Belfast Telegraph

What's 106-year-old Billy Noble's secret? No cigarettes, no booze... and a good pair of walking shoes

By Amanda Ferguson

Hard work and walking in the great outdoors.

That's the secret to a long and happy life, according to Northern Ireland's oldest man Billy Noble.

The centenarian celebrated his 106th birthday in style yesterday with some reminiscing about his remarkable life.

Born on January 5, 1909, Billy still lives in the Jordanstown home he set up with his wife Maude after they got married in 1938.

The couple went on to have three children - Colin, Denis and Desmond - and Billy is a grandfather of three and great- grandfather of one.

Maude died in 2003, and Billy is looked after by Denis, his wife Pamela and a team of carers.

"We couldn't do it without the carers, who come in three or four times a day," 72-year-old Denis said.

"We have great back-up from a nurse and doctor and a super carer, who helps us in the house."

Birthday celebrations yesterday went very well.

"We had a quiet day with friends and neighbours calling in," Denis said.

"He is not really fussed by it all but he does like a wee bit of attention!"

Denis explained his father, a former scout leader and civil servant, never smoked and does not drink alcohol.

"I don't know that I am as fit as he was at 72," he said. "He was a very keen footballer in his youth, guesting for the Welders, and he always did a lot of walking.

"He tried to instil in us the importance of walking. We would go for rambles on a Sunday afternoon to Carnmoney Hill or to Knockagh."

Billy was born on the Limestone Road in north Belfast, the second child of Elizabeth and Arthur Noble.

A former chair of the Jordanstown school for deaf and visually impaired children, he worked in the Civil Service's estate duty office as a controller, a role he retired from in 1973, and was subsequently awarded a CBE.

Islandmagee was a favourite holiday destination for Billy, who is looking forward to the new Gobbins visitor attraction development being completed.

Billy has received three telegrams from the Queen, and every year receives a medal from the President of Ireland to mark his birthday.

1909... year Edward VII on throne and legend Geronimo died

Jordanstown resident Billy Noble (106) is Northern Ireland's oldest man.

When he was born on the Limestone Road in north Belfast on January 5, 1909, Edward VII was on the throne. Also in 1909, the now defunct retailer Woolworths opened its first UK store and the first rugby match played at Twickenham Stadium was won by Harlequins.

Geronimo, a Bedonkohe Apache leader of the Chiricahua Apache, died at the age of 79, and Anglo-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton was taking part in the Nimrod expedition to the South Pole.

French heroine Joan of Arc was beatified by Pope Saint Pius X.

The Rt Rev John Crozier was Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore, and the now world famous doomed White Star Line vessel Titanic had been laid down. It would be three years before she embarked on her doomed maiden voyage.

When Billy joined the Civil Service in 1926 he had never used a telephone.

And he didn't own a car or TV until the late 1950s.

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