Lifelong Sheffielder who was given 20 years to live in 1993 has her 100th birthday

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“I don’t like people doing things for me if I can do it myself, but I have to give in a little bit now,” Annie said.

Annie Otley turned 100 this weekend despite doctors finding a hole in her heart in 1993, which she developed as a child, and giving her 20 years to live.

Annie’s grandma brought her up from the age of five, after her mum sadly passed away. An only child herself, she grew up with all her mum’s brothers and sisters, as one of seven children, in a home just off of Queens Road. 

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Her daughter Gillian Noë, aged 68, lives with her in their shared flat in Gleadless, Sheffield. Before her birthday on Saturday, September 1, Gill said: “She gets giddy about birthdays and Christmas - she has been asking every morning for months now whether it’s her birthday yet.”

Annie at her 100th birthday party at her and Gill's home, on SaturdayAnnie at her 100th birthday party at her and Gill's home, on Saturday
Annie at her 100th birthday party at her and Gill's home, on Saturday | Gill Noe

At 19, Annie married Harry Otley, a steel fitter. The couple moved to Woodseats together and had three children, Harry, Jan and Gill.

It was the 1940s, but as a new mum, Annie worked. First for five years at the newly-opened M&S on Fargate, then as a cleaner, then at a bakery, and then at several newsagents, one of which she bought with friend and neighbour Gladys Smith.

“I’ve always worked hard. I’ve loved work. And I don’t like people doing things for me if I can do it myself, but I have to give in a little bit now,” Annie said.

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Gill Noe

In the early 90s, she decided to join both her daughters in Australia. Janice Dennet, aged 74, said: “Mum had a hole in her heart since she was a child, which they found before she came to Australia. 

“They said at the time it was a hairline crack, but I think they said that so she could be cleared to come out to where most of her family were. In 1993 they gave her 20 years to live because of her heart, but look at her now.”

Annie said she “didn’t like it at all” in Australia. Harry, the eldest, had fallen ill at home, so she left Australia after six months to be with him. He passed away 21 years ago, aged 61. 

Annie can still remember what it was like when he had just been born. She said: “Harry was born two months premature. He was just three and a half pounds, and Granny Knowles came every night and sat at the side of him so I could sleep.

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“She used to stretch his legs out by the fire to keep him warm. He was so tiny that he slept in a draw!”

Gill Noe

Her aunties and uncles who grew up with her used to call her ‘Annie Dicky Bird’, as her maiden name was Thrush, which still makes her laugh.

Annie, who now has three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, said of her 100 years so far: “I can’t quite believe it myself, really. 

“I’ve got two wonderful daughters, we’ve stuck together through it all. I’ve had some very happy times. And I like Sheffield, I’m a Sheffielder alright."

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