Fred’s secret to long life.... know when to shut up!

100 Not out,  100th Birthday party for Fred May and his family
100 Not out, 100th Birthday party for Fred May and his family
Have your say

Have a hobby – and know when to shut up...

Those are the secrets to a long and happy life, according to Sheffield’s newest centenarian.

Fred May celebrated his 100th birthday with a party for family and friends at The Beauchief Hotel in Abbeydale, where he was in no doubt what keeps him alert.

“Take interests,” said Fred. “Don’t just sit around – be interested in something.

“Know when to keep quiet, and when to speak.

“And live your own life, however you can.

“Sheffield is an extraordinary place for getting help, and doing things together. I’m very pleased to have finished off in Sheffield.”

While still a decade away from the title of Sheffield’s oldest man – 110-year-old Ralph Tarrant took that honour when he marked his incredible birthday at the weekend – Fred still stands as a superb example of excellence in old age.

A heavy smoker until his mid-60s, when he gave up ‘overnight’, he still lives independently in Ecclesall, in the same house he has occupied since 1952.

True to the mantra he has always lived by, Fred’s interests over the years have included hockey, embroidery and regular attendance at church.

And when he began to suffer macular degeneration, which gave him tunnel vision, he taught himself Braille.

Born on July 10, 1913, in Kingston upon Thames, the eldest of four children, Fred served in the war as an Army officer and founder member of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, travelling to Egypt and India.

After World War Two he took a job with English Steel making kilns, and moved to Handsworth in Sheffield in 1948.

He played for the works hockey team, through which he met his wife, Mary, and the couple married in 1952 and moved to Ecclesall.

They were together for 28 years until Mary’s death from cancer – which changed Fred, according to his son-in-law, Tim Smith.

“They were heavy smokers, like everyone at the time,” said Tim.

“When Mary died, he gave up overnight.”

The couple had two children, Richard and Caroline, who joined their dad for his birthday celebrations from Wokingham and Nottingham.

Fred also has four grandchildren – Peter, 25, Christopher, 24, Rosie and Helen, both 22.