A centenarian, Irene Ronnie

Irene Laughing

By Kenta Motoike

Photography by Alan Peng

November 2nd will mark a significant milestone in Irene Ronnie’s life as she will become a centenarian and will be receiving a letter from the Queen herself. This distinction is a turning point for Irene that recognises her as a both a subject and a person. However, in order to appreciate such a milestone, the significance of this milestone can only be conveyed through context. At one point Irene even jokingly mentioned the Queen’s letter is just “for your own ego and no other reason”. Thus, the Playbook has decided to provide this context and insight through a personal interview of Irene and her experiences.

What was it like growing up?

Same as school kids as everywhere I suppose. Everyone was Scottish there; the atmosphere was filled with “Scottishness”. Is that a word? I was born in Aberdeen and went to school in there. Nothing unusual about the school, I had the usual courses and exams. I was not a great sportswoman, more of the bookish type.

What was it like in school?

The courses were the regular courses, we learned according to our age and we had the usual examinations. All together I enjoyed school as I’m quite studious by nature. Speaking through my own personal experience, I simply liked school; I liked the discipline that gave me a sense of direction. It directed you in your thinking and you could argue there was never anything to stop you from discussing what you wanted to talk about. You had the chance to argue with the teacher if you didn’t agree what they said.

How did you get involved with the Air Force?

At a certain age you had to decide what you were going to join, everybody had to do something. I joined the air force, and I liked it.

What made you decide to join the Air Force?

The glamour, it seemed more my type. It suited me more than being a soldier, though in effect you were a soldier. I had mostly office jobs since I had training in school made me suited for an office job. I did mostly office work. It’s pretty had to say. You went to school every day, you got the results. I was a good scholar, I studied. I liked books and reading and learning. And that helps enormously when you are a student, if you don’t like what you’re not interested. If you enjoy what you’re doing its much better.

What was it like during the War?

I was a Corporal in charge of a bunch of girls, about 22 girls that I was in charge of. Sometimes you have to remember Britain is a very mixed nation, the people in it are of all backgrounds everything different.

Irene TalkingWhat made you move from Scotland to Canada?

The Canadian Air Force made me move. My husband was in the air force, it was he who was the motivating factor, and I only followed along when he was called to go to Canada. The Canadian air force moved us in a Canadian plane, along with all our personal belongings for us. They wanted Alec to do the type of work he was doing. I can’t explain everything and not sure what happened.

What were your initial impressions of the move?

I was looking forward to it I like new experiences, investigate things. So when they told us we would be going to Canada I was pleased, happy. Being in one country is alright if you yearn to travel it’s nice to be able to do some, especially not at your own expense. I was quite happy, the Canadian Air Force arranged everything, they provided passage and everything was fine. We settled down in Canada quite nicely. It’s so long ago the impressions I have are not the same as they were, but I’ve always been happy in the Air Force, I never had any trouble. As for what I did, it was mostly administrative work and for my husband, he was running a section, it was hard to say.

When did you move to Kerrisdale?

That was a long time afterwards of course. Eventually when we became civilians again, we moved to Kerrisdale. The community centre needed help, I was there and I was a trained official, a trained office person. So obviously they used me and I ran the place for several years. I forget how many years but what I remember was I enjoyed it and it went well I’ve always been able to organize things and I got a good trainable crew. That’s the point, getting people to help you is alright but you have to be able to use them and you can only use them if they are able to do something and properly. Sometimes it’s hard to find people like that and if you train them there’s little trouble involved in running a place. It all seemed to come so easily, I can work with anything that is workable and get along well with people.

How would you describe Kerrisdale?

Kerrisdale is a nice place and the people are very cooperative, if you want to have a committee and you want it to go your way you have to work with it. Supposedly there were 15 people and you have to work with them and train them in what you want to do. Finding the people who will do that is not easy but you can do it with patience and time and we had plenty of time. For the time I was running the centre it went well, we didn’t have any hang-ups or very much go wrong/ out of order. Everyone was happy. It’s no use working with people who are unhappy, they should change their job and I work with that principle people must happy in their work or they won’t do a thorough job. We were lucky to have good people and a lot of them were just fresh from school and had discipline. People without discipline are hard to work with; you need to tell them everything. With discipline and training it provides sense awareness in what you’re doing.

Any part of Kerrisdale you especially like?

I like the whole place; the shops, I was sorry when the butcher left, used to make a lovely haggis, best I’ve ever tasted and I don’t know what happened when that changed. I was sorry when he left

I have few relatives in Scotland that have either passed away or moved to New Zealand, a family of Flynn’s in New Zealand. Flynn is actually an Irish name. I had Irish grandparents; my father was Irish and a adopted scot if you know what I mean.

I’ve had a good life, worked hard. I worked hard in the sector that covers the army and so forth and the centre that covers civilians like in Kerrisdale. I ran the Kerrisdale Community Centre for 5 years and it was a good time there and everything went well and we were happy. I don’t think that there was been a time of unhappiness in that place at all, it’s always been a happy place. There were little things but I don’t know about them and don’t want to know. It can’t be as easy as I make it out to be, never anything serious or bad.

12085066_10207845613636935_1650725005_o (1)What advice would you give to younger people trying to figure out their lives?

This sort of advice, what would you advise them on? On their behaviour? You can’t advise someone on something vague, if someone asked you on advice on a certain subject you would give the best advice you potentially can. Sometimes if you just talk to somebody it’s not necessarily the advice itself, but talking about a subject sometimes resolve things you didn’t know you were worried about. Things you thought about but were unsure of. If someone asked me about running a place I would tell them what I could and how to go about this or that. But it would be based on an individual basis, depending on the question. You can’t just be general about these things, you have to be specific.

It amazes me how little you remember about somethings; whether you put it out of your mind. Sometimes you have trouble remembering things you thought you would never forget. Even at your lower age bracket they’re things you can’t remember even if you would like to remember. A lot of stuff we think that is important is not true. People worry about birthdays and that, doesn’t matter, just as long as you know you have a birthday.

Do you have any children?

No children. That’s the hard thing to compare me with other people, just a defect in me, not that I didn’t try, it just didn’t happen. I was always involved with other people’s children and people. I never missed not having any children.

Do you have any regrets?

I’ve travelled a lot, been all over Europe and seen a lot of different things. Nothing I really regret, you should ask people, is there something you regret. You could have a tremendous wish, anything. Anything I wanted to see I made a point of going to see it and the fact I never had children helped in that respect that I could go anywhere without negating my responsibilities.

What makes you happy?

Anything I’m interested in, I’m having fun. Life can be interesting, but don’t let it get you down, don’t let anything get you down, it’s not worth it. Life’s too short. If you can use your days usefully, you’re alright, if you’re not unhappy. A lot of people live unhappily all their lives and don’t realize it. Now I’m being philosophical. Being happy doesn’t apply always, but you’re generally happy in your life there’s nothing that can overwhelm you.