BIRTHDAY girl Clara Cowell has shown it’s never too late to change your lifestyle - after giving up smoking two weeks ago aged 102.

And Mrs Cowell, who lives independently in Ainscough Brook House in Ribbleton, Preston, is celebrating her milestone birthday today with five generations of family at one of her favourite places - the pub.

Her daughter, Valerie Houghton, 73, said: ‘We wanted to take her to the Continental because they’ve built a little snug, and it will be a nice reminder of the pubs she used to go to in Lancaster Road like The Painters.

Mrs Cowell, a former tailoress, lit her first cigarette in 1931, and has puffed her way through two or three a day since - a total of almost 60,000. But now, on the advice of her family, who were concerned about the falling ash, she has given up.

Daughter Lynda Fowler, 69, who lives in Ontario, Canada, said: ‘The secret to mum’s long life is a cigarette and a cup of tea with whisky. That and hard work and poverty. She’s an inspiration.’  Mrs Cowell, who survived TB as a small child, said she ‘doesn’t believe in medication’, and is so sprightly that for her 101st birthday, she wowed crowds at Blackpool Tower ballroom by taking to the dance floor for a waltz.

Mrs Cowell said: ‘I used to love dancing, particularly waltzing and the foxtrot. ‘We all used to walk home from Blackpool to Preston and the police guided us. There would be boys and girls arm-in-arm, singing.

Mrs Cowell spent most of her life living in the Plungington and Deepdale areas, and brought up four children - Bryan, Ken, Valerie and Lynda - with her late coal man husband George.

During the war, when George was called to fight, she raised the children alone while working in a local ammunition factory.

Mrs Houghton said: ‘She used to walk us to the childminder’s every day between 5am and 6am and then she’d go to work making parachutes. All of the girls used to take a little material and they made themselves silk knickers.’ Mrs Cowell added: ‘It was hard during the war and we never had enough sleep or enough to eat, but we didn’t take any harm from it. I’ve just tried to make the most of things.’      –MOL