A former Ingoldmells head teacher who has become ‘a legend’ has been celebrating his 100th birthday with friends and family from all over the world.
John Gill was also joined by the Mayor of Skegness Coun Sid Dennis and Town Crier Steve O’Dare at his birthday party at Rayleigh House care home, where he went ‘for a rest’ just three years ago.
Mr Gill said he was overwhelmed to see everyone, and for the numerous messages and birthday cards, including one from the Queen. “Some of the most emotional moments have been when past pupils and members of staff I worked with have remembered me. It’s lovely really,” he said.
John celebrated reaching his century on September 17.
Born in Leeds, he married Rita shortly before signing up to join the RAF in 1939, become a navigator in Beaufighters in North Africa.
They were parted for four years when his plane was shot down over Libya and he and his injured pilot became prisoners of war. “I didn’t have a bad war really,” he recalled. “I was 18 months in Germany, then 18 months in Italy but we were not badly treated.”
After the war he answered the baby boom by becoming a teacher in Sheffield and having two sons of his own, Stephen and Richard.
“We thought it would be nice to bring the boys up by the sea, which is why we moved to the coast,” said Mr Gill, who taught at Skegness Junior School before becoming head teacher at Ingoldmells Primary School.
His son Stephen, paid tribute to his father for being a great dad. “I can remember him kicking the ball to me on a piece of grass in Lincoln Road in Skegness hoping I’d become a professional footballer. He taught me everything and I’m so proud of him.”
A keen sportsman, Mr Gill is a former captain of Skegness Rugby Club and used to be a keen golfer, establishing the Seacroft Golf Club ‘Vets’. He also contributed much to the life of the local community, serving as secretary of Ingoldmells PCC and becoming a Provincial Junior Grand Warden of his Masonic Lodge.
His active life has been key to his long life. He said: “I used to play golf three times a week but never drank (alcohol) at the bar. I’m sure that had something to do with it because the fresh air did me good.”
Holding a glass of champagne, Mr Dennis blew out the candles on his birthday cake - a gift from the local Probus Club - surrounded by his friends and family, some of whom had travelled from as far away as Australia and America. He has four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Coun Dennis thanked him for inviting him to the party. He said: “I’m delighted to be here with your friends and family. You have gone from being a schoolteacher to being a legend.”
Manager of Raleigh House Lisa Bates said: “John is a lovely gentleman to have in the home and keeps us all on out toes. You can tell he used to be a teacher. He has a wicked sense of humour, too.”
An avid reader of the Skegness Standard, he said he was looking forward to reading all about it. “I read the Standard every week,” he said. “And I’ll be checking, you’ve done it right.”
A very happy birthday to you John from all at the Standard!