The world’s oldest columnist Philip Mayne was given a fitting send-off by family and friends on Monday at St Cuthberts parish church in Marton, near Middlesbrough. Whilst all funerals are sad, and there were plenty of tears shed, there was also an air of celebration given that Grandpa’s extraordinary life ended painlessly after 107 years.

The Times and The Independent both produced obituaries which inevitably focused on Grandpa’s status as the last surviving British officer from world war one.

The British Government offered funeral trappings such as a guard of honour, a flag on the coffin and a bugler – but these were politely declined given that his World War One contribution was very small as Grandpa didn’t see any active service.

The British Legion – Australia’s equivalent of the RSL – were represented at the funeral and they’ve been regularly visiting grandpa in recent years. After 5 million Brits commited to the war effort, there are now only three left.

However, it was noted that Grandpa’s more substantial war time contribution was through his 37 years at ICI during the development of what was the biggest factory ever constructed in the British empire – the chemical plants at Billingham near Middlesbrough.

These plants developed Britain’s supply of ammonia – a key ingredient for explosives and Grandpa found himself in charge of 1000 men at one point overseeing six different explosives and armaments plants during World War Two. He held the positions of chief engineer and technical director at Billingham and was a regional director upon retiring in November 1961.

Whilst he was much loved and admired by his family, Crikey readers only knew Philip Mayne as the world’s oldest columnist. London subscribers are invited to come along tonight (Friday) to our first pub night in a while to raise a glass to him. The venue is Smiths of Smithfield in Farrington, a cool four level bar at 67-77 Charterhouse Street near Barbican tube station. Go here for directions. We’ll be on the ground floor from 4.30pm till 7pm.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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