Thursday, 23 May 2024
Thursday, 23 May 2024

Sun, exercise and musical-loving resident enjoys a 95th birthday to remember

At Orford House, the Coulsdon-based residential care home run by charity Friends of the Elderly, physical exercise and musical-loving resident, Irene Wilson, has been celebrating her 95th birthday in true ‘Show-woman’ style.

Irene, who grew up in Brixton and Tulse Hill in South East London, has been a resident at Orford House since November 2018. As a child, Irene attended The Effra School which opened in 1879 as The Effra Parade School and changed its name to The Effra School in 1937.

During her school years, Irene – whose nickname was, and still is Reeney – loved English and Religious Education lessons and also the Typing classes. At the age of 14, Irene left school and went to work as a Typist for an organisation in St. James’s Park, London. Then, during World War II, Irene joined the WRAF as a Signals Officer and was posted to The Rosyth Dockyard, a large naval dockyard on the Firth of Forth at Rosyth, Fife in Scotland.

Situated on the north side of the Firth of Forth, Rosyth Dockyard was first built as a naval base for World War I battleships but was also used as a base during World War II. After World War II, the base was redeveloped to refit and maintain conventional and nuclear submarines. Projects at the dockyard include the assembling of aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

Irene met her sweetheart and Husband, Alex, during her time in Scotland with the WRAFs when their eyes met across the dance floor at the original ‘Kinema Ballroom’. Dunfermline’s first-ever purpose-built dance hall.

The happy couple tied the knot at St Trinity Church in Tulse Hill, but Scotland was still in their hearts. The newlyweds decided to move back to the central lowlands and live in Inverkeithing under the gaze of the Forth Railway Bridge.

Five years after they married, and after 32 hours in labour, Irene and Alex welcomed their son Scott into the world. At the time, Alex was working as an Aircraft Fitter but in 1962 the family returned to London to live with Irene’s Mum. Alex then joined the London Electricity Board and Irene worked for Lambeth Council. Later the family moved to Eastbourne on the South Coast where Irene worked as an Administration Officer.

Talking about his childhood with his parents, Scott said:

“Dad dedicated his life to the Scouting Movement and I have vivid memories of us all spending every holiday at Cub or Scout camps. Mum enjoyed being with all the children and didn’t seem to mind the old-fashioned camping conditions.”

Irene made sure she went to church every Sunday and loved dancing when she was younger, and now thoroughly enjoys doing crosswords.

Irene said:

“I have always loved dancing and musicals. I used to enjoy going to The London Palladium to see the spectacular and amazing shows. I just love music, singing and dancing. My favourite singers are Johnny Mathis, Tom Jones and Doris Day.

“At Orford House, I take part in all of the activities, but my favourites are definitely the exercise and movement sessions. I enjoy any form of physical movement or activity, and I do so enjoy the sing-alongs and watching the visiting entertainers’ performances.”

Irene is well-travelled and loves going on family holidays. She said:

“I really took to Spain. I think my favourite place there has to be Mallorca; we had some wonderful family holidays on the beautiful island.”

Michelle Kennet, the Registered Manager at Orford House said:

“Irene is a wonderful, warm and lovely lady. She’s always on the go and getting involved in all of the wide variety of activities we have going on at Orford House. Irene has boundless energy and adores all forms of physical activity. She never misses an exercise class, game session or sing-along.

“Irene really enjoys watching – and singing along with – our visiting entertainers, especially if they sing one of her favourite songs. It could be ‘Delilah’, it could be ‘Secret Love’ or even ‘The Deadwood Stage’, Irene will know every word. She really is the life and soul of the party.”

For her landmark 95th birthday, the care team made sure Irene had a day fit for a musical-loving guru with gifts, cards, a scrumptious birthday cake – chocolate of course as that’s Irene’s favourite – and a tasty afternoon tea with her son Scott and all her care home friends. There was, of course, lots of singing, music, laughing, toe-tapping and dancing, naturally.

Irene concluded:

“I’ve had an absolutely brilliant 95th Birthday. It’s been a fantastic day. All the care team at Orford House have made me feel so loved and special. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

“I was chatting to one of my care home friends recently about turning 95 years old and I said that in 1928, the year I was born, the cartoon character Mickey Mouse appeared in Steamboat Willie, Walt Disney’s animated short film.

“To be honest, it’s not a film I think I’ve ever watched as there are no songs or melody-filled tunes. If Mr Disney had made it a musical like Snow White or Cinderella, then I’m sure it would be a different story.”

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