Features

Long Life Reigns in Manchester for Wilhelmina aged 102

Written by Deborah Gabriel

On 2nd March 2002, Wilhelmina Harriott celebrated her 100th birthday at the home of her daughter and son-in law, Jean and Jim Nelson, in Mandeville. The house was filled with friends, well-wishers, neighbours and relatives, many of whom had traveled from England to join in the celebrations. On that occasion, Wilhelmina was joined by her three surviving siblings: brothers Marty aged 96, Eglon, aged 98 and Linton aged 103. It was indeed a joyous occasion.

Many thought that Mrs Harriott would not have survived the death of her late husband, Hubert Harriott, who died in 1998, weeks away from his own 100th birthday. The couple had been inseparable and had an extremely close and loving marriage which had spanned over 70 years. Wilhemina was saddened by her husband’s death, but her faith in God has given her the will to cling to life and to be thankful, as she would say, at having being blessed with such a loving husband.

Wilhemina is loved by many, especially those from the district where she formerly resided in Bombay, Manchester. There, at the entrance to the Zion Hill church is a plaque which bears the name of her late husband, Hubert Benjamin Harriott, who was a very active member of the church.

Mrs Harriott, is from a family of long-livers. Her parents Thomas and Jane Mitchell from Bombay bore fourteen children. Wilhemina had six sisters and seven brothers.The second eldest sister Amanda, lived to the age of 104. Brother Linton is presently 104 and two of her late brothers and two cousins died in recent years in their nineties. Interestingly, her late husband’s mother died at the age of 114.

Wilhemina and her surviving sibling Linton Harriott both feature in a book by Dr Sydney Beaumont: Manchester Centenarians 2002. The book highlights the life, achievements and contributions of centenarians from the parish of Manchester. Dr Beaumont has become a dear friend to many of those who have been fortunate to live beyond 100. This includes both Wilhelmina and Linton who always look forward to his visits.

Sadly for Wilhemina, not only has she outlived her husband and twelve of her siblings but she is also outliving her children. In 1996, her eldest daughter Daphne Carnegie died of a heart attack at the age of 68. In 2003, one of her other daughters died at the same age, also of a heart attack. Since the start of this year brothers Marty and Eglon have passed on within weeks of each other. At the time, Wilhelmina was suffering from a severe bout of flu. When she became bedridden and could not eat, her family feared the worst. However, their prayers for her recovery were answered when a course of antibiotics aided her full recovery.

The informal gathering on 2nd March once again at the family home in Mandeville was an opportunity to unite Wilhemina with her sole surviving brother Linton, whom she had not seen for two years. Each one had been fretting about the health and well-being of the other and wondered if they would ever see each other again.

The pair was inseparable for the entire day and sat close to each other. Each enquired about the other’s health and touchingly said that they would each pray to God to take the other’s pains away. They both enjoyed a light meal and savoured the birthday cake that had been especially made for Wilhemina.

Later they shared memories from many decades ago that they alone witnessed. And there were many smiles and laughter, while the guests looked on in amazement that these two individuals could possibly be aged 102 and 104.

Adding to the enjoyment of their day was a surprise visit from their dear friend Dr. Sydney Beaumont and his wife, Dorothy. Like many of the guests who attended Mrs Harriotts 102nd birthday, Dr Beaumont firmly believes that everyone present witnessed something very rare, and very special at the re-uniting of Wilhelmina and Linton. He too expresses a heartfelt wish and prayer that the pair will be together again to celebrate many more birthdays.

About the author

Deborah Gabriel

Dr. Deborah Gabriel is a Lecturer in Marketing Communications at Bournemouth University and the Founder and CEO of Black British Academics; a Community Interest Company working to advance race equality in the higher education sector.