Three centuries of three great ladies

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TWO world wars, a global depression, the development of the motor car, invention of the Pill, advent of space travel and mass emergence of the internet - Gladys Stocks, Elizabeth Nicholls and Queenie Joseph have seen it all.

It was a triple celebration when the three Sheffield women celebrated their 100th and 104th birthdays in the same city nursing home.

Both Queenie and Gladys have reached 100 and Elizabeth celebrates her 104th year at Abbey Grange Nursing Home in Firth Park, Sheffield, in the company of Lord Mayor of Sheffield Coun Sylvia Dunkley.

But the secret to these centenarians’ longevity is not that of exotic elixirs or an easy life – it’s grit, graft and the occasional tipple.

Elizabeth’s daughter, Jean Stocks, 73, said: “My mum had a really hard life.

“We lived in Attercliffe and my dad worked in the steel works but died at the age of 38, leaving mum to raise the three kids when she was only 36.

“There was no help in those days in the way of benefits and mum did everything she could to keep us, she’d work in the pub cleaning and take in washing for money.”

Despite the financial hardship her mother was facing, Jean says she and her siblings - a brother and sister - never went without.

“When it was Whitsun we’d always have lovely new outfits to wear while mother herself often went without.

“And she always managed to cook lovely food, keep an immaculate home and bake for us.”

Elizabeth now has 14 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. Her achievement in raising three children single-handedly with little money is reflected in her children today. “She taught us to be frugal and careful with money and all three of us have always been cautious.”

Elizabeth married Stanley Nicholls when she was 50 and was - at last - looked after.

“They had a great time together, he used to take her on his motorbike and it was then that, for the first time in her life, she started putting weight on,” said Jean.

Remarkably, Elizabeth was living at home independently until December.

“She was shopping in the market twice a week right up to being 97, and she still kept an immaculate home,” said Jean.

So what’s Elizabeth’s secret to long life? “Well, she always enjoyed a bit of a tipple,” added Jean.

Gladys Stocks also joined the centenary club and, like Elizabeth, her long life is not a result of pampering.

Gladys married at 19 and raised 10 children in a small two-up two down on Grimesthorpe Road.

She now has 17 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren and her children scattered over the world, to Cyprus, New Zealand, Cambridge and America.

“She’s travelled around a lot,” said son James Stocks, 80, of Longley.

“She worked hard looking after us, although I can’t remember where she worked.

“I’ll never forget how made up she was when I bought her a top-loading washing machine – she was over the moon. It must have been such hard graft doing all the washing by hand for 10 children.”

Queenie Joseph also celebrated her 100th birthday at the home.

Queenie moved to Sheffield from Chester when her husband, a minister, was relocated here with his job in the late 70s.

She said: “I did all the duties that were expected of a minister’s wife. We had a canteen to feed people and I used to do readings in church, which I really enjoyed.”

Queenie has two children and now, looking back on her 100 years, she offers some practical advice to the younger generation. “Save enough money for when you’re very old because you’re going to need it,” she said.