101-year-old Betty, Sheffield’s oldest Woman of Steel, reveals secret to a long and happy life...

Betty Newsham.
Betty Newsham.

Hard work - and a tipple of brandy in your first cup of tea of the day.

That, according to 101-year-old Betty Newsham, is the key to a long and happy life.

Betty in her younger days.

Betty in her younger days.

One of Sheffield’s famous women of steel, Betty was born Elizabeth Holmshaw on Otley Road in Walkley on October 14, 1917.

During the war, she worked for James Neill tools as a capstan lathe operator - one of the biggest machines there was - making munitions and aeroplane parts.

She loved the job but was forced to quit when she became pregnant with her daughter Lorraine.

A picture of her standing proudly next to the city’s iconic women of steel statue sits in a photo album that her daughter made for her 100th birthday last year.

Betty with the Women of Steel statue in Barker's Pool.

Betty with the Women of Steel statue in Barker's Pool.

Elsewhere in the book, photos of her as a teenager show her in the 1930s - before marriage, the war and motherhood intervened.

“In my head, I still think I am that same young girl,” she says.

“But everything has changed in Sheffield - there are bigger buildings and more cars on the road.

“And I don’t think people are as kind as they were. People use to have more time for each other.”

Betty Newsham.

Betty Newsham.

As well as the hard work and brandy, Betty’s life has been full of enjoyment, including dancing three or four times a week at the Bellhouse Road Social Club.

She has also travelled the world, visiting the sights of Europe and having a ball on the slot machines in Las Vegas.

But as well as fun, she has also found time to put others first, caring first for her husband James and then her mum, as well as others in the neighbourhood.

“I used to call her the Florence Nightingale of Shiregreen,” says Betty’s daughter, Lorraine Cooke, who has lived for the last 35 years in the United States.

“She used to go shopping and cleaning for anyone who needed help. Shirehall Road was very close in those days, people minded each others’ kids. Dad used to say what about us but she is just very caring like that.”

Lorraine and has two girls, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild - making Betty now a great-great-grandmother.

“We have tried to say she would be better in Arizona but this is her home and it would be a huge move for anybody,” said Lorraine.

“And she is determined she is not going in a home - she wants to stay in her flat.”

Since her husband James died 45 years ago, Betty has lived alone, for the last two decades on Hucklow Road in Firth Park.

Currently recovering from a fall in which she broke her collarbone and two ribs, she says the thing she misses most is not being able to get out like she used to.

“She used to like to get on the bus and go all the way round the city, being around people and just watching them,” said Lorraine.

And now with her deafness she is even more isolated.

But despite this, she is sustained by friends who visit her when Lorraine can’t.

One, Michelle Lockley, works at the Post Office and visits her every lunchtime.

“Betty is fantastic,” says Michelle.

“She has a wonderful sense of humour. She is my best friend.”