Her silver hairs and golden memories have in no
way made her less passionate about life or the earth she has walked
for a hundred years.
Having celebrated her 100th birthday on April
20, Winifred Mather, or ‘Winnie’ as she is more affectionately
known, is presently the only centenarian past pupil of CMS Ladies’
College. The early part of her life, especially her schooldays,
remains strongly etched in her mind. After completing her schooling
at Ladies’ College, she married W. E. D. Mather in 1927, and
moved to Jaffna, as he worked at the then Department of Cottage
Industries. The Mathers were the first to take a motor vehicle to
Jaffna, which thereafter bloomed into a successful car-sales business.
|‘Winnie’ Winifred Mather turned
100 on April 20 Pix by Dinuka Liyanawatta
“Jaffna in the good old days was very peaceful,
and was a nice place to live in. Having seen Jaffna then and what
it is now is heartbreaking,” she says. Winnie is a bank of
information on Jaffna, having lived there for over 50 years after
Winnie was a full-time housewife and aesthetically
inclined, her interests being playing the piano, violin and Hawaiian
guitar in her younger days. Painting, flower making and tennis were
among her other passions.
Having witnessed both global and local historic
events such as Sri Lanka’s independence and World War II,
talking to Winnie is like being given a peek into the past. “During
World War II, we used to huddle with the family under our dining
table, and shield ourselves by propping sand bags around us.”
“It is sad what our country has come to.
Nowadays people are very materialistic and have no regard for human
life,” she says regretfully.
This charming lady, despite her years, is very
progressive in her thinking as emphasised by her grandniece and
nephew with whom she lives in Dehiwala. “She is not old-fashioned
in any way. She is very adaptable and does not insist on everything
being conventional,” says her young niece.
Having no health complications is a true blessing
for Winnie. The sharpness of her mind is evident in the way she
clarifies a question to make sure she is giving the correct answer.
Her focused, yet light hearted outlook to life strikes everyone
who has the pleasure of meeting her.
Unlike many senior citizens of today, who are,
sadly, alienated from society and living ‘within four walls’,
Winnie is up-to-date with all the news and politics of the country.
“Politicians today are quite unlike those of yesteryear, who
were very gentlemanlike,” she remarks. The death of Lakshman
Kadirgamar, her nephew, is also a great loss to the country, she
|Winnie celebrating her 100th birthday
Having been close to her religion all her life,
Winnie says that she never underestimates the power of prayer. This
has helped her weather all life’s challenges and experiences.
She always strengthens everyone around her by stressing on the power
of prayer. “Everyone of us, young and old, should never leave
the house without a prayer and we will then definitely have a safe
return home,” she adds.
Winnie upholds the importance of love and happiness
in one’s life as she talks fondly of her late husband. “He
did everything for me. I miss him dearly and think of him very often.”
Being the eldest in a family of five, this courageous
lady has outlived all her siblings. She now spends her time writing
letters to her relatives abroad with all the latest news in Sri
Lanka from politics to family events. She still insists on making
her own coffee every morning, and then reads the newspapers every
day after meditation.
|The Mathers on their wedding day
Winnie never fails to attend family occasions and
functions and has not lost her sense of humour. Even though she
doesn’t take alcohol, she would pose with a wine glass for
a photograph or to participate in the making of an after dinner
toast! “It has been a good life,” reflects Winnie in
a pensive tone. A life without regrets is the key to being a contented
person, she believes, and there is no mistaking the contentment
written all over her face.
Winnie’s zest for life has not dimmed with
time or age. Her warm ways are not only felt by her gentle touch
on a visitor’s hand, but also the twinkle in her eyes when
she looks at you when you leave, saying “hope to see you again.”