Fareham’s 100-year-old who vows to ‘keep going’ 

Lillian Hurley celebrates her 100th birthday with her son and daughter, John Hurley and Sandra Maker.
Lillian Hurley celebrates her 100th birthday with her son and daughter, John Hurley and Sandra Maker.

‘It doesn’t feel any different really. People keep saying I don’t look 100,’ she laughs, with balloons and flowers surrounding her and the Queen’s telegram on her lap.

And even after a day of celebrations, Lillian Hurley of Fareham still couldn’t get her head around it.

Lillian, left, and her husband John 'Vic' Hurley. John is in the Canadian army uniform and Lillian in the WAAF's.

Lillian, left, and her husband John 'Vic' Hurley. John is in the Canadian army uniform and Lillian in the WAAF's.

‘I sort of wondered if I would reach 100, but never thought it would actually happen.’

But sitting in her chair, Lillian talks me through her life, insisting ‘you just have to keep going’.

Born on October 21, 1918, Lillian nee Malyon was one of six – with three sisters and two brothers. Surrounded by her siblings and an abundance of farm animals, Lillian fondly remembers growing up at Red Barn Farm in Portchester.

‘My parents were farmers and that’s where I grew up. I loved animals and wildlife,’ she explains.

Lillian Hurley on her wedding day in 1940.

Lillian Hurley on her wedding day in 1940.

After finishing school, Lillian started her working life as a domestic servant before she fell in love with a Canadian soldier.

Lillian met Private Victor John Hurley of the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps when he came over to Fareham during the Second World War.

The couple clicked straight away and fell deeply in love. And it wasn’t long before they got married at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Fareham, in 1940.

‘I was so nervous when I got married,’ laughs Lillian.

‘And we went on a short honeymoon to the Isle of Wight afterwards.’

With Victor’s Canadian roots, the couple planned to return to his hometown of Niagara Falls. In 1943 their first son, John, arrived and they finally left Fareham when the war ended in 1945.

‘The war was on so we couldn’t go to Canada for some time – Vic was involved in the invasion of Sicily,’ explains Lillian.

‘My dad didn’t see me for 18 months,’ says Lillian’s son John, 75, who lives in Lee-on-the-Solent.

‘Dad came back from the war and then we all went to Canada with him.’

But while her husband was away, Lillian kept herself busy by joining the WAAF’s – which she says was ‘the best time of her life’.

‘I made a lot of friends when I was there too.’

After years of planning, the Hurley family moved to Niagara Falls, Canada, and spent four years there.

‘I spent a lot of time at Niagara Falls,’ explains Lillian. ‘I liked it to a certain extent but I did miss home.’

John adds: ‘I grew up there when I was a young lad but don’t remember that much because I was little.

In 1948, Vic and Lillian welcomed their daughter Sandra into the world. They moved to Burridge before settling in Fareham a few miles away, where Vic worked in Gibbons Foundry.

And as John and Sandra grew up and eventually moved away, Vic and Lillian enjoyed walking and gardening together at home.

When Vic died in 1997, great-grandmother Lillian lived in a flat in Fareham before moving into Farehaven Lodge three years ago.

‘I still look after and do most things myself,’ shrugs Lillian. ‘You have to keep moving.’

And to celebrate such a milestone, Lillian’s daughter Sandra organised a tea party on Lillian’s birthday. Surrounded by her friends and family at Farehaven Lodge, Lillian enjoyed showing off her telegram from the Queen and eating some delicious cake. 

‘She’s marvellous for her age. She’s the first one in the family to reach 100, aren’t you?,’ says Sandra, smiling at her mother while she nods.

John quips: ‘We don’t know what has made her reach 100, but we’re very proud that she has.’