Former railway man Jack Westlake dies at 102
Jack Westlake was employed in the railway works all his working life and stayed sprightly until a ripe age before passing away at the age of 102 last week.
A teetotaller, Jack also never smoked and kept himself in prime fitness, keeping his passions for swimming and bowls until he reached the age of 96.
He leaves behind son John Priestley, 70, grandchildren Mark, 50, and Darren, 44, and great-grandchildren Zak, 22, Paige, 19, Reece, 16, and Jack, 13.
His family have described Jack, born on June 6, 1912, as a man you could set your watch to, with a routine he never deviated from. He broke his avoidance of alcohol only to sneak a cheeky glass of Advocaat every now and again.
He met his late wife Doris Priestley while practising gymnastics. They tied the knot at the Wesleyan Church in Faringdon Road and lived in Portsmouth Street, Swindon.
John remembers the man who taught him to swim at Weymouth beaches, where he and wife Sue are moving shortly.
“He was a good father,” said John. “Whatever we needed he could give us, and we always had a summer holiday. Mum had a couple of strokes and he would always put little bits of extra money in her purse to make her think it was from her pension.
“He was in the railway works all his life, and he started out as a plumber and pipe fitter. As the years went on he was made up to a foreman and a supervisor.
“He retired in 1962, so a while before the whole thing shut down in 1986.
“The whole family before me worked in the railway works. His brother Dennis was there as a labourer.
“He was not a shirker was our dad. In all the time he was working he never had a month off. The longest he ever had off was when he got appendicitis, and that was about 60 years ago.
“He was fit as a fiddle.
“Right up until he was 96, when he was living with us, he would get the bus down to the Oasis and go swimming.
“When he was a young man he belonged to the Great Western Gymnastics Club. He would be doing all the bars and pommel horse, and that was how he met mum. They would train down at Faringdon Park, dad must have got talking to her and they were married for more than 60 years.
“He was a very independent person and was very sharp. He would never tell us when he fell and hurt himself, and didn’t like having carers coming round. He thought he was fine. You couldn’t change him though.”
Jack, who went to Sanford Street School as a boy, caused the family a few embarrassing moments in later life, including taking some of the food from a nearby funeral home for his tea.
“He was the only person in Swindon who would go the wrong way round a roundabout,” said John.
“He had a 1965 Mini which was his pride and joy, and he was still driving it when he was 93-years-old.
“We would keep getting the police turn up saying that he has been going round the Magic Roundabout the wrong way, and we don’t know how he managed that.
“In the end when it failed an MOT we just had to convince him to pack it in, we said, come on now dad, you’re getting on a bit too much to be driving now.”
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