Even Zeppelins bombing Millwall couldn’t get Ellen—now 100
PUBLISHED: 12:00 31 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:25 05 October 2010
PENSIONER Ellen Noble is celebrating the New Year with her 100th birthday. She was born to a family of dockers in London’s East End on January 3, 1910, when Edward VII was on the throne. But fresh in her mind remain the Zeppelin air raids on the docks during the 1914-18 war
By Neil Skinner
PENSIONER Ellen Noble who still enjoys "going out with the girls" is celebrating the New Year with her 100th birthday.
She was born to a family of dockers on the Isle of Dogs in London's East End on January 3, 1910, when Edward VII was on the throne.
Ellen remembers an austere, but happy, childhood watching the biggest vessels of the day steam in and out of the Millwall Docks.
But also fresh in her mind remain the German Zeppelin air raids on Poplar and the docks during the Great War of 1914-18.
"One time bombs fell on our road, it was terrible," she recalls. "A woman lost her leg and her baby was killed. I remember the whole street holding a collection for her.
"Of course, there was no evacuation for children during the first war, so I saw it all.
"There were air-raid shelters, but mum just used to sit with us on the stairs and pray that it wasn't us.
"She'd say, 'if we're going to go we're going to go together'-and that was that."
Ellen left school at 13 and went to work in an East End food processing factory.
She later married and had five children during the 1930s and 40s, a tough time for East End dockers and their families in the Great Depression.
"There was no work about for the men in those days," Ellen tells you. "Life was a real struggle.
"The men stood in line in the morning looking for a day's work, but only two or three would get picked out. Money was tight, so we didn't have any luxuries."
Ellen moved away from East London during the Second World War and took her young family to live on a farm in Wiltshire, where she picked potatoes and even drove a tractor.
Her longevity remains a mystery, she admits.
"Both of my parents died young," Ellen adds. "So old age doesn't run in the family.
"But I've never been a smoker or much of a drinker. When I go out with the girls I only drink lemonade."
Ellen, now living in Hertfordshire, has nine grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren, and nine great, great grandchildren, with another on the way.
She celebrates her 100th birthday on Monday with her family and friends at her home in Oxhey, near Watford.