BY CALUM FRASER
The Queen’s letter is in hand and the last few candles have burned down on the enormous birthday cake. Margaret White, born on October 31, 1917, celebrated her 100th birthday last week.
Living through a turbulent century she has seen great people rise and fall but she has always lived by her own rules. Her daughter Barbara McManus, 70, said: “Mum was always a hard worker, but she made sure she enjoyed herself whenever she could.
“Maybe that’s the secret to living for 100 years.
“She also likes to have a glass of brandy or port most days. That probably helped as well.”
Mrs White, known to her friends as Meg, married her war hero partner Tom after serving in the Second World war.
Piecing together a life after the war, the newly-weds went into the catering industry opening cafes in East Street and the Shopping Centre at the Elephant & Castle. Their cafes had close ties with the areas they set up in and every Christmas they would give out a free Turkey dinner to those in need and their loyal customers.
They also catered for the rich and famous with the likes of The Rolling Stones and Matt Monro dinning there regularly. To relax, the Whites would go on cruises around the world.
Never one to allow standards to slip, on one cruise she had to teach the on-board Russian celebrity chief how to cook a proper Yorkshire pudding to go with the roast beef. Born in South Wales, she moved to London when she was 16 and she has considered herself a South London girl ever since. After her husband passed away she moved into sheltered housing in Barset Road, Nunhead.
She kept up her social life at the home organising fetes, bingo nights and all sorts of social occasions. Old age may have slowed her down a bit lately but she turned back the years for the big night on Tuesday. Mrs McManus said: “It was a brilliant party. Everyone was up dancing and singing.
“My daughters were amazed. They probably thought it was going to be quite a quiet night. Mum was in a big chair like the queen and she was given loads of presents.
“We hired Ray Low to sing for us and he stayed on to join in the celebrations after. He sang her favourite songs. She loved it.”
She received the Queen’s letter and Southwark council sent her a bouquet of flowers. On the big night Mrs White was surrounded by her great grandchildren Alfie and Madison, grandchildren Shelley, Darren and Sarah and children Barbara and Michael.