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Eric celebrates 100th birthday with all his ‘wonderful friends’

Times Echo and Life / Uttoxeter news / Eric celebrates 100th birthday with all his ‘wonderful friends’
11 months, 28 days agoNo Comments.
6 JUL

Eric celebrates 100th birthday with all his ‘wonderful friends’

By timesecholife on in Uttoxeter news

A MANCHESTER electrician who went on to become a war hero, greengrocer, postman and eventually Parade Ring Manager at Uttoxeter racecourse, has celebrated his centenary. Eric Coleman, who was the oldest Parade Ring Manager in British horse racing, before his retirement at the age of 93, was treated to a special day at the races to mark his 100th birthday.

Eric was also the proud recipient of a birthday card from HM Queen Elizabeth II. Born in Manchester in 1921, Eric trained as an electrician before volunteering to serve in World War II at the age of 19.

Joining the RAF as a Spitfire electrician, he travelled via ship from Scotland via Gibraltar, Freetown and Cape Town to Durbar in Africa, before eventually spending two years in Egypt where he fought at El Alamein.

 

He later drove from Egypt, over the Suez Canal and across the Sinai Desert into what was then Persia and spent time in the Persian Gulf, before a posting to Burma with the 14th Army, where he contracted a tropical wasting disease.

After three years, Eric returned to Manchester – and to Jessie, who he had taken out on just a couple of dates before the war. She had written to him every week after a promise to wait for his return. Among his service medals are Campaign Stars for Africa and Burma as well as the 1939-45 Star.

After the war, Eric and Jessie were married and took on the family farm shop in the city, which they ran together for 35 years, before retiring to Uttoxeter.

Eric said: “Moving here from Manchester was like Shangri-La to us. To live in all this countryside – it’s a wonderful place and I have made some wonderful friends here. I worked as a postman in the area for six years. Jessie and I used to walk our dogs at the race course, which is where I met David McAllister.

“I always took a carrier bag to pick up any litter I found. He spotted me and we got to talking – everybody knows I’m a right chatterbox – and he offered me a job. I worked for the racecourse for 30 years and was parade ring manager for 17 years. I was the oldest person in that position in Britain – and possibly the world!”

Over the years, Eric has come to know everyone at the race course from cleaning crew to the chief executive – and his time in the parade ring saw him rubbing shoulders with the great and good of the racing world. Eric added: “I was going to have an indoor party and then an outdoor party, but they had to be cancelled because of the virus. But Brian and the team at the race course came and fetched me for a day at the races and introduced me as a VIP for the day.

“Jane Gerard-Pearse checks on me regularly and Brian Barrass, Charlie Moore and Liz O’Sullivan have been wonderful to me – as has everyone at the race course.”

Eric turned 100 on Saturday, June 26 – Armed Forces Day – and saw the Red Arrows fly over Uttoxeter on their way to the National Memorial Arboretum. Sadly, Jessie passed away 20 years ago at the age of 79, but Eric has found solace among his friends at the race course and neighbours in the town.

He added: “My friends at the race course have been an anchor for me. They’ve looked after me and been my family. I’m a very lucky person having all these friends. The race course became my life once Jessie had gone.

“I’d like to make the best of what life I’ve got left and keep trying to help people. I can’t do much, but it’s important to be active and keep connecting with people. I’ve got wonderful neighbours and friends, and while I never thought I’d get this far, I feel very honoured that I’ve had a card from The Queen!”

Eric’s friends at the race course wish him all the best for his 100th birthday and look forward to seeing him again soon for a cup of tea and a natter!

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