Obituary: Seaside town’s 105-year-old resident who mingled with the stars

Iris Gooch celebrates her 100th birthday with a pary at the Pier Hotel, Gorleston.PHOTO: Nick Bu

Cheers! Iris Gooch celebrated her 100th birthday with a party at the Pier Hotel, Gorleston, in 2016 - Credit: Nick Butcher

Not everyone can claim to have had a cup of tea made for them by the late magician Paul Daniels. 

But for one former landlady, who mingled with such stars during her time working in a busy entertainment venue, this became something of the norm. 

Iris Gooch, of Gorleston, died just weeks before her 106th birthday and was part of a long line of relatives who achieved exceptional longevity, as her son, John Gooch, explained. 

“Her own mother was aged 102 when she passed away,” he said. “She also had aunts who lived to 102 and 99 years of age. All of the female sides of her family seem to live long lives.

“She also enjoyed a drop of sherry or brandy, enjoying a glass or two to three times a week right up until she passed away, and she worked hard and ate the right things.” 

Iris Gooch celebrates her 100th birthday with a pary at the Pier Hotel, Gorleston.
PHOTO: Nick Bu

New adventures: Aged 16, Iris Gooch moved with her family to Norfolk - Credit: Nick Butcher

Mrs Gooch, nee Verdun, was born on February 17, 1916, in South Chingford, East London, where she grew up and attended the local schools. 

At the age of 16 she moved with her family to Norfolk, first to Hempnall, near Long Stratton, before settling in Great Yarmouth.

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Here her parents became landlords of the Upper Ferry Inn and later the Bell Inn at St Olaves, while she trained as a waitress at Purdy's and was soon promoted to restaurant manager. 

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, she was drafted off to Welwyn Garden City where she made grinding wheels by day and worked for the Auxiliary Fire Service by night.

During the war she met Jack Gooch, an officer in the Royal Navy, when he was in port at Great Yarmouth.

But it was not until the end of the war that they would be reunited as Mr Gooch had been taken as a German POW for three years. 

Baby joy: Iris Gooch became a great-grandmother for the first time seven months ago

Baby joy: Iris Gooch became a great-grandmother for the first time seven months ago - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

The couple married in 1947 and moved to Enfield, Mr Gooch's hometown, and had their son, John, who was born on December 13, 1947.

They went on to become publicans themselves moving to the Nelson Tavern, Great Yarmouth, and then to the Crown Hotel, Watton.

Mrs Gooch was widowed in 1964, and four years later she moved to Gorleston.

She ran a small off-licence before a short spell working in the finance office on the Britannia Pier, where she met some of the stars who performed during Yarmouth's summer season.

Mr Gooch said: “She would sit in the office during the day time and while the stars were having some downtime in the afternoon, they would come and see mum and have a chat and make her a cuppa – stars such as Paul Daniels and Rus Abbot. 

“She was always a hard worker and would be in the trades where she was always meeting people. She was always smiling and had a wicked sense of humour, times for everyone, and a lovely personality.”  

Iris Gooch celebrates her 100th birthday with a pary at the Pier Hotel, Gorleston.
PHOTO: Nick Bu

Major milestone: Iris Gooch, a former landlady, raised a glass on her 100th birthday back in 2016 - Credit: Nick Butcher

She then enjoyed many happy years as the store cashier in Debenhams before retiring – a move that was short-lived.

Having been asked to do two weeks holiday cover in Coe's Newsagents in Bells Road, she ended up staying and worked part-time for seven years, making several more lifelong friends.  

In later life, she enjoyed trips out, especially to local hostelries for a drink and a meal, reading and watching television, and walks along Gorleston cliffs. She also kept dogs.

She moved with her sister Audrey to Broadlands Care Home aged 101, where they shared a double room.

In 2016, she was treated to a surprise 100th birthday party surrounded by around 50 family and friends from across the county who gathered at Gorleston's Pub on the Pier, having been invited there on the pretext of a quiet meal with close relatives. 

Iris Gooch celebrates her 100th birthday with a pary at the Pier Hotel, Gorleston. Iris with her fam

We are family: Iris Gooch surrounded by members of her family - Credit: Nick Butcher

Seven months ago, she became a great-grandmother for the first time. 

Mrs Gooch died last month. As well as her son and daughter-in-law, Gaynor, she leaves behind her sister, two granddaughters, and her great-grandson, Henry.

Her funeral will take place at Gorleston Crematorium on February 14 at 12.15pm. All welcome.