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The Corporation

Posted: 17/02/14

Ivy is college’s jewel in the crown

A 95-year-old great great-grandmother has added some sparkle to her life – by learning the craft of jewellery-making.

  • Nice to see you - Ivy and daughter Pat pictured with college principal Dame Asha Khemka
  • Generation game - Ivy and daughter Pat meet students (from left) Joshua Nuttall, 17, Kariss Hallam, 16, and Callum Robinson, 17, at the college's Derby Road campus

Ivy Geeson insists you are never too old to learn new skills after being inspired to take up a stimulating new hobby – making bespoke necklaces, bracelets and trinkets at home.

It came after the lifelong Kirkby-in-Ashfield resident and daughter Pat Eich, 70, completed a short jewellery-making course run by West Nottinghamshire College.

The retired postwoman and cook is believed to be the college’s oldest-ever student.

Ivy said: “I was watching The Jewellery Channel on television one morning and decided to order some materials for making jewellery at home. But when the stock arrived I didn’t really know what to do with it. Pat and I could thread them up but we needed a bit more inspiration.”

While out shopping one day, Pat – who acts as Ivy’s carer – spotted a poster advertising the six-week community course at Kirkby-in-Ashfield Library. After signing-up, they joined ten other students at the weekly afternoon classes, run by the college and funded by Nottinghamshire County Council’s Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS) team.

Ivy – who has 11 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and five great great-grandchildren – said: “I was pleased because I’d already bought all the materials and it meant Pat could help me put them to use. We really enjoyed the course. I made new friends and I enjoyed learning something new. Learning to make things yourself gives you a sense of pride.”

Daughter Pat said: “As well as the creative process, it was nice to spend time with mum doing something a bit different because she gets bored and frustrated at home. The tutor, Betty Ching, made everybody feel really welcome and nothing was too much trouble for her. She was an excellent teacher.”

The mother and daughter now use their newly-acquired skills to assemble jewellery together at Ivy’s home, which includes producing unique gifts for family and friends.

“We have the occasional artistic difference but we agree to disagree!” added Pat.

Pat says the course has been invaluable in giving Ivy a new-found purpose and something to keep herself occupied. She is now seeking additional jewellery-making courses so they can further develop their skills.

“It gives mum something to do and keeps her brain active,” said Pat. “People are living a lot longer these days and it’s important to remain occupied.”

Ivy said: “I think these sorts of courses are really good.  It’s given me something nice to do at home rather than just watch television. You’re never too old to learn.”

And in her typically straight-talking fashion, Ivy has this advice for other people her age: “If you want to do something new, get on with it – you’ve got nothing to lose.”

Ivy and Pat were the special guests at one of principal and chief executive Dame Asha Khemka’s regular lunches with students, which also serve as discussion forums, in recognition of Ivy’s status as the college’s eldest-known student.

Dame Asha told the 20 students in attendance about Ivy’s learning prowess while Pat talked about her time as a 15-year-old student at the college in 1958.  After leaving school, Pat studied a range of commercial courses at the then Mansfield Technical College – now the college’s Chesterfield Road campus – with one day per week spent at the former West Nottinghamshire Technical College, which is now its Derby Road campus.

After lunch, Ivy and Pat were given a tour of the campus, which is currently undergoing a multi-million pound redevelopment.

Pat said: “The college is unrecognisable from the days when I was a student. The facilities are absolutely fantastic; particularly the television and recording studios, hair salons, spa and restaurant.”

Peter Rowley, the college’s team leader for adult and community education, said: “Ivy is a true inspiration and her attendance on the jewellery-making course shows that age is no barrier to learning. 

“The social interaction is a key element of our community provision and it’s wonderful that a mother and daughter have found an opportunity to study together in a venue that is convenient and local to them.”

Councillor John Knight, committee chairman for culture at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: 
“Ivy and Pat’s story reflects the very essence of our community courses, which aim to offer all adults the chance to enjoy learning, develop new skills and socialise, whatever their age or ability.”