Mrs. E. A. Ashwin – 90 and wants to fly

Mrs Ashwin LSC 4June1954

Mrs Ashwin   LSC 4  June  1954

A nonagenarian wanting to fly for the first time would undoubtedly make headlines in any newspaper, even in 2014. The headline above was published in the Leamington Spa Courier as long ago as 4th June 1954, which makes Mrs Elizabeth Anne Ashwin from Shrubland Street both incredibly brave and very adventurous.

Shrubland St, courtesy of Peter Coulls

Shrubland St 1960, courtesy of Peter Coulls

The Courier article reads: “Ask 90-year-old Mrs Elizabeth Anne Ashwin, of 11, Shrubland Street, Leamington, what she would most like to do, and she will reply, “take a trip in an aeroplane.”  Despite her great age, Mrs Ashwin loves to travel. Last year she visited her sister in Ilford, Essex, for a holiday, and alone made the rail journey (including the tube ride from Paddington to Liverpool Street). “And I intend to go again this year.” She says. Living to a grand old age is a custom with Mrs Ashwin’s family. Her grandmother was 99 when she died, her mother 89, and two sisters passed their 90th birthdays. The “baby” of the family – Mrs Ashwin’s sister at Ilford, is 80. A native of Leamington – she was born in Guy Street – Mrs Ashwin has some interesting memories of the Spa town when she was a young girl.

“In those days,” she says, “women were not allowed on The Parade with perambulators, and the gentry considered that the pavement on one side should be for their use only.” Mrs. Ashwin recalls the days when the site of Leamington Automobile Co., Ltd., at the top of The Parade, was a private residence owned by the late Lord Colin Campbell. Big banquets were held there, and Scottish bagpipe bands played on the balcony, providing entertainment, not only for the guests, but for the scores of townsfolk who used to gather in the street.

Except for a certain amount of stiffness, Mrs. Ashwin keeps remarkably fit, eats well, and has not seen a doctor for two years. Although since birth she has had the use of only one eye, she still reads at least one novel a week, “and as many newspapers as I can get hold of.” Incidentally, Mrs. Ashwin’s family must be among the oldest of “Courier” readers. She has read this journal every week since she can remember, and her mother did so many years before Mrs. Ashwin was born. Mrs. Ashwin has been a widow over half a century. Her husband was a dairyman in Warwick Street. “He was the only man in my life, and I never wanted to marry again.” She has one son, Mr. Albert Ashwin, who lives in Nuneaton, and one grandson.  Mrs. Ashwin’s one regret is that she was not born later. She likes the modern way of life, and to see the younger generation enjoying themselves. “And I would still like that aeroplane trip,” confided Leamington’s active nonagenarian as she extended a firm and sincere handshake.”


Allan Jennings