Gifted footballer and former RAF serviceman from Bentham set to celebrate his 100th birthday

The oldest member of Bentham Methodist Church, Ronnie Tomlinson celebrates his 100th birthday on May 19.

Ronnie Tomlinson will be 100 on May 19.
Ronnie Tomlinson will be 100 on May 19.

Ronnie was born in Low Bentham at the start of the ‘Roaring Twenties’. George V was on the throne and when he was six-years-old the BBC was granted its Royal Charter.

The following year Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. What a century Ronnie has lived through.

Ronnie left school at 15 and went to work at Ford Ayrton’s, silk mill at Low Bentham.

Ronnie Tomlinson was in the RAF and was a keen sportsman who played football for his unit in India. Ronnie is pictured third from the right standing up.

When he was 18 World War Two was declared and he volunteered for the Royal Air Force. Ronnie’s dad had served in the army in WW1 and had been in the trenches and fought at the Battle of the Somme.

Ronnie had no wish to follow in his father’s footsteps, nor did he fancy being on submarine so the RAF it was.

After a training course in Warrington he was posted to Peshawar on the NW Frontier where he serviced Rolls Royce and Merlin engines for aircraft whose pilots who were involved in fighting against the Japanese in Burma.

Ronnie had a ‘good war’ mainly because the officer in charge of his base was mad keen on sport and Ronnie being a gifted footballer went all over the Indian sub-continent with his air force base football team.

His daughter Pam Zahler said: "When I went down to see him yesterday, he showed me a letter that he had written on September 2, 1944 when he had been in India nearly five years. He was writing back to his Ma and Pa..... his father's 100th letter to him.

"He wrote every week. He had many letters from family and girlfriends. He was a keen sports man who loved his football but he was also a keen tennis player. He relied on old girlfriends to send him tennis balls as they were hard to find in India."

When Ronnie came home, he was very involved in the beginning of Bentham Golf club with a few other friends.

After being demobbed in 1946 Ronnie returned to his old job and worked for Ford Ayrton’s for 36 years in all.

Entertainment was local in those days and every Friday night there was a dance at the Town Hall where young folk from Low Bentham, High Bentham and Burton used to go.

Ronnie was a good dancer having been taken by his mum to church socials at St John’s as a lad and where he honed his skills.

He tells the tale of seeing a ‘right cracker’ one Friday night at the Town Hall who was also a good dancer who has been the love of his life ever since.

On New Year’s Day 1949 he and Phyllis were married at Bentham Methodist Church where he has been a regular attender ever since. They honeymooned in London.

Eighteen months after they married Kenneth came along and four years to the day later Pamela was born.

Ronnie and Phyllis have four grandchildren and six great grandchildren all of whom will celebrate with him and Phyllis on May 19.

He will be celebrating his 100th birthday at the very first Age Concern meeting on Friday May 23 at their new venue Bentham Golf Club.

He will also be celebrating with family on the Sunday after at Lane House and Cottage Bentham.

Everyone with any connection to Bentham Methodist Church sends their love and best wishes to Ronnie on this special occasion.