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"My amazing 113-year-old mum"

She may be the UK's oldest person and our oldest beneficiary but to her son Derek Hermiston, Gladys Hooper, who turned 113 this year, is just an amazing mum. Derek tells us more about this very special lady.

Gladys and Derek Hooper

Mum was a very active person when I was younger. She was always busy working or helping others who needed help. That’s what people did during the war and mum was never one to turn anybody in need away.

Some would say I had a pretty exciting childhood.  Mum was an accomplished pianist and played at the Dorchester Hotel and sometimes I would accompany her to London. She and my father, who was a pilot in both the First and Second World Wars, had some very glamorous friends including the aviatrix Amy Johnson and her husband Jim Mollison and my 'aunt' and 'uncle', Freddy and Blossom Miles, who designed numerous light civil and military aircraft.

I can remember one day when Jim flew in to see us. I was about nine years old and mum and I watched his aircraft land in a nearby airfield. I said that I wondered if he would take me up in his plane and before I knew it mum had run across to the airfield and was up in the plane before I could get there – she'd beaten me to it! She loved flying, as did I.

She was quite adventurous for a woman of that time – in the 1920s she started what was thought to have been the first car hire company in the capital and later ran Kingscliff House School, which is now Brighton College Prep.

During the war she was part of the Women's Voluntary Service and was always helping others. Our door was always open and somebody was always popping in to ask for help – if they needed accommodation because they'd been bombed they’d come to mum and she'd find a way to sort it. She never turned anybody away. She was like the Mother Theresa of London!

Gladys now resides in a nursing home on the Isle of Wight and recently the RAF Benevolent Fund was able to support her care with top-up fees.


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