A FORMER hairdresser and church stalwart celebrated her centenary last week with family and friends at her church, Tavistock’s Abbey Chapel.

Iris Webb received her birthday card from the King and visits from her son Martin from Suffolk and family from throughout the country. She was also hosted at Abbey Chapel for a buffet. She used to worship at Bannawell Street Gospel Hall before the Abbey Chapel.

Iris remembers her hairdressing days fondly: ‘My first work was at a hairdresser – a very old firm called Richards, where the Bookstop shop is now. They had a men’s salon at the back and the ladies upstairs.

‘I was away doing work for the war in High Wycombe for three years. When we came back, I finished my diploma. I enjoyed doing hairdressing.’

She attended Dolvin Road school and recalls becoming May Queen aged 15: ‘It was my last year. It was the same year as the coronation. When I left school, I became an apprentice hairdresser. The May Queen procession went round the town with children dressed as gypsies led by the May Queen of the previous year.’

She said her mother’s sister (one of her mother’s four sisters) were married on the same day as a double wedding in 1913, which, she said, was quite unusual then.

Her family lived in Bannawell Street and aunt Frances in the famous Duke of Bedford’s Dolvin Road cottages.

Iris said: ‘I don’t think there was hot water in those days because the Bedford Westbridge cottages never had hot tap. It was a bit primitive really, but it was somewhere to live.’ The Westbridge Bedford cottages all had allotments and gardening competitions.

Iris had a happy school life: ‘At Dolvin Road school, the headmaster was known as ‘AB’, he was a good teacher. Most of the teachers were quite good, I liked them. Miss Davey was nice – that’s the one I used to see in the hospital. I was so ashamed to think she ended up in the workhouse, in the hospital of the work house. I suppose she had no one to look after her.’

Her husband Douglas, who died in 2008, was a printer with the Tavistock Gazette for 40 years, becoming director until the works closed in 1974. He was also a Scout leader in Tavistock, while his war service was with the Army signals regiment in Trinidad.

Iris said, by an ‘amazing coincidence’ one of her curates in Tavistock, the Rev Linfield, was sent to Trinidad as a missionary and Douglas and him met by accident. Iris said: ‘I don’t know who was more surprised of the two. They became good friends.’

She also remembers as ‘fun’ times in the family car: ‘It was a three-wheeler Morgan car with no wipers or doors. It only had a single bench for seats and I used to sit squeezed in the middle between my mum and dad.

‘The engine was uncovered, so the windscreen needed my dad to wipe it clear of oil. He also wiped it with a cut potato to help clear rain and chewing gum blocked a leak in the petrol tank.’