Milestone for Babs and Charles Dickens

Babs Austin celebrating her 100th birthday at the Clarendon Rest Home in Southsea with care assistant Olivia Greenham.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (110010-2)

Babs Austin celebrating her 100th birthday at the Clarendon Rest Home in Southsea with care assistant Olivia Greenham. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (110010-2)

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She’s dedicated years of her life to the work of Charles Dickens – now Babs Austin has something extra special in common with the great writer.

As Dickens fans across the world get ready to mark the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth next month, Babs is still celebrating after passing a milestone of her own.

For while one of Portsmouth’s most famous sons was born in 1812, Babs came along 100 years later and soon became a fan.

She’s just celebrated her 100th birthday and marked the occasion surrounded by family and friends.

Nephew John Cobbett says: ‘She loves Dickens, she always has. She joined the Dickens Fellowship and she even became the secretary.

‘She travelled all over the place with the Fellowship and she gave talks in London.

‘She has this great love of Dickens. It’s been a real priority for her.’

Fifteen guests joined Babs for the party at the Clarendon Rest Home in Southsea. As well as a cake, she was delighted to receive a card from the Queen.

Babs didn’t have children of her own but has been close to John and his family for all their lives.

She grew up in the Plymouth area and her real name is actually Ethel.

But as the youngest of four children she was known as the baby of the family and given the nickname ‘Babs’.

Babs moved to Portsmouth with her family around 80 years ago and has been in the city ever since.

Now a widow, she’s lived at the rest home for the last two years.

A representative from the Dickens Fellowship helped her celebrate her birthday and her family describe her as a ‘wonderful lady’.

‘She was always on the go and very meticulous,’ adds John. ‘She kept all her accounts in order for everything she ever spent. She loved caravanning and was a member of the Caravan Club.

‘She went all over the place in her caravan.’

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