GREAT-GRAN’S VERY SPECIAL DAY CELEBRATED ACROSS THE GENERATIONS
A great-grandmother, who seven years ago was reported to be one the oldest people in Britain to be newly sworn-in as a freemen, is celebrating another milestone in her life – her 100th birthday.
In the spring of 2014 Mrs Connie Hotchkiss was just four months short of her 93rd birthday when she was welcomed into the ranks of the Durham City Freemen, which for nearly 700 years had been an all-male preserve.
National changes to equality laws paved the way for the city freemen to admit, in 2012, the first 14 women who qualified by having served apprenticeships in Durham or were the daughters of existing freemen.
It was when Mrs Hotchkiss’s son Ian was researching their family history he came across an on-line article in the Northern Echo, alerting him to the change in the rules that provided the motivation for his mother to “maintain the family link,” following her father, Frederick Elliott, her brother Fred and his son Michael into the city’s Masons’ Company.
And the family link does not stop there. Connie’s paternal grandfather, Joseph Elliott (1841-1893), was a master mason of Gilesgate, Durham St Giles and he was the younger brother of John Elliott (1837-1873), who was the great grandfather of the current Warden of the Masons’ Company, Robert “Bob” Elliott.
Connie first met her husband Ken during a holiday in the Isle of Man before he left his home on the island to go to university in Liverpool. Connie returned to the north-east where at one stage during the Second World War she worked with the Red Cross.
After their marriage, Connie and Ken lived in Newcastle, with her husband working as a science teacher in Washington before ending his career as Head of Science at Don Valley High School in Doncaster.
Connie and Ken had four children - Susan, Stuart (both Durham University graduates), Ian and Paul - and when Ken retired, he and Connie moved back to his childhood home of the Isle of Man where Connie still lives, in the same village as Paul.
Stuart, now living in France, said: “My mother always felt she would like to be able to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps”.
In 2014 Connie’s admission ceremony in Durham was celebrated by the whole family and on September 9th of this year, Connie celebrated her 100 years with four generations of her family, some of whom may look to follow in her footsteps and apply for admission to the Masons’ Company.