Rosa’s remarkable rose which outlived all expectations
- Credit: COLIN TOOKE COLLECTION
If you happen to browse through the Guinness Book of Records, its pages are a cornucopia of information encompassing the bizarre and the mundane but all with a common denominator: a world-beating superlative fact or achievement.
So it is hard to reconcile those criteria with an elderly spinster living in our borough but, unlikely though it may sound, she did have that extraordinary claim to fame...or, to be strictly accurate, it was a flower she lovingly nurtured for years that brought her that widespread renown.
Miss Rosa Bull, of Middleton Road, Gorleston, a bright and good-humoured pensioner, shared a wealth of recollections with me and Mercury readers over the years. Never for a moment did it occur to her or us that bigger things were to follow.
It all began with the most unpromising scenario: the disastrous East Coast floods on the night of January 31 1953 when she was living in Lichfield Road in Southtown, one of the worst-hit parts of Yarmouth and Gorleston.
Her home was a victim of the surge that terrifying Saturday night.
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In the clearing-up aftermath, she noticed that a standard rose growing in her garden had been snapped off by the swirling flood. When the dirty muddy water had ebbed away, she planted the broken stem in the salt-impregnated boggy soil, giving the rose a very slender chance of survival and re-growth.
To her surprise, it did grow again to the extent that three months later, she uprooted it and planted it in the garden of her new home on Middleton Road. Six years later, on her 61st birthday in June 1959, she cut a flower from the flourishing bush, a yellow bud with petals just starting to unfurl.
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A delighted Rosa, marvelling at her rose’s power of survival, was anxious to preserve its beauty for as long as possible so she could enjoy it. Her solution? She filled a globular glass bowl with cold tap water, gently put the rose into it, and carefully sealed it.
Her hopeful expectation was that her immersed rose would survive for a week or two, longer if she was lucky. But the rose remained in bloom in its glass globe of tap-water for months and then years, never going soggy, shedding a petal or losing its beauty.
When a quarter of a century had passed and the decorative yellow rose stayed pristine in its watery globe, Mercury photographer Les Gould and I visited Miss Bull to record that silver jubilee.
Somehow, the rose came to the attention of the Guinness Book of Records which sent representatives to her home to examine the longevity claim, asking many probing questions, and checking on the bloom’s history. They even examined the soil back in Lichfield Road where it originally grew until the 1953 floods!
Their findings confirmed its remarkable survival and duration. Satisfied, they recommended its inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records.
The rose bloom probably stayed on the windowsill of her Middleton Road home until Miss Bull died about 1995, aged 96, but that is only my speculation. I never learned of its fate.
She moved to Yarmouth from her Oulton Broad home in 1913, learning shorthand and typing and, from 1918, worked in a bank for 30 and more years, her neat handwriting and prowess in arithmetic of great benefit to her employers. Also, she meticulously kept a diary that recorded the pounding the borough took from German bombers during the war.
In later life, she took part in the in the St Andrew’s competitive festival of music and arts in Gorleston. Her reading of an anecdote in the Norfolk dialect class was greeted with an ovation so warm and prolonged that she was invited to reprise it in the prize-winners’ concert.