Joan Shaw was born February 29, 1920, on a leap year, in Walthamstow, London. Her parents, Alfred and Eva Barker once told Joan that there were only five ‘leap year’ babies born in London in 1920, and that they were happy they had one of them.
When Joan was four years old, the family moved back to Barnsley, where her father was originally from.
“My father was stationed in London when he was in the Royal Engineers but grew up in Barnsley. After the First World War, there weren’t a lot of jobs and opportunities or jobs so we moved back up to the town to be closer to his family.”
Joan remembers visiting family in London every summer and would take the train by herself at just seven years old.
“My parents would put me in a carriage and told me not to move until my aunt came to collect me in London. I would read comics like Tiger Tim’s, Bubbles, and Rainbow. It was quite the adventure actually, but I suppose you wouldn’t get away with that now.”
During the Second World War, Joan became a primary school teacher, and eventually became the head teacher of St Matthew’s Infant School, which was on Summer Lane but closed in 1999.
Joan was an avid traveller and has travelled to France, Germany and Holland, but said her favourite place she visited was Switzerland.
“I went with my mum and a friend and we visited Lucerne. We explored around and did tourist things and I thought it was a really beautiful place.”
In 1975 when she was 55, Joan married Kenneth, Ken, Shaw who was the organist at St Mary’s church. Their time together was cut short when Ken died from cancer just three years later.
Despite her loss, Joan insisted she has led a full and peaceful life. She still lives independently and only gave up driving when she was 98 years old.
Joan will celebrate her joint 25th and 100th birthday at a party organised by her family and said she was particularly excited about her birthday cake and a glass of champagne.