TEN years ago, Florence Taylor got the news no-one wants to hear.
She was diagnosed with cancer and needed a breast removal operation at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
It saved her life and a grateful Florence never forgot it.
In a wonderful tribute to the medical team which helped her, she held parties for her 80th and 85th birthdays and instead of accepting presents got her family to give donations to breast cancer research. She raised £1,000.
She knows exactly where she gets her spirit and determination from.
“I am related to William Wallace. I got over cancer because I am a fighter, like him. How many people can say that. How many can they are related to someone like that?”
Florence – “most friends call me Flo” – was born Florence Crawford in 1927 and has traced her ancestry back almost 1,000 years.
She did it with the help of her cousin Andrew Crawford, from Landsend, Georgia, USA, who visited her in the middle of her fight for life.
Andrew brought with him the proof of his own massive quest to find his past.
It was a 56-page folder, showing Florence was the 32nd generation of a family going back to Duncan I of Scotland, who was killed in battle near Elgin by men led by his cousin Macbeth, probably on August 14, 1040.
Branches of her family also show links to William Wallace, son of Margaret de Crawford (also known as Crauford) and Sir Malcolm Wallace of Clackmannon, Ayrshire.
Wallace, whose story inspired the film Braveheart, was the commander of Scottish forces which won battles against the English before being captured at Robroyston near Glasgow and delivered to King Edward Longshanks of England.
He was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Smithfield, London in 1305.
More recent history shows Florence is the daughter of a First World War Durham Light Infantry engineer James Taylor Crawford.
Her grandfather John Crawford hailed originally from Fraserburgh in Scotland. Jobs were scarce in Scotland so he came to Hebburn and eventually Hartlepool as a shipwright.
Her history in detail was recorded in Andrew’s huge factfile and Florence said: “I was amazed. There were pages of it.”
It also shows she descends from Malcolm III of Scotland, and to many generations of the Earl of Fife.
Just as interesting is Florence’s own history. She has never been afraid of hard work ever since she was 14. She was a shop assistant and later a munitions worker in the Second World War, facing constant danger as she put the gunpowder into shells.
She had to quit employment as a 52-year-old to look after her parents James who died aged 87 and Eva who passed away at 90.
In later life, she did the same for her husband Norman, a Second World War hero who lost part of his inner ear serving his country at Monte Cassino.
The family motto, from the great Crawford clan of the Scottish lowlands, hangs on her kitchen door. It reads: “I will give you safety in strength.”
She’s needed it down the years. “Flo” said: “I’ve got through cancer and I have had my share of falls, but I am still here.”