EXCLUSIVE: “Oldest living Gibraltarian” Bessie Milne reaches 101 after leaving Rock for Scotland

Bessie - born Elizabeth Burnard - says "good food" on the Rock helped keep her young

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A WOMAN thought to be the oldest living Gibraltarian has told The Olive Press her long life is due to the ‘good food’ she ate on The Rock.

Bessie Milne, 101, emigrated to Scotland following World War Two after marrying her Royal Marine fiancee, William, on the Rock.

PROUD: Bessie holds her telegram from the queen
PROUD: Bessie holds her telegram from the queen

Bessie, who received her telegram from the Queen in October 2015, set sail for London just after World War Two.

Following her wartime evacuation to Jamaica, she settled in Scotland.

But 70 years after leaving, Bessie still keeps up-to-date on Gibraltar news through copies of The Olive Press read by a relative.

Life as a child in Gibraltar was ‘very good’, says Bessie, who was born Elizabeth Burnard on October 26, 1915.

“I was born 10 years before the Queen,” she told The Olive Press. “And my sister Hilda was born just before Princess Margaret.

“When we were young and walking round Gibraltar, people used to say, ‘Those two girls look like the two princesses’.

“Now I have the telegram from the Queen looking down at me every day.’”

Bessie’s English father, Edwin, was an engineer on the Rock before marrying her mother Eliza.

During the war, Bessie was evacuated to French Morocco, Madeira, then finally Jamaica for four years.

Documents from the Gibraltar National Archive show 24-year-old Bessie boarded The Thysville for Jamaica along with her mother, Eliza and 22-year-old sister Hilda, 22, on October 30, 1940.

“The voyage was frightening,” said Bessie. “We didn’t know if we were going to be torpedoed. One time in Jamaica there was a tornado that came right past our camp.”

After returning to the Rock, newlyweds Bessie and William were given a berth on a cargo ship to London.

“Two officers gave up their cabin for us,” said Bessie. “When we got to London, I was frozen. I had never seen snow before.”

Bessie, who now lives in a care home in Forres, says she has not been back to Gibraltar much, but puts her fine health down to a healthy Gibraltarian diet.

“I remember when I came over to the UK I said I wanted olive oil and they eventually gave it to me thinking it was for my ears,” said Bessie.

“But we always ate good food in Gibraltar. A lot of olives, we never ate sweets.”

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