We catch up with the Olympic hero and soon-to-be 80-year-old
What is your earliest memory?
I was born outside Liverpool. I can remember my mum (Hilda) after lunch, sitting on a chair and I can remember weighing things on old kitchen weighing scales. I was maybe four years old.
The other memory I have is, where we lived we were bombed because we lived near the railway line which went from Liverpool to Manchester; the lady next door was killed. The semi-detached houses next to ours were so badly damaged and lay derelict for a long time, and I can remember my father, Arthur, taking my brother John and I into the garden to help clear the long grass because the seeds were coming over into our garden and I put a fork through my foot
What is your most treasured possession?
It has to be my gold medal - you can’t put a value on it. If it went to auction, it would depend on who wanted it, whether it would fetch a pound or a million pounds, but it is very precious to me. It’s in the Ulster Museum.
What is your biggest extravagance?
I’m very cautious with money because that’s how I was brought up, but I try not to be like my father who was almost too cautious - he always worried about a rainy day. I try not to be too tight with money, but I would be economical, probably.
Who or what is the love of your life?
Good health. I think that is the most precious thing you can have.
Do you watch much television?
If I am at home in the evening I would put the television on for company, but I’m always doing something else - emails or knitting or sewing. I do watch Coronation Street - I don’t like phone calls when that’s on, and the story lines get even more bizarre all the time. I am patron of a hospice in Rochdale and I was over last week for a dinner and Anthony Cotton (who plays Sean) was the guest speaker; he was the best company and we had great craic - a very community and social-minded young man and I really enjoyed his company.
Any unfilled ambitions?
I would love to visit the Escape to the Chateau (featured on Channel 4). I would love to go and see what Dick Strawbridge and Angel have done to their chateau. They have glamping and they do courses in painting, but it’s mostly a wedding venue. I would love to see it. That would be on my bucket list.
I’d also like to go to Cuba before it’s spoiled.
Is there anything you do not like about your appearance?
Everything! We are never satisfied. People comment on my legs all the time and I am proud of my fitness. I have to have my hair permed because it’s as straight as a dye - it would have been nice to have had a head full of nice curls. I am not the most attractive looking woman, but I do feel comfortable in my own body, so there’s not a lot I would change.