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Double celebration at Norwich nursing home

Rhona Brown celebrates her 102nd birthday.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Rhona Brown celebrates her 102nd birthday. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011

A Norwich nursing home is celebrating two landmark birthdays this weekend.

Masie Thatcher celebrates her 100th birthday.; PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Thomas Tawell House, part of the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind’s (NNAB) Magpie Road complex, is celebrating the birthdays of Rhona Brown, 102, and Masie Thatcher, 100, tomorrow.

Mrs Thatcher was born in the Royal Mews at Windsor Castle in 1911 and after leaving school went to work for the household of Lord Carnarvon, the fifth earl of which, George, funded Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

After a series of mysterious deaths following the tomb’s opening in 1922 there was mass media speculation about a “curse” on those who had
reopened the ancient tomb.

The aristocratic family kept the sarcophagus in their home for part of Mrs Thatcher’s time working for them and she always recalled being scared of it.

Her 70-year-old son Robin recalled: “She told us that she used to be scared of it and would get her brother to walk her past it. She used to look after one of the sons, who went on to be Lord Carnarvon as well, and recalled how his sister was called Nefertiti and they went to Woolworths to get an Easter egg engraved for her.

“He asked to go to the counter and came back to our mum and said ‘Fancy not knowing how to spell Nefertiti!’”

Mrs Thatcher also has another son, 66-year-old Hilton, and six grandchildren, but lost her husband of 30 years when he was 57.

She moved to Norfolk in 1998, initially spending three years at Robert Smith Court sheltered housing in Stalham before moving to Thomas Tawall House in 2001.

The other birthday girl, Miss Brown, went to Norwich High School for Girls between 1920 and 1928 before becoming one of the first women to graduate in physics from University College London.

She never married and says the secret to living to the grand age of 102 is enjoying the occasional gin and tonic.

Rowing was one of her favourite vocations in her time as a student and she went on to work for the BBC in London for 12 years before enjoying a career in accountancy.

She moved to Norfolk to live at Riverside, Ludham as a nine-year-old. She said: “I was thrilled to the marrow to move to Norfolk because I was a weakling in Dorset.

“When I was brought to be shown our house, which was by the river and led up to the village, it was absolute heaven.

“And I’m told that the Norfolk air is very good for children!”

The NNAB’s Thomas Tawell House is a not-for-profit home offering care for people with sensory impairment and is the only one of its kind in the county.

The NNAB is launching a £150,000 redevelopment appeal which will see the creation of a light-filled sitting room, a new entrance area and new access to the home’s gardens. To find out more, visit www.nnab.org.uk.

Do you know someone who is soon to celebrate a landmark birthday? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or on email at david.freezer@archant.co.uk.

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