4th April 1903
Guernsey’s oldest resident dies, aged 110
Margaret Anne Neve, who died in 1903, was the oldest person in Guernsey. More than that, at 110 (and 322 days) she was also the oldest in the British Isles, and perhaps the world. She had lived her whole life on the island, apart from a spell in Belgium where she’d attended school.
The eldest of eight children, Neve was born Margaret Harvey, in St Peter Port, on 18 May 1792. William Pitt was prime minister and George III was on the throne. Through her life, she saw four other monarchs: George IV, William IV, Victoria and Edward VII. She witnessed some of history’s most remarkable events, including the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Battle of Waterloo. This had come about as a result of her schooling. She’d been educated in Belgium, and visited the battlefield shortly after the fighting had come to an end.
She married at 31, in 1934. The marriage lasting 26 years, until her husband’s death in 1960. By then, she was 57, and she lived the next 54 years – just shy of half of her lifetime – as a widow.
A long line of long-lifers
Credit for Neve’s longevity should probably be credited to her genes as much as to the Guernsey air. Her mother, Elizabeth, lived to celebrate her 99th birthday. Other contributing factors may have included her daily drinking (she regularly drank both sherry and whisky) and the fact she remained active. During her life, she visited every country in Europe apart from Belgium. Naturally, with the map of Europe having been redrawn several times over, some of the countries she visited may no longer exist. There are also tales of her climbing a tree at the age of 110 to pick an apple from one of the upper branches.
Her death was reported widely in Britain and beyond, and was marked with respect through the lowering of all flags on Guernsey to half-mast.
What else happened in Guernsey in April?
A body on a beach, an impossible alibi and an unstoppable race against time!
Check out the first book in The Sarnian series, set on the Channel Island of Guernsey.