Happy Birthday George! Grantham’s gentle giant is turning 70
When you think of Grantham icons, you may come up with Sir Isaac Newton, Margaret Thatcher and Nicholas Parsons.
But then you would be forgetting one who towers above them all, quite literally, in the form of Big George, everyone’s favourite gentle giant.
Born on what is now the site of Morrisons back in 1946, George Garrett has been making local residents smile throughout his 70 years in the town, having decided to be a friend to all.
He is part of a big and close-knit family, which includes his niece Amanda, sister-in-law Susan, great-nephews Callum and Jake, and many more relatives who regularly visit him and enjoy spending quality time with George.
“We all love him to bits, and so does everyone in Grantham. He has been in the Journal lots of times before. He was named one of the 100 best things about the town,” said Amanda, beaming with pride.
When Morrisons opened, instead of fighting against the store taking up residence in his birthplace, George made the supermarket his second home. If he isn’t at his Welham Street property, you can be sure to find him inside the shop or cafe, greeting staff and customers who all know and love him.
He was, of course, there when I went to interview him this week, proudly showing off his 70th birthday balloon. George is set to reach this momentous milestone on Wednesday.
In doing so he has defied the odds, having contracted a whooping cough and suffered from a brain haemorrhage as a child. As his family explains, this left him with limited speech and the mental age of eight, but it has done nothing to dent his confidence and he will speak to anyone he meets.
Indeed, the only difficulty I had in interviewing him was due to his many friends coming over to wish him many happy returns. These included cashier Linda Powell, who has known George for the 26 years she has worked there. Furthermore, she coincidently will be celebrating her 63rd birthday on the same day as George, and says she will miss him when she retires soon.
“George comes in every day, and everybody knows him. Some of the customers give him a pound when they see him,” she said. This stems from how he used to collect the trolleys, although he has taken a step back from this due to his health. Amanda adds that he was so helpful, the store tried to give him a permanent job, but instead George preferred to remain simply a kind volunteer.
Moreover, you will always see George saluting the war memorial on Armistice Day, while he regularly visits his beloved mother Dolly Johnson’s grave.
Although it is going to be hard to top his 50th birthday, which was marked by the planting of his own tree, his family has organised a big birthday party for him on Wednesday from 4.30pm, inside the Chameleon at the Kings pub. Friends of George are invited to attend.