SCOTLAND’S oldest person has turned 109-years-old – putting down good food, strong faith, a loving family and a good sense of humour as the ingredients for a long life.
Rene Chapman celebrated her birthday in Fort Augustus today. Friends, family and staff gathered for a birthday tea party in the Telford Centre, the NHS Highland care home where Rene is a resident and, as a dog-lover, she enjoyed a specially made birthday cake in the shape of a Pekinese, her favourite breed. Caroline Gunn, the centre’s manager said: “It’s a privilege to have Rene with us. She’s a very special lady and we’re all delighted to be able to help her celebrate this remarkable milestone.” Elaine Mead, NHS Highland’s chief executive, added: “Rene’s milestone is all the more remarkable when you realise that at the time she was born no airplane had ever flown in Europe, San Francisco lay in ruins after a devastating earthquake and a census had concluded that Britain ruled one-fifth of the world.
“She’s lived through a great deal and we are honoured to have her in our care. We send her our very best wishes.” The centre’s manager said that although Rene had lost her sight and was hard of hearing, she enjoyed chatting to staff at the centre. Mrs Gunn said she likes to hear about their children and pets, adding that Rene was particularly keen on her African grey parrot. Caroline said that, like everyone, Rene had her particular tastes and wishes, which the staff were happy to accommodate. She added: “She likes Shreddies for breakfast and toast and marmalade for high tea. She used to be very keen on sucking Fishermans Friends at night but now she likes Polo mints. She’s also quite particularly about her clothes – she likes everything to be just so. Rene used to enjoy listening to audio books but was irritated by the American accents they often featured. “We try to ensure that she gets what she wants and to make today different from yesterday for her.” Born on Saturday 9th June 1906, Rene is from Twickenham in London, where she helped in her father’s corn and seed merchants business. Rene, who never married, spent much of her life as a carer, looking after her aunt and parents. A keen organist and chorister, she worked for a while, initially as a volunteer, in a convalescent home in Crowhurst, East Sussex, and moved to Scotland to live with friends near Spean Bridge.
She moved into the Telford Centre in September 2012, and is the centre’s oldest resident by just a few years – another resident is 99. Asked if she liked Scotland, Rene smiled and said: “I would like it better if it was warmer.” Rene was visited on her birthday by her nephew Clive Chapman and his wife Lesley, who travelled from Dorset for the occasion. Mr Chapman said: “Rene is a very special person. She has a very caring nature, is very family orientated, has a lovely sense of humour and her memory is amazing.
“She loves chatting to people, and loves to get news about her family – she has five nieces and nephews, 11 great nieces and nephews and nine great great nieces and nephews. “She has said she attributes her long life to good food, strong faith, a loving family and a good sense of humour.” Christina Mudditt, senior social care manager at the Telford Centre, added: “She’s an amazing woman. She certainly keeps us on our toes, and always has a different story to tell you.”