Retired Raleigh bike engineer from Solihull gears up for 100th birthday - The Solihull Observer

Retired Raleigh bike engineer from Solihull gears up for 100th birthday

Solihull Editorial 15th Oct, 2019 Updated: 15th Oct, 2019   0

NOTTINGHAM-born retired engineer Harry Bonser – who worked all his life for Raleigh bikes – celebrated his 100th birthday at a former Victorian hunting lodge owned by the company’s founder.

More than 120 family members across four generations gathered for the milestone anniversary for Mr Bonser, who lives in Solihull.

They included his three children – Pauline, Keith and Jane – his seven grand-children and seven great-grandchildren. He survives his ten siblings but members of each of their families’ attended his birthday bash.

Sir Frank Bowden, founder and then head of Raleigh, bought the 40-room Best Western hotel Bestwood Lodge as a family home in Nottingham, which during the Second World War became Army Headquarters.

After taking up cycling on his doctor’s advice following a serious illness, Sir Frank bought a bike company and created Raleigh Cycles in 1887.

By 1896 Raleigh was the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world. Still one of the UK’s largest bike manufacturers, it is now part of Dutch-owned Accell Group, and has seen a huge growth in demand for electric bikes.

Mr Bonser has lived with daughter Jane, her husband and family in Solihull for 25 years.

Retired headteacher Jane, who gave a speech in his honour at Bestwood Lodge, said: “My father was the second youngest of ten children. He worked all his life at Raleigh as an engineer from the age of 16 and we even had a vintage Raleigh bike at his party – which he probably made the gears for!

“He has remained active all his life and is still growing tomatoes in his greenhouse.”

Mr Bonser was widowed 17 years ago after wife Vera sadly died. He retired after 46 years service in 1981.

During the Second World War the father-of-three was posted to India where he served as a signal man with the Royal Signals. This was much to the annoyance of his foreman at Raleigh who wanted him to stay in the factory shop-floor as a tool-setter, according to his daughter.

Jane said: “My father is a very kind, gentle and patient gentleman with great integrity. He is so lovely and family has always been important to him and all his siblings.

“I really value everything we have been taught as children. He has always been very hardworking. When I was a child he worked 12 hour shifts.

“He was always a very do-it-yourself man, he enjoyed woodwork and making things. He did all his own decorating, put in his central heating and built his own conservatory.

“Now he loves growing his own vegetables. His father had an allotment which he then took over.

“Dad has always remained fit and eats healthily but we always joke the secret to his longevity is brandy. He has a tot of brandy every night.”


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