IT was 1932 when Nellie Watson first clapped eyes on Matthew Moran — the Barnsley Bulldog.
The boxer had just won a bout in her home town of Chorley and as he emerged victorious from the ring, he spotted Nellie in the crowd.
Mrs Watson, who will be 100 on Sunday, said: “I was only 18, and after this fight, he just came out of the ring and said to me ‘can I take you home tonight?’ “I thought, ‘Why not, I’m not doing anything’ and he walked me back to my house.
“The next day we went to the pictures to see Henry VIII and we were together from then.”
Mrs Watson toured Britain’s fairgrounds with her boxer husband, whose real name was Matthew Watson, in the Showmen’s Guild, and more than 200 well-wishers will descend on Bolton this weekend to celebrate her birthday.
The family of the sharp-witted former boxing show host will take over Fanny’s pub in Chorley Old Road, Heaton, on Saturday.
Her Yorkshire-born husband Matthew, who performed at their shows for the more than 20 years until the late 1960s, died in Bolton in 2010.
Six years passed before the couple married on June 4, 1938, at Hemsworth Catholic Chapel.
Mrs Watson, from Farnworth, said: “One weekend, Matthew sent me a telegram, asking me to go to Barnsley to meet him.
“I said to him, ‘I’ve known you since I was 18 and I’m not going to keep coming back just because I get a telegram’. He asked me to marry him on the spot and we sorted out the venue there and then.”
Mrs Watson, who has lived in Bolton for 25 years, had a variety of jobs after leaving school aged 14 before she committed to a life on the road.
She said: “We started in 1944 and it really got going after the war finished. It was brilliant, and our kids were brought up travelling with us, getting involved in the business.
“Eventually, it got to the point where Matthew was struggling physically to put on the shows.
“We met so many people all over the country, some of whom will be coming at the weekend.”
Mrs Watson’s mother Mary Ann Fishwick died when she was aged one, while she lost touch with her father, Jack Bennison, when he went to serve in the armed forces and sent Nellie and her two sisters to be brought up with other families.
Mrs Watson’s eldest son Robert died aged 63 in 2003.
She will be accompanied on Saturday by sons Frank and Stephen and daughter Cathy, as well as 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.