TODAY (Wednesday) marks the 100th birthday of former March landlady Hilda Quince - a remarkably active and alert lady who still enjoys regular trips out and manages to perform her own light routine day-to-day jobs at her bungalow home in March.
Born in Leicester, Hilda can still vividly remember her upbringing and even the names of her friends at junior school. An only child, her father was a button-maker at a local factory and her mother worked in the hosiery department at another. She was a keen member of the Salvation Army and has always been a great admirer of its work.
She left senior school at the age of 14 to work as what she describes as a ‘runabout’ in a local factory.
“I was paid about ten shillings (50p) a week, and then went on to become a machinist,” she recalls.
She met her husband, Ernie, through a mutual friend and he would regularly cycle from March to Leicester to meet up with her. They were married in 1937 and lived at Grandford until they took over the Waggon and Horses pub and a smallholding at Whitemoor Road. Their son, Trevor, was born at Grandford, and daughter, Janet (Ayres), at Whitemoor.
The family took over the Prince of Wales pub in Station Road in 1954, and Ernie also worked as assistant caretaker at March Grammar School. He was appointed head caretaker when the Neale Wade School was opened in the mid-sixties and the couple lived in a bungalow on the school site until their retirement in 1978.
During their time at work Hilda and Ernie became well known through their local work with the Licensed Victuallers’ Association, the Caretakers’ Association, and in later years the Middle Level Watermen’s Club. For several years they owned a boat and enjoyed regular trips out on it.
Ernie died in 1982 and Hilda has lived alone ever since. “I am very lucky that both my son and daughter live in the town and can look after me when I need it,” said Hilda, who also has five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
She still regularly attends meetings of March Senior Citizens Club and St Mary’s Church Mothers’ Union, and enjoys weekly shopping trips with her daughter to a local supermarket and to have her hair done. She also likes a family trip to the cinema, having in the last few weeks seen and enjoyed The King’s Speech and Black Swan.
One thing that caused her some distress was the fire at St Mary’s Church last year.
“I loved that little church,” she says fondly, and has asked friends and family that donations to the rebuilding fund be made in lieu of birthday gifts.
Looking back, she adds: “It just doesn’t seem possible that 100 years have gone by – it seems like only yesterday that I was a girl in Leicester.
“I can honestly say that I have been very lucky to have had such a wonderful life and a wonderful family. God has been very good to me.”