Glass still half full for Billy after 106 years

Billy Noble celebrates his 106th birthday at his own home in Jordanstown
Billy Noble celebrates his 106th birthday at his own home in Jordanstown

Having a “glass half full” approach to life has been cited as the secret to one Ulsterman’s extraordinary longevity, as he turned 106 on Monday.

Billy Noble ushered in his birthday with a gathering of family and friends in Newtownabbey, where guests included the Anglican Bishop of Connor Alan Abernethy.

His family believe he may well be the oldest man in the Province.

A website called Oldest People in Britain lists him as such – although Northern Ireland’s General Registry Office said it keeps no running comparison, so is unable to give a definitive, official answer.

Mr Noble himself still has quick wits and a strong heart for his age said son Desmond, although his mobility and independence are limited.

He has never smoked, and rarely drank.

Asked what could account for his incredible age, Desmond told the News Letter: “A lot of it is attitude. He is a bit of a survivor.

“His glass is half full rather than half empty. Even now he doesn’t complain about things.”

Born in Belfast in 1909, he grew up in Skegoneill Avenue in north Belfast, and went on to be a pupil of RBAI.

He earned a law degree from Queen’s University, and went on to work for the Estate Duty Office, part of the tax office.

He moved to Jordanstown, and during World War Two he served with the Home Guard.

He retired aged 65, in the mid-1970s.

Today the widower lives with one of his sons and his wife in Jordanstown, where he has been a long-term member of St Patrick’s Church.

Although he was not able to speak on the telephone on Monday, Desmond said: “He’s been entertained mostly by press guys coming and taking a lot of photographs.

“He’s one of those guys who rises to the occasion – when you think he’s not fit for it, he’ll rise to the occasion and have a good day. He’s in good form today.

“His brain is very good, and he’ll join in the conversation. He’s not as sharp as he was a year ago... he is fading. But he’s in remarkably good health for the age he is.”

Desmond joked that if they added a candle to his birthday cake for every year he had been alive then it would “burn down the house”.

He was born in the days before partition when the island was still considered a whole unit, and as such not only does he receive letters from the Queen to mark his birthdays, but also medals from the Irish Republic.

“On his 100th birthday they gave him about £2,500 or something like that,” said Desmond.

“That’s just what they do; even in the dire straits they were going through six years ago. It was pretty good of them.”