Kirk honours Britain’s oldest man

The Kirk has honoured the UK’s oldest man with a prestigious lifetime of service award.

Alf Smith
Moderator of the General Assembly Rt Rev Russell Barr visited him at home in the Carse of Gowrie to present the unique award on behalf of Scotland’s national church

Remarkable age

109-year-old Alfred Smith, from the village of St Madoes in Perthshire, has been a member of the Church of Scotland since 1945 and an Elder since 1967.

He shares the remarkable age - and the same birth date - with Bob Weighton of Alton in Hampshire as well as with one of the oldest women, Joan Eileen Hocquard of Bournemouth.

Moderator of the General Assembly Rt Rev Russell Barr visited Mr Smith at home in the Carse of Gowrie to present the unique award on behalf of Scotland’s national church. While it is a regular occurrence to present a 'certificate of long service' to members of the Church, it is extremely rare a Moderator of the General Assembly makes a personal visit to present it.

Mr Barr, who will end his year as Moderator next Saturday at the opening of the General Assembly, 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.”

Alf Smith smiling
Mr Smith said: “It is just wonderful to have a visit from the Moderator. How is finds time to see me is quite something. I have always loved the church as it has given me so much over the years.”

Secret to a happy life

Mr Smith 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 what was 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. He was 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.

Dedicated member

During the Second World War Mr Smith 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.

Allan, who worked with his dad on the farm for 40 years, passed away last year.

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

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

Privilege to be his friend

Minister of St Madoes and Kinfauns Parish Church, Marc Bircham, 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'.”

Alfred's daughter Irene said he “took his responsibilities as an elder very seriously, visiting all his allocated members frequently, particularly those who were unable to attend church.

“He did a lot of the organising for services, collection and distribution of Harvest offerings. He brought the organist to and from the church from Perth, and along with his son, did a lot of day-to-day maintenance of the church building.”

Alf Smith and minister
Minister of St Madoes and Kinfauns Parish Church, Marc Bircham (left), 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'.”