Violet Stephens of Whiting Bay celebrates her one hundredth birthday

By Alice Maxwell, May 2021. Featured image shows Violet at home in Whiting Bay today

One hundred years ago this week Violet’s parents celebrated the birth of their second child – Violet Rosetta Johncock. It is hard to imagine a new born baby as a centenarian, so it probably never crossed their mind that exactly one hundred years later their daughter would be celebrating her hundredth birthday with a card from Her Majesty The Queen. Violet turned one hundred on 19th May 2021 and well- wishers found Violet’s Whiting Bay home adorned with festive balloons and enjoyed music played by local musicians. A delicious locally made birthday cake rounded off the day.

Violet moved to Arran to live with her daughter Christine Wolter after the death of her husband in 2012. She loves Arran for being friendly and safe, and appreciates the caring community. She was welcomed into the Whiting Bay Book club where she was able to pursue her love of reading, and she was a regular at the Tuesday morning “Social” at The Coffee Pot. She also enjoyed going to lunch around Arran with Christine and friends and had many holidays at Melfort Village near Oban.

Violet’s father, Albert Edward Johncock, always known as John, was born in Kent in the 1870s and at 14 was apprenticed to a Thames Waterman following the family tradition. At twenty-one he went to sea as a ship’s carpenter, often sailing to China. As steam ships took over from sail, he lost interest in sea-faring and entered the theatre where he used his skill as a carpenter to build scenery. He also wrote lyrics for several celebrities, including Harry Lauder. Being a modest man, he did not copyright any of his work.

Violet was born in Liverpool in 1921. In addition to her older sister Esme, she had three half- brothers and a half-sister. Violet came from a family of merchant hauliers and bakers on her mother’s side. She did well at school, but at 14 she left to take up an apprenticeship at a local confectionery firm. She became an expert in the trade and later ran her mother’s busy confectionery shop and tea room until 1953.

On the bus to work, Violet’s mother befriended a young lady called Aileen Stephens and Violet’s family were later invited to lunch at Aileen’s home in Bartle on Boxing Day 1939. Violet was seated opposite Aileen’s younger brother, Charlie. The sheer number of people sitting round the table that day made conversation between them impossible, but Violet recalls that her first impression of Charlie was that he was kind and had lovely blue eyes and nice hands. On 17th January the pair met again at a dance at Woodplumpton Village Hall when Charlie was still in the Home Guard and they became firm friends. Violet and Charlie met every fortnight, cycling to dances in the village halls, until he joined up in 1940. He was on the Naval Atlantic convoys which were launched from the Mersey. On 23rd February 1942 the pair were married while Charlie was home on leave.

Violet and Charlie on their wedding day

The couple were happily married for seventy years, and had two children, Christine and David, who were both born in Preston. They enjoyed ballroom dancing, and frequented the Floral Hall in Southport and of course the Tower Ball Room in Blackpool. A love of travel led them to holiday in Austria, Germany, Cyprus, Spain, Malta, Ireland and the Canaries where they enjoyed sightseeing and trying out new foods, such as German plum pudding. It was on holiday in Germany that Violet learnt to swim at a local spa at the age of seventy!

In 1957 the family left Preston and had a house built in Wilmslow where Violet and Charlie lived for thirty years. When Charlie retired the pair moved to Canonbie in Dumfriesshire for eight years, where Charlie had enjoyed fishing the Esk since boyhood, but being a true Lancashire Lass, Violet never really settled and they returned to Lancashire until Charlie’s death.

Since her school days Violet showed great prowess in needlework, knitting and leatherwork. At the age of eleven her needlework teacher, Miss Miller, singled her out for sewing courses, which allowed her to use the only Singer Sewing machine in the school. Miss Miller helped her to make a complicated dress which involved stripes meeting up at the bodice. As children and later grand-children arrived into Violet’s life, she enjoyed knitting for them, and sewed dresses for Christine. She still has Christine’s first pair of knitted booties. Violet showed me some of her exquisite needlework from 1936.

Violet has two grandsons, Edward and Fred. (Her grand-daughter Alex sadly died in 2012). Fred and his partner Annabel are expecting a baby in September, and Violet excitedly awaits her new status as great-grandmother.

We wish Violet a very Happy Birthday!