Mrs Atkins’ birthday surprise
By Daisy Baker
April 26, 2017
Well-respected North-East figure Ida ‘Denny’ Atkins was thrown a surprise 100th birthday party on Saturday afternoon at the Mechanics’ Institute Hall, with more than 100 family members and friends in attendance.
Mrs Atkins says she was overwhelmed walking into the hall fitted out with balloons, streamers, flowers and fairy lights.
“It was such a beautiful setup and coming down the centre [of the hall] and seeing the faces of all those loved ones – I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she says.
Mrs Atkins is the last of 10 siblings who each married and had families, and she says it was wonderful seeing extended relatives she had not seen for some time.
Mrs Atkins moved to Cuckoo Valley with her family when she was 13.
She says when returning from a solo journey to Scottsdale in the buggy one rainy day, Dolly the horse collapsed to the road.
“I thought she was dead and thought ‘what am I going to tell Mum and Dad?’”
“I didn’t know really what I should do but after some time I thought, ‘if I get back in the buggy and pull the reigns up real hard she may get up’.
“To my surprise, Dolly rose back to her feet and we were on our way,” she laughs.
When she was 17, Mrs Atkins’ family moved to Launceston and several years later she commenced her training as a nurse at the LGH.
Around this time, Mrs Atkins met a young man, Bill Atkins, at a Sunday school picnic, which she says was the beginning of a beautiful courtship.
Mrs Atkins smiles, recounting Bill kissing her goodnight on their first date.
She says she later found out they had been spotted, leaving people asking “is Ida Denison being kissed by Bill Atkins on a first date?”.
Pointing to a black and white photograph on the wall of her Aminya home, taken in the couple’s youth, Mrs Atkins recalls the day Bill came from Hobart to visit her when he was in the army.
“He said ‘what if we go for a billy picnic?’. We had pushbikes and we rode to a spot he knew in Evandale,” she smiles.
“We took each other’s photo – the two pieces were joined many years later by one of [my daughter] Elizabeth’s friends.
“We’re each wearing a jumper I knitted and I’m wearing his army hat.”
The couple married in December 1941, shortly before Bill went to war.
After Bill’s return, Mrs Atkins received a call from the LGH, asking if she would fill in as a sub-matron for three weeks. She continued to work in this position part-time for 22 years.
“We’ve had a good life. We’ve had our ups and downs but on the whole, it’s been a wonderful journey.”
Mrs Atkins says many special memories were formed in the family shack at Bridport, where she lived for several years in her later life, before moving to Aminya four years ago.
She says she would like to pay a special tribute to the nursing staff at Aminya who make all the residents feel “at home”.
“The staff here are so very kind. I can’t speak highly enough of them.”