A correspondent shares the great news of a hundredth birthday in the Diocese.
On 25 January the oldest parishioner of St Joseph’s, Moorends, Mrs Matilda Cunliffe, was one hundred! Tilly, as she is known, is much loved, admired and respected both in St Joseph’s and at Our Lady of the Assumption, Stainforth, parishes which she has attended since moving to Doncaster, from Barnsley. Tilly’s daughter, Pat, made a delicious birthday cake, enjoyed by all, so that the parish could share in the celebration.
Born in Shafton, near Barnsley, Tilly grew up in a loving family, with her parents Jack and Sarah Cunningham, her brother, John and two sisters Margaret and Mary. Always keen on learning, Tilly trained to be a teacher at Leeds Beckett College, which, due to the bombing of the city in the Second World War, was transferred to Scarborough. After qualifying, Tilly’s career began at Cudworth Girls School teaching Mathematics, followed by various posts in other schools until she became Head Teacher in 1964, in Grimethorpe, in what was then Springvale First School, where she remained until her retirement in 1982. A dynamic and popular Head, Tilly loved teaching and inspired many changes in her school for the benefit of her pupils, staff and the wider community.
With her husband, Douglas, whom she married in 1944, and their two children John and Pat, Tilly spent many happy holidays travelling and caravanning, especially in Scotland where they met many people who became lifelong friends.
Throughout her life, Tilly has had a passion for learning and in retirement became adept in using a computer, on which she wrote many articles, among them ‘The History of Yorkshire’. She enjoys reading on her Kindle and Facetiming family and friends. Her skills also extend to knitting and crochet, which she has employed in making Christmas and Easter decorations to sell and raise funds for one of her favourite charities, CAFOD.
Her Catholic faith has been the bedrock of her life and informs all she does. Charities she has most generously supported are the RNLI, the Red Cross, the British Legion Poppy Appeal among many others.
After Doug’s death in 2013, Tilly’s own health sadly deteriorated and in recent times she has stayed at home but is visited by many friends, who can only marvel at her speed in doing puzzles and answering questions on University Challenge. Her happy and positive outlook on life have meant her zest for life and learning remain undimmed.
At her birthday celebration in the local village hall, family, friends and neighbours gathered to wish her well and admire the card from the Queen. Tilly, typically, was amused to receive one from the DWP! At Tilly’s own request, in lieu of gifts, those who wished could donate to her two chosen charities, CAFOD and the RNLI. To her delight, Tilly received a personal and sincere letter of thanks from CAFOD for the donation, which she greatly appreciated.