Ilkeston woman Hilda celebrates 100th birthday

Hilda Cooper who has just turned 100.
Hilda Cooper who has just turned 100.

Hilda Cooper lives just streets away from the house in Milton Road in Cotmanhay where she was born 100 years ago.

The centenarian celebrated the landmark occasion on Tuesday. Among the 60 cards she received were one from the Queen and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Hilda worked as a mender at knitwear factory Charnos up until the age of 76, and now enjoys spending time with her family, including two daughters, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She used to love going shopping around Ilkeston market when she was more mobile but admits the only thing she spends money on now is parties.

One of six children, she went to school at Bennerley and later worked with her aunty Doris winding yarn, first at Ilkeston, then Long Eaton.

“I then went to work at Booths at the top of Awsworth Road’ she said. “Mending the knitwear and training the young ones.

“I worked at Charnos until I was 76, I just kept going back.

“When I worked in Long Eaton there were floods so I had to walk from Ilkeston to Long Eaton every day. It took hours.”

Hilda gained herself a reputation as one of the best menders, meaning that Marks and Spencer’s samples would be given to her to mend.

One of her earliest memories is going to stay with her aunty who lived in Nottingham when she 14, and wishing everyone they walked past a ‘Merry Christmas’.

She married her first husband Alwyne Wittering in 1939 when she was 24. He got called up to serve in the war with the Royal Engineers so they had to arrange the wedding and got married in the three weeks that he had left before he left.

Hilda recalls that she did not see him for the six years that the war went on, apart from when he was on leave. They used to write letters and postcards to each other, which she still has now. She also recalls things being very different back when she was younger, with none of the electrical devices that are around today, including televisions.

Alywyne died in 1992 and Hilda went on to marry Ernie Cooper in 1996. He passed away in 2004.

In the lead up to her 100th birthday, a number of events have been held, including a vintage tea, and a service at Norman Street Baptist Church where Hilda has been going for years. Her mum, dad and grandma all used to go there.

Revealing the secret of reaching 100, Hilda, who loves gardening, going out and used to be a keen dancer, said: “I look after myself, don’t interfering with people and don’t fall out with people.”