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Gallery: What happened in 1908? Bisto was launched, the Ford Model T took to the roads - and Cynthia Cook and Eileen Knevett were born

13:30 02 May 2014

Cynthia Cook and Eileen Knevett (right) celebrate their 106th birthdays in Kirby le Soken

Cynthia Cook and Eileen Knevett (right) celebrate their 106th birthdays in Kirby le Soken

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A party celebrated the birthdays of two women with a combined age of 212.

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1908

• Bisto gravy powder was first marketed

• Lord Robert Baden-Powell published Scouting for Boys

• The first Ford Model-T took to the roads

• Ernest Shackleton set sail from New Zealand on the Nimrod for Antarctica

• Winston Churchill enters the Cabinet for the first time, as President of the Board of Trade

• First large suffragette rally in London

• Elizabeth Garrett Anderson is the first woman in England to be elected as a mayor, in Aldeburgh

• Edward Elgar’s first symphony is played in Manchester

• Albert Einstein presented his quantum theory of light

The event, held in Kirby-le-Soken yesterday, marked the 106th birthday of Eileen Knevett.

By her side at the occasion was Cynthia Cook, who turned 106 in February.

They were both born in 1908, the year of the first Model-T Ford, when Bisto gravy powder was first marketed and when Robert Baden-Powell published his book Scouting for Boys.

Each received a card congratulating them from the Queen, the great-granddaughter of King Edward VII who was on the throne when they were born.

The party, held in the St Michael’s Church hall, was attended by residents of three care homes run by the Hunt Healthcare Group where the birthday girls live, along with dignitaries including the chairman of Essex County Council councillor Kay Twitchen and representatives from the Royal British Legion.

Ray Hunt, who with wife Caroline is director of the care group, said: “They are both great characters, and when you look at their faces I reckon I have got more wrinkles than they have.

“We had a party for them last year but thought we had to do something again.

“We have a great team between the three homes, and the average age of people at the party is 89 but we don’t care - it’s about what people can and can’t do and having a good time.”

Born in Lowestoft, Cynthia moved down to Clacton in her early 20s, where she lived for 85 years.

A twin, her brother died after returning from combat after having been at Dunkirk.

She spent most of her life working as a carer, and worked beyond the death of her husband George in 1971.

Cynthia said: “I don’t know what the secret is but I worked until I was in my 70s and I think that helped.

“I love the odd Guinness and a sherry and that probably has something to do with it too.”

Son Brian Cook, 69, added: “Mum has been a hard-worker all her life, and to reach this milestone is great.

“To get the pair of them together and hold this party is just fantastic.

“We have been inundated with flowers, cards and all sorts.”

Cynthia has four children, 12 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, with a third on the way.

Eileen was born in Clapham Common, one of three children, and was fortunate to go to a private school.

Her earliest memory is having her photographer taken in a studio owned by her uncle, when she was aged just two or three.

Eileen also vividly remembers watching a zeppelin crash to the ground in flames during the First World War.

Watching from her bathroom window she saw bodies falling out of the airship.

She said: “It was so terrible I will never forget it.”

Eileen had a lucky escape of her own during the Second World War.

Aged 21 she was working in a large insurance company in London when her boss told her to evacuate the building due to an air raid.

However she refused, saying “I’m not leaving”, which turned out to be the right thing to do as the air raid shelter used by her colleagues suffered a direct bomb hit.

Although she had no children of her own she keeps in close contact with relatives in Australia who she used to regularly visit up until recently.

A ballroom dancing fan, Eileen’s favourite dance is the quickstep, and she recalls being chaperoned by her mother when she attended tea dances at a young age, as it was not the done thing for a young woman to go alone to such an event.

She moved to Clacton in the 1980s to be closer to friends, in the same decade as her husband Spencer, known as Spen, died.

Friend Wendy Reed, who has known Eileen for more than 20 years, said: “It is phenomenal how Eileen can remember things so early in her life, particularly when they were 103 years ago, but I have seen the picture of her in her white dress and bonnet.

“She is a force of nature.”

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