A remarkable 103-year-old ex-nurse who lived through the devastating Spanish flu a century ago has now received her Covid vaccine
Great-grandmother Hilda Richards, who cared for soldiers injured in the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk, is still going strong, having lived for the past year at Pendine Park’s Gwern Alyn Care Home.
Hilda was given the coronavirus jab by the current crop of medics who are following in her illustrious footsteps.
A delighted Hilda said: “I had my vaccine and I feel good after it. It went well. I’m glad I’ve had the vaccine.
“Having been a nurse, things like this remind me a bit of the work I used to do.”
Hilda was born in November 1917, while the First World War was taking place and just three months before the outbreak of the deadly Spanish flu – also known as the 1918 flu pandemic.
The pandemic contained a number of grave parallels to Covid-19, with it spreading around the globe and claiming a high number of lives.
It ended in the spring of 1920. That was almost exactly a century before Covid-19 took hold early last year, with Hilda being one of the few people old enough to have lived through both pandemics.
“I was very young when Spanish flu was around just after the First World War,” Hilda recalled.
“But people used to talk about it when I was growing up. They reckoned it had killed as many people as the war itself.
“Sadly, what’s happening now is a bit similar with this awful virus.”
It is estimated as many as 500 million people became infected by Spanish flu, with more than 50 million believed to have died from it during four waves of the pandemic.
A century later the world would again have to contend with a devastating pandemic, with most of Hilda’s time at the home having coincided with lockdown measures to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
But this has not prevented Hilda enjoying being part of the Gwern Alyn family.
Speaking on the first anniversary of her arrival at the home last February, Hilda said: “I thought at first I was only coming here for a fortnight. But I’ve been here ever since.
“I really like being here at Gwern Alyn. There are a lot of nice people here.
“I like all the staff and the other residents. It is a good place to live and they really look after you here. I feel really safe here.”
“Even if I haven’t been able to see my family, I’ve still been able to talk to them on the phone a lot.”
Hilda enjoyed a lengthy and happy marriage to her late husband, Trevor. They had three sons – Ralph, Derek and Clive – as well as four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Hilda turned 103 last November, attributing having a small tot of whisky in her cup of tea in the morning as the secret to enjoying a long life.
She said on her milestone birthday: “I’ve had a very varied life, but I’ve never had a dull job. I’ve enjoyed my life and I have no regrets.”
Brought up on the Wynnstay Estate in Ruabon, Hilda attended Ruabon Grammar School and later worked as a nurse at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool.
This stint included looking after seriously injured soldiers from Dunkirk, a role she later described as “an awful job but one I was privileged to do”.
She went on to work at Wrexham General Emergency Hospital, before returning to Ruabon Grammar School to work as a laboratory assistant and school nurse.
In retirement, Hilda and Trevor become acclaimed globetrotters who enjoyed venturing all over the world, renting cabins on cargo ships as a means of getting to their desired destinations.
Following Trevor’s death a decade ago, Hilda lived alone until she moved into Gwern Alyn last year.
Gwern Alyn manager Cindy Clutton said: “Hilda is a very popular resident of the home. She is well-liked by the staff and her fellow residents.
“There will not be many people who have lived through both the Spanish flu and Covid-19 pandemics.
“Hilda has done so much during her life, including nursing soldiers injured at Dunkirk.
“At Gwern Alyn we have been working hard to ensure all residents have received the vaccine. It is good to know that Hilda is pleased with how it went.
“It is a real privilege and a pleasure to provide care for Hilda. She’s a wonderful woman.”