HILDA MCCAVANAGH (nee Gray) was born on 22nd August 1919 in Langley Moor and, one hundred years later, was celebrating her centenary birthday at Spennymoor Town Hall with family, friends and Spennymoor’s town mayor.
The only girl in the family, Hilda had five brothers.
She left school at 14 years of age to start work at The Laundry in Neville’s Cross. During the War, she worked at Thorn’s factory in Spennymoor making ammunition casings and later spent time at the KGH Club.
She was also a seamstress in a Spennymoor sewing factory and a wages clerk – a job she held for 14 years. Having met at Spennymoor Rink, Hilda married Joseph, known as Joe McCavanagh, in 1938 in Durham.
The married couple lived in Cross Street and moved to Hilda’s current address in Deneside in 1949. The couple had three daughters; Carole, Linda and Suzanne, and one son, Joseph. Hilda also has 10 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.
Sadly, Joe, formerly a miner, passed away in 1978 just before he retired.
Still active today, travelling has played a big part in Hilda’s life. Indeed, she rode her bike until she was 86 and cycled to Trier in Germany when she was in her 60s.
Hilda joined the Friendship Force, a nonprofit organisation founded by Jimmy Carter with the mission of improving intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy and friendship, via homestays. She hosted many exchange visits, travelling far and wide herself in return.
She has hosted people from Holland, India and Germany to name a few and only last year, she visited fellow Friendship Force hosts in Atlanta, Georgia.
She joined Spennymoor WI when she was 40 and held the position of secretary for the next 40 years. Her talent for performing was spotted and she became the star of WI pantomimes, singing lead and playing many other parts.
She also joined Spennymoor Amateur Operatic Society and still regularly attends WI meetings. Ahead of her ‘official’ birthday, her WI friends organised a surprise party for her at their monthly meeting in July.
Throughout her remarkable life, Hilda has been on nearly every Gala Day float, making her own costumes and dresses.
She is an avid reader and keen baker and, even at one hundred years, still lives in her own home, managing all her own affairs, including looking after a large garden.
And among all that, Hilda has also found time to write a book and to give talks about all of her travelling adventures.
Hilda’s party at the Town Hall was attended by 130 guests, including Town Mayor, Cllr Elizabeth Wood and her consort, Mr Eric Rix. She even made the dress she wore for the occasion herself.