The Jewel of Harrogate

July 30, 2021

Elsie Lowis was a posh old lady.

In Harrogate town center, a charm bracelet would chink on her dainty wrist as she waved her hand in the air, calling, ‘Yoo hoo! Over here!’ to her friends. She wore soft silk dresses, excessively ornamental accessories and expensive fur coats. Sometimes she wore slacks (an old-fashioned kind of trousers) but they were always the nice kind, the sleek kind, the kind that empowered her and impressed others. And she would indulge in her husband’s champagne and red wine and often make an appearance at Bettys for afternoon tea.

There can’t have been a shortage of posh or old ladies in the 19-somethings but Elsie wasn’t just any posh old lady. No. She was a character.

A character? A character.

Social, outgoing, she was a loud but well controlled fit of laughter. As a young woman, there was no need for her to seek out company. People were drawn to her, as surely as moths to a flame and she welcomed the attention. She revelled in it.

‘You are all welcome to my house for wine!’ she invited the assemblage of ladies. They cooed their admiration and appreciation and followed her like ducklings. It was quite a shock for dear Elsie then, when she went home to find the wine cellar quite empty. That husband of hers had something to say for himself when he got home from work. Or had she drank it all? Oh dear, perhaps she ought not to mention it then.

Her husband bought her a car. He had to be the one to buy it, for aside from some cake-making as an unmarried woman, Elsie did not work. She was quite pleased with the car and upon receiving it, immediately bundled her three children in the back and drove them to Brimham Rocks having never had a single lesson. In doing so she proudly claimed the title, The First Woman In Harrogate To Drive.

With her children, she’d sing. How she’d sing! ‘My girl’s a Yorkshire girl, a Yorkshire girl through and through!’ and, ‘way down in cellar ole where muck clarts up twindows’ with a Yorkshire accent as you can imagine, despite not speaking in one otherwise.

Elsie wasn’t short of suitors. She was first engaged rather young to a sweetheart called Billy. Alongside every other brave and ambitious boy, he enlisted in the First World War. There he lost his life and with it, the future they might have had together.

So she married a dentist instead. Claud, an upright gentleman with a double chin and a rather cross look about him. Well, that was later in life. Be assured, he was very good looking as a young man.

Claud had a rich friend called Leo, a religious man who came from a family of jewellers and lived in an expensive hotel suite instead of a house. Every Saturday, they gambled on horse races and afterwards Claud would take Elsie to The Bridge for dinner.

She loved dancing and although he adored her, her husband hated dancing. Was it inevitable then, as one of the most magnetic personalities of Harrogate, that she took a beau? John. He was more than happy to spin her in dizzying circles on the dance floor.

Dear Elsie was known as Nampie to her grandchildren.

‘Nampie,’ says her granddaughter, ‘Now she was quite a character.’ She adored her grandchildren and great grandchildren and sang with them in the car too, ‘All the nice girls love a sailor…’

One of her great granddaughters remembers Nampie taking her to the seaside for fish and chips. Now, she tells me, ‘Nampie was a posh old lady.’

Elsie was buried at Christ Church in Harrogate and I put daisies on her grave a few days ago. She died twenty years before I was born. I have her photo album and Billy’s engagement ring but I wish I could have met her.

Elsie Lowis was a posh old lady, quite a character and my great, great grandmother.


Deborah Rose GreenDeborah Rose Green is Contributing Editor for Hey Young Writer! She is also the author of Dragon Pearls (2019) and Crown My Heart (2020). You can follow her on Instagram at @authordeborahrose or visit her website,!



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