Great grandmother still lifting weights at 100

By Alex Ross | Wolverhampton | News | Published: | Last Updated:

She might have just turned 100 but Winnifred Downie still likes to keep fit with a strict weightlifting regime.

The great-grandmother even managed to fit in a few reps whilst celebrating her milestone birthday at St Marks Church centre in Great Barr with friends and family.

And fitness obviously runs in the family as one of Winnifred’s great-grandchildren is Asha Philip, who is part of the GB relay team.

She won bronze as part of the 4 x 100m relay in Rio de Janeiro last year and also celebrated with Winnifred at a separate birthday bash at Molineux.

The former care home worker’s work ethic comes as no surprise to those who know her as Winnifred has always remained fiercely indepedent.

She worked in a care home until she was 70 and was in education until the age of 95.

Winnifred Downie pictured in 1955

Daughter Alric Mccabe, aged 65, said: “Nothing surprises me about my mother.

“She’s been incredibly strong-minded ever since she took the boat over from Jamaica, arriving in Wolverhampton on her own. Whether it be studying or doing exercise, she has stayed strong in the mind and is an idol to us all.”


The Jamaican-born great grandmother moved to Wolverhampton aged 33, back in 1950, and became a well-known figure in the West Indian community.

She lived independently right up to a year ago, when she moved in with her daughter Alric at her home in Great Barr.

And she still attends exercise classes with coach Everton Rooms at St Marks Church centre.

Winnifred was born near Johnson Town in Jamaica. Her parents were fisherman Nathaniel and Francella O’Reggie.


She worked on plantations on the Caribbean island before moving to Wolverhampton, leaving Alric behind, aged one.

She got a job working as a cook at the former Eye Infirmary in Chapel Ash.

After finding a place to live – in Duke Street in Penn fields –she bought Alric over.

She married Thomas Downie at Darlington Street Church in March in 1958.

Daughters Sharon and Fay, now aged 58 and 59, followed.

Winnifred returned to work after the pregnancies to work at a care home in Penn Road, a place where she stayed until she was aged 70.

Winnifred Downie with fitness instructor Everton Rooms

In her retirement she found a love for education and enrolled at Walsall College to take part in literacy, numeracy and dress-making courses right up to her 95th birthday. Her studies saw her win an accolade at the Walsall Lifelong Learning Awards. Alric accepted a trophy from 1966 World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst on her behalf.

Alric added: “She is a great person who is so well-known in Wolverhampton.

“People know her as someone who will always do her best to help.

“She is an inspiration for the family.”

Her husband Thomas died in 2005.

As well as having three children, she has nine grand children and five great grandchildren. More than 200 people attended the birthday party at the Haywood Suite.

Winnifred said: “My secret is trusting The Lord.

“I’ve followed him all my life, and he’s guided me every step of the way.”

Alex Ross

By Alex Ross
Investigations Editor - @alexross_star

Investigations Editor at the Express & Star. Everyone has a story - tell me yours.


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