Centenarian George Pemberton entertained guests at his 100th birthday party – with a rousing song and poetry he’d learnt as a schoolboy in 1921.
More than 30 people gathered at Pendine Park’s Hillbury Care Home, in Wrexham, to celebrate the big day as George gave an energetic rendition of “There’s a Hole in my Bucket”.
Among them was the town’s Mayor, Cllr Ian Roberts, who said: “It has been a privilege to meet George and celebrate his 100th birthday alongside his family and friends.
“It’s always a pleasure to visit Hillbury Care Home which has a fantastic family atmosphere.”
The former Saltney and Chester resident, who worked as a British Rail and British Telecom linesman before retiring over 35 years ago, moved into Hillbury Care Home eight years ago.
Initially, he shared a room with his wife of more than 70 years, Ida Laura Minnie Pemberton.
Sadly, Ida passed away a few years ago, but George, who was six months old when the Titanic went down, says he remains in the best of health.
He said: “I’m a little deaf now but still fighting fit. I’ve had a great life and enjoy living in Hillbury care Home. The staff are really great, I have a nice room to myself and the food is good too.
“I can still remember the poetry I had to learn off-by-heart in school when I was a young lad. Things were different back then, if you didn’t learn your school work you got a good hiding!”
George, who had two brothers and four sisters, grew up in Saltney Ferry and after his mum died when he was just 11 years old he was taken in by the Lovett family who ran Saltney’s Red Lion pub.
He said: “They treated me like I was their own. My own dad was a herdsman and I had a milk round when I was 14. I can still remember that a quarter pint of milk a day was one shilling and six pence a week. It was a bit cheaper then!
“I bought a pony to pull my milk cart. I got him from Ireland and called him Paddy. I trained him to jump over hedges and entered gymkhanas. The problem was the first time I tried to get it to jump a fence it refused as it was only used to hedges so I had to train him all over again!
“And coming from Ireland it had never seen a steam train. The first time it saw one at Mold Junction it took off and it was a good mile before I could pull it up! And if I wasn’t on the milk I used to help the farmers in the lambing season which I enjoyed.”
George met and began courting Ida when he was 21 and she was just 14 and as soon as she was old enough they were married.
George said: “Ida was from Chester and used to go to Love Street School. She was a champion swimmer too. We had only been married a few years when the war started and I signed up for the RAF.
“I joined up to be an aircraft gunner. I was sent to Biggin Hill but failed the medical because of my blood pressure! I can still remember the horrible sound of the doddle-bugs flying overhead on their way to London. I ended up as a leading aircraftsman working on movement control and was posted to the Orkneys.
“I managed to shoot a rabbit when I was there and as food was scarce I posted it to Ida to make sure she had plenty to eat. The trouble was by the time it arrived it had gone off and she said it stunk the house out!”
After the war ended George and Ida settled down to family life in Chester in the house they bought in Tarvin Road.
George said: “We lived there for 52 years. Then, after our doctor advised us to move as Ida had Parkinson’s disease, we moved to Kingfisher Court and then here to Hillbury.
“It’s sad that Ida passed away. She was fluent in French and tried to teach it to me when we came to live at Hillbury but I was useless and couldn’t get the hang of it. I do miss her though.”
George puts his long life down to the fact he saw sense and stopped smoking after he realised how bad it was for his health.
He said: “Just after the war I thought this is doing me no good and packed it in. Thank God I did. Other than that I have never drank a lot and always kept myself active. And of course having Ida and our son Keith around has helped me too.”
Former Wrexham hairdresser Keith Robert Pemberton, 67, says his dad is still in the best of health.
He said: “He’s as fit as a fiddle and, other than struggling with his hearing, he’s doing really well. He enjoys living at Hillbury Care Home and enjoyed having his former neighbours and friends along for his birthday party.
“The staff at Hillbury have been first class and he does pretty much whatever he wants to do. And he has his mobility scooter to get around on”
Manager of Hillbury Care Home, Cindy Clutton, said: “George is an inspiration to us all at Hillbury as he still enjoys singing. Remarkably, at 100 years of age, he can still remember back to his childhood and recite poetry he learnt at school.
“He’s a gentleman that likes his own company but when it comes to entertaining he’s first in line and residents and staff look forward to him singing his favourite song, There’s a Hole in my Bucket, which always has other residents laughing.”