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Woman, 101, rallies unemployed

A 101-year-old former teacher was given a standing ovation after she gave an inspirational talk to a group of unemployed people about surviving difficult times.

Annie Murphy spoke for 90 minutes without notes about Nelson Mandela, the Miners' Strike and women's struggle for equal opportunities to a group in Gateshead.

She wanted to support people who are struggling to find work by sharing her experiences, having lived through war and the worst recessions of the 20th Century.

Born in 1913, her education began at Chopwell School, Gateshead, aged five, but her alcoholic father, who returned from the First World War with shell shock, wanted her at home.

She said: "When I got a place at Blaydon Grammar, aged 11, he tried to stop me going.

"He wanted me at home looking after my four little brothers and my sister, but even though it involved a five mile walk and two train journeys every day, I was determined to be educated."

In 1932 Ms Murphy embarked on a two year teacher training course and then recession struck.

"So I know what it's like when you can't find work through no fault of your own, and that's what I told them during my talk," she said.

Ms Murphy finally secured a teaching position at Coxhoe, County Durham and, as the Second World War broke out, experienced female inequality in the workplace at first hand.

"Until the war, women teachers had to give up their jobs if they got married," she said.

She met her future husband Michael in 1939, and she was only able to carry on teaching as men were needed to fight. But her pay was docked by £1 a week.

She retired aged 60 in 1973, and, having separated from her husband, lived alone until just two months ago.

She has now moved in to Addison Court Nursing Home, Crawcrook and her new life has allowed her to make the connection with the unemployed people.

"Thanks to the staff here, I've been given the chance to get out and about and meet lots of younger people and share some of what I've learned with them," she said.

The home's activities co-ordinator Deb Carter said: "Annie is just amazing.

"When she gave her talk, the audience were absolutely fascinated.

"Her memory is crystal clear and she brought events they'd only read about, to life.

"We are now hoping to line up more talks for her - she really is an inspiration."


From Belfast Telegraph