WHEN Ralph Tarrant woke up on Sunday morning he didn’t feel any different – but at that moment he could not have realised that he had broken a record and was about to have a title thrust upon him.
At 109 years and 186 days old, Mr Tarrant, from Sheffield, is now believed to be Britain’s oldest man, after the death of former church minister Reg Dean, who lived just 28 miles away in Wirksworth, Derbyshire.
Mr Dean, who held the Guinness World Record as Britain’s oldest man, died on Saturday aged 110 years and 63 days, leaving Mr Tarrant to assume the mantle of the country’s longest-lived citizen.
But yesterday the former insurance salesman said he didn’t know what “all the fuss was about” and said he continued to live just as he had for decades and had no difficulty dealing with the challenges of 2013.
Mr Tarrant, who lives in the Broomhill area of Sheffield, and retired from his job with Refuge Assurance 43 years ago in 1968, said: “I am old but it isn’t that hard.
“I still live independently, I do my own shopping and I enjoy cooking. I go out walking when I can so what’s the big deal? I just don’t understand all this fuss about getting old.
“I feel really smashing for my age. My health is good. The only thing is I have recently started using a walking stick but I can still go like the clappers.”
Mr Tarrant was born in Nottingham on July 7 1903, and moved to Sheffield when he was seven. He left school a year early at just 13 and immediately started work as an office boy at a steelworks in the city called George Turton Platt.
He moved around different departments at the firm, became a steel inspector and served with 201 Coastal Command, as a corporal based in Inverness, Scotland in the RAF during the war before getting into the insurance industry.
Mr Tarrant met his wife Phyllis in 1922 and they married in Crookes, Sheffield, 11 years later, the day after his 30th birthday.
They were believed to be Britain’s oldest married couple after celebrating their 78th wedding anniversary in July 2011 before Phyllis died on New Year’s Day 2012 aged 102.
The couple visited the USA eight times, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Hitler’s hideaway in Austria and even danced under the stars on a cruise around the Greek islands.
Mr Tarrant said: “I sometimes feel that we didn’t really start living until we retired in our sixties and went off travelling round the world.
“We did more in our later years than we ever had the opportunity to do when we were young. Capri was my absolute favourite that’s where we ended up swimming with Gracie Fields – what a gorgeous time we had.”
Mr Tarrant has two daughters, Brenda and Christine, seven grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.
When asked about his secret to long life Mr Tarrant said: “That’s easy. Stay active and stay interested. There’s no need to live too carefully, I smoked until I was 70 and I still enjoy a drink.
“I have a sweet tooth too and my favourite meal is cottage pie which I make my self. The key to a long and happy marriage is to give each other hell every chance you get.
“That’s certainly what we did and it kept us young, we were great friends.”
On his 77th wedding anniversary, Mr Tarrant admitted enjoying some of the attention great age had brought him and his wife.
He said it was “exciting” every time the telegram from the Queen came through on birthdays and anniversaries and he has now got 10 birthday cards from the monarch.
Despite being Britain’s oldest Mr Tarrant is some way behind the world’s oldest man, 115-year-old Jiroemon Kimura of Kyotango, Japan, who is 115 and is also claimed to the be the world’s oldest living person.
However, a row recently broke out between Japan and China, which claims one of its citizens a woman called Luo Meizhen, turned 127 last September.
It has not been verified, but if the claim is true it would make her the oldest person ever to have lived, beating Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 aged 122.