'I'll never forget my brother's tragic death aged 14 in Doncaster disaster'
He has led one of the longest lives in Doncaster.
But George Oliver, who celebrates his 100th birthday today, believes the tragic loss of his brother in a colliery disaster some 80 years ago has contributed to his own long life.
George, who was brought up in Skellow, is best known as the man who was in charge of looking after two of Doncaster’s best loved parks for most of his working life.
But when he left Carcroft School as a 14-year-old in 1934, he went straight into a job at Bullcroft Colliery.
He worked underground in hauliage clipping coal tubs together.
But George left the industry after the tragic death of younger brother Ken. Ken was killed in a pit accident less than two weeks after starting work at the age of 14.
The brothers’ mum immediately insisted that George would no longer work at the colliery.
George, of Scawsby, has never forgotten his brother.
“Ken died before he had even drawn a wage,” he said. “My mother said to me ‘you’re not going down there any more.”
When war broke out in 1939, George wanted to join the RAF. He went to Warrington to sign up but was sent away – because his work at the time as a miner was a reserved occupation.
After leaving the colliery, George was briefly out of work. But after he was seen kicking a ball in Adwick Park, he was offered a job as a garden labourer there.
He was delighted to be offered the job, as gardening was one of his hobbies.
“I worked a few years, and then was appointed head gardener at Adwick Park. It had lots of green houses, bowling greens and flower beds. We used to put names in the flower beds, using different coloured flowers.
“I’d been doing that for around 10 years when I was called into the office, asked if I was all right, and they said George, we’re appointing you head gardener at Bentley Park too. I was there for 15 years, I think, and they found me a house next to the park.”
George married his wife, Joyce, in the 1950s, but Joyce died aged 95. He has two step children and a number of step grandchildren. He worked at the park until the 1980s.
He was also a keen cricketer, captaining Bullcroft second XI and opening their batting; and was successful at bowls, winning the Henry Taylor Trophy playing for Carcroft Club.
He said: “Working in the mines was not easy. It was full of dust and you would be underground for eight hours. It was a lot better in the fresh air. Gardening was my hobby as well as a job.
“After Ken died, my mother insisted I would never go back to the pit. Ken was a nice chap and I missed him a lot.
“I think the secret of a long and healthy life is to work in the fresh air, and that is what I did for most of my working life. I never smoked and I took part in sport.”