Dove model and Hackney’s oldest resident Irene Sinclair dies aged 111

Irene Sinclair celebrating her 107th birthday with family and friends in 2015.

Irene Sinclair celebrating her 107th birthday with family and friends in 2015. - Credit: Archant

“Inspirational” Stoke Newington woman Irene Sinclair, one of the oldest people in the country, has died aged 111.

Irene Sinclair on her 111th birthday in 2019. Picture: Joshua Thurston

Irene Sinclair on her 111th birthday in 2019. Picture: Joshua Thurston - Credit: Joshua Thurston

Irene, known to friends as Reenie, was believed to be the oldest person in the borough and is best known for her stint as a jet-setting model for skincare brand Dove when she was 96.

But in Hackney she is remembered too for her charitable and civic work, which included speaking to youngsters about her life.

Jenny Ju-Dierre, 59, one of Irene's four grandchildren, said she passed away peacefully on Wednesday afternoon.

"She is going to be really missed by all her family," she said. "She always enjoyed herself."

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Irene was born in the British colony of Guyana, South America, on September 23, 1908 and used her knowledge gained from reading to teach Elizabethan history to children when she was 17.

She left in 1957 to be with her daughter Jean, who had just given birth in England, and went on to work as a catering assistant at a school in Islington.

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After celebrating her milestone 100th birthday at the Auld Shillelagh in Church Street, Irene returned there every year on September 23 for a party, which the Gazette would attend.

Last year she told us the secret to a long life was to walk everywhere and eat lots of fresh vegetables. She also enjoyed a Stone's ginger wine.

Speaking about her life, Irene, who lived in a nearby care home, told us in 2018: "England became my home. I never went back to Guyana to live, but I went there on holidays."

She also revealed she was invited to the Queen Mother's 100th birthday when she was 92.

Speaking about her modelling, she added: "I'm going to surprise you - at 96, when I should be knitting and staying at home, I was travelling around the world.

"You say: 'Why? At 96?' I was a model for Dove. Whether you believe it or not, I can prove it. I am the oldest woman ever at 96 to model for Dove."

Irene's friend, Cllr Michael Desmond, said she would be missed by all who knew her.

"She was a remarkable, inspirational figure who came to national prominence when she was flown by Unilever to New York aged 96 to become the face of Dove soap on billboards, because she had such a good complexion.

"She also often supported civic and charitable events at the council and regularly spoke to young people about her life.

"She was a friend of mine and an excellent role model - always remaining positive, despite inevitable aches and pains.

"Irene was not only inspirational, she was also inspired - committed to goodness, being positive and making the world a better place."

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