Kingsley great-great-grandfather celebrates 102nd birthday


John Farrell (102) with daughters Jenny Stevens and Gwenda Spice. Looking on is son in law Neville Stevens. Picture: Bruce Hunt
John Farrell (102) with daughters Jenny Stevens and Gwenda Spice. Looking on is son in law Neville Stevens. Picture: Bruce Hunt

A KINGSLEY great-great-grandfather celebrates his 102 birthday today.

John William Farrell was born in London on October 28, 1914.

His family ran a marine store business, commonly known as a ‘rag and bone shop’, and introduced him to the world of business at an early age.

He preferred working to school and seldom attended the latter, leaving it when he was 14 to work in the family business.

Before that, he developed a love of all sport, and captained the school football and cricket teams, then enjoyed a successful amateur soccer career with sides such as Leytonstone, Walthamstow, Hertford and his favourite team, Barnet.

Because the family business helped in the war effort, he was not called up for war service until later in life when he joined the 1st Battalion London Rifle Brigade at Winchester.

Unfortunately, he failed to drive a Bren gun carrier in a straight line and missed all the targets during rifle practice, which saw him stay on home soil, assigned to the officers’ mess.

After one of his soccer matches, Mr Farrell and a friend gatecrashed a wedding reception and there he fell in love with one of the bridesmaids, who became his wife Gwen.

The couple were married for 66 years and had two daughters – now Gwenda Spice and Jennifer Stevens – as well as five grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

In 1952, he handed the business over to his brother and the couple moved to the Kent coast, where they bought a guesthouse and worked together for 29 years.

In 1981, they joined Jenny and her husband Neville Stevens in Australia.

Mrs Farrell died in 2002, and Mr Farrell moved into aged care a decade later when things started to become a “struggle” but after 22 months he moved in with Jenny.

When celebrating his 100th birthday in 2014, he received letters and cards from all over the world, including the Queen and 13 other dignitaries, while his 101st birthday was a quieter affair.

Many people ask what his secret to long life is, not expecting his answer: “tall leggy blondes”.

Last year, the lifelong Arsenal supporter received a personal letter from the soccer team’s manager Arsene Wenger and an Arsenal shirt signed by all the current first team players.

Mr Wenger said he knew of Mr Farrell’s goal scoring skills and if he had been younger he may have signed him.

He celebrated turning 102 with cake and friends at Community Vision’s Woodvale Social Club this morning.

“He is an amazing gentleman who looks more like a sprightly 80 year old than a centenarian,” executive manager Maja Katanic said.