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The Saltburn Profile by Rosemary Nicholls Nancy McGregor

“Just keeping busy and working,” answers ninety-seven year old Nancy McGregor, when I ask her the secret of living to such a great age. “My sister Madeleine used to say to me ‘Do you ever sit down?’” Nancy lived independently till this year, when she took

up residence at Saltburn’s Hazelgrove Court Nursing Home in Randolph Street. She has settled in well, complimenting the Home on its caring nature: “The staff are here at the drop of a hat and the accommodation, food and cleanliness are lovely,” she says. In 1914, Nancy was born in Gateshead and her future

husband, George, was born in 1912: “You were born when the Titanic went down,” his mother used to say to him. Nancy went to Dunston Hill School, then left to train to be a hairdresser at high class Bainbridge’s in Newcastle. She learnt beauty culture as well as hairdressing and did the hair of actors and actresses from the Theatre Royal. Among other customers were the owners of almost stately homes in the area: “We were always taken to the servants’ entrances,” she remembers. As her parents moved to Durham City to run the North

Road Station Hotel, Nancy moved in with Madeleine in Dunston-on-Tyne until she married George in 1936. George had his own painting and decorating business, until he was called up in 1939 and had to leave Nancy and their little son, Ian, to go to war. When he came back, he wanted a change of career and they both chose to train for Social Services. Around this time, they took holidays in Upleatham

Street, Saltburn, as a neighbour knew someone who would host the family. “It was lovely,” says Nancy. “I have good memories of hams hanging up in the larder, which was full of excellent food. All Ian wanted to do was play on the beach with a bucket and spade and in the water.” She enjoyed the peace and the joy of having her husband back. Sadly, Ian died at the age of twelve, just five years after George returned from the war.

Nancy and George took up a joint post at Brandon

Observation and Assessment Centre and stayed until retirement. “My role was mainly administrative,” explains Nancy. “There were three units with ten children in each and I had to make sure everything worked smoothly.” George was in charge of opening up homes for adults who could no longer live independently. Nancy and George unfortunately only had a year

together in their retirement; George died of a heart attack. Their daughter, Anne, suggested that Nancy should move to Marske and she found her a bungalow in Churchill Drive, a few minutes’ drive from Anne’s home. Nancy had been an active member of the Women’s

Institute in Durham, taking part in Drama Festivals. They took one play, ‘The Three Marys’ to a Drama Festival and came second. In Marske, Nancy again got involved with the WI and she became Press Secretary. She also joined St Mark’s Church and helped with bazaars when David Lambert was Vicar. “I used to enjoy coming along to Saltburn to the

Community Theatre and watching plays by the ’53 Society with my son-in-law’s mother, Mrs Tye and my daughter,” she says. “I liked to walk along the beach, along the pier and

through the Valley Gardens. Saltburn has a quality of its own; it’s lovely.” Nancy has memories of the days when London people

brought up their whole families to stay at the Zetland Hotel. Her friend, Celia, was a children’s nanny; she had to dress for the part with a brown uniform, hat and badge. “I’m still in touch with Celia’s grandchildren,” she says. Travelling has always been a pleasure for Nancy. “It

was a rare treat to go to the seaside when I was little,” she tells me. “We went on trips once a year.” She says her mum would’ve been thrilled to know that she’s now living so close to the sea. In retirement, she’s been able to have holidays in Tenerife, through friends with a villa there. She’s enjoyed the winter warmth of the Canary Islands. Now partially-sighted and a little hard of hearing,

Nancy has had to give up her hobbies of letter writing and reading, but she used to love both. “My favourite book is ‘Rebecca’ and I also like Agatha Christie,” she says. She now listens a lot to Radio 4. She loves traditional music, such as Joe Loss and she and George used to be keen ballroom dancers. “We used to pay 1/6d (7.5p) for the Wednesday afternoon tea dance at the Oxford Galleries in Newcastle,” she remembers. In earlier years, Nancy was a keen seamstress: she did

sewing, knitting and embroidery. She liked to do cake icing and although not professional, her work was sought after by her friends. Nancy has always been interested in people and is still

in contact with some of the children she knew in her Social Services role; many are retired themselves now. It is a sadness that her three brothers and sister have died and that their children are now passing away. But she has a granddaughter, Alice, of whom she is very proud; she is a vet at Lytham.

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