Wales

The Welsh woman who can remember the 1919 race riots

Win Hawkins Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Win Hawkins was born in 1911

Meet the 108-year-old who has lived through two world wars, race riots and is about to see her 21st prime minister come into power.

Amy Winifred Hawkins is thought to be one of the oldest living Welsh people, but still has vivid memories and a penchant for "chair dancing".

Win, who goes by her middle name, was born in 1911 and now lives with her daughter in Monmouth.

She is one of the last people to witness the 1919 race riots in Newport.

Although her memory of the chaotic scenes over 100 years ago is hazy, Win remembers being "scared stiff".

"I heard this awful noise, and people came rushing down. Frightened me to death," she recalled.

"I turned and I ran...I didn't stay long enough to see what happened."

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Media captionAt 108, Win Hawkins is one of the oldest people in Wales

The centenarian has lived through more than her fair share of unrest, and worked as a firewatcher during World War Two.

The women were trained in using "stirrup pumps" - a bucket of water, a tube and a pump - used to put out smaller fires after bombings.

Win recalls one day in particular when she did not go down to the shelter, and watched bombs rain down on the street.

"We were stood there and all of a sudden the sky lit up," she said.

"They killed six people in the street... it could have been us."

Recalling the difficulties of war, Win said: "We put up with it I suppose."

'Splits, kicks and cartwheels'

When Win was a teenager, she joined a dance troupe, touring the north of England in pantomime.

Her granddaughter, Tamzin Powell, explained that she could kick her feet so high that she reached her forehead.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Win (right) with her sister Lil, who turns 100 in December

Win said they did "splits, kicks and cartwheels... all sorts."

Later, she began working for a department store in Newport as a window dresser, where there was a set plan she was supposed to follow.

"I used to deviate from it - I didn't like the way it was done," she explained.

"Every couple of weeks they would have people down from head office, they asked me then if I would like to not bother with the plans, but to use my own."

Letters from the Queen

Win will turn 109 in January, when she can expect her sixth letter from the Queen - having received ones to mark her 100th and 105th birthdays and every one since.

"I got a stack of them there, a boxful!" she said.

Image copyright Famiy photo
Image caption Win's husband George Hawkins

Soon Win will not be the only centenarian in the family, with her sister celebrating her 100th birthday in December.

Tamzin said she and Win have a "very close relationship" as they lived together when she was a child.

"Now I return the favour by looking after her," she said.

"The whole of our family are very proud of her."

So what is the secret to reaching 108? "Oh God I don't know!" said Win.

"They're wonderful to me - I ought to be all right hadn't I?"

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