You will hear several people at Merlin Park Care Home in Alverstoke laugh about Peggy Dineen being the Queen of the home.
But as she celebrated her 100th birthday on 23rd December, Merlin Park resident Peggy really was treated like royalty by her friends, family, carers and guest of honour, Gosport Mayor Lynn Hook.
‘It’s so wonderful to celebrate with all of the family, because I’ve always kept them very close together’, says the birthday girl, with a celebratory glass of her favourite drink, Famous Grouse whisky, in hand
‘I’ve got a wonderful family, and I really am proud of them all.’
Peggy was born in 1916 in Bemisters Lane, Gosport, to a greengrocer father and a shopkeeper mother.
As a young woman, she moved to London to take up work as a servant to Lady McMahon. It was there that many family members say that Peggy had ‘learned just how to be a lady’.
Peggy explains: ‘When you’re a servant, you obviously work but as you work you’ve also got to kick out the odd bits for yourself. It was a good start in life.’
While she was in London, Peggy met Michael Dineen, who was serving in the Royal Engineers.
They married in 1937, and went on to have four children - Anne Joan, Jane, Michael and Peter.
There were plenty of other relatives that filled the home to celebrate Peggy’s milestone birthday, including her 10 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and even five great-great-grandchildren.
One of Peggy’s granddaughters, Julie Couzens, says that her grandmother is ‘an absolute inspiration’ to this day.
She says: ‘I think she’s amazing, she’s always full of life, and she’s a very determined lady.’
While Michael endured a 17-month stint in hospital following injuries sustained in the Battle of Dunkirk, Peggy and her children were bombed out of their home on Church Path, Gosport.
Michael eventually returned from Liverpool Hospital, after having to have his leg amputated.
‘Mum was often seen by people pushing my father around town in his wheelchair’, says her youngest child Peter, 73.
When Michael died in 1999, Peggy turned her attention to founding the Elson Older Peoples Group, opening up social opportunities for fellow pensioners.
She lived alone at her home in Elson until she was 98, before moving into Merlin Park Care Home, Alverstoke, where her younger sister, Joyce Vivash, also lives.
‘Even after she’s moved into the home, she still shows her absolutely indomitable spirit’, smiles Peter.
‘She really is the Queen of Merlin Park’, laughs Candice Farmer, who works as an adminstrator at the care home. ‘She’s a lady even at 100 years old!’
‘My mother worked very hard in her shop, and we had good food’, says Peggy, when asked what the real secret is to her longevity.
‘You’ve just got to keep going in life. If you’ve got a job, you’ve just got to keep at it.’