Real Lives: ‘Utter determination’ has seen Helen make it to 100

Helen McClements made sure her children had the education she didn't
Helen McClements made sure her children had the education she didn't
Have your say

A GREAT-grandmother has celebrated her 100th birthday with a small party among family and friends.

Helen McClements marked the milestone on Friday with residents at the Victoria Manor nursing home in Leith, where she has lived for the past two years. They enjoyed music, a buffet and champagne.

Helen’s family had planned to host a bigger party for her at Abden House, Pollock Halls, on Saturday but decided to postpone it until she has recovered from a chest infection.

The mother-of-five was born in Edinburgh, grew up in Beaverbank Place in Broughton and was a pupil at Broughton School.

She was the oldest of eight surviving children, of whom only her sister Agnes Rickis, 90, is still alive.

Helen’s daughter Betty Gordon, 65, who lives in Craiglockhart, said: “Her biggest regret was to have to leave school at 14 because the family finances meant she needed to get a job.

“She was always determined that we [her children] would have the education and career that she never had, and she succeeded in that. We have all either been to college or university.”

Helen juggled her time between looking after the children and working in shops. She had various shop assistant roles over the years and was also a foster parent for around six years.

Betty, a retired early years officer for the city council, said: “Life was constantly a struggle to get enough money to get by on.”

One of the jobs that Helen enjoyed most came when she was in her 60s and worked as the manager of a home for retired missionaries.

She married twice but was widowed for the second time at the age of 37, leaving her with five children aged 13 months to 15 years to raise alone and with little money.

Her first husband, Adam Lermonth, was a paratrooper who died in the Normandy Landings on D-Day.

Helen’s second husband, Tom McClements, was a minister at Uphall South Parish Church and died from pneumonia as a result of heart problems in 1949 at the age of 51.

The family went on to live in Broxburn for six years and then Polwarth for around 20 years, before Helen set up home in Joppa, where she stayed for more than three decades.

Along with Betty, her children include Adam Lermonth, who died in a road traffic accident at the age of 27 in the 1960s, Helen Allison, 76, Duncan McClements, who died from an aortic aneurysm 11 years ago at the age of 60, and David McClements, 63.

Helen, who loves playing dominoes and going shopping, also has five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Betty said “utter determination” was the key to her mother’s longevity.

She said: “She is the most determined and strong person I have ever encountered.”