Rupert survives drowning and bombing to dance on to 105

 

Rupert Cliff will be turning 105 next week. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times
Rupert Cliff will be turning 105 next week. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times Rob Williams

THERE are a few lifestyle choices that could explain why Rupert Cliff is still able to live happily in his own cosy Ipswich granny flat, despite pushing 105 years.

The English-born centenarian points to his daily consumption of porridge and an aversion to water, which came from a near-drowning incident at the age of four. Although family members think Mr Cliff's years of dancing might have contributed to his longevity, too.

Either way, this walking miracle of a great-grandfather is also a living, breathing, history book and a great source of joy to his family, who will celebrate his 105th birthday with a barbecue on May 12. Mr Cliff was born into a blended family at Burton on Trent - then a beer-brewing town, north-east of Birmingham, in 1909.

"I used to drink a certain amount of beer, until I discovered Johnnie Walker and cranberry juice, which was quite nice," he said.

"These days I mainly drink milk. I will have a warm milk to settle the stomach before bed."

Mr Cliff was the only child of the union between his mother and father but had two older half-sisters - Ivy and Gertrude - who have long since died.

One of Mr Cliff's earliest childhood memories was of being either pushed or falling into a local swimming hole as a four-year-old.

"Fortunately, there was a man working nearby, who fished me out of the water," Mr Cliff said.

"From then on, I've had an aversion to water that is so strong that I won't even drink the stuff."

Mr Cliff left school at 14 to learn sheet metal work and eventually worked at the Austin motor car factory.

The Second World War broke out, while he was working at the factory, and he can still remember the day when the air raid sirens went off - and he came very close to being blown up by a hovering German bomber.

"Overhead, I saw the biggest aeroplane I had ever seen in my life - it was a Dornier bomber," Mr Cliff said.

"I watched as the bombs came down - I was still running as they hit the ground.

"I remember bits of railway line and stuff going everywhere - I could see all the colours of the rainbow."

Life wasn't all doom and gloom around those times.

Mr Cliff married his sweetheart Margaret around the outbreak of the war and the pair had one child, Roderick. "We only had enough money for one," Mr Cliff joked.

"Jobs and money were very short everywhere in those times."

Roderick and his wife moved to Australia in the early 1970s but kept in close contact with Mr Cliff, with the patriarch often flying across the world to visit. When Margaret died about five years ago, aged 94, Mr Cliff decided to move to Australia permanently.


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