A WOMAN thought to be the oldest person in Essex has celebrated her 109 birthday.

Friends and relatives of Ethel Wood dropped in and out of her Kirby house on Saturday to enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake to mark the milestone.

Among the well-wishers were Robert Bucke, Frinton Mayor, and Nick Turner, chairman of Tendring Council, who brought bunches of flowers and cards.

And relatives from as far away as Canada made the trip to England especially to see Miss Wood on her special day.

The Queen had also paid her respects with five cards propped up around her living room, although Miss Wood preferred the new one to the others.

“It’s absolutely lovely,” said Miss Wood.

“We nearly wrote last year because the last four we had all showed her in yellow.

“But this one shows her in turquoise.”

Miss Wood was born on January 16, 1901, the same year as Walt Disney and just a few days before Queen Victoria died.

She was brought up in Guernsey, with sisters Winifred, Edith and Catherine, and also had a brother, William, who died at an early age.

She left the Channel Islands for London shortly before it was occupied by Germans in the Second World War.

Miss Wood became a teacher and taught in London, Guernsey and Somerset for more than 40 years.

She moved to Clacton and then to Kirby Cross about 20 years ago.

“My earliest memory was sitting on my father’s shoulders and he was walking on a plank in Guernsey from the quay to his ship,” recalled Miss Wood.

“I was clutching his hair and wearing a white dress. It was a Sunday and we always wore white on that day.”

Although Miss Wood left Guernsey before the Germans occupied it during the Second World War, she remembers her mother and sister being evacuated.

“My mother and sister came out of the island on the last boat,” she explained. “They were evacuated.

“But I was in London training to be a teacher at that time. I had left before.

“Everything is so different now compared with then. The prices of things now are ridiculous.”

But although Miss Wood enjoyed celebrating her 109 birthday, she says she doesn’t have a secret to long life.

“I don’t think about it,” she said. “My age never enters my head.

“Maybe that’s the secret.

“In my typical day I sleep a lot. Sometimes I get up early, somtimes as late as 10 o’clock.

“I am looking forward to the next year though.”

Robert Bucke, Frinton mayor, first met Miss Wood when he was 20.

“I had run my car into the back of hers,” explained the 65-year-old.

“45 years later and I’m only a year older than she was back then and she hasn’t changed a bit.

“She’s a wonderful lady and I always look forward to seeing her.”