ONE hundred motorbikes roared into a Sway care home as part of a special surprise to mark the 100th birthday of resident Jean Broadley.
The spectacle at Gracewell care home was organised by Jean’s son John and his partner Sylvia Walker to celebrate the milestone. “It is a very emotional experience when something like that is arranged,” Jean told the A&T through tears. “They told me to be ready and dressed, and said something is happening.
“I went out the front door and saw something through the trees towards the entrance; I think I said something like, ‘Oh no!’, and there was a roar of bikes. I didn’t want a fuss!”
Bikers who took part in the event on Sunday came from local clubs, including Blackfield and as far afield as Portsmouth. They wore turquoise ribbons on their machines, Jean’s favourite colour, and each carried a rose they presented to her.
The bikers then joined care home residents and Jean’s relatives for a special cream tea celebration, with 160 people in all toasting her birthday. Jean had turned 100 on Tuesday, when she went out with John and Sylvia to the Grand Harbour Hotel in Southampton.
The bike tribute was slightly tongue-in-cheek, since when John was young Jean banned him from having a motorcycle because she believed the machines were dangerous. She also did not want him associating with the mods and rockers in fashion at the time.
“Back then bikers had a bad reputation, but nowadays things are totally different,” Jean explained. “They do a lot of good work and I was overwhelmed.”
John now owns a bike and Sylvia is a proud biker from the Waterside who has been a member of various associated clubs.
Born in Cheshire, Jean says she has led a “very lucky” life; having only spent two nights in hospital when she delivered John.
However, she did suffer heartbreak aged just 17. Her father, a senior engineer, died after fumigating a boat; he went back onto the ship to sleep but a pocket of cyanide gas was left in his bunk.
As a young woman, Jean went to business college before working for Liverpool City Council. “It was for the princely sum of 17 shillings and six-pence a week,” she said.
Jean later changed roles, working as a secretary in the offices of film company Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer. “In those days cinemas rented films and the film company had to send a salesman out to sell a film to the cinema before going back to the branch,” she said.
When the war started in 1941, Jean faced being conscripted, but married Noel, an accountant, the following year in a small, intimate ceremony in west Kirby, on the Wirral.
She did not see Noel for the next four years, when he went off to war serving under Montgomery and fighting in the North African and Italian campaigns.
She said he came back a “changed man” in 1946. “He was thin and I hardly recognised him – and they said he looked much better than he had been,” she said. “He was a good man; he was loyal and hardworking.”
Noel and Jean were married for 68 years before his death, and lived in the same house for 56 of those. John is their only son.
“The younger generation will never know what the older generation went through – if there’s another war there’ll be a button pressed and that will be it. There won’t be the bombing that we had.
“In Liverpool we were right near the docks – there’d be bombing five, six or even seven nights of the week and it wouldn’t just be one house it would be a while load of houses blown up.”
She also remembers the rationing, adding: “After the war ended the first thing we bought was a new vacuum cleaner – everything was second-hand during the war.”
Jean was a housewife after her husband was demobbed and led an active social life, playing bowls and joining the townswoman’s guild, acting as its president for a spell.
Since moving to the New Forest around nine years ago, Jean has enjoyed her time at Gracewell, where she plays Scrabble, does crosswords and takes part in its quizzes.
A long-term passion of Jean’s is poetry, which she has been writing for the past few decades. She has penned more than 100 pieces on a range of themes, including ladies bowling, her late husband and going to lunch.
“I love writing poetry and being able to express myself,” she added with a smile.
As for her philosophy on life, Jean reveals: “I think there is too much publicity printed in the newspapers. I do not want to hear about everybody’s sordid life and what they are doing, it scares me. I think about children growing up with phones stuck to their hands.
“I do like to see higher standards of morals, and peace for everyone. I think a lot of it comes down to greed – I have never been a greedy person,” she continued.
“I can remember – I must have been five or six and at school – we were given books to copy for our writing. It stuck in my mind, and I have never forgotten it, that if something is worth doing it’s worth doing well. That’s what I have strived to do.”
Asked for the secret to a long life, she replied: “Loyalty; loyalty to your family, loyalty to each other and to be grateful. Be grateful for what you have. I am most grateful for everything.”