Sheffield woman celebrates her 105th birthday and shares her secret to a long and healthy life

Other than when she’s on holiday, she eats the same thing for breakfast every day.
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Alice Joan Prince has just celebrated her 105th birthday in her Stocksbridge home, which she has lived in since 1939.

Known as Joan, the Sheffield-born centenarian is extremely sharp and recalls her life story in great detail as early as being five years old, when she lived in Ansonia, Connecticut, with her parents and uncle.

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"We lived opposite a lollipop shop that caught fire one night in the winter. I stood watching out of the window, and the firemen had icicles hanging off their sleeves with the water," Joan said.

"I came back here in time for school at age five, after two years there. Mum and I were back for a holiday initially, and she wrote to my dad telling him to sell up because she was staying. He said it’s too late, I already have. They were homesick, I think."

Joan with her family, around 60 years ago. From left to right: Gary, Granville, Mandy, Paul, and Joan.Joan with her family, around 60 years ago. From left to right: Gary, Granville, Mandy, Paul, and Joan.
Joan with her family, around 60 years ago. From left to right: Gary, Granville, Mandy, Paul, and Joan.

Joan got engaged at 17, to Granville Prince, who she had met two years previously while he was working as a builder on the Stubbin Estate in Stocksbridge. Her mother, Eliza, gave her permission to get engaged but said she was not to marry until she was 21.

The couple married in 1939, as Joan’s mum had said to, on Boxing Day. They moved into their Stocksbridge home, which had been built by Granville, and where Joan still lives now with her son, daughter-in-law, and one of her grandchildren.

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Joan, who adores ballroom, said Granville "couldn’t dance a step". That did not stop her from pursuing the hobby, which she last did when she was 96.

"I used to dance, garden, paint, draw, embroider, knit… now my eyesight is gone, I can’t do that anymore," she says. "I used to sing a bit too, but I don't anymore."

This is not a photo - it's an embroidered piece of artwork by Joan, of her and Granville's wedding photo, which hangs in the front room.This is not a photo - it's an embroidered piece of artwork by Joan, of her and Granville's wedding photo, which hangs in the front room.
This is not a photo - it's an embroidered piece of artwork by Joan, of her and Granville's wedding photo, which hangs in the front room.

Joan worked at her parent’s fish and chip shop , Mill’s, straight after leaving school at age 14. She cut up the newspaper until she was "promoted, to behind the counter" at age 15.

"The pubs were closed at 10 and we stayed open until 11, so everyone would come down - it used to be so busy. It cost three pence for the fish and the chips!"

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From the start of the Second World War, she ran a grocers’ out of what is now her living room.

She said: "It wasn't easy, because everything was rationed. We started on the back foot. But I loved it, and only shut it down when they built the shops nearby, you know the supermarkets? 

"Everybody went mad then, and I lost my trade completely. I closed it in the 70s and took over the fish shop."

A grocers' from 1939, this room is now Joan's living room.A grocers' from 1939, this room is now Joan's living room.
A grocers' from 1939, this room is now Joan's living room.

Being an only child, Joan is particularly close with her cousins. She went to visit one of them, Joyce, in America after the war ended.

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Joan laughed as Mandy Eustace, the middle of her three children, said: "Mum, I remember you saying about when you went to Tiffany’s in New York. Everything had been rationed, you hadn’t had ice cream in years, and you had it for breakfast."

Other than when she’s on holiday, she eats the same thing for breakfast every day: A single piece of toast, with marmite, which she credits as the only thing she does every day, and a potential help to her health.

Joan said: "My mum used to slather it really thick, you're not supposed to do that - but, whether that's got to do with my age, I’m not sure. It's not done me any harm though.

"I have two glasses of sherry in the evening which helps me sleep, and they’re the only things I do regularly. I've never smoked either. And I've danced a lot."

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Joan has 11 great-grandchildren, and seven great-great-grandchildren. The family held an open house on her 105th birthday, September 30, and from the first family members visiting at 10am, it did not empty again until after 6pm.

Mandy said: "When I was younger and coming home from school, I never knew who would be around the table that night."

In all the time she has lived there, Joan has only known the house to have been empty of people once, for just a couple of hours.

She said: "I wish a lot of my friends were still around so they could come and enjoy it. I love being with people, and it’s not a house that enjoys loneliness. I don’t know what I’d do without the others living here.

"I have never thought about going anywhere else. Even if I won a million pounds, I wouldn't move from my home."