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Dear diary – not much to tell except that I’m 100!

By Daniel Green

In the past 100 years, Irene Daisy Maitland has worked in the Women’s Voluntary Service, examined gas masks and made bullets in the Second World War, knitted various garments and recorded the past 80 years of her life in a collection of diaries.

Despite this, as she celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday she said: “There’s not much to tell.”

Irene looking through one of her 80 diaries with nephew, Roy Daines, 70.
Irene looking through one of her 80 diaries with nephew, Roy Daines, 70.

The former Dover Road Primary School pupil has always lived in and around Gravesend and is the last original tenant of Shears Green Court, in Hayes Road.

Born in Park Avenue, Irene worked in the factories formerly in Crete Hall Road during the Second World War, making sure the gas masks made were suitable for the troops on the front line.

She then moved on to dipping shells, covering them in yellow powder to prevent them going rusty, work that turned her skin yellow. She also produced ammunition in a gun powder works in Dartford.

On top of this, she would stay up late cooking for firemen who would be trying to extinguish fires caused by German shelling.

Irene said: “I use to stay up until two or three in the morning cooking sausage rolls and mince pies for the firemen who were trying to save the houses.

“When I dipped shells, I would look like a yellow canary.

“They said when I came off the yellow powder, I would gradually turn back to normal.”

Irene did have one vice, but she stopped smoking 57 years ago and saved money to surprise her husband Fredrick with a holiday in Eastbourne.

They met on Gravesend Promenade, wed on December 26, 1938, and were married for 34 years before he passed away in 1972.

Of her secret for a long life, she said: “Everybody asks me but I haven’t got one.

“I don’t feel 100. I don’t feel very different, everything’s just the same.”

She has always enjoyed knitting, making jumpers, gloves and hats galore – and these days along with knitting she listens to the radio, much preferring it over watching television, and goes into town and Bluewater.

Irene, who started writing a diary at 17, said she writes all sorts of things in her records.

She said: “I just had this book, this little tiny thing and I thought to myself I might as well keep a diary and it was so interesting. Someone used to say something, I said no, you’re wrong and got my diary and proved it.

“I don’t read them myself, only when someone wants to know something.”

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