Hackney’s oldest resident? Irene Sinclair celebrates her 110th birthday in Stoke Newington with a glass of ginger wine
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Irene Sinclair reflects on her life as she celebrates her 110th birthday. Emma Bartholomew speaks to the remarkable lady who might well be Hackney’s oldest resident.
Irene Sinclair was born in Guyana on September 23 1908 – 110 years ago.
“I went to the village school and I don’t think I was very bright, but the teachers thought I was in certain subjects,” she told the Gazette.
During her early years she read a lot of history books, and at 17 she began teaching Elizabethan history to youngsters herself.
In 1957 aged 49 she moved from the British colony in south America to England to be with her daughter Jean (now 87 herself), who was already living here and had just given birth.
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“England became my home,” said Irene, a grandmother to four, who is known as Reenie to her friends.
“I never went back to Guyana to live, but I went there on holidays.”
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She “didn’t follow her education here”, but still worked with school children as a catering assistant cooking for 500 in Highgate Hill.
When she retired she helped look after her friends’ children.
“You wouldn’t believe this, but when I was 92 I was invited to the Queen Mother’s birthday celebration,” she said. “She was eight years older than me, so that would be a surprise to know how come you have an invitation to the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday.
“Nevertheless I’m going to surprise you - after that 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 now lives in sheltered accommodation in Stoke Newington.
“Of course I am looked after very much, as you know,” she said. “They think the world of me.”
She will often pop over the road to the Auld Shillelagh in Church Street for lunch.
“You might be surprised I still have a glass of ginger wine,” she revealed.
“I’m not a champagne lover but I do have that.”
As she celebrated her birthday in the same pub she has marked it in since her 100-year milestone, she told the Gazette: “I’m very happy today thank you very much.
“They make life worthwhile living,” she added referring to her family, friends and staff.
“Although I am not keeping so well, I couldn’t ask for more.”