BBC Look North legend Harry Gration interviews poet on her 100th birthday

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A NIDDERDALE woman whose poetry was used as the lyrics for a Symphony for Yorkshire celebrated her 100th birthday last Thursday, surrounded by friends and family.

Doreen Brigham, a great grandmother from Clint near Birstwith, was born on February 9, 1912, in Otley.

She said: “Everybody has told me how much they enjoyed the party. We had a buffet; people sat about and talked, read poetry – it really was very nice.

“The BBC sent Look North, too – Harry Gration brought along his camera.”

Doreen spent most of her youth in Burley in Wharfedale, where she lived with her parents.

Described by her son Nick Brigham as being “fiercely independent”, Doreen was one of the first people in her town to drive, learning at the age of 17 when her father bought their first car. Up until a recent illness Doreen could still be seen driving around the Dale – more than 80 years on.

Despite having lived in Hertford, Surrey, and India during the war, Yorkshire has always been home for Doreen and family. In 1965 they returned after her husband Joe’s retirement. Widowed in 1973, Doreen has lived in Clint for nearly 50 years.

On her return to Yorkshire, inspired by her surroundings, Doreen started to write poetry – a love she has passed on to her son Nick, who has several anthologies of his own published.

In 2010 a poem written by Doreen won a competition to be used as the lyrics for a Symphony for Yorkshire, an ambitious musical project by the BBC to compose something to mark Yorkshire day 2010. Benjamin Till, the composer, called the poem “magical” and said Doreen’s lyrics were filled with honesty and emotion.

“When I read it out loud, I actually felt a lump in my throat. The words are touching and moving, without being sentimental and cloying. It really is lovely, and very fitting for the county,” he said.

Her son Nick was very proud of his mother’s achievement and the reaction to the poem from everyone who read it.

“I’m so pleased that she’s produced something that will live on after she is no longer with us,” he said. “That thought has given her so much pleasure.”