Miracle lightbulb finally switched off

WHEN 'Old Betsie' first flickered on in a Suffolk chip shop Bobby Moore was years away from lifting the World Cup, Neil Armstrong still had to wait a decade to take the first steps on the Moon and The Beatles were not even formed.

WHEN 'Old Betsie' first flickered on in a Suffolk chip shop Bobby Moore was years away from lifting the World Cup, Neil Armstrong still had to wait a decade to take the first steps on the Moon and The Beatles were not even formed.

But yesterday, after shining on generations of fish and chip lovers for 47 years, the long-lived light bulb was switched off for the last time.

But Bryan Garnham the retired manager of the Golden Chip in St Johns Street, Bury St Edmunds, has decided to save the bulb he nick-named Old Betsie from the scrap heap.

The chip shop is now being refitted for the 21st Century and all of the fryers and fittings, which date from Betsie's installation, are being replaced.


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The bulb still works despite being blackened and with a piece of its filament missing but it does have a replacement in perfect condition, which of course has never been used.

“There is no maker's mark on either bulb which is a shame because I would love to know who made it,” said Mr Garnham, 71.

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“That bulb has out lasted everybody who has worked there. They just don't make things like they used to. I call it Old Betsie because the bulb is like my 1935 Morris Eight - it just keeps on going.

“It is incredible. People won't look back on today's light bulbs and say the same thing - they just won't last as long.”

Despite not being used to illuminate the shop, Old Betsie did more than its fair share of work - it shone every time the extractor fan was on, a pretty constant part of fish and chip shop life.

Mr Garnham estimated the bulb has probably run for an estimated 100,000 hours and said he was sad to see it unplugged.

Oxford-based Light bulb expert and specialist retailer Chris Glynn, said: “An ordinary bulb lasts for 1,000 hours and it sounds as though this bulb is very unusual.

“If it can be identified then I would suggest one of the bulb manufacturers might be interested in buying it back for their collection.”

Tim Tromp, of the Amercian-based Bulbcollector, a forum for antique light enthusiasts, added: “Many similar legends exist here in the United States regarding light bulbs that have been burning for decades. “The most famous 'longest burning bulb' belongs to a firehouse in Livermore, California.”

He said that bulb had been going for more than 100 years.

But, although Betsie is some way behind that record, Mr Garnham said he now plans to either auction the bulb on Ebay for one of his chosen charities or perhaps donate it to a local museum.

If you think you may know who made Old Betsie or provide any more information about the lighbulb, call Mr Garnham on 01284 787 390.

l Englishman Sir Joseph Swan and American Thomas Edison both invented the light bulb around the same time (in 1878 and 1879, respectively), and within 25 years, millions of people around the world had installed electrical lighting in their homes.

l The modern light bulb, which hasn't changed drastically since Edison's model, is made up of only a handful of parts.

l The bulb is filled with inert gas which prevents the metal filament from evaporating or burning under the immense heat needed to produce light.

l But despite its success the bulb is likely to be replaced in the coming years with LEDs and flourecent bulbs because the original design isn't very efficient.

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