Rudgwick woman who ‘never gives up’ celebrates 100th birthday

Kathleen Shaw cuts her cake at her 100th birthday party
Kathleen Shaw cuts her cake at her 100th birthday party

Chocolate, red wine and ‘never giving up’ is what one Rudgwick woman who turned 100 last week believes are the reasons behind her longevity.

Kathleen Shaw, who was one when the First World War broke out, was joined by over 130 friends and family at her birthday celebration on Sunday, August 4, at Rudgwick Village Hall.

“I had a wonderful party,” said Mrs Shaw. “Most of my relations had flown thousands of miles to get here, from New York and South Africa. It was delightful, I can’t really explain how I felt.”

Born on Augutst 4, 1913, in Hanwell, West London, Mrs Shaw worked at the AEC Builders of London’s Buses as a secretary to the chief engineer but, as was custom then, she had to give up her job when she married Mr Clifford Symons Shaw in 1934.

“I had to find something to fill my time, so I took up tailoring classes and made my husband a grey pin striped suit. He was very proud of that suit and wore it for years, until eventually the moths got it.

Together Clifford and Kathleen had three children, Mary, Christopher and Jane - also known as Natalie, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

“I had a wonderful husband and I don’t know what I would have done without him,” she continued. “He was wonderful in every way.”

Eldest Mary, who is now 73, was born in 1940 at the beginning of the war which Mrs Shaw describes as ‘a depressing time’ due to the blackout.

“We lived in Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire at the time and my husband was in a reserved occupation because he was in charge of the steel foundry who were making shells,” she recalled.

“The steel foundry was running day and night and quite often the Air Aid Warden would come and tell my husband that there was a lot of light showing and could he come and do something about it because of the enemy planes going over.

“The night that Coventry was so badly bombed we heard the planes going overhead all night,” she added.

In 1976, Clifford retired and so they moved to Rudgwick where their youngest daughter was residing and is where she remains after Clifford sadly died.

“In November 1993 my life changed when my lovely husband died. He was in Crawley Hospital and my good friend Ernest Grinsted used to take me to visit him. Ernest then sadly lost his wife, Molly.”

Ernest used to go to Mrs Shaw’s house for all his meals and he was able to drive her around in his car as a way to help each other through the difficult time.

“But then things changed again and sadly Ernest died,” continued Mrs Shaw. “I was on my own again and I was very grateful to have all my friends from the WI [Women’s Institute] and the Friendly Club.”

At the birthday celebration, old photographs of Mrs Shaw were displayed on a television, she took along her framed card from the Queen and made a speech.

She also raised around £1000 through donations to thank the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) after having operations in both her eyes when she lost her top peripheral vision at the age of 75.

“Without this I would be blind and wouldn’t be able to live alone, so I have a lot to thank the IGA for,” she said. “Donations are still coming in and it’s a lovely feeling and I’m sure the IGA will be delighted to hear about it.”

Now still very much active, Mrs Shaw enjoys playing Scrabble on her computer, is a member of the Women’s Institutes and continues to bake cakes every week.

“One hundred years is a long time and full of so many memories,” she said. “The Queen Mother was born on August 4, 1900, just 13 years older than me, and I am 13 years older than the present Queen.

“You’ve got to be active and you must never give up. If I said I’ll go out, I won’t let anyone down - I’ll go even if it kills me sort of thing. And that’s good, it stops you from giving in with that attitude.”

And she still continues to enjoy her chocolate and red wine.

“You know people talk about eating chocolate, well I love chocolate but I do realise you must only eat it in moderation, and I like red wine there again,” she explained.

“My mother years ago used to say if I could stop at one glass, I wouldn’t drink at all and I thought that was a very good principle.

“But it doesn’t mean to say I don’t have more than one glass and then it depends on the size of it of course.”