Belfast Telegraph

Cake and candles as Jean makes it to ripe old age of 109

By Rebecca Black

Belfast's oldest daughter has celebrated her 109th birthday with a slice of cake and a singalong.

The suffragettes were disrupting the state opening of Parliament in the year Jean Webster was born.

She has lived through two world wars, the great depression, five monarchs and no fewer than 21 Prime Ministers.

Edward VII was on the throne and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was Prime Minister at the time of her birth on April 17, 1906.

Her daughter Maureen Clearly put her mother's long life down to "taking everything in her stride".

"She has always been content no matter how hard her life has been, and her life has been hard at times," she told the Belfast Telegraph as the family celebrated their matriarch's birthday at Acacia Lodge Care Home in Henley, Oxfordshire.

"She doesn't drink, she doesn't smoke and doesn't do keep fit - they didn't in those days, just worked."

Mrs Webster received her telegram from the Queen at 100 and another at 105.

At 106, officials started to wonder whether she was real.

Mrs Clearly revealed they received a visit to double check.

"I got these two visitors from Buckingham Palace just to make sure my mother really existed," she said.

"Because we never claimed for anything, she was never on any register about being ill because she has never been to the doctor or anything like that. She has never been ill in her life apart from having the Spanish flu just after the First World War. So they couldn't find any records of her at all.

"So the next birthday we got a telegram from Iain Duncan Smith, the Pensions Minister."

Mrs Webster was widowed at the age of 70 when her husband Walter was killed in a motorcycle accident. However, she lived independently in her own home in Ramsgate in Kent until she was 95. She then lived with her daughter's family for the next 13 years before going into a nursing home.

The 109-year-old is believed to be the oldest living person from Northern Ireland.

She grew up on Glencairn Street off the Ballygomartin Road in north Belfast as one of seven siblings. Her father worked as a riveter for Harland and Wolff, including on the Titanic.

She worked in the mills until she met her husband while he was on a cycling tour of Ireland.

However, because her parents died young, she remained at home looking at her siblings until she was 30.

The pair then moved to his native Aberdeen. They later moved to Dundee, and eventually London in search of work during the economic downturn of the 1930s and it was in the nation's capital that they settled and had their only child Maureen.

Holidays were rare in those days but the happy-go-lucky pair toured both the UK and the continent on his Panther motorbike and sidecar.

Mrs Clearly said her mother worked hard her whole life from the mills in Belfast to the Jute factory in Dundee and later canteens in London. "My mother only liked work, housework and washing, that's what she was happy doing," she said.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph