Mary Snape’s 104th Birthday

Mary Snape (St Marys) turned 104 last week and celebrated with friends and residents at Boronia House, along with a family lunch at St Marys Leagues Club.

Born in Greenwich, England in 1920, Mary spent her childhood in England, meeting her future husband Walter in his parent’s fruit shop.

Mary was the 3rd of 7 children, enduring a harsh life following the death of her father when she was just 9 years of age.

Mary’s mother used to work night shift at the hospital, leaving the care of the children to the eldest among them.

One of Mary’s fondest memories as a child is playing with her siblings on the sunken Cutty Sark in the River Thames.

As a young woman at the start of WW11, Mary worked with her sister in the Land Army in Herefordshire, before working at Woolwich Arsenal (near London), making ammunition for the Allied Forces. On one occasion, the women working in the arsenal spent the night underground, during the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force).Another of her early fond memories is the camaraderie of the young women who worked in the Land Army.

Walter was called up to fight in WW11 but obtained special leave to marry Mary in St Dunstan’s Church, Bellingham, Kent in 1941, before heading out to rejoin the Allied Forces.

He was captured and subsequently transferred from Tripoli on the Italian Ship Ariosto, bound for Sicily, before the ship was sunk by the British, not aware the ship was carrying Allied Prisoners of War, resulting in the loss of over 100 British POW’s.

Walter however was subsequently among many British POW’s rescued by two other Italian ships, Premuda and Polluce, which were bound for Palermo.

Walter’s ship conveyed his group on the first part of their journey, with the final destination an Italian Prisoner of War camp (Campo 65 in Gravena, Puglia).

Following the war, Mary and Walter had five children (Terrence, Carolyn, Adrian, Elaine, Barbara), living for a time at Westwood Farm whilst Walter worked as a Quality Control Inspector. The couple also owned and operated a Pet Shop in Beckenham. As a young woman, Mary had a dream she would have 5 children and move to Australia. In 1965, Mary, Walter and the children emigrated to Australia, following 4 years of submissions to approve their move Down Under.

Following their month long sea voyage, the family eventually settled in Guildford in 1965 and would live in the suburb until 2005, with the extended family stretching to include 13 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren.

Mary and Walter were described by their children as rock hounds, a different style of Grey Nomads. “They loved fossicking,” said Barbara and Adrian.

Walter suffered with a mild case of Polio in 1956, at the age of 36, which would keep him from work for the ensuing 6 months. He later passed away in 2000.

Mary moved to the Mountain View Over 50’s Retirement Village in 2005 and would live there until 2017, when she moved to Boronia House.

Explaining her longevity, Mary said she didn’t smoke, seldom drank alcohol, has a positive attitude, always seeing the bright side of things and the best in people. “I also have the best children,” said Mary.