Portsmouth's Kathleen Richards celebrates her 105th birthday

With a huge smile upon her face, Kathleen Richards recalls fond memories as she celebrates her 105th birthday with her closest family.

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 11:53 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 11:56 am
Kathleen Richards celebrates her 105th birthday with her family and staff at Beechcroft Manor Nursing Home in Gosport. Picture: Ian Hargreaves

Born on March 16, 1914, in the Military Families Hospital, Portsea, Kathleen, nee Harrison, was one of four children. Her parents Reginald and Kathleen lived in Portsmouth and that is where the Harrison family grew up.

‘She was known as Kat so they didn’t get confused,’ laughs Kathleen’s daughter Shirley, 84, from Fareham.

Kathleen attended school in Stamshaw before landing her first job at a children’s outfitters called Will Brown Ltd in North End. She also worked at QA when it was a military hospital, explains Shirley, and working in medicine was a family trait.

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From left: daughter Shirley Davies, great-granddaughter Leah Wood, granddaughter Karen Wood, with great-grandaughter Darian Wood, and great great grandson Kai Reynolds. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (160319-5)

‘Being part of the Army and the Royal Medical Corp ran in our family,’ says Shirley. ‘My father, uncle and grandad were all part of it too.’

When she was around 20 years old, Kathleen met the love of her life, Frederick Richards.

‘My father and Kathleen’s eldest brother were pals so they met through that. They married in January 1934 and I was born in the December. My brother Michael was born in 1937,’ says Shirley.

‘Because my father was in the Army, they were all over the place – you name it, they were there.’

Kathleen in her younger days.

As part of the assisted passage scheme, Kathleen had the opportunity to join her husband in Hong Kong with their young family while he was out there in the Second World War.

‘I was about three years old,’ explains Shirley. ‘Soon the Japanese had bases in Hong Kong so we moved to the Philippines and then down to Australia in 1940.’

The Richards lived in Sydney for a few months before they moved further out into New South Wales because the Japanese were getting closer during the Second World War.

Sadly, Kathleen was widowed in 1942 when Frederick was working on a ship that was bombed and soon she decided to return to Portsmouth.  

Kathleen with staff member Gemma Nolan at Beechcroft Manor Nursing Home in Gosport. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (160319-2)

Kathleen and her two young children arrived back in Britain and moved to Southsea to be close to her parents.

‘She did all sorts of jobs to make sure our family was fine,’ explains Kathleen. ‘She was a dinner lady for a while, a shop assistant and a house-keeper.’

Kathleen, Shirley and Michael moved to Hilsea where she stayed until 2000 when she moved to Fareham. Sadly, Michael died of cancer in 1991.

Today, Kathleen lives at Beechcroft Manor, Gosport, but lived independently until she was 102.

Kathleen with her daughter Shirley Davies. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (160319-4)

Celebrating her special birthday with her was Shirley, her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren and the care home staff.

‘She thoroughly enjoyed it and loved her telegram from the Queen,’ Shirley remarks.

Although it may partially be down to ‘good genes’, Shirley says her 105-year-old mother is a ‘positive person who is very determined’.

‘She managed to travel around the world with two kids in tow,’ says Shirey, ‘and that takes determination.

‘She’s a very strong character. I’m very proud and it’s amazing for her.’