109-year-old honoured by church for lifetime of service

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One of the UK's oldest men has been honoured with a "lifetime of service" award from the church he has been a member of for more than 70 years.

Alfred Smith, 109, has been a member of the Church of Scotland since 1945 and an elder since 1967.

The centenarian, from the village of St Madoes in Perthshire, shares his age and birth date with Bob Weighton, of Alton in Hampshire, as well as with one of the country's oldest women, Joan Eileen Hocquard of Bournemouth.

Rt Rev Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly, visited Mr Smith at home to present the award on behalf of the Kirk.

He said: "Of all the many people I have met during my year as Moderator, Alfred Smith is one of the most remarkable.

"At 109 years old he retains a lively sense of humour, a continuing interest in life, including the life of the church, and he is a great story teller.

"It was a privilege to meet him and some of his family and to offer him my warmest congratulations."

Mr Smith was a member of the Free Church in Invergowrie until 1945 and then became a member of the Church of Scotland, attending Kinfauns Parish Church which later joined with Kilspindie and St Madoes.

He said: "It is just wonderful to have a visit from the Moderator. How he finds time to see me is quite something. I have always loved the church as it has given me so much over the years."

Asked for his secret to a long and happy life, the former farmer said: "Porridge is helpful and having a job you enjoy.

"I like to think I've lived a decent life. I do ask myself - why me? Why have I lived so long when others haven't?"

Mr Smith was born in Invergowrie in 1908, the fifth of six sons of John and Jessie Smith.

He was educated at Invergowrie Primary School and Harris Academy, Dundee.

He emigrated to Canada, along with four of his brothers, in 1927 but returned after five years and went on to drive lorries for his brother George.

During the Second World War, he was in the Home Guard, and married Isobel when he was 29.

The couple went on to farm at Kinfauns where they raised two children, Irene and Allan. Mrs Smith died almost 14 years ago, aged 97.

His son Allan, who worked with his father on the farm for 40 years, died last year.

Mr Smith retired at the age of 70 but continued to go to the farm until well into his 80s.

Marc Bircham, minister of St Madoes and Kinfauns Parish Church, said: "It has been a great joy and privilege to be Alf's minister and friend. He is a blessing to our congregation and community and on a personal level he has been a great encourager to myself, not least by referring to me as 'young man'."