Great-grandmother, 101, receives degree certificate 80 years after graduation

A 101-year-old great-grandmother has finally received her university degree certificate in a surprise birthday present - 80 years after she graduated.

Catherine Palmer achieved a first class English degree at the Victoria University of Manchester in 1938 and, although she attended her graduation ceremony, she did not pick up a certificate.

The Southport-born student, then Catherine Bolton, moved to Glasgow shortly afterwards and then went on wartime placements at St Thomas's and St Mary's hospitals in London.

Catherine Palmer in her university running uniform
Catherine Palmer in her university running uniform

After the end of the Second World War, she began teaching English at NW Polytechnic in London, now the University of North London, and then in grammar schools.

One of her three children, Alison, arranged the surprise gift for her mother, from Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, at a family celebration after she contacted the University of Manchester.

She said: "We had a great birthday with Mum and she was delighted to finally get her certificate, which has now taken pride of place next to her card from the Queen.

"I had so often heard her talk about her days at university as special and very happy times, and then she'd mention the lack of evidence of her achievements there.

"It felt important to try to give her the acknowledgement of those days, and contacting staff at Manchester has enabled a sense of completion and celebration to finally happen."

Catherine Palmer receives her degree certificate from daughter Alison
Catherine Palmer receives her degree certificate from daughter Alison

Ms Palmer was an active student during her time at Manchester, where she lived in Ashburne Hall, Fallowfield, and represented the university at fencing and athletics, as well as singing in the choir.

And her daughter said she is still independent, walking her dog every day, after previously embarking on a trekking and white water rafting adventure in the Himalayas at the age of 75.

Professor Peter Knight, the university's current head of English, American studies and creative writing, said: "I am delighted that Catherine has finally received her degree certificate. In this centenary year for women's suffrage, it is important to celebrate the achievements of our alumni and Catherine's life and work are an inspiration to our current students."