An amazing woman celebrated her 111th birthday surrounded by family and friends yesterday and became the oldest person in the North-East. Gavin Havery meets Eunice Bowman.

QUEEN VICTORIA was on the throne when Eunice Bowman, the daughter of a Lancashire cotton mill worker, now officially the oldest person in the North-East, was born.

On August 23, 1898, Robert Gascoyne- Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury, was serving his third term as Prime Minister, and Britain was yet to embark on a bloody colonial conflict, the Boer War.

Yesterday, surrounded by family and friends, Mrs Bowman celebrated her 111th birthday, making her one of the oldest people in the country.

Mrs Bowman was born in Wigan, in Lancashire, but moved to the North-East with her family in 1905 following a decline in the textiles industry, which led to a lack of employment.

Yesterday, as she celebrated yet another landmark birthday, the supercentenarian said: “I have never drank alcohol or smoked. I have had a happy life.”

Mrs Bowman, who is a little hard of hearing, but is still full of vitality, now lives at Hillside Grange Care Home, in Sunderland Road, Gateshead.

Her life has spanned three centuries, and it is thought she is Britain’s third oldest person – and the 49th oldest in the world.

She was born two months after First World War soldier Harry Patch, who became known as The Last Tommy and died last month, aged 111.

She has lived under six monarchs and 22 prime ministers and has seen two world wars.

She said: “I have always worked hard in my life and I am still alive. I have seen a lot of things.”

Mrs Bowman was the second of 12 children in a family that settled in Felling, Gateshead, so her father Thomas could find work in the region’s pits.

She had to fit in schooling around helping her mother look after her brothers and sisters, and when the First World War broke out she went to work for the Armstrong munitions factory, in Newcastle.

In 1919, she married Robert Pearson and they had four children, Norman, Tommy, Doris and Connie.

Robert contracted tuberculosis in 1928 and died the same year.

When the Second World War broke out Mrs Bowman was living in Windy Nook, Gateshead, and, in December 1941, she married for a second time.

Eunice and Frank Bowman had two children, Sheila, who died as a child, and Ann, who was born in 1945.

Tragically, Eunice was widowed again in 1950.

She started working in a fish and chip shop with her sister Annie and stayed there until she was 84.

Her family put her love of fish down to her long and healthy life.

Her daughter, Ann Berry, 64, a retired school cleaner from Windy Nook, said: “She had fish and chips when she worked in the shop and they never did her any harm.

“I think she had them every day because she worked there and they were free.

“I can remember her coming in with them for tea and she worked there for a long time. She might not have had many chips, but she used to love her fish.”

Mrs Bowman has outlived most of her children and she is the only survivor of all her brothers and sisters.

SHE has 17 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, five great-great-grandchildren and 30 nieces and nephews.

Mrs Berry added: “She likes the company of her family and we all think she is marvellous and love her.

“We never thought we would have her this long. It is fantastic. She does not think she is anything special, but she is. Nobody can believe how old she is.”

A party were held at Mrs Bowman’s care home on Saturday for residents and her immediate family, with singer AC Ritchie performing her favourite Al Jolson numbers.

There was another celebration yesterday at the home for all of her relatives.

Assistant manager at Hillside Grange, Dawn Norcup said: “It has gone really, really well and she seems to have really enjoyed it. All of her family and friends have been here.

“She does not look 111 and says she does not feel it. People are flabbergasted when they find out how old she is.”

On August 23, 1898 – a selection of some of the stories from The Northern Echo on the day Eunice was born

SOLOMON FRANCIS was charged with threatening to murder James Mulholland and assaulting PCs Pinkney and White in Bishop Auckland. Francis had “behaved like a madman” in the street and police needed the assistance for four civilians to take him to the police station. Pleading guilty, Francis said he was “paralatic”

drunk and was sentenced to three months imprisonment.

TWO people were killed in an explosion at the Brokenback Pit in St Helen, Bishop Auckland. Five men were found at the bottom of the Brusselton shaft – two were killed and the three others badly injured. The dead men, named Atkinson and Harrison, were firing a shot when the three survivors reported a “vivid, blinding flash of light”, which threw debris up the shaft to scaffolding on which they were standing.

FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Goddard Hornigold, of North Ormesby, was killed after he was run over by a tram car in Middlesbrough. He was one of two boys hanging onto the back of a tram, but as he let go, on the insistence of the conductor, he ran into the path of a tram travelling in the opposite direction. A verdict of accidental death was returned.

MEMBERS of Hurworth Village Band appeared at Darlington County Court on the insistence of the Reverend Walter Parker for disturbing a service. Mr Parker said that the band begun to play outside while he was conducting a service in the chapel, which annoyed him and the congregation. He went outside to ask them to stop and the band agreed, but when the service restarted the band began playing again. Magistrates were unable to reach a decision FRED BURNETT appeared at court charged with playing a barrel organ without a licence in Stockton High Street. He then produced a screeching parrot, “which was a nuisance”, before returning to the barrel organ. A fine of £2, or one month in prison, was imposed.

READERS will have been concerned to read that Sir William Chaytor, of Croft Hall, near Darlington, suffered a nasty fall from his bicycle, cutting his knee and bruising his hand. However, after two or three days rest, he was able to get about again, although with some difficulty.