Former Cobholm teacher celebrates 100th birthday

GENERATIONS of Cobholm Infants’ schoolchildren will fondly recall former teacher Joyce Hillyer who on Sunday became a centenarian.

Mrs Hillyer spent the day at her residential home, Claremont House in Caister, celebrating with friends and former neighbours and displaying her birthday card from the Queen. As a former teacher, she also received a letter of congratulations from Michael Gove, secretary of state for education.

She was born Joyce Winifred Aslett in Hamilton Road, soon moving to Harley Road. She is not, however, the first centenarian in her family: her grandmother Emma Aslett (also a former teacher) achieved this more than 50 years ago.

During the first world war her father was away on secret war work and after the Zeppelin attack in January 1915, her mother decided to return to her home town of Watford and this is where Mrs Hillyer started school.

Returning to Harley Road after the war, Mrs Hillyer went on to teacher training at Streatham Hill TTC, London and worked in a “poor area of Tooting and a posh area of Streatham!” Before training, she took a “gap year,” spent at the Central School on Lichfield Road.

In 1931, after completion of her training she returned to Yarmouth and took up a teaching post at Cobholm Infants’ which was then next to the junior school at the end of Isaacs Road. The borough education officer suggested she would probably stay for a maximum of one month – but it became 40 years

In June 1940, the infant school was evacuated to Bingham in Nottinghamshire and Mrs Hillyer and headmistress Mrs Florry Baker accompanied nine children on the evacuation train.

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Her future husband Alan Hillyer, who taught French at Great Yarmouth Grammar School, was also evacuated to nearby Retford and they were able to meet up a few times before he joined the RAF.

The infant school evacuation was not a success with children being taken back home by parents, and after only five months they all returned and the school was reopened.

In 1941, Alan Hillyer was imprisoned by the Japanese on the island of Sumatra and for four years his future wife heard nothing until he was released. They married in 1946, settling in West Caister before their final move to the Fairway in 1953.

In September 1949 the infant school was moved to its present site and is now the only remaining school in the Cobholm area.

Mr and Mrs Hillyer retired on the same day in July 1971.

Mr Hillyer died about 10 years ago aged 90 and Joyce remained in the marital home until she was 97 when she conceded reluctantly that residential care would be best for her and she remains an avid reader of the Telegraph and watcher of the TV national news.