A FAMILIAR figure to many in the Cardigan area will reach a memorable milestone when John Armstrong celebrates his 100th birthday on Saturday (July 18).

A Cumbrian by birth, John spent his childhood growing up in the idyllic setting on the edge of Lake Ullswater, with his parents, an older sister and a younger sister.

From the age of five he would walk the one-and-a-half miles to school wearing clogs on his feet. They lived a simple country life with John’s father growing a very productive vegetable garden and they kept chickens which meant they were fairly self-sufficient, and often ate rabbit and game they had caught.

John would catch fish by hand, known as trout tickling, no rod or line required!

John had violin lessons which was not something he particularly enjoyed but says ‘I’ve been on the fiddle ever since!’

From the age of 11 he would cycle six miles to school in Penrith. He was very proud of his bicycle with its drop-down handle bars. In the summer holidays, John was either in or on the lake, the latter being on his home made paddle board with double ended paddle.

At the age of 18 he joined the Royal Air Force. He looked so young that he decided to grow a moustache in an attempt to look his age.

His first year in the RAF consisted of square- bashing and training, first in Newcastle, then London and lastly in Yorkshire. Then World War Two broke out and he was involved with Bomber Command followed by service in the India/Burma Campaign.

Towards the end of the war he met Elsie at RAF Silloth. She was a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and they married in 1946. Following 12 years of service in the RAF, John went to work for Atomic Energy who were at the forefront of innovation at that time, converting atomic power into energy.

He was now back in his beloved county of Cumbria. In 1952 they had twins, Janet and Andrew. The twins grew up in a household full of humour along with discipline and a set of clear values that achievement and not material gain, was reward in itself.

John, like his father, has green fingers and he also had a very productive garden and greenhouse with grapes, peach and lemon trees. Elsie was a superb cook, although you would never guess from John’s slim build.

A few years later, a move with a promotion took John and his family to Aberporth, to work for the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), Ministry of Defence. In his spare time John enjoyed using his skills and talents for the good of the community.

Janet remembers ‘talking books (rather like a gramophone player, providing the equivalent of audio books today) being stacked in our hallway which Dad repaired for the blind’.

He also raised the Air Training Corps in 1961, organising a committee and then working as Commanding Officer for 13 years. Along with the weekly meetings there were summer camps, gliding and flying, competing and winning athletic competitions and orienteering.

Many of the cadets from those days are now pensioners themselves, and if they spot John in town, they always say ‘Hello Sir’!

In recognition of the contribution John had made with all his work in the community, he and Elsie were invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace . They also attended the investiture service for Prince Charles at St Davids Cathedral.

In 1972 Janet treated her parents to a holiday in Spain which then became their destination of choice. After John had retired they would spend three months of the winter in Spain. They travelled to visit their many Spanish friends all over Spain with generous hospitality that knew no bounds.

John has had an amateur radio licence since 1948. He taught himself the Spanish language which he perfected over time when talking to his many friends in Spain and ‘over the air’.

As with any life, it has not all been a bed of roses and sadly Andrew died in 1989 at the age of 36, not the order of things, which devastated the family.

On a happier note, John and Elsie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Montana USA with their daughter and her husband. They celebrated 60 years of marriage in Cornwall, receiving a card from the Queen.

They had 65 years of very happy married life until Elsie died in 2011. John had the choice of moving to Cornwall with his daughter or staying in Cardigan.

He chose to stay in Cardigan where he had spent most of his life and has so many good friends. Still driving, shopping, cooking and looking after himself - a role model to us all.

An extraordinary life of 100 years that cannot be summed up in a short article. Janet keeps trying to encourage her father to write a book but unfortunately to no avail. So many interesting stories to be told.

John has requested no presents to mark his 100th birthday on July 18, but instead would welcome contributions to Cardigan Cancer Care, a charity that is close to his heart for the support they gave Elsie over several years and more recently the wonderful help and support they have provided to him.

Janet and her husband Eric will be throwing a party for John at a later date when conditions allow. Something to look forward to and well worth celebrating!

Tom Samways has very kindly offered to act as a collection point for anyone wishing to drop in a card for John, at his butcher’s shop in Cardigan High Street.