Another centenarian joins the band
“I was a glamour girl in my young days,” says Celestine Shipley
She is one of the most outspoken and humorous centenarians you will ever meet.
Guyana’s latest, 100-year-old Celestine Shipley, called Auntie Celeste, celebrated her birthday yesterday and although hard of hearing, her mouth and wit adequately made up for that impairment.
A resident of the Archer’s Home on D’Urban Street, Wortmanville, Shipley was feted by fellow inmates, relatives and friends as well as a youth group from the St. Winefride’s Secondary School, who presented her with a cake.
And as if it were yesterday, the old woman easily recalled some of her early days.
In fact as far back as last month she kept reminding persons that her birthday was approaching and would still sometimes entertain those around her with her dancing.
Born at Hyde Park, Timehri, up the Demerara River on April 21, 1909, Shipley never married but bore two sons, one of whom died in the United Kingdom.
Nevertheless, she has been like a mother to countless grandchildren and nieces and nephews.
Aunt Celeste remembers her early days growing up with a foster mother but as she got older she came into contact with her biological mother, and desperately wanted to live with her.
“As I get to know my mother I cried and my mother had to take me to live with her in town. I grow in town on Saffon Street,” she recalled.
The centenarian loves dancing and told this newspaper that although she could not dance well, she was a glamour girl in her younger days.
“Yes man, I loved party. I was a sport girl, man. I used to dress, man. My godmother was a seamstress in Charlestown and I used to dress nice man, with me jewels and thing,” she said, reminding that she also went to the St. Phillip’s church.
But although she loved partying, it was in her own yard that she met the father of her first child.
She said that at first she did not like the young man to be her husband but according to her, she was not too mature and he managed to ‘get into me head’.
“He used to work in the diamond fields and he was smarter than me and he managed to get me. The first time I went with him I got pregnant,” she remembered.
According to the centenarian, the man was a womaniser and she was glad to get the rid of him.
She later met the father of her second husband and again she was not interested in making him her husband, since he was soon leaving for Barbados.
By now, everyone attending the birthday ceremony had their ears trained towards Aunt Celeste, enraptured by the tales of her early days.
She said that the man soon invited her to join him in Barbados but when she left Guyana, the vessel she was traveling on sank and everyone aboard had to be rescued by lifeboats.
She eventually sailed again for Barbados and soon joined the father of her second son.
“In those days he used to sell shave ice in Barbados and he want me to sell shave ice and I ain’t doing that, so I come back to Guyana,” Aunt Celeste said adding that that was the end of men for her.
She laughed when she finally learnt that she was being interviewed for this feature in the Kaieteur News.
Although she loves her “dry food” (ground provisions) and soup, she does not eat much.
“Just a little,” she says.
Sandra Samuels, one of the many great nieces of the centenarian, described her as a very jovial woman.
“She mouth hot. She could always tell you some fancy story about sometime back. She remembers more than me. She’s still talkative. Every time you come to visit her, she is asking for everybody,” Samuels said.
And as if to prove the point of her ‘hot mouth’, Auntie Celeste blurted out, “talk li’l hard nah. If you had to shout pon somebody, you would’a shout,” while listening to Samuels, who had her mouth close to her ear.
Another niece, Denise Sturge, said that she does not know of her aunt suffering from any chronic ailment.
She disclosed that Aunt Celeste had been still doing domestic chores up to the age of 80-plus.
Administrator of the Archer’s Home, Olive Williams, is very impressed with her charge, who she said is a very pleasant person.
“Always makes you laugh. She has good retention, remembers things from since she was a little girl up until now. Oh, rude? Once she doesn’t want to do something, you cannot make her but all in all, we all love her,” Williams related.
As for Aunt Celeste, she is happy that God has spared her to live to 100 but she says that she is tired and is just waiting for him to ‘call her home’.