Elizabeth Manahan, more often known simply as Nanny, is celebrating a huge milestone in her life and looking back over 100 years well lived.
Nanny was one of the nearly 50,000 “war brides” who met and married Canadian servicemen and moved to this country after the Second World War, a conflict in which she also served.
“I served during the war. I was in the forces. We were in what is called the ATS, the Auxiliary Territorial Services.”
The ATS, formed in 1938, was the women’s branch of British Army throughout the war and became part of the Women’s Royal Army Corps in 1949.
“We were under Scottish command,” explained Nanny, who hails from Glasgow, and who was posted in Edinburgh where she served as a cook in a large mustering base for troops preparing to ship out to the front.
“I had a girlfriend, she had a cousin coming out on the Canadian Forces and they would come up every once in a while, and that’s how I met my husband. And that’s how I got married to a Canadian,” Nanny recalled with a merry chuckle.
The couple were married on Jan. 14, 1944, endured a brief separation after the armistice, and were reunited in Canada in 1946, after Nanny crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary.
The Manahan’s first home in this country was in Burnaby, but Nanny got to see a lot of Canada before reaching that destination, as she disembarked in Halifax and made her way west by train.
“She always said that they treated them very well on the boat and it was typical of the in laws to meet them off the train,” her daughter Liz Fedato said.
The couple made their home in Burnaby for years and their family-which had seen its first child arrive while still in Scotland–continued to grow, before uprooting for another adventure, this time in the relative wilderness of Gold Bridge.
“My husband moved up to Gold Bridge and then I moved up to Gold Bridge and spent quite a few years up in Gold Bridge, which was quite a shock,” she said, with another bright laugh at the memory.
Elizabeth moved to Lillooet in the early 70s and took a job as a caretaker for female First Nations students from Gold Bridge, Pavilion, Shalalth and outlying areas who were billeted in the old hospital during the week to attend school in Lillooet once they were no longer required to attend residential school in Kamloops.
“We travelled once a week with the students from Gold Bridge who stayed in the dorm all week... we left on Friday and had to be back on Sunday so it was quite a hectic life and I knew I had to move down,” Nanny recalled.
“I worked there for about nine-and-a-half years and then retired.”
That was in 1984, she said, a year before she was eligible for her pension.
“But the government subsidized me because there wasn’t any work like I had been doing. So, I was quite good for a year.”
For that year, and many years after, Nanny lived in a number of homes in Lillooet, continuing to live on her own until just eight years ago, by this time in her 90s, when she moved in with her daughter Liz, in the comfortable south Lillooet home where she resides today.
Elizabeth’s original plan for her 100th birthday was to spend it quietly in her chair, a cat on her lap, watching her favourite television show Little House on the Prairie. There are bigger plans afoot, though, with family coming from near and far, including from Scotland and Nashville, Tennessee, for a celebration worthy of the occasion–complete with bagpipes courtesy of Dave Rennie–at the Elks Hall next Saturday. Between family, members of her strong faith community from Lillooet Gospel Chapel, and other friends (including some of her schoolgirls from the old hospital days all those years ago) there will likely be at least 100 people on hand for the festivities.
As there should be because; to hear Nanny tell it, she has a lot to celebrate.
“I can still walk, I can still see, my hearing isn’t so good, but I’m truly thankful,” she said of what it’s like to have been around for a century.
“I’ve got a beautiful family, they’re all so good to me, so I shouldn’t have any complaints. Sometimes I do but I don’t want to be a grumpy old mom. Sometimes I get discouraged, I want to be able to do more than I can and I get frustrated, but I’ve got to learn to accept the fact that there’s so much I can do and I’ve got to content myself and enjoy each day that the Lord gives me. So, I’m truly thankful.”
Oh, and that quiet birthday with the cat and Little House on the Prairie? That’ll still be happening. The big bash is on Saturday, but Nanny’s actual birthday is today, Jan. 15, and you can bet she’s enjoying it amid all the comforts of home.