Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's oldest man Billy Noble celebrates his 106th birthday

By Ricky Thompson

William Noble celebrated his 106th birthday on Monday and is officially Northern Ireland's oldest man, saying his secret to a long life is walking and working hard.

Mr Noble, or Billy to his many friends, lives in his own home in Newtownabbey, which he set up with his wife Henriette when they married in 1938.

Having been born in 1909, during the reign of King Edward the VII, Billy has lived through more than a century of history's greatest events, including Titanic's sinking in 1912, two World Wars and the first moon landings in 1969, but he's very humble about his incredible age.

When asked how he felt about his achievement he said: "It doesn't make any difference, I still feel my age."

His family and friends have described him as 'remarkable and very funny' and were keen to point out that, even in recent years, his dry wit and sharp sense of humour entertained them.

Even now, although his speech is slower, he jokes about the young people of today.

"I wouldn't give them any advice", he said.

"They wouldn't listen to it anyway."

Born in Belfast's Limestone Road, his father worked in the shipyard and his mother was a respected member of the Mothers' Union. Billy said although his parents worked very hard, he knew he couldn't rely solely on their income: "I was disadvantaged but that had its advantages", he said.

He recalls how hard he worked as a young man, obtaining a scholarship for the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, where he passed the Northern Ireland civil service examination and went on to complete a part-time law course at Queen's University Belfast.

Billy is cared for by his son Denis and daughter-in-law Pamela. Denis said his fathers' age is a great achievement and that deep-down he's very proud of himself: "He worked hard through his life, he loved his job. He kept himself fairly healthy and did a lot of walking."

The centenarian was quick to interrupt his son to proudly state he also didn't drink or smoke.

Denis continued: "Even in his nineties he was doing a bit of work with me and his mental ability was terrific, I think my father's much healthier than I am now."

In 1973, after a 47 year career as a civil servant and having reached the position of Comptroller of Estate Duty in the province, he retired, receiving a CBE for his work.

Of course, it wasn't the last time billy would receive something from the Queen. In 2009, at the age of 100, a congratulatory message was sent to him, signed by Her Majesty, to celebrate the occasion.

Cards are sent to those celebrating their 100th and 105th birthdays and every year thereafter, meaning Billy now has three - the most recent of which was prominently displayed near him, on the mantlepiece.

One of those who admired the card on Monday was the The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy.

He was one of a number of friends who dropped by throughout the day to say happy birthday: "He's a delightful man. I've been at some of his birthdays over the last few years so it's just a joy to be here again today.

"He's a genuinely good man whose worked very hard and done very well in his own profession but also is a very good family man. The simple things in life matter most to him. It's lovely."

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