Two sisters who are claimed to be Britain’s oldest twins have celebrated their 103rd birthday and revealed the key to their long lives: a bedtime tipple. Elma Harris prefers a brandy and lemonade, while Thelma Barratt quipped that her longevity was due to her love of eating, per BBC News.
Harris, however, said that her drink should be served in a brandy glass without ice for it to be perfect. The sisters who live in different counties—Harris lives in Stockport, Great Manchester, and Barratt in Kirkham, Lancashire—were reunited by their family to celebrate this milestone. Harris was born roughly half an hour before her sister on August 3, 1919, in Stockport.
Witty and warm, Thelma and Elma are funny and on the ball, “I just do as I am told,” Thelma tells me, before winking conspiratorially and whispering:
💬 “Or so they think.” pic.twitter.com/aeGSyFEUso
— Manchester News MEN (@MENnewsdesk) August 4, 2022
Harris told the outlet, “It’s so wonderful. I didn’t expect all this. It feels great. I’m happy.” Barratt added, “It’s lovely to be together because we don’t get together very often.” The milestone was characterized as “incredible” by Stockport Mayor David Wilson, who attended the celebrations with the sisters and their family. He said, “All their reminiscences from their childhood and when they worked at Smiths Crisps have been a revelation and an education.”
Tony Barratt, Thelma’s son, told BBC North West Tonight that it was particularly special because the coronavirus outbreak had kept the twins apart for recent birthdays.
Happy birthday to twins Elma and Thelma who turn 103 today. 🎂
The pair from Stockport say brandy and food is the secret to their long lives! pic.twitter.com/9GtELsxeDV
— BBC North West (@BBCNWT) August 3, 2022
The sisters, when they were no more than eight years old, would accompany their elder brother Robert down to the railway lines to seek loose coal that had fallen off trains so they could light the fire, reports Manchester Evening News. They said, “We didn’t have much, we were very poor.”
When they turned 14, they began working as packers and labelers at the local Smiths Crisps factory. Despite having a childhood marred by poverty, they do recollect the happy memories of playing in the streets and being mischievous. Barratt said, “We would be out on the streets being naughty, ” while Harris recollected, “I was the most naughty. We would knock on doors and run off.”
Elma and Thelma have a few words of wisdom for us all. ❤️https://t.co/W8Bl9TqyXs
— The Manc (@TheMancUK) August 4, 2022
Both the sisters attended Alexandra Park School and stayed at the Smiths Crisps factory until they married and quit their jobs, barely three months apart at the age of 21. Harris married joiner Bill Hewitt, and Barratt married hatter Joseph Barratt, just before the war began. Harris recalls watching the city burn crimson as a result of the bombing. She said, “We once came back from a do with the girls and the whole of Manchester was red with the bombs.”
Both Harris and Barratt witnessed their husbands go to war and spoke of dire times. They said, “We didn’t see them for a couple of years. We used to go and sleep in the caves at Brinksway when the air raids took place.
When asked what the disadvantage of being twins was, the centenarians said it was having to wear the same clothing as they grew up, but the advantage was always having one another for company. They live in different counties but still catch up on each other’s life during a phone call every week. They frequently go on trips and the seaside to spend some time together.
While Harris believes in “Keep smiling, don’t worry,” Barratt ponders about if they ever thought they’d get to this age and says, “I mean…..we are getting on a bit.”