Centenarian celebration

PUBLISHED: 19:44 07 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:06 03 July 2010

John Owens

THERE'S worse ways of celebrating New Year's Day - one pensioner saw the decade in with a letter from the Queen and a chance to reflect on a century of experiences.

THERE'S worse ways of celebrating New Year's Day - one pensioner saw the decade in with a letter from the Queen and a chance to reflect on a century of experiences.

Having enjoyed his 100th birthday on Friday with friends and family, centenarian Harry Botwright is modest about his achievements.

The Cobholm resident is not the type to attribute his longevity to a vigorous routine, whether it were power walking and carrot juice, or cigars and sherry.

“Why I got this far I don't know. Some say they've done this and that or the other but I can't give you any specific reason. I've never been too healthy and I've drunk and smoked.”

The great-grandfather of four was, however, pleased with his correspondence from Buckingham Palace.

He said “It's nice to know that I get these things, and the fact that she's there and does it for everyone who gets to my age.”

From first world war memories of hiding in his neighbour's air raid shelter on St Peter's Road at the age of five, through to his weekly meetings with the local Probus Club now, Harry has spent most of his life around Great Yarmouth.

A slightly mischievous schoolboy, he left the Nelson School at the age of 14 and went on to meet future wife Dora at the Easter Fair on Yarmouth Market Place.

Having trained as an electrician at PJP Dunbar's on Stonecutter's Way, performed as a gymnast to crowds with the Physical Culture Club and married at St Nicholas' Church, he was drafted in to help in with the second world war effort.

Harry recalled: “I moved to Birkenhead and there was a bunch of us from all over the place working at the shipyard. I remember being responsible for the telephones and gun control aircraft carrier called The Illustrious, and my family had the privilege of touring around it.

“I was also a member of the Home Guard, so quite often it was a case of getting back from work, then heading off to training drills at night, then changing clothes and going back to work in the morning!”

He survived the war, and nights of intense air raids, before eventually returning with his wife and three children to work with owner of the Hippodrome Circus, Billy Russell, and then going on to run PJP Dunbar's with three colleagues.

Harry, who now enjoys listening to talking books - especially Agatha Christie ones - retired in 1980, but kept busy travelling the South coast with his wife and transforming his current home with DIY know-how, as well as honing his bowls skills.

He was widowed in 1999.

“My brother-in-law even asked if I wanted to join his club, and it was when I was playing bowls in the Marina Centre in the 80's that I decided to quit smoking, and I gave up just like that.”

However, despite his new year birthday, he has never been one for resolutions, and this year is no exception: “I've never had any resolutions that I could keep, so why make them?”

His son, Peter, enjoyed the day, and said: “We had a nice little gathering, 23 family and friends turned up, he got 30 cards and the weather was really nice too.”

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