Library birthday bash for Plumstead resident who turned 100

Margaret Ellis with sub-area head for library and information services, Gilbert Isaac and Plumstead library staff, Yusra George, Ray Snyders, Vuyokazi Cungwa and Jean Pappas (sitting).

Plumstead library staff organised a special birthday party last week to celebrate the 100th birthday of one of its longest users.

Margaret Ellis has patronised Plumstead library for about 17 years, and prior to that Somerset West library for six years and libraries in Namibia before that.

Senior librarian Jean Pappas said it was the first time the library had held such a birthday party and it was her staff’s idea.

“We felt it would be good to help her celebrate turning 100,” said Ms Pappas.

The plan was for Ms Ellis’s daughter, Helen Goodwin, to accompany her to the library for the party. However Ms Ellis fell ill the previous night and so librarians went to her Plumstead home taking snacks and a cake baked by Pat Dunbar Curran.

Ward councillor Carol Bew also arrived with a bunch of flowers.

Ms Ellis celebrated her birthday on Sunday April 29 with an open house and visitors from across the world.

Ms Pappas described Ms Ellis as quiet, reserved and “with a Scottish demeanour”.

Librarian Ray Snyders, who has worked at the library for 10 years, said he knew that Ms Ellis was someone to look out for.

“She was born the same year as Madiba and would come to the library and select four books, even ones with tiny print,” he said.

Ms Pappas said Ms Ellis still read and had eclectic taste, from George Eliot to Ian Rankin and Donna Leon. She loves mysteries and crime writers and is presently reading Wilbur Smith’s War Cry.

Ms Ellis was born in Glasgow and came to South Africa in 1949 at the age of 28 by ship. She moved to Plumstead which she loves because of the views of the mountains.

Ms Ellis reminisced with librarians of how, as a young woman living through the war years in Glasgow, she had trained in first aid. When there was an air raid she would get to the nearest school where she would be deployed to provide first aid. One night the school was bombed, thankfully she was not there. She said her sister’s boyfriend had been a pilot and had died in the war.

Ms Ellis now enjoys quiz programmes, crime series and British royalty on television, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and musicals such as West Side Story.

Until recently, Ms Ellis would walk to the library and to the shops. She is normally in good health and has never used a walking stick.

Ms Ellis said her secret to a good life was coming to South Africa and not living through Britain’s severe winters. And champagne also helped… she read that in a book.