Florence Mae Brown

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FOCUS found out more about Florence Mae Brown, helping to reveal the secrets behind reaching 104 years of age!

Where was Mae born?

Mae was born in Urmston, a suburb of Manchester on 2 May 1914 – three months before the start of World War One. Her father, Charles Champion, was the manager of a steelworks at Irlam.

What was life like while Mae was growing up?

Mae remembers that on one of her early birthdays, she was taken to a birthday treat in a horse-drawn cab. She also remembers being scared of Zeppelin bombing raids at the end of WWI. At an early age she joined the Junior Red Cross, and she was very fond of animals. She had a favourite dog, a whippet called Billy.

What was Mae’s schooling like?

Mae’s early school career was in Manchester. Her family migrated to Australia in 1926, when she was 12. In Sydney she went to a private school in Epping and then to a secretarial college. Life in Epping and Newcastle, where they also lived in the late 1920s, was pleasant and involved many trips to the local cinemas to see the latest silent films. She was a very keen film fan in her early teens.

When did Mae first arrive in Australia?

Mae and her family arrived in Sydney in January 1926 and went immediately to Newcastle, where her father had been promised a position in BHP by Essington Lewis. The position never eventuated and they returned to Sydney, where her father got a job as an engineer with Babcock and Wilcox. They returned to Newcastle in 1930.

Mae learnt to drive in 1931, learning on the next-door neighbour’s Salmson racing car. She was a very good driver.

When did Mae marry; did she have big wedding?

Mae married Jack Croft in Newcastle in June 1940, not long after he had joined the army. Jack was 10 years older than Mae and one of a longstanding family in Newcastle. They had one child, Julian, born in May 1941, a few months before Jack, a member of the 8th Division, sailed for Singapore. After the fall of Singapore in February 1942, Mae did not know whether Jack was alive or dead until 1944, when she was told he was a Prisoner of War in Changi Prison. Jack died in 1948, and Mae married James Irving Brown in 1953. They had a very happy marriage of over 60 years.

What sort of work did Mae do?

Mae worked as a secretary for her father until Julian was born. Thereafter she was kept busy by domestic duties, charity work, and as an active spinner and weaver, having several successful exhibitions of her work in Newcastle in the 1970s and 1980s.

How have things changed from then to today?

The main change would be that most women these days have to work and have little time for their own interests and hobbies. Mae always read a lot and knitted and spun. She enjoyed being at home, but she also had an active social life.

What’s Mae’s secret to a long life?

Genes. Her grandmother and great grandmother all lived into the 90s – which was not common 100 or more years ago. Plus, keeping mentally and physically active and pursuing your own interests. Yoga also helped. Mae was doing Yoga in her 80s.

What an amazing story; thanks Mae.

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