When Meryl Robertson was born back in 1913 Grahamstown had just been renamed Onerahi and people living in the seaside suburb could catch trains to Whangarei.

She grew up in a world different to today's, recalling a school on Matakohe-Limestone Island, dances in the Portland Hall and people picking up coal alongside the railway line at Onerahi to reduce their home fuel bills.

In the past century man has made it to the moon and on Saturday Meryl - now great-grandmother Meryl Eyles - celebrated her 100th birthday at the Jane Mander Retirement Village in Whangarei.

Her daughter, Raewyn Massey, said that Meryl had lived in Ewing Rd and in other places on the eastern side of Whangarei until she moved to the retirement village after injuring herself in falls in 2011.


"Mum now doesn't have to cross a bridge to get into the city," Raewyn said.

Meryl was raised by her mother Eva Robertson, who remarried to become Eva Rowlands and lived to 104.

The young Meryl also spent a lot of time with her grandmother, who took in foster children who were company for the little girl.

Growing up, Meryl worked at the Bargain Stores and Regal Tearooms in Whangarei before her marriage to plumber and drainlayer James Raymond Eyles.

They had three children - Colin (deceased), Barrie and Raewyn.

"Dad died when he was 53, so mum has been a long time alone," Raewyn said.

But with a ukelele accompanying her family singing Happy birthday, she wasn't alone on Saturday when her relatives, including eight grandchildren and 13 great-children helped celebrate her century.

Family members travelled from Auckland, Wellington, Kaikoura and England. "She got a lovely card from the Queen as well as messages from the Governor General, the Prime Minister and MPs," Raewyn said.