Monday, August 6, 2007

The Oldest Man on the Isle of Wight - Walter Frederick ‘Freddie’ Yelf

Freddie Yelf and family in his days as a coachman

For some of the sixties a Yelf was officially the oldest Isle of Wight inhabitant. At the grand old age of 106 Freddie Yelf had seen the reign of Queen Victoria, two World Wars and one World Cup before dying in November 1966. The following photographs are scanned from poor quality photocopies but I hope they give a flavour of the life of one of our more illustrious Yelfs, not many of whom could have been presented to the Queen!

"Mr F. Yelf of Warwick
Cottage, St Lawrence, is on the right of the above picture. He will be 96 years old in March. With him is Mr Fred Shepherd, another nonogenarian who lives in Southampton Road, Lymington. The picture was taken over 18 months ago when Mr Yelf was in Lymington talking over old times with his former school chum. They were both educated at Lymington Congregational Church School. Mr Yelf left at the age of 12 to come to the Island, later becoming a coachman, a position he held for almost 50 years. He served the St. Lawrence ward faithfully and well on the Ventnor U.D.C. Mr Yelf is a prominent member of the local Baptist Church. The picture is reproduced by courtesy of the New Milton Advertiser and Lymington Times."

Caption to the picture on the
right reads "The pictures of Mr Yelf of St Lawrence in this issue are by Mr Weighell and the blocks are loaned by the Evening News, Portsmouth. Mr Yelf, who was 104 last week, asked the Mercury to express his grateful thanks to all kind friends for his gifts, cards and messages of congratulation. He had 130 birthday cards, 11 telegrams and numerous presents, including money, and he particularly appreciated a letter from Alderman Woolnutt, the Island Member of Parliament, and cards from Australia and New Zealand. Mr Yelf told us "It is not so much the gift as the love and thoughts behind them".

July 1965 "The Queen had a long chat with the oldest inhabitant of the Island, 105 year old Mr Frederick Yelf"

"After 105 years his crowning day"
Ventnor Park was looking its very best for the Queen's visit to the holiday town which was crowded with sightseers and ablaze with flags and flowers. On arrival at the park, the Governor presented Mr Albert Payne, Chairman of Ventnor Council and also his daughter Mrs D. Ross. Also present were Mr Charles Davies council clerk and his wife and Mr Frederick Yelf of St. Lawrence. aged 105, the oldest inhabitant of the Island. Mr Yelf was accompanied by his daughters who are both in their eighties and he insisted on standing to meet the Queen and Prince Philip. They spoke to him for several minutes.
...the Queen said she was amazed at the vitality of Mr Yelf and described Ventnor as a charming place that she would like to visit again..."

"Mr Fred Yelf, 106, Dies"
The Islands Grand Old Man Mr Walter Frederick yelf of Warwick Cottages, St Lawrence died on Tuesday night at the age of 107 and seven months. He had been in very poor health for about a month.
The funeral service is tomorrow at the Baptist Church with the Rev. B. R. Pinches officiating. Former Minister the Rev. F. Glover, now at Bournemouth will also take part and internment will follow at St Lawrence.
Born at Carisbrooke and the son of a dyer for Bright & Minns, Mr Yelf went to school at Lymington when his family moved to the mainland. He was a groom for Mr Lane then Mr Langton at Gatcombe, later Mr Mew, the brewer, of Newport, earning £8 a year. His early days of drinking and smoking changed radically as he would put it "when he saw the light" and then throughout his life he assisted in various churches and brotherhoods. About 1900 he went to St Lawrence as a coachman to Mr Spindler of Old Park and later for the Rev. Brent who built Warwick Cottage for him. Mr Yelf served on the parish council 25 years and was overseer for 12 years before St Lawrence was annexed to Ventnor. He represented the village on Ventnor council and was vice-chairman, also opening the first council house to be built at Lowtherville after the war. Cottages completed at St Lawrence in 1955 are named after him. He represented St Lawrence on teh Assessment committe; was the Chairman of the Agricultural Labourers Union at Whitwell; and also in charge locally of the County Hospital contribution scheme. He spoke at many men's meetings and church gatherings; served on the Co-op Education Committee; and organized various concerts, in his younger days being a popular singer. He was also in the chopir at St Lawrence church and on two occasions painted the exterior. Mr Yelf later became a Deacon at the Baptist Church.
Up to a few months ago he had been remarkably active and last year was presented to the Queen. Mr Yelf has been devotedly cared for by two of his three daughters and his son. Mr Fred Yelf, a former postman, lives at Ryde. Mrs Yelf died in 1930."

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