‘Good genes, fresh air and lots of food’ - brothers and former Second World War soldiers toast turning 200 at pub
- Credit: Archant
Celebrating their big birthdays together at the pub, former Second World War soldiers and brothers Alan and Philip Harrison toasted turning 200 years old together with a pint – or two.
Onto his second ale of the day shortly after lunchtime, Philip - the oldest of the two at 103-years-old and three months – lives independently in St Ives and completes The Telegraph’s picture crossword each day without fail.
His younger brother Alan, 96 years and nine months, is a resident at The Warren Care Home, in Norwich, and manages to keep active, regularly going on walks and playing bridge.
Having both joined the Royal Navy during the Second World War, Philip, known as Pip, served on the Russian Arctic convoys for two years as a signalman, and in the relief of Malta, before being commissioned and then serving in the Indian Ocean off Ceylon.
Meanwhile, as a signalman, Alan assisted the Canadian forces in their Normandy landings on Juno Beach on D-Day and for the following six days.
The pair, both Norwich City fans, the fourth and fifth sons of Charles - a basket maker and businessman who was, for three years during the Second World War, the mayor of St Ives - and Lilian Harrison.
The brothers, who celebrated the milestone at The Blue Boar Pub in Wroxham, both attended Huntingdon Grammar School and Pip went on to Goldsmith College, London University, and later became a schoolmaster in Cambridgeshire. Alan, meanwhile, became a bank manager in Wroxham.
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Pip was married for 66 years to Cynthia ‘Tink’ Shaw, a war widow from St Ives who died in 2014. They have two sons and two daughters, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Alan’s daughter, Jan Carter, recalls a childhood filled with happy memories and says the pair were “very outdoorsy people”.
“My father spent most of his younger years swimming the river,” she said.
“He and Alan would skate on the river – they used to have much colder winters in the Fens. I can remember floating around the reed bushes on a homemade raft as the family home was flooded… We had great fun.”
The fond memories means there’s plenty for the family to chat about when they reunite.
“They really love reminiscing and going over old stories, and because they are the only two left out of five brothers we try and get the boys together as much as we can, at lease two or three times a year,” she said.
“It isn’t doesn’t often happen and my son said they must be the first brothers to turn 200 together at The Blue Boar Pub.
“It is pretty remarkable - along with the fact that they are both still very physically fit.”
While she doesn’t think that there’s a magic potion that leads to living as long as Alan and Pip have, Mrs Carter puts it down to four things - the family’s good genes, fresh air, healthy living and exercise. “All the things we are encouraged to do,” she said.
Great support from their family has helped too, she added.
In 2012, for Alan’s 90th birthday, Bill, Pip’s son, took him and Mrs Carter to Normandy Beach and, understandably, it was an emotional visit.
“It was quite surreal to be standing there and looking out to the water. We also went into the Canadian museum on the beach and they were amazed that somebody Pip’s age was walking around it,” she said. “They even gave him a badge.”
Bill, Pip’s son, was among the family members celebrating at the pub. He said: “They are on pretty good form. My father is 103 and he is on his second pint of bitter. That’s quite normal for him.”
When asked about their secret to a long life, he said: “Although they have done a lot of things wrong it was never excessive. But more importantly, they have good genes. That’s what they put it down to. They both smoked but I think they gave it up some time ago, at around the age of 60. Dad would even play golf with me until he was 97-and-a-half, and when they were alive they would go to Norwich City football games with their other brothers.
“They are a bit too old to do the gardening now, but they fill in their time pretty well... As far as his age goes he’s not much trouble.”