Extraordinary businesswoman and town figure celebrates 100 years

A MOTORBIKE riding coal merchant who kept the home fires burning during the war has celebrated her 100th birthday.

Evelyn Anne Bosley, also known as Pip, was for many years a familiar figure in Stevenage and the surrounding villages, supplying families with fuel alongside her husband Eric.

Originally from Hitchin, she gave up a successful hairdressing business in Stevenage High Street to help her husband at JW Bosley & Son after they married.

She carried on the business after Eric was called up during World War II with the help of Italian prisoners stationed at Royston. On good terms with the Italians and being a fine singer, she entertained them at evening concerts.

Evelyn was also well known for her Royal Enfield motorbike - a rarity for a woman at the time - which she used for her hairdressing business to reach villagers, as well as to take her choir master pillion passenger to performances.

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After the war and Eric’s safe return from the army, the couple continued the coal business which was based at Basils Road in Stevenage with a yard at the railway sidings where B&Q now stands. Together they built it up into a thriving coal and solid fuel central heating merchant until they sold it on their retirement 35 years ago when they moved from Julians Road in Stevenage to Graveley.

Evelyn was a central figure in the area in many ways - as businesswoman, a past president of the town’s Inner Wheel, a key figure in the WI and a singer in St Nicholas Church Choir. And as well as all this she found time to raise six children, John, Diana, Carolyn, Jackie, Lynda and Stephen.

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Now living in Ilfracombe in Devon, where she moved to be with family 12 years ago, she celebrated her birthday with her children, 14 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

Her daughter Carolyn said it was a lovely day at her retirement home “with 65 of us – and that was just family! She is really happy there. She is still lively – as bright as a button and still bossy,” she laughed.

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