Britain's oldest man Reg Dean celebrates 109th birthday


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The Independent Online

There are three things in life one has to work out, according to 109-year-old Reg Dean. Britain's oldest man, though, has only managed to decipher one of them so far. And he says he hopes to still be here next year, the year after that and the year after that to get to the bottom of the other two.

Reg celebrated his 109th birthday with friends at his home in Derbyshire yesterday. There was not room on the cake for all of the requisite candles, so he made do with four.

"I am getting a little old," he said to laughter. "And as you get old, there are three questions you need to answer: who am I? Why am I here? And where am I going? I don't know all of the answers yet but I do know a little about the first one," he told a gathering of friends yesterday. "Firstly, I am dedicated to Jesus Christ. Secondly, I am English and in spite of all the temptations to belong to other nations, I remain an English man," he added.

Reg has seen 24 British Prime Ministers come and go - "sailor and philosopher" Harold Macmillan was his favourite - and the Protestant Minister has seen two World Wars, even volunteering to serve in one as an Army Chaplain in Burma. The keen actor and singer has set up theatres in the Derby area, spent a lifetime in amateur dramatics and is known locally for founding the Dalesmen Vocal Choir.

He was also the man who "brought Traidcraft to Wirksworth". Modestly, though, he described himself yesterday as belonging to "the noble army...of lazy men. And for that, I am sorry".

Reg moved into a flat in a Derbyshire care home three years ago, until which point he had been living independently in the village. He wore a flower on his lapel given as a birthday present by a friend, a tradition he said, which started on his 100th birthday.

He joked that this years' telegram from the Queen had arrived late, "I thought she'd forgotten me, I was about to to down there and remind her. Still, I have a cupboard full of them now," he said.

Leaning forward to hear better, he admitted his sight is not what it used to be. Unsurprising perhaps. Reg retired at 80, years before this reporter was even born.