Remembering 104 years with Esma

Esma Donnell reached 104 on 4 December at AdventCare Warburton. 188754_01

By Michael Doran

In 1904 ’Peter Pan’ premiered in London, daily radio weather forecasts started and Esma Donnell was born. She has kept up with Peter Pan, posting her 104th birthday on 10 December at AdventCare in Warburton, where she now lives.

Following the big day, she said said she was surprised by all the fuss on her birthday. “I don’t suppose you think I’m very old because I’m not,” she said. “I was born in Carnegie and my daddy worked in the butcher shop there.

“We lived upstairs above the shop and we went down the stairs with Aunty Floss to the park for games. Daddy used to tell me to fetch the butcher paper but one day I fell over and we lost all the paper.

“I had two sisters, Violet and Marjorie and a big brother. I remember school and I did okay, I passed all the tests. They wouldn’t let us go past the sixth grade and the teachers told us that girls should do the housework.

“I can see the clothes we used to wear to a college, we had a uniform but I didn’t like wearing a hat because I had curly hair. Somebody said gee you’re lucky to have curly hair like that and I said I was born like that. I was rather a pretty little girl, I had curls like Shirley Temple, I remember that.

“The boys used to torment the life out of us at Sunday School. At school, girls and boys were kept separate so boys could never play with the girls.

Esma also lived in Hastings, Edithvale and Seaford so it is no surprise she remembers going to the beach a lot. “We used to go to the beach because we lived near the beach,” she said.

During her working life, Esma was a dressmaker and a milliner. “I remember making hats and when people came in and said I want a hat I would say I will get my teacher.The teacher had to do that.

“There was one bloke who used to come in the shop and he used to say I’ve come to see if you want a game of something or other, I can’t remember what it was. He kept coming around wanting to do some jobs in the shop but after a while I told him to stop coming to the shop.”

These days she keeps herself active with art classes and still wonders why everyone is making such a fuss of her.


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