Meet the birthday boy who was one of the first South Tyneside babies born on first day of NHS

George Telford
George Telford

George Telford is proud to share his 70th birthday with the NHS.

He was one of the first children born on the first day of the new health service, which delivered free healthcare to everyone.

George Telford as a young boy

George Telford as a young boy

That included his mother Lily who was able to go to hospital to give birth, without worrying about the bills.

Mr Telford said the birth of the NHS made a difference to families up and down the country.

His father, also called George, was no stranger to hardship, as he had joined the Jarrow March in 1936.

The protest against unemployment and hardship in the north-east town involved 200 men, including George senior, who walked 300 miles to Downing Street.

George with his sister Audrey

George with his sister Audrey

The couple already had one child by the time George arrived. Audrey, now 74, is proud that her brother arrived on the first day of the new service.

The birth of the NHS the same day as the Telfords' second child 70 years ago, on July 5, meant like many other families they had one less thing to worry about... paying for healthcare.

He was born at Ingham Infirmary, in South Shields, and said because he was born on the first day of universal free healthcare: “I used to say to my mum I was the cheap kid.”

His father worked at Reyrolles engineering factor,y in Hebburn, before joining family working in squash clubs and Mr Telford recalled a post war childhood where "we had full bellies and fires going, we lived in a country where no-one had anything compared to today."

George Telford's parents, George and Lily

George Telford's parents, George and Lily

Mr Telford later moved to London and owned the antiques and soft furnishing shop Rochtel Interiors on Fulham Palace Road for 35 years and said "people know me because of the shop. If you were going to the hospital, my shop was a breath of fresh air if you come in and look around."

One of his neighbours was Gary Bevan who owns Sid's Shoe Shop, he recalled. “It was Nye Bevan who brought in the NHS so we used to joke about it.”

Mr Telford lives in Fulham and has not had much call on the NHS throughout his career.

But he plans to join the celebrations on his birthday outside Charing Cross Hospital, just down Fulham Palace Road, close to the shop he ran until his retirement.

He worked first as a chef, then helped at his uncle’s squash clubs, before setting up his shop in Fulham Palace Road with a friend, Dennis Wells. He later bought Mr Wells out.

He saw the work of the NHS as his parents became increasingly frail.

Mr Telford said: “I have got nothing but praise for them. I know the staff, what they put up with in conditions, hours and their pay, I think they do an extremely wonderful job.”

He added: “I am concerned that the NHS is still standing true and trying to combat a growing older population. It’s all very well keeping people alive which is wonderful, but it’s got to be at a cost.”

He recalled how he put up posters backing Charing Cross Hospital in his shop and will be joining the birthday celebrations outside the hospital on Thursday (JULY 5) before enjoying his own party.