Jack Bowles: Norfolk landlord voted Britain’s best Father Christmas

Former publican John 'Jack' Bowles, who was once voted the country's best Father Christmas, has died peacefully aged 90 at his home at Costessey, near Norwich.

A very popular host and a regular guest on Radio Norfolk, he raised a lot of money for charities, including Barnardos, and received a special civic award in 2002 for his efforts.

After serving in the second world war, he later became a pig farmer at Costessey, where he specialised in keeping different breeds of boars. He kept the Windmill Inn, Necton, near Swaffham, for 27 years and combined working behind the bar with taking boars to pig farms across the county.

He was Santa at the Co-op in Norwich for many years and was once voted Best Father Christmas in a national poll run by the Daily Mail because of the magical stories he told. He was also known to thousands of children across the county as the 'real Father Christmas' – because all the others wore false beards and the children couldn't pull his off!

He was born at Carrow Hill, Norwich, where his father was chief fireman at Colman's. After the outbreak of war, he was posted to the Far East and fought in Burma for at least 18 months. But as well as a great storyteller, he was an excellent singer who once shared a stage with Gracie Fields. He helped to entertain the troops when he was based in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.


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A career in broadcasting beckoned but he returned home to marry his sweetheart Penny or Phyllis, who died about 15 years ago.

After retiring, John went on to collect more than �50,000 for the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind and became well known to Radio Norfolk listeners for his twice-weekly slot on the Wally Webb show as 'the ugly one with the white beard.'

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While his eldest son Paul died 13 years ago, his other son, Hadyn lives in Canada.

He also leaves two daughters, Charmaine, who manages Sowerbys estate agents in Burnham Market, and Sheree, and a daughter-in-law, Louise. He had eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

A funeral will be held at Earlham Crematorium, Norwich, on Tuesday, Auguest 23 at 9am.

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