The secret to a long life - work! So says Saint Catherine's volunteer Edna Bates, of Hunmanby, as she nears 100

A Saint Catherine’s volunteer – who may well be the oldest volunteer in the country – is retiring from the role as she celebrates her 100th birthday.

Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 3:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 4:04 pm

Edna Bates, of Hunmanby, has volunteered at the hospice’s charity shop in Hunmanby for the past 21 years.

She will step down officially from the role on Friday September 18 – the day she turns 100.

Edna lives independently with support from family and friends, including her goddaughter Elizabeth Paley, who said: “Edna remains in remarkable health for a woman of her age.

Edna and husband Bob

She has difficulty hearing and suffers from arthritis, but never lets anything get her down for long. I am extremely proud of her and it goes without saying that her family in Wales are also extremely proud of her.”

Edna was born on September 18, 1920 in South Wales in a tiny village called Marcross. She has two sisters, both sadly now deceased, and four brothers, one of whom is still alive, is 96, and still lives in South Wales.

She left Wales at the age of 17 to go to Oxford as her father’s family lived there.

She married her husband Robert (Bob) Bates on April 26, 1943 at St Bartholomew’s Church in Armley, Leeds, and was married to him for 51 years.

Edna pictured last year

During the Second World War, Edna joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (which later merged into the Women’s Royal Army Corps) and learned to become a height finder with the Royal Artillery. As a height finder it was her role to determine the altitude of an aircraft, which was then used to direct anti-aircraft guns.

Edna served with the Heavy Anti-Aircraft (or ‘Ak Ak’) Battery and when it was disbanded she went to Edinburgh – on her own – to learn telephony. She was posted to South Queensbury to another regiment as a telephonist, then posted to Golders Green as a clerk, then to Cardiff and finally to Hereford to be discharged when the war in Europe ended. She is a life member of the Women’s Royal Artillery Association.

Bob was a truck driver with the Royal Corps of Signals, stationed in Africa and Sicily.

After the war Edna got a job driving trams in Leeds and occasionally did the Elland Road run when football was on – which was lucky as she is a Leeds United FC supporter!

Edna in her wartime years

Edna and Bob eventually took over Bob’s parents’ greengrocers’ shop in Armley in 1952 and stayed there for 16 years, in the days when cheese and butter were still sold by the slab and wrapped in paper.

The couple never had children but it was whilst at the shop they met Elizabeth’s mother, who already had two daughters and whose husband was a full-time career soldier.

Elizabeth said: “My mother became pregnant with me, and Bob and Edna became my godparents. That was in 1954. When I had my daughter Leah in 1974, Edna and Bob became ‘great godparents’ to her also. They have always been a constant in our lives.”

Edna and Bob ran other shops in the Leeds area and retired in 1985 to Hunmanby. Sadly, Bob passed away in October 1994 and rests in God’s Acre, Hunmanby.

Edna has raised hundreds of pounds over the years for its upkeep by holding coffee mornings and raffles. Upon Bob’s death, Edna took over as treasurer of the village photography club as he had been a member.

She was a steward at the Methodist Chapel for 25 years officiating at various functions, and retired from that duty aged 98.

Prior to lockdown she attended chapel every Sunday and plans to carry on attending in future.

Edna is very proud of her work at the Saint Catherine’s charity shop in Hunmanby and has made many friends over the 21 years she has been a volunteer.

When asked what is the secret to a long and happy life, Edna said: “Well it’s not about whisky or anything like that! It’s down to good old-fashioned working – just don’t stop. Keep working and your mind will always stay active.”

Edna has asked for voluntary donations to Saint Catherine’s in lieu of gifts.

You can donate HERE or via The Scarborough News Helping Hand campaign, which is raising cash for Saint Catherine's, HERE.