A GREAT-GRANDMA who has just celebrated her 96th birthday is being hailed as the oldest volunteer in the North West.

Kath Hancock turned 96 on April 7, and for the last 18 years has volunteered three afternoons a week at the Pendleside Hospice charity shop in Colne.

And the sprightly pensioner from Trawden says offering the Dockray Street shop her services free of charge has kept her feeling young.

Mrs Hancock said: “For me, it’s a social occasion. It’s somewhere to come and talk to people.

"I have known a lot of the customers for years so we always have something to talk about.”

Brought up in Hull, Mrs Hancock moved to Trawden during the Second World War, aged just 16, and has lived in the village ever since.

After the war, the mother-of-two went to work for Bannister’s textile mill, which later became Boundary Mill in Colne.

She said: “I love working in the Pendleside shop. I used to do more hours but three afternoons a week is enough for me now.

“If I stayed at home I would get so fed up of watching television and while I do play the piano I would be so bored sitting in all day. I like to keep active both physically and mentally.”

Area manager for Pendleside Hospice charity shops Catherine Argyle said all the staff think Kath is great. She said: “Kath was about 78 when she began and I think after the death of her husband she wanted to get out of the house and do something worthwhile.

“She’s led a really varied life and is an interesting character.”

Chief executive of Pendleside, Helen McVey, said: “Kath is an inspiration to us all. For a person of any age to give three afternoons a week of their own time to work for the hospice is so incredibly generous. But for a lady of her age to be helping us is even more incredible.

“I would like to thank Kath for all of her hard work and would like to think that while her enthusiasm stays the same and her health allows she carries on doing something she loves to do for some time to come.”