Manny celebrates big day with Freedom honour
101-YEAR-OLD LIVED THROUGH TWO WORLD WARS
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.”