Mary Edmond (1809-1914)


Aberdeen Woman Dies at 106.

Death has removed the King's oldest subject in the kingdom in the person of Mrs Mary Edmond, aunt of Principal Griffiths, of Cardiff University College.

She died yesterday in her 106th year, having celebrated her 106th birthday on October 6, 1914. Mrs Edmond was a native of Aberdeen. Hers was one of those few cases of remarkable longevity which could be authenticated, and for that reason it was the more interesting, particularly when she could probably claim to be the oldest living subject of the King in the whole of the British Empire.

She was born on October 16, 1809, and was the daughter of Mr David Their, who came from near Berwick-on-Tweed and was manager of the Leith and Clyde Shipping Company at Aberdeen. She was one of five children, all of whom lived to a ripe old age, and the family lived in a house in St James Street, off Castle Hill.

Mrs Edmond was in her sixth year when the battle of Waterloo was won, and she remembered distinctly the excitement of those days, and how when the news reached this country almost every house throughout the land placed a lighted candle against each window pane' in celebration of the victory. When six years of ago she and a brother wont to a dame's school kept by a Miss Brown, in Virginia Street, near James Street. When Mary was about ten years old her parents removed to Banff, and she went to a local grammar school kept by a Mr Cruickshank. The English master, Mr Smith, taught her French, a language which she liked, and in which later in life she became very proficient. During this period she attended one of the dancing assemblies at Banff, and was invariably taken to and from her darning; lessons in a sedan chair.

The Mail Coach.

The arrival of the mail coach was a daily excitement, the inhabitants turning out in numbers to see it. It was drawn by four horses, driven by a coachman in red livery, with a guard similarly dressed. At the age of seventeen Mary was sent to a boarding-school at Greenwich. A week's journey was covered by coach to Aberdeen and by a fishing smack to the town on the Thames, she being the only lady passenger on board. This school was kept by Mons. and Madame Martin, and she remained there for two years, during which time she improved much In French. Mons. Martin was a captain in] Napoleon's army, and after the battle of Waterloo he found refuge in England. On her return to Banff. Mrs Rose, the Town Clerk's wife, induced the young lady from Greenwich to accompany her and her daughters to Rouen as an interpreter. The Misses Rose entered a convent school at Rouen, and at the end of six months the mother superior and some of the nuns became Miss Thier's pupils in English., Leaving the convent, she went to reside with a French family] at Rouen, and five years later she returned to Aberdeen, where her father had also returned, in order to enable his two sons (who became doctors) to have a collegiate, education.

She was twice married. Her first husband was Dr Marcus Sachs, Professor of Hebrew! at Aberdeen, where with him she soon became a well-known figure in literary and artistic circles. They travelled a good deal in France, Italy, and Germany, until Dr Sachs death on September 29. 1869. In 1877 she. married Francis Edmond, LL.D., of Kings wells, Aberdeenshire, an eminent advocate, whose gifts to Aberdeen University and charities reached £100,000. She was left widow for the second time at the age of She then went to reside at Cambridge with Dr and Mrs E. H Griffith's, the latter being her niece, and on Dr Griffith's appointment in 1892 as Principal of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, she removed with them to Newport Road, Car diff, where she remained until her death

Broken Leg at 92.

When 92 years of age Mrs Edmond had the misfortune to break her leg, but her vitality and powers of recuperation were still so extraordinary that she made so excellent recovery, and was able to walk without t aid of a stick. Up to within a few mon of her death Mrs Edmond used to occasionally attend church, and it was only quite recently that she missed her daily exercise the garden and her game of backgammon with Mrs Griffiths, who devoted her who attention to the comforts of her aunt. With the exception of slightly failing eyesight she retained the use of all her faculties until the end.

On the hundredth anniversary of her birthday Mrs Edmond received a congratulatory message from King Edward VII., and on October 16 in each succeeding year she was the happy recipient of a Royal message. When our present King and Queen Mary came to Cardiff in 1913 to lay the foundation stone of the National Museum of Wales in Cathays Park Their Majesties visited the King Edward VII. Hospital and on their return through Newport Road the Queen expressed a desire to make a personal acquaintance of Mrs Edmond. The old lady, looking bright and happy, walked to the gateway of Principal Griffiths' residence, and Their Majesties enjoyed an animated conversation with her. Before leaving the Queen exhorted her to be careful of her health, and promised to keep in touch with her on her succeeding birthdays. In the following year, 1914 Principal Griffiths received a letter from Balmoral Castle, in which Their Majesties trusted that Mrs Edmond still continued to enjoy good health. This was followed up last October with a letter conveying "the congratulations of Their Majesties on her attainment of the wonderful age of l05, and wishing her health and peace for the remainder of her life".

With her doctors Mrs Edmond was a constant marvel and a puzzle for her pulse played tricks with all normal standards, and resolutely refused to indicate either the abnormal age which she had reached or the expected symptoms of great senility. At no time was she depressed. Buoyancy of spirits was characteristic of her and her wide, ripe knowledge of the world and of human nature made her at all times a most agreeable companion, whilst her power, as a conversationalist and raconteur were retained in a remarkable degree.

Photo credit and research : John Farnhill