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Big brother George turns 90

MY big brother George Marquis is 90 today, an achievement that would have made my parents very proud.

George was a child during the depressed 1930s, when bread and margarine was staple fare and home was a damp terraced cottage with an outside loo.

A non-smoking trade unionist who has always been a keen Labour supporter, George spent his life in the Leicester hosiery trade at a time when the city was the most prosperous in Europe.

He and his beloved wife Joan, who died eight years ago, raised a fine family of six sons, who all went on to have families of their own.

My other two surviving brothers, Gordon (87) and Reg (83), will get together with George and his children - and me - for a family celebration of this great occasion. My beloved eldest brother, Alec, died aged 80 in 2006.

George is pictured above as a fresh-faced National Serviceman in the Fleet Air Arm in the late 1940s. He had the good fortune to spend most of his two-year stint on a post-war goodwill tour of the world aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Theseus.

Both our parents lived into their eighties, but George is the first Marquis for some years to hit the big Nine-O. However, he still has some way to go to beat the family record-holder.

Our Aunt Sarah, Dad's eldest sister, died in 1990 aged 106, outliving eight of her 11 children. She was widowed in her forties, taking on four jobs to feed the family during the deprived interwar years.

Our dry-witted Dad used to say, with a twinkle in his eye: 'The Marquises never die - they simply dry up and blow away.'

We've all taken heart from that and my brothers' longevity suggests that hard times are not all bad. 'Mam could make a tasty dish from anything,' said Reg. 'We never went hungry.'

If only she could see us all together in the 19th year of the 21st century, she would be reassured that bone broth, brawn and dumplings was not such a bad meal after all.

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