|The Evening Telegraph, 2nd Dec 1983
Former Teacher is 100
On her 100th Birthday
MESSAGES of thanks and good wishes have poured in for a former teacher and hospital worker who celebrates her birthday today.
Mrs Elsie Hensman became a pupil teacher in 1896 when part of her work involved filling the ink pots and sorting the knitting. In 1900 she became a fully-fledged teacher and in 1913 was appointed headmistress of the girls' school at Alfred Street, Rushden.
When the school was re-organised a year later she moved to Newton Road, staying as a teacher until 1925.
It was there she taught the young writer H. E. Bates and closely followed his career as an author until his death. He always visited her when he was in the area and she has all his first editions personally signed. Before he became a successful author he took his short stories to her prior to sending them on to publishers.
Mrs Hensman's friends have identified characters based on her in several of Bates' novels including Love For Lydia, in which she is the model for a character at the sanatorium.
In 1925 she transferred to the Intermediate School in Hayway and worked there until she retired when she was 63.
But her profession as an English, crafts and music teacher was only a part of her life. For over 50 years she helped as a volunteer at Rushden Hospital, formerly The Sanatorium, and ran classes for patients and ex-patients. A ward is now named in her honour and she was awarded the British Empire Medal. In 1975 she was chosen to receive the Queen's Maundy for Christian service.
Helping her to celebrate her 100th birthday is her niece, Mrs Audrey Haynes, who has travelled from her home in Malta for the occasion.
Close friends of Mrs Hensman gave her a special birthday present a hand-painted address in recognition of her years of charity work.
The colourful, framed tribute was presented by Dr O E Fisher, the former head of Rushden Hospital.
To complement it, Mr Tom Thacker, chairman of the After Care Committee, handed Mrs Hensman a card signed by many of her closest friends.
Afterwards, the modest Mrs Hensman said: "You know I really don't deserve all this I was a bit of a horror actually."