8th Dec, 2016

A gin and tonic is the secret to a long life according to one of Coventry's eldest residents

Coventry Editorial 13th Apr, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

“MY SECRET is having a gin and tonic – that has kept me going. I feel proud to reach this age.”

Those are the words of the woman thought to be Coventry’s eldest resident, Edith Smith, who has celebrated her 107th birthday.

Edith, who lives at Lammas House Residential Care Home in Lammas Road, was surrounded by family, friends and fellow residents as she below out the candles and enjoyed a glass of bubbly.

Edith was born in Bradford in 1909, during the reign of King Edward VII to parents Louisa and Harry Laycock, before moving to Southbank Road in Coundon with her first husband Harry.

Having lived in the city for most of her life, Edith lived independently until she was 103.

Following the death of her father at a young age, Edith and her mother opened the doors of their home to Belgian refugees during the war in return for a rent payments and French lessons for Edith.

Edith’s daughter-in-law, Pat Smith, said: “She vividly remembers soldiers marching past the window.”

During the Second World War, Edith’s husband Harry was responsible for looking out for fires started in Coventry when bombs were dropped by enemy aircraft, leaving Edith at home looking after their son Roger, who just a baby at the time of the outbreak.

Without an air raid shelter in her own garden, and faced with using the ‘filthy’ communal shelter, Edith would shield Roger by hiding under the dining room table during bomb blasts.

During the Coventry Blitz, Edith and Roger escaped to the hills surrounding the city.

Daughter-in-law Pat’s husband Bill said: “She lived about a mile outside of Coventry up on a hill, so was able to look down and see the city burning following two days of bombing.

“Many people camped in the woods to get away from the houses to safety.”

To escape the danger of the German bombings, Edith and Roger lived on a farm in Leicestershire before returning to the city after the war.

It was sadly then that she lost her husband, who died of lung cancer at the age of 55.

With a pension of just 50 pence a week, Edith was forced to work as a bookkeeper in the city to make ends meet.

But the tragedy did not end there, with Roger dying from a brain hemorrhage at just 35 years old.

She found love again with her second husband, also called Harry, who she met at a dance hall before he sadly died in 1986.

Throughout her life, the birthday girl, who is grandmother to James and John and great-grandmother to Freya, has loved dancing – a hobby she enjoyed well into her 90s.

Rukmi Silva, manager at Lammas House said: “It is truly an honour to have Edith here with us and we feel very proud of her.

“She is such an inspiration to us all and we feel so happy to be celebrating another huge milestone with Edith and her family.”