‘never go to bed on the same day you get up’.

“She was always busy and never really stopped. Her sister Sadie lived to 92 but her brothers all passed away in their fifties and sixties.”

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