101st birthday: Elsie Eireen Hubble

Elsie in Northumberland in 2006
Elsie in Northumberland in 2006
From left, Phil Shulman, Derek Shulman, Tony Ransley, Kerry Minnear, Ray Shulman at the induction of Gentle Giant into the Guildhall's Wall of Fame

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She’s spent her life embarking on adventures and putting other people first – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Elsie Eireen Hubble celebrated 101 years of age last month, and is described by family as ‘a sharp, strong-willed and caring lady’.

The centenarian, who lives at Carleen Nursing Home in Fareham, had a picnic with her family at Portchester Castle to mark the occasion.

‘It was a lovely day,’ says Elsie. ‘We had a great time being outside with the kids.’

Even at the age of 101, this was light work for the Lancing-born lady, who has seen and done it all.

Elsie Langford was born in 1915 and lived with her mother, father and two sisters near Lancing railway station in West Sussex.

She has memories of visiting North End in Portsmouth with her grandparents when she was a little girl.

In 1935, when she was 20, Elsie was crowned May Queen by the public in Lancing.

‘We had a big carnival in the area that was organised by the council,’ says Elsie.

‘It was a bit like a competition, there were several of us and we had to walk across a stage. I was chosen by the public to be May Queen.’

Four years after receiving her crown and just after the start of the Second World War, Elsie married Scoutmaster and coachbuilder Ronald Hubble, after meeting him at a Scouts dinner dance.

The couple married at St James the Less Church in Lancing and went on to have two sons, Trevor, 70 and Ian, who died last year aged 75.

‘I remember the first bomb at the beginning of the war,’ says Elsie.

‘We didn’t have air raids. Ronald and I were asleep one night and all of a sudden I woke up to see flames in my wardrobe mirror.

‘A bomb had fallen at the foot of the South Downs. It blew down our wall and part of it was on the ceiling.

‘We could’ve been killed.’

Elsie, who has six grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild, emigrated to South Africa with her husband and two sons in 1953, settling near Johannesburg.

Elsie’s son, Trevor, says: ‘We did a lot of travelling in South Africa.

‘One of the first trips we took was to Cape Town. There were four of us in a Renault with an engine in the back.’

‘Mum’s very adventurous. Once she went to Zimbabwe and paddled across the top of the Victoria Falls in a canoe.’

In the UK and in South Africa, Elsie devoted her time to a number of different churches and organisations, such as St John Ambulance.

‘I used to spend a lot of time at the vicarage in Lancing and I helped out with the church fete every year,’ says Elsie.

‘The church has been a big part of my life.

‘I love knitting and embroidery, I used to make blankets for orphaned children and clothes for nativity plays.’

After Ronald died in 1981, Elsie became a house mistress at St Andrew’s School for Girls in Johannesburg, where she remained for 10 years.

‘It was beautiful. I really enjoyed it there,’ says Elsie

‘When I was 75 they said “don’t you think it’s time you retired?”

‘They didn’t want to get rid of me but they said they thought I deserved a little bit of time to myself.’

As well as being involved in lots of different projects, Elsie is also a lady who stands up for what she believes in.

Trevor’s wife Samia speaks of an incident at a supermarket in 1980s South Africa that she will never forget.

‘During the apartheid era Trevor and I were considered mixed-marriage and that wasn’t accepted.

‘I was at the supermarket and in those days if you were non-white and in the line you stood at the back. If you were white you stood at the front, and you could also jump the queue.

‘A white woman jumped in front of me and Elsie said, “Don’t think because you are white you can jump the line in front of my daughter-in-law. Get to the back.”

‘I will never forget what Elsie did for me. She is sharp, strong-willed and caring.’

Elsie was living with Ian when he died and had to return to the UK afterwards.

She now lives near to Trevor and Samia, who also live in Fareham.

‘I’ve been in very good health over the years,’ says Elsie. ‘I never thought I’d be here at this age but, who knows, maybe I’ll reach 102.

‘I’ve had a wonderful life.’