KILBIRNIE centenarian, Jessie King, was born in 1917 and raised at the Patrick Row, a small row of tenant farmer cottages, located on the outskirts of Beith near to what is now the Defence Munitions base.

She enjoyed a healthy rural upbringing, and walked each day through country byways to the Den school, Barkip, its proper name - Kersland Barony school, no longer extant.

Leaving aged 14 years she went to work at local farms including Southridgehill and for a short period at Gatehead farm where she looked after the child of the farm, well known local, Mamie Orr (Andrews) now herself aged 85.

Jessie also enjoyed the various farming duties including working as a dairymaid. It was at a social function – a dance - of which there were many in those days, where she met John Sweeney, who worked in Glengarnock Steelworks.

Following on from that first dance romance quickly blossomed leading to a happy marriage ceremony in that same hall when Jessie was just 18 years, and John six years older.

This happy union resulted in no less than nine children – five sons and four daughters. Her eldest daughter, Margaret will be 80 next month and the youngest son, Mark is 56.

Jessie has lived at her current address for almost 69 years and remains firmly independent, looking after herself without fuss.

Asked about her large family, she beamed: “It’s wonderful having so many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

The bother I have is remembering all their names because there are so many of them!”

She said: “I think I’ve been very fortunate with my family and my health. I just hope that they will all be as lucky as me in life’s rocky road. I feel rather chuffed to have reached this special milestone.

“The family birthday get togethers have been great. It’s been very thoughtful of them. Getting a card from the Queen was also very nice. All my family, friends and neighbours have made such a fuss of me. Now, I’ll just get back to normality – porridge and auld claes - and take every day as it comes.”