Bolton-born great-grandmother becomes Australia's oldest graduate with PhD at 93
A BOLTON-born woman has become Australia’s oldest university graduate — at the age of 93.
Dr Elisabeth Kirkby earned a PhD from the University of Sydney for her study of the Great Depression and the financial crash during the 1930s — which she lived through in Bolton and which influenced her work.
This achievement is the latest in a long and varied career, which has seen Dr Kirkby become an actress in a primetime Australian TV show, move into politics and serve during World War Two.
She was born in Welbeck Road, Bolton, in January, 1921, and moved to The Old Parsonage in Turton before she turned one.
She said: “Towards the end of the 1920s, I was aware as a child that the cotton industry was in trouble. Mills were closing and there was industrial unrest. I was just aware of the General Strike of 1926.
“Since I’ve done the research on the great depression I realise how lucky my family was.
"I was brought up to respect the history of Lancashire, the great houses and the moorlands, now a tourist attraction, but the early history of the area is something I have studied since.”
After the war, she began her acting career and appeared in the first TV play to be broadcast by the BBC after World War Two, and in 1951 was posted to the Schools Division of Radio Singapore.
She then moved to Australia, where she appeared in several TV programmes, most notably as Lucy Sutcliffe in the Australian soap opera Number 96.
Dr Kirkby continued to appear in shows and plays until becoming a politician, being elected to the New South Wales legislative council in 1981.
She became leader of the Australian Democrats in New South Wales until retiring in 1998.
Dr Kirkby was rewarded with the national Medal of the Order of Australia, for her service to politics and performing arts.
On her latest achievement, she added: “I believe that people should be judged in old age on their capacity, not on their chronological age.
“I think it is terribly wrong that as soon as a person reaches a certain age they are automatically written off as too old.
"It really is infuriating that people assume you can't do something because of your age.”
Dr Kirkby has three children, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. She was married to Llewellyn Jones, an Welsh writer who died in 1961.
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