Stevenage’s ‘amazing’ Rob celebrates 100th birthday

Rob James celebrated his 100th birthday with Stevenage mayor Pam Stuart and town twinning friends wh

Rob James celebrated his 100th birthday with Stevenage mayor Pam Stuart and town twinning friends who came over from Germany to be with him. - Credit: Archant

A fiercely independent man with a keen sense of adventure marked his 100th birthday on Sunday.

Rob James cuts his cake to mark his centenary.

Rob James cuts his cake to mark his centenary. - Credit: Archant

Rob James celebrated his centenary with family and friends at the Cromwell Hotel in Stevenage’s High Street.

His son, Ian, said: “Dad is an amazing man who still lives on his own, takes care of himself, does all his own shopping and is an accomplished cook.

“Dad was born at a time when horse-drawn vehicles were the norm, bread was only 1p per loaf, beer was 4p per pint and Britain was in the middle of the horrors of the First World War.”

Rob, who has lived most of his life in Stevenage, was a pupil at The Thomas Alleyne School from 1929 to 1934 and one of his teachers also taught the Queen Mother in 1908.

When he left school, Rob went to work in the engineering department of Standard Telephones and Cables and earned a shilling an hour, before landing a model-making career with ICI.

During the Second World War, Rob served with the Royal Air Force in North Africa and Palestine.

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In 1947, Rob and his wife, Joan, bought a dilapidated thatched cottage in Symonds Green, dating back to the 1400s.

Ian said: “It had been used by generations of farming people who kept the animals downstairs whilst the farmers lived upstairs.

“It was tiny, and my grandmother apparently cried when she saw it as it had no water, no mains sewage and no gas or electricity.

“Over the next few years they completely transformed the cottage into an idyllic country home.”

Rob and Joan had two children – Ian and Eric – and Ian said: “They were ever the practical couple and, in the 1950’s, we took four-week camping holidays to Europe.

“With Dad’s Ford Anglia car loaded down with dried and tinned food stuffed into every little hole he could find, and with a pair of homemade water skis on the car roof, we would set off for memorable long summer holidays in Spain or France.

“Dad has never lost the travel bug and only last week flew to Frankfurt to attend the town twinning celebrations at Ingelheim.”

The mayor of Stevenage, Pam Stuart, was among those who celebrated the 100th birthday of Rob, who has five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

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