Centenarian celebrates his “best birthday” ever

A 100-year-old man celebrated the “best birthday” of his life surrounded by family and friends.

More than 30 people, including his ten-year-old great-grandson, attended Herbert ‘Bert’ Lyall’s milestone anniversary in Rowfant Residential Home, Wallage Lane, Crawley Down.

jpco-5-2-14 Herbert Liles 100th birthday  (Pic by Jon Rigby)

jpco-5-2-14 Herbert Liles 100th birthday (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Bert broke down in tears as he thanked those who came to his party on Thursday (January 30).

He said: “It’s the best birthday I’ve had in all my life, even better than my 21st birthday.

“I didn’t know I had so many friends.”

Bert was raised in an orphanage in London and joined the Horley Gas Company as a gas fitter in 1930.

He worked for the company for nearly 49 years and became one of the most popular members of staff.

Bert remembered bombs being dropped in the centre of Crawley during the Second World War.

He said: “I remember the bombs dropping in Crawley in the High Street where the post office used to be.”

Bert joined the British Army and fought in Italy for a year-and-a-half near the end of the war.

He said: “I was a member of the PBI - the poor bloody infantry.”

He got married shortly after the end of the war and moved to Crawley with his family from London in 1953.

He has watched football since his childhood and used to play for St Matthew’s football team in Three Bridges.

He won a diving competition when he was a boy despite not being able to swim.

He said: “I dived far enough to get to the side.”

Bert made close friends at Rowfant Residential Home after moving from Punch Copse Road, Three Bridges, in 2008.

He said: “Meeting all these people has changed me to become more outgoing, I was a loner before.”

His only remaining step-child, Pat Moreau - one of two sisters and three brothers - travelled from the Isle of Wight to see him on the day.

Pat’s daughter, son-in-law and grandson, George, also attended.

Pat said: “It makes me feel good that he feels so happy here because everybody is so nice and caring.”

Bert said he still thought about his late wife, Ethel Lyall, who died in 1990.

Viesturs Dude, 52, home manager, who gave a speech at the start of the party, said: “He’s the nicest man you could wish for. Everybody loves him, he’s always happy to take part in all sorts of activities, whatever they are. It’s really nice to look after those kinds of people.”