Gun-totin' Connie who survived Mau Mau uprising turns 100 in east London care home
PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 April 2015
Hawthorne care home
A woman who used to have her bath armed with a pistol during the Mau Mau uprising in colonial Africa in the 1950s is celebrating her 100th birthday at the east London care home where she now lives.
Connie Whitfeld cut her centenary cake at the Sanctuary Care home in Stepney Green where she has been living since leaving the house she shared with her daughter Pauline in Hackney four years ago.
“Never take life too seriously,” Connie tells you when you ask her secret of long life. “Always remain positive and never forget your great sense of humour.”
Connie grew up in Northern Ireland after her mother died shortly after her birth in 1915.
She move to Edinburgh at 18 to train as a cook which took her into catering and then teaching cookery in London in her 30s.
But she admits getting “itchy feet” and emigrated to the colonies to join her sister Barbara in Kenya, where she met her future husband Timothy Whitfeld and married in 1948—the couple lived on an isolated farm in the Kenya bushlands “in the middle of nowhere” right through the Mau Mau uprising.
Her youngest daughter Pauline Whitfeld, now living in Lower Clapton, spoke of growing up on the farm in east Africa during the uprising.
“There is one flashback that has really stuck with me was during the Mau Mau attacks,” Pauline, now 66, remembers.
“We were all tense. One afternoon our family dog started barking erratically.
“Mum always carried her pistol with her everywhere. She was in the bath and at the time and leapt out, slipped on a bar of soap and ended up shooting the new basin which was my father’s pride and joy!”
Now at 100, Connie has a family of four generations—three children, including two living in Canada and South Africa, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The home’s Joan Coker said: “Connie’s stories are always so fascinating. She is an inspirational lady whose birthday is important to a lot of people here.”
Connie has lived at the home for the past four years. She lived with Pauline in Lower Clapton when she returned from Kenya seven years ago, after husband Timothy died.