Last surviving sister of Beane family celebrates centenary

Maylie Wooler with her eight sisters at a wedding in the 1960s.
Maylie Wooler with her eight sisters at a wedding in the 1960s.

The last surviving sister of a Bedford family of nine girls has celebrated her 100th birthday.

While large families were common in the early 20th century, it was out of the ordinary even then to have a family of only girls.

Cutting the cake with son Stephen Wooler and daughter Maureen Meadows.

Cutting the cake with son Stephen Wooler and daughter Maureen Meadows.

Thomas and Emma Beane brought up their daughters in a tiny two up and two down terrace house in Wellington Street, Bedford - part of what was known as the Black Tom area.

Because there were so many of them there was hardly anyone in Bedford who did not know the Beane girls - or at least one of them.

Maylie, who celebrated her milestone birthday at Tickford Abbey in Newport Pagnell where she now lives, was a pupil at the Bedford Girls’ Modern School, subsequently to become Dame Alice School in Harpur Street.

She recalls a somewhat austere childhood even though her father was relatively well paid - he was a General Post Office engineer at the cutting edge of technology, taking the telephone service out to the villages surrounding Bedford.

In March 1940, Maylie married Bert Wooler, who was then a manager at Eastwood Ltd brickworks at Kempston Hardwick where they lived.

Maylie also worked at the brickworks in catering and the office.

After the war in 1954, she and Bert got on their bikes and cycled around the local villages looking for a plot of land to buy.

They discovered an orchard in Wootton and knocked on the owners’ door to see if they would sell part of it which they did.

Maylie and Bert enlisted a team of friends - many of them from the brickworks - and built their own bungalow in Cause End Road. It cost them around £3,000 to create and Maylie lived there until 2012, even though Bert passed away in 1997.

Around 60 people came together to celebrate Maylie’s 100th birthday on Saturday, June 6.

Guests included four generations of her family, friends from Wootton and Bedford Priory Bowls Club where she remains a life member, along with staff and residents of Tickford Abbey.

Son Stephen Wooler said: “She has been looking forward to it for sometime and she is really amazed to have got there.

“She is a very strong individual who was very supportive as a mother and a role model. 
“She played an active role in any community that she was in.”

Maylie received a card from the Queen as well as large signed cards from the congregation at St Mary’s Wootton, where she still worships when possible, and Bedford Priory Bowls Club.

Her four great-grandchildren led the serenade of happy birthday as she cut the cake, which depicted a bowls match scene- Maylie’s passion in retirement.

The occasion concluded with a celebratory quarter peal of 1260 Grandsire Triples rung on the bells of Newport Pagnell Parish Church which stands just across the river from Tickford Abbey.