MEET Bessie Camm — the Rotherham super-centenarian who this week assumed the title of the UK’s oldest living resident.
The former nurse, who once treated William Hague, was believed to be the country’s second oldest woman when she turned 112 on June 20.
Following the death on Saturday of Gladys Hooper, from Ryde on the Isle of Wight at the age of 113 years and 173 days, Bessie became the longest-living surviving citizen, according to the website Oldest in Britain, which keeps records on people in their second century.
Now living at Moorgate Lodge Care Home, Bessie previously spent 30 years at the Willow Court sheltered housing scheme in Wath.
There, she told staff the secret to long life was “hard work, knowing lovely people and good food”.
Scheme manager Anne Kay said: “She is an absolute inspiration with her many tales of nursing and her mind is very sharp.
“She always wants to know whats going on and as well as enjoying educational TV programmes, she enjoys watching quizzes and often answers before the contestants.”
Born in Swaledale, North Yorkshire in 1904, she attended a Quaker school before qualifying as a nurse in 1926, working as a ward sister and then a theatre sister at Montagu Hospital in Mexborough.
She later moved to North Yorkshire and filled the role of matron at Richmond Hospital, using her considerable skills to assist doctors across the region during the Second World War.
Following the war, Bessie worked for five years as an industrial nurse at Parkgate Forge, where her late husband was a metallurgist.
She later nursed current Foreign Secretary William Hague and once attended a dinner party at his parents Parkgate home when he was just a young boy.
Bessie said: “I had a good life as a nurse, but I wouldnt do it today — not for all the tea in China.”
When she returned to Montagu Hospital as a patient at the day care centre in the run up to its own centenary in 2004, Bessie was delighted to be able to identify herself and her contemporaries in the photographs that were on show.
Bessie married her husband John shortly before the outbreak of World War two.
During the war, she was employed as a nurse at the Parkgate Iron and Steel Company where she and a small nursing team were responsible for the health and welfare of 4,000 employees.
She won the thanks of local general practitioners as well as her patients because she was able to stitch superficial wounds.
This meant it was possible to treat on site injuries which had previously necessitated trips to hospital in the company ambulance
Following her retirement, Bessie lived in Wath with John and remained there following her widowhood in 1972.
The couple did not have any children but Bessie said she had three honorary grandchildren and great grandchildren who she adored.
Anne said: “Bessie is an inspiration. She has helped so many people. She still likes to know what’ s going on around here and to help in her own way.”
According to the Oldest in Britain website, the next oldest person is Olive Evelyn Boar of Ipswich, who turns 112 in September, while the oldest man, an anonymous man from Claygate, Surrey, is set to reach the same age in November.
There are thought to be about 300 people aged over 106 in the UK.
The country’s oldest resident ever recorded was Charlotte Hughes, who was 115 years and 228 days old when she died in Redcar in 1993.
Closer to home, Ethel Lang from Worsbrough in Barnsley reached 114 years and 233 days before her death last year and was the oldest Yorkshireman ever recorded.