Manny cel­e­brates big day with Free­dom hon­our

101-YEAR-OLD LIVED THROUGH TWO WORLD WARS

Uxbridge Gazette - - News -

A 101-YEAR-OLD man who was born dur­ing a Zep­pelin raid and lived through two world wars has been awarded one of the City of Lon­don’s high­est hon­ours.

Manny Blan­kett cel­e­brated his birth­day last week with fish and chips at a lo­cal pub and, as an added treat, re­ceived the rare hon­our of the Free­dom of the City.

As part of his cer­e­mony on Wed­nes­day last week, the old­est liv­ing man in the Square Mile signed a book at the his­toric Guild­hall that com­poser Stephen Sond­heim had signed just weeks ear­lier.

World fig­ures in­clud­ing Princess Diana and Nel­son Man­dela are among those who have re­ceived hon­orary free­doms, the City’s high­est hon­our.

Mr Blan­kett was born in the East End on Oc­to­ber 17 1917, when Lon­don­ers were still trav­el­ling around by horse and cart.

“There was one right op­po­site where we lived. I saw it ev­ery day,” he said. “Ev­ery­thing was trans­ported – peo­ple, de­liv­er­ies – there were no mo­tor cars in those days.”

He lived through the First World War and then the Blitz and led an ad­ven­tur­ous life­style, trav­el­ling over­land to In­dia be­fore serv­ing in the Sec­ond World War.

“It took a month to get there. It was quite a thing,” he said.

Mr Blan­kett later worked as a hair­dresser, then in the fam­ily fur busi­ness and as a life­guard at the Ser­pen­tine Lido in Hyde Park. He was a keen sports­man and ac­tive in the peace move­ment demon­stra­tions of the 1960s.

He said the mid­dle of the last cen­tury was prob­a­bly his favourite time in Lon­don.

“Oh dear, I can’t re­mem­ber – it was a long time ago, what can I say? Lon­don was dif­fer­ent. There were lots of dance halls – strictly dancing. There’s noth­ing like that to­day.”

Many friends and fam­ily were with him as he re­ceived the hon­our from the cor­po­ra­tion, which gov­erns the Square Mile fi­nan­cial district.

Common coun­cil­men Ja­son Pritchard and Mun­sur Ali, of the Port­so­ken ward, where Mr Blan­kett lives in the Mid­dle­sex Street Es­tate, had nom­i­nated him.

Mr Pritchard, who has known Mr Blan­kett more than 10 years, said he was as­ton­ish­ingly ac­tive.

“I am re­ally chuffed we could do this for Manny and give him his spe­cial day. He re­ally de­serves to be spoilt. He is a such a spe­cial in­di­vid­ual who is de­fy­ing his age.

“Even at 101 years old, he is still so nim­ble on his feet and men­tally he is as bright as a but­ton,” he said.

Clerk of the Cham­ber­lain’s Court Laura Miller pre­sented Mr Blan­kett with a gilt-edged red book con­tain­ing the Rules of the City. Writ­ten in the 18th cen­tury, this in­cludes edicts such as keep­ing good com­pany and avoid­ing spend­ing too much time in Lon­don’s tav­erns.

“I was never a drinker,” he said. “Just a small drop of wine or a shandy.”

Manny Blan­kett

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