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Win Jefferies on her wedding day

Reflecting back over the last 108 years

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions,the Independent was unable to interview Win in person this year, however we emailed some questions to Win, to find out a little bit more about her life –


Independent – What is your fondest memory from your childhood?

“Empire Picnic Day at school each year – that was a big thing. All the schools had picnics on Empire Day with races and prizes and everyone brought picnic baskets of food and we had picnics. It was nice,” Win said.

Independent – What was school like back then and how far was it to school and how did you get there?

“I didn’t like going to school when I was little, but when I got bigger, I liked it alright. We walked to school; I used to walk three miles to school when I was little. I went to school at Gilletts Ridge until I was 12 and then to Ulmarra School and then High School (in Grafton).

Independent – As a child, how did your family celebrate Christmas and what sort of presents did you give each other?

“We always stopped at home and had Christmas dinner at home – we never went anywhere. I don’t remember if we gave each other anything. We used to hang our stockings up and got things. You couldn’t get up early enough to see what you had in your stocking.These days the kids wouldn’t be satisfied with what we used to get.

Independent – What are some of the lifestyle changes and inventions that you have seen during your lifetime?

(Win reflected back over washing day – before washing machines)“Mum had a big copper that she boiled water in (over a fire) and she had a broom stick to stir the clothes in the copper.We had about three big-long lines (with a post at each end) to hang the clothes on. In the evening you gathered the clothes in and folded them. Then you’d sort the ones to be ironed and put them to the side,then watered them down and starched them and rolled them up and put them in a heap ready for the next day and that was ironing day.

It took two days to do the washing. There was nine of us in the family so there was a lot of washing. I was the fifth one in the family – the one in the middle.


(Transport)-“We had a horse and sulky in the early days and then we got a car in 1926.We also had horses to ride around in the paddocks.


(TV and radio)– “We had one of those big old phonographs (record players) that had big fat records and you had to wind up, to play. That was the only entertainment we had.

There was no wireless (radio) – wirelesses came in in 1932 and television didn’t come in until about 1956.


(Travelling to Grafton)– “We lived out past Ulmarra, towards Tucabia way. We used to go into Ulmarra in the sulky and there was a boat that used to run from Yamba to Grafton every day and you could hop on and go to Grafton and then come back (to Ulmarra) by boat and then home in the sulky. It would take a full day.

I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years and a lot of things were not for the better.

Independent – How do you think people’s manners, respect or values have changed over the years?

“Young people are different (now), and they want everything today.

Independent – Looking back over your life, what sort of things did you enjoy doing?

“When we went to school, we used to play basketball and tennis.

My brother cleared a big piece of ground once at our house to make a tennis court and made a net and we use to play tennis there.

I always loved going to the races and went to the races for about 60 years.

We used to go to the beach and go to dances and the pictures. There wasn’t as many things around to do (back then), like there is today.

The picture theatre was at Ulmarra – there was a big screen and a man who played the piano, for the music to go with the pictures. They were silent pictures, so he used to sit there and play the music to go with the pictures.

Ulmarra was a thriving town once.

There was a lot of things there: the picture theatre, a lot of shops, a hospital, a doctor and doctor surgery, a police station, there was five churches and now there’s none and there were three motor garages.

Independent – You have a love of fashion and coordinating your outfits even to this day, tell us a little bit about that and what is your favourite colour.

“I have always loved fashion, but I don’t think it’s as nice now as what it was 10 or 20 years ago. My favourite colours are red and black; they’re my two best colours.

Independent – Tell us a bit about your family.

“There were nine of us in my family.

I had five sisters and three brothers, and I only have one sister left now, Jean Kearns and she’s 100 and lives at St Catherine’s Villa, in Grafton. She has dementia.Jean’s son (bush poet) Bill Kearns, has visited Dougherty Villa over the years to present his poetry for the residents.

My husband Eric and I were married for 67 years and we raised three children Basil, Val and Beverley –Val however, sadly died.

I have eight grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren.

Independent – How long have you lived here and what do you like most about Dougherty Villa?

“I’ve been here for 15 year’s last February and I love playing housie and enjoy the entertainment. I used to knit and crochet but my eyesight is getting bad now and so I don’t do it anymore. I used to make a lot of rugs though, over the years.

Independent – This COVID-19 virus has turned the world upside down. Have you experienced any other pandemic like this during your lifetime?

“I never saw anything like this. Everybody was always free to go everywhere they wanted. There were never any restrictions like there is today. It’s terrible, I think.

Independent – I guess with the COVID restrictions, there are not too many visitors coming to Dougherty Villa (eg music groups, school children etc)at the moment. What do you remember from some of those visits?

“I remember the school children coming here one time and they wanted to see what a 100-year-old woman looked like,” she said laughing. And I’m a bit older now.

I told them about what it was like before Grafton had a bridge and watching the train carriages being transported by boat from South Grafton over the river to Grafton. The big boat (SS Induna) I think is still on the bank on the other side of the river.They’d have a job putting them across now.

Independent – Win,for years you have followed tennis great Roger Federer’s career and you are probably one of Roger’s biggest fans – and probably his oldest fan.

What do you like most about Roger and if you ever got the chance, what would you say to him?

“He’s such a nice natured man and you never heard him back answer anyone or see him throw his racket down, like some of the others did. He always had a good sense of humour.

I would tell him that he was admired for being a good tennis player and for being such a good sport.

And he’s got the ideal family; he’s got two sets of twins–- twin girls and twin boys,” Win said smiling.


Independent – At 108, what do you attribute to your longevity? 

“I guess it’s just because I didn’t die,” she said laughing.

I didn’t do anything special and I get the same treatment as everyone else here.

I was very sick when I came here. The year before I came here, I had a massive heart attack. They flew me to Sydney in a little air ambulance for an operation and when I came back, I couldn’t do anything so then they put me in here. Then I picked up and could have had another seven or eight years at home.

I enjoy my walk around the carpark after every meal each day and I love playing housie. I always like my clothes and beads and dressing nicely.

It’s getting harder to see the TV, it’s blurred and it’s hard to hear.


Independent – Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

“When we lived on the land nearly all our food came off the land. We grew all our own vegetables and had milk and poultry and eggs; you hardly bought anything.

My mother was a good dressmaker and made all our clothes.

There were no school uniforms; you just wore a dress or anything you liked, really.

At school you just had your pencil and studied your spelling and tables – that was important to do, there was no computers back then.


Independent – Do you have any words of wisdom for a long and happy life, that you could pass on to the rest of us?

“No, I can’t do that, because I don’t know the answer,” she said laughing.


The Independent would like to thank Dougherty Villa, and Leisure and Lifestyle team leader Ros Houlahan, for their assistance with this story.


A day in the Life of Win Jefferies:

Clarence Valley’s oldest resident turns 108:


Wonderful Wishes for Win