She also opened her home – and heart – by becoming a foster parent when her children started leaving home.

“I became a foster child myself when I was just two years-old. People helped me, so why not give back? I’ve loved every minute of it. I just tried to be there for them when they needed it,” says Eleanor.

Now when you ask the 79-year-old how many people call her Mum, she stops counting at 10.

As well as five children of her own, Eleanor has fostered and supported many other children over the years who all consider her their Mum. She’s now an adoring grandmother and great-grandmother, and further dotes on her rescue dog Otis, and rescue cat Paris.

“I’ve got heaps of love to give,” she says.

And now she helps many more people through her life-long love of knitting and crochet, and is busy knitting beanies, singlets and cardigans for premature babies in hospital, as well as ponchos for the homeless and crocheting blankets for the local hospice.

“I am a busy girl. I’m too busy to go anywhere,” she laughs. “I just love giving my things to people and seeing the look on their face.”

Eleanor was introduced to knitting as a young girl, by a teacher that saw something in her.

“I’m dyslexic, and back then they couldn’t be bothered with me at school, they put me down to being a slow learner. But I was put in a ‘special’ class, where the teacher noticed my interest in knitting, so he taught me to knit and to cook – he was life-changing for me.”

A determined Eleanor went back to high school at the same time as her own children, and learnt to read and write as an adult student.

“I enjoy learning. I’m starting computer classes next week, I’ll learn anything I can.”

Eleanor has lived in her Kāinga Ora home in Mosgiel for 18 years now, and says moving there has been one of the best thing she ever did.

“I have wonderful neighbours, the four of us look after each other. When I had a stroke last year, one neighbour looked after Otis, and one looked after Paris. We take care of each other.”

Eleanor puts her positive approach to life down to her Scottish and Irish heritage.

“We are very determined people. We don’t give up easily – nothing beats me. I said to my sister recently, we came out the other side. My life has been perfect as far as I’m concerned.”

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Page updated: 1 November 2022