Most people when they get to their 90s are starting to take life a bit easier – but Muriel Crawford is not your average nonagenerian.
After all, aged 93, she is still a season ticket holder at Sunderland Football Club, was recently interviewed on television and only gave up being a parish councillor a few years ago!
It’s fair to say that Muriel, who lives in a bungalow at our Gray Court leasehold scheme in Easington, has led a colourful and active life.
This is one of the reasons why she was asked to appear on Tyne Tees in 2018 to discuss her wartime memories.
Muriel says: “They wanted to know what it was like being a child in the Second World War. I was 12 when the war broke out and living in Easington with my parents and my brothers and sisters.
“My dad and brothers worked in the mines and my mum ran a little grocery shop.
“Everything changed when war broke out though. I remember the first time the air raid sirens went, my mum closed the shop so we could all go to the communal shelter and she never re-opened the shop again, even after the war finished.
“She was so focused on protecting her children that the shop just became unimportant to her.
“Easington was bombed a few times as the Germans targeted the east coast but thankfully it never got hit as badly as places like Sunderland and Hartlepool.
“I do remember one time where a German pilot had parachuted into the sea when his plane was shot down and there were people shouting to let him drown, but my mum pointed out that he was someone’s son and that he should be helped.
“That perfectly sums my mum up.”
One of the ways Muriel’s mum was able to protect her was to send her to rural North Yorkshire, where she lived/worked at Swinton Hall in Masham. During the War, part of it was used by Harrogate Ladies College and Muriel used to do housework and serve food.
She adds: “I was at Swinton Hall from 13 to 17 and whilst I still get butterflies when I think how nervous I was when I went away from my family at such a young age, I loved it there and I have even been back a few times now it is a hotel.”
After the war, Muriel returned to Easington and eventually met a man called Robert who would become her husband.
She recalls: “We went to school together, but I was four years younger than him, but even then, I remember saying to my friends that I liked him.
“Then, years later I saw him in a dance hall, and we arranged to meet but he stood me up. Luckily for him, and me, I gave him a second chance and we fell in love and were married when I was 20.”
Muriel and Robert went on to have five children, but Robert tragically died from cancer aged just 56, so he never got to see his five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Muriel remembers: “Robert fought in Italy during the War and one of the battles he was involved in was the battle of Monte Cassino.
“After the war, when it used to thunder and lighting here, he would sometimes throw himself under the bed, obviously still traumatised by what he had seen in battle.
“He always said he would like to go back to Italy and I used to joke that the only way that would happen was if he went to the local ice cream parlour which was ran by a Italian family.
“Then, just one week after he died, my friend won a holiday to Italy at the bingo and she took me and when I got there, I realised it was where Robert had been. That was very emotional, but I think it was fate that took me there.”
Being a nonagenerian certainly hasn’t slowed Muriel down. She was a parish councillor up until a few years ago and is still a season ticket at Sunderland.
She said: “I never really liked football but got into it later in life and I have now been a season ticket holder for over 25 years.
“I no longer go every game, especially the midweek ones in winter when it’s really cold, but I still enjoy going, even if we are not doing too well at the moment!”