100th BIRTHDAY: You can’t stop Marge hitting the dance floor 

100-year-old Marge Dunaway celebrates her birthday at the Royal Beach Hotel surrounded by family and friends
100-year-old Marge Dunaway celebrates her birthday at the Royal Beach Hotel surrounded by family and friends
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Within seconds of strolling into a party packed with her family and friends, the birthday girl unknowingly makes herself the centre of attention. 

On cue as joyful tunes begin to play, Margaret Dunaway leaps out of the chair her loved ones have positioned at the head of a table adorned with cards and cake. 

Marge Dunaway celebrates her 100th birthday with five generations of her family - Lyra one, Charlie Elkins, Eithne Widly, Helen Dowdle, Margaret Rand and Ena Elkins

Marge Dunaway celebrates her 100th birthday with five generations of her family - Lyra one, Charlie Elkins, Eithne Widly, Helen Dowdle, Margaret Rand and Ena Elkins

She enjoys a gleeful jive, dancing as if nobody is watching, wears a smile as wide as her face allows and throws caution to the fact the party at hand is in celebration of her 100th birthday. 

The scores of people soaking up the atmosphere around her at the Royal Beach Hotel in Southsea, she says during a subsequent sit-down to catch her breath, have been the recipe for her impressive, long life. 

‘I love each and every one of them,’ Margaret says. 

‘Today is all about the company and I really look forward to times like this. 

Marge on her wedding day in June 1938

Marge on her wedding day in June 1938

‘I honestly believe these people are what keeps me going.’

As a mother to five sons and two daughters, company is not something Margaret – who is known as Marge to friends – has been particularly short of throughout her long, happy life. 

Even now, returning the favour for years of parental love and care, her two daughters check up on her regularly in Southsea.

Despite her advanced years, Marge chooses to reside independently at the property in which she’s lived for more than 20 years. 

Charlie Elkins dancing with  great-grandmother Marge Dunaway on her 100th birthday

Charlie Elkins dancing with great-grandmother Marge Dunaway on her 100th birthday

Eldest child Ena Elkins said it’s been glorious to have her as a mother. 

‘Mum’s had a crazy life. But she’s always been lovely to us, we’ve had great fun together and it’s fair to say we’ve been good friends,’ the 77-year-old explained. 

‘She’s been looking forward to this day because she actually thought Her Majesty the Queen was going to be here, bless her. 

‘She does have a card from the Queen, but we’ve had to tell her she had other commitments so she couldn’t be here.’ 

Something of a centrepiece at the celebration, revellers got the chance to dive into a century of Marge’s memories through a collection of nostalgic photographs. 

Aged just 14 she joined the Naafi. Shortly afterwards she ended up meeting Joseph, her late husband and the father of her children.

She admits he captured her attention as a strapping young butcher.

Handsome Joseph went on to earn the British Empire Medal as a courageous firefighter. 

Fascinating as these elements are, there were even more tales – some comedic – to be unearthed among the chatter. 

‘She actually had herself a job at a sausage factory at one point,’ Pat Andrew, 72, said. 

‘But, hilariously, I think she got the sack after there was a problem because she kept putting the sausages in the wrong way. 

‘I’ve known Marge for more than 40 years but that still makes me laugh today. She’s lived an eventful life, that’s for sure.’ 

One of the party’s organisers, Pat met Marge when she helped launch the famous tea dances at South Parade Pier, which after 40 years moved on to the Royal Beach. 

This brand of boogie, Marge explained, was one of her favourite pastimes during years more agile. 

‘I used to love to keep active. Dancing was my absolute favourite but I enjoyed swimming in the sea at Southsea too. 

‘Of course I don’t do it now, but it was very liberating – especially when you were part of a crowd.’ 

It’s this get-up-and-go attitude, Pat says, that has forged Marge’s reputation as a ‘far from average 100-year-old’. 

And with any luck, her loved ones joke, the same will be said when she turns 101 in 12 months’ time. 

All pictures from Marge’s party by Habibur Rahman.