Beatty Orwell celebrates 104

07 Jul 2021

Former Mayoress and Councillor of Tower Hamlets, Beatrice Orwell – known as Beatty, celebrated her 104th birthday at home on 7th July, surrounded by family, friends, staff and volunteers from Jewish Care’s Stepney Community Centre at the Brenner Centre, where she has been a member for many years.

Born in Aldgate in 1917, with bombs dropping around her, Beatty is the longest known member of the Labour Party and took a stand against the fascist black shirts at the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.

Beatty was ‘overwhelmed’ to receive so many cards, flowers and gifts from friends, staff, volunteers and members of Jewish Care’s Stepney Community Centre at Brenners. As a birthday surprise, The Friends of Stepney Committee organised for Beatty’s favourite entertainer from the centre, Ian Leigh, to sing a medley of her favourite songs to her outside her house.

“When I heard Ian sing it was the biggest shock of my life,” said the centenarian,” but it was such a lovely one. I don’t know why anyone would do this for me but I want to thank everyone for coming and making it so special.”

“It was truly a great party,” says Beatty’s daughter, June Legg, “Mum had such an amazing birthday. Ian sang all her favourite songs and she was singing along with him.

“As a family we can’t tell you how much we appreciate the efforts of the Committee in making this a truly memorable day and one which will always live in our hearts. It was great to see all the staff, past and present who made such an effort to be there, in between delivering dinners. She spent many years with the Jewish Care family, they have always been so kind and attentive to Mum. We can’t thank you enough and long may your good work continue.”

Janet Foster who chairs The Friends of Stepney Committee and has known Beatty all her life, also gave her good wishes to Beatty on behalf of the Committee, together with the staff.

“It gives me immense pleasure to wish our dear and truly remarkable Beatty warm wishes for her 104th birthday,” said Janet. “Beattie and her devoted family are truly inspirational and all her many friends send their love to her on her very special day.”

June added, “We are immensely proud of our Mum. She has had a very eventful life. Born in humble surroundings in the East End of London, she worked hard all of her life, but along the way she met the Queen at Buckingham Palace and had tea at 10 Downing Street, which really isn’t bad for a girl from Petticoat Lane!”

Beatty celebrated her birthday at home this year, where she lives with the ever-loving support of her three children and extended family which includes 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and eight great, great-grandchildren.

Beatty and her two sisters were brought up in East London by their mum who taught them to be strong and independent. She spent much of her working life as an over-locker in a men’s trouser factory and made uniforms for soldiers. She married John Orwell and together they had three children.

She has been involved in local politics for as long as she can remember and was elected as a local councillor in Tower Hamlets. In 1966, Beatty’s husband, John, served as Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the two used their political influences to help shape the local area.