Thelma's 105 years worth of memoirs recorded in poetry video

GLENN MCCONNELL/Stuff.co.nz

Thelma McLean, 105, has memorised poems from throughout her life.

Nothing surprises Thelma McLean. She's seen both world wars. She's even met the Queen.

McLean, who lives at Waikanae Country Lodge, turned 105 on May 31.

Her memories flicker through her mind. There are a lot of them.

Thelma's memoir begins, "My history is a long one! Have you got all day?"
GLENN MCCONNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Thelma's memoir begins, "My history is a long one! Have you got all day?"

Sometimes, they surprise her. "Oh my! That's right," she exclaims, when reminded of her past.

READ MORE: Four centenarians meet for coffee at Waikanae Country Lodge

Kapiti author Graham Bathgate has written the centenarian's memoirs. She asks him questions, about her own life.

Thelma McLean grew up in Otago. She now resides in a Kapiti retirement lodge.
GLENN MCCONNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Thelma McLean grew up in Otago. She now resides in a Kapiti retirement lodge.

However, despite her murky memory, McLean clearly remembers poems from throughout her life.

Bathgate has collated poetry in her memoirs, Poetry, A Centenarian Remembers.

He met her while volunteering at the retriment lodge. "Thelma would often recite lines as I read them. Sometimes she would start saying a poem out loud even before I began."

Graham Bathgate has published a book about Thelma McLean.
GLENN MCCONNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Graham Bathgate has published a book about Thelma McLean.

One of McLean's favourite poems, is from her childhood, 100 years ago.

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"Old Bob Briggins was a very good man,
He tries to teach us all he can
Writing spelling and arith-me-tic 
But he never forgets to give us the stick."

Sir Briggins, she says, was her old school headmaster from Clyde in Otago. "It's funny that, I was only five years old!"

She loved school but, being a girl, she was forced to leave early.

"It was compulsory for us, we were only children, to leave school at 14, we weren't allowed any more education. I just loved school, it was my dream to go to school every day."

Bathgate believes her attentive years as a student are to thank for her stellar poetic memory.

"She must have learnt these poems in school, when memorising was very big."

He says his book is not about a "celebrity life".

"It's about an ordinary life filled with family, siblings, long-ago memories, hard work and friends."

Now, McLean continues to enjoy the simple things. She moves swiftly, for a centenarian, unmoved by the oddities of life.

"After a while, you just put up with it, and take it as it comes."

She says she stopped being surprised by life 50 years ago.

"I've seen so many things which have been portended."

Now, McLean relaxes, and looks forward to the next copy of the Dominion Post. For the crossword, rather than the news.

 - Kapiti Observer

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