‘Look after your health and be disciplined:’ 100-year-old Derry man’s advice for a long life as he celebrates special birthday

A Derry man who survived World War II despite being wounded by shrapnel from a missile that left a scar on his head, has celebrated his 100th birthday at Oakleaves Care Centre.

Monday, 19th July 2021, 6:20 pm
Hamilton Tony Brown celebrated his 100th birthday.

A former Derry City winger, Hamilton Tony Brown was also a regular supporter of Institute attending games as recently as just four years ago.

Having lived through so much, Tony hasn’t been stopped even by Covid, and until the pandemic struck was also a regular visitor to his wife, Reia who is cared for in another local nursing home.

Christened Hamilton Tony Brown he has had an eventful life: he was born in 1921, and lived in Clarendon Street where the family had lodgers in their house.

Tony in his younger years.

He went to the Model Primary School and the Technical College and attended Christ Church, Infirmary Road and St Augustine’s on the walls.

He met his wife, Reia Buchanan, in the area he lived. They were neighbours, who went to socials and dances in the church hall together before getting married in 1953.

Tony had many roles over the years doing clerical work at DuPont, Ulsterbus and Lough Swilly Railway. He also spent some time in the British army.

Staff at Oakleaves helped the popular resident celebrate his 100th birthday last week.

At such an age, there were many highlights in his life that he could recall, in terms of his family, army career and sporting activities.

He and Reia had three daughters - twins Carolyn and Harriet, and Rosemary. They have five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Carolyn lives in New Zealand, Rosemary in Scotland and Harriet lives here in the city.

He and Reia visited New Zealand on a number of occasions over several years to visit their daughter.

Tony has many interests; the centenarian loves all sports, especially football and tennis.

He played right wing for Derry City, and supported Institute Football Club and would have attended matches regularly until the stadium was flooded in 2017.

Naturally athletic, he was a runner and also played cricket in his younger days.

Tony served in the British army where he was sent away on service for six years. He spent time in Scotland, India, Africa, West Burma and was awarded the Burma Star Medal VJ (Victory Over Japan). He was wounded in a missile strike, that left a permanent mark on his head when he was hit by shrapnel.

He also recalls going to the Albert Hall in 1964 with the Burma Star Association where he saw Vera Lynn perform.

Obviously, he has missed his family due to the repercussions of the pandemic, especially his wife Reia.

He would have visited her regularly before the covid outbreak made that impossible.

The old soldier continues to battle on - he has survived COVID after receiving his two vaccinations at the start of 2021 but says he has missed the entertainment that was previously provided in the nursing home before visits were stopped due to the virus.

Staff at Oakleaves say he can’t believe he is 100, and didn’t want a lot of fuss but resigned himself to the fact that it was inevitable that relatives and those who know such a popular man would want to mark such a milestone as reaching a century.

As for the secret to living a long life, Tony’s advice is simple: Keep yourself to yourself and do your own thing. Look after your health and be disciplined.