One of our leaseholders celebrates his 103rd birthday!
04 Aug 2017
One of our leaseholders born the year the First World War broke out has celebrated his 103rd birthday.
Mr Harrison rose to local fame as a champion swimmer, marked the occasion with a coffee morning and cake at his home at one of our estates on July 25th, with the help of fellow residents and staff.
Mr Harrison was born in Farnborough and went to school locally. It was while he was on his way home from school one day that his talents as a swimmer emerged.
“When I was five years old, on the way home from school we came past an old Army horse pond,” he said.
“So we went skinny dipping. It taught me two things. One, to swim; and two, not to drink the water.”
“My parents found out two years later that I was still doing it, and I got the thrashing of my life. When my father had finished thrashing me I said, ‘I didn’t get asthma last winter’. My mother said, ‘No, you didn’t...’ They both looked at one another. They then bought me a costume and taught me how to swim.”
And that talent took him to great heights: having taken up competitive swimming at the age of 78, he made history in January 2014 when he broke the short course 50m backstroke world record for the 100-104 age group by 15 seconds, with a time of 1min 29.78sec, as well as setting a new British and European best in the 100m freestyle in November of that year.
He was named Sports Personality of the year at the 2014 Sport Godalming Awards in recognition of his achievements in the pool.
Mr Harrison served with the Royal Navy during the war, and was injured in an explosion while serving aboard HMS Belfast off the Scottish coast injuries which later saw him invalided out of the Navy. He says his recovery from his injuries, both physical and psychological, was helped by playing the piano: he is a talented classical pianist.
Married to his late wife, Doris, for 74 years, Mr Harrison says his piano playing impressed her at the start.
Having met Doris at Whale Island, near Portsmouth, he later took Doris home to meet his parents.
“We had Sunday lunch,” he recalled.
“I excused myself and went into the front room and started to play a Chopin waltz. She came in and started to say ‘Turn that off....’ but she realised it was me playing. I got through the first bar: we waltzed together for 74 years.”
The couple spent six years in Nigeria before returning to the UK, where their daughter, Coral, was born.
And Mr Harrison’s secret of such a long and active life?
“It’s a four-letter word: luck,” he said, adding: “Do everything in moderation. That’s one thing my father taught me.”