In our latest 100-second interview, celebrating our community’s centenarians, we speak to Jewish Care service user Beattie Orwell…
Beattie (Beatrice) Orwell
Date of birth:
7 July 1917
Place of birth:
I was born in Aldgate near the end of the First World War. My mother always told me I was born as the Zeppelin bombs dropped around me. Indeed, a bomb landed only a mile away in Bank. I’m the youngest of three sisters. We were always close and my father died young, so my mum brought us up to be strong and independent. We were bombed out in the Second World War and spent time in Oxford, went to Leeds for four years and then returned to London.
Where do you live?
I live independently, with plenty of support from my family in a ground floor flat. I visit Jewish Care’s Stepney Community Centre twice a week – I don’t know what I’d do without it. I meet my friends and have lunch. I love it there.
What was your job before retiring?
I worked as an overlocker in a men’s trouser factory. I’ve always been involved in local politics, taking an active role against the fascist black shirts in the Cable Street riots, and later I was elected as a local councillor in Tower Hamlets. In 1966, my husband served as mayor of Tower Hamlets and we used our political influences to help shape the area. It was a marvellous year; we met the Queen and prime minister of the time, Edward Heath. I am proud to be the longest known member of the Labour Party and, in 2014, I met the former Labour leader Ed Miliband and talked to him about the issues I feel passionate about, such as housing and elderly care.
Did you get married?
I married John Orwell at Albert Square Police Station in 1938.
We had a tiny party; my aunt made us chicken soup and a nice tea.
We were very poor.
Do you have any children, grandchildren and great grandchildren?
I have three children who are wonderful and I see a lot of them, their spouses, my 12 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren – the newest of whom are twin boys.
What news story has had the most impact on you over the years?
The end of the Second World War
If you were granted one wish to see something in your lifetime, what would it be?
I’d like to see my family grown up.
If you could live your life again, would you do anything differently?
Marry a rich man!
Do today’s young people have it easy compared to when you were growing up?
Are the elderly given the respect they deserve in Britain today?
Some are, but not all.
The secret for a long life is…
Eat work, work hard, be happy.