John soldiers on and reaches 102

Edinburgh infantryman John Nisbet feared he was about to be shot when confronted by a company of armed German soldiers while serving in Hamburg towards the end of the Second World War.

Friday, 20th July 2018, 8:30 am
A bowling-themed birthday cake is presented to John by Viewpoint staff and neighbours
A bowling-themed birthday cake is presented to John by Viewpoint staff and neighbours

Instead, the officer in charge handed over his pistol and surrendered, and John – now celebrating his 102nd birthday – lived to tell the tale.

A tenant of Viewpoint sheltered housing in Morningside, where he marked the occasion with friends and neighbours, John was born on July 12, 1916 and brought up at Rosebank Cottages near Haymarket.

At 14, he became an apprentice joiner, working for a spell in Glasgow at the Empire Exhibition before returning to Edinburgh and being called up to the army.

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He served with REME as an infantryman and soon gained a reputation as “a bit of a character”. It was while on leave that he met and fell in love with Helen at a dance at Marine Parade, Portobello. The couple married and settled in Millar Crescent but, sadly, Helen was to die young from a heart attack.

After the war, John returned to work as a joiner and single-handedly installed many of the stairs in the Gorgie flats. He was good at his work and got on well with his workmates. Seeing his potential, his employer promoted him to Clerk of Works, supervising the building of bungalows at Corstorphine.

In his spare time, he liked to take his caravan across to Aberdour or down to West Linton, spending happy weekends playing some golf or bowling. He also enjoyed spending time with his new friend Lena, his constant companion until her death 20 years ago.

John was a keen bowler and president of Tipperlinn Bowling Club for many years, winning many club championships and collecting a cupboard full of little trophies and cups. One year he qualified for the “fours” in the Scottish Championships and reached the semi-finals.

The youngest of six children, he is the last to survive; his brothers and sisters, as well as their husbands and wives, all having passed on.

Still living independently, John decided to give up driving ten years ago, accepting that his reflexes were beginning to slow down. He has never lost his sense of humour and still raises a laugh with his quick retorts and cheeky remarks.