rancid cheese, nettle soup and whisky

Not so long ago, the oldest patient at the Gimcrack died. He was 104 at the time, still with all his faculties intact. When he was interviewed by a local paper the previous year, he put his longevity down to a glass of whisky a day and an overriding interest in horse racing. “Everyone needs a hobby” he said.

image found here

Thomas Parr arrived at his great age by a different regime

Parr was said to have been born in 1483 near Shrewsbury, possibly at Wollaston. He joined the army around 1500 and did not marry until he was 80 years old. He had two children, both of whom died in infancy. He existed and even thrived on a diet of “subrancid cheese and milk in every form, coarse and hard bread and small drink, generally sour whey

Milk Bottle Chandelier ($2112.50) found here

When he was about 100 years old, he supposedly had an affair and fathered a child born out of wedlock. After the death of his first wife, he married a second time at the alleged age of 122 to Catherine Milton who presented him with a child.

world’s oldest father (?) found here

As news of his purported age spread, ‘Old Parr’ became a national celebrity and was painted by Rubens and Van Dyck. In 1635, the Earl of Arundel brought him to London to meet Charles I. Charles asked what Parr had done that was greater than any other man, and the latter replied that he had performed penance (for his affair) at the age of 100.

image found here

A post-mortem was performed on Parr’s body. No apparent cause of death could be determined, and it was assumed that he had simply died of overexposure. A modern interpretation of the results of the autopsy suggest that Thomas Parr was probably under 70 years of age. It is possible that Parr’s records were confused with those of his grandfather. 

Henry Jenkins was said to have been 169 years old at his death

Jenkins’s age was investigated by Ann Saville, who lived near him in Bolton-on-Swale. Several of the other villagers were about a hundred, and they said he was an old man even when they were children. He could remember historical events from ancient times. And he was often consulted by lawyers about traditional land rights.

Jenkins’ Memorial found here

One of the lawyers told how he went to see Henry Jenkins in his cottage. Outside was an old man. The lawyer asked him a question, and the man said to go inside and see his father about it. In the cottage was an aged “wreck of humanity” nodding by the fire. He was too old to understand the question. “Ask my father”, he mumbled, pointing to the back door. Out in the yard was Old Jenkins, aged 166. He was busily chopping wood, and looked younger than his grandson. His mind was perfectly clear and he told the lawyer all he wanted to know.

Wood Chopper found here

Ann Saville asked him the secret of his long life, and again he was clear. Drink plenty of tar-water and nettle soup, he advised, wear flannel next to the skin and eat simply – bread and cheese, raw onion and cold meat. Old Jenkins could never read or write. Up to the age of 161 he worked every day in his garden or doing odd jobs. For some time he was butler in the house of a local lord. The date of his service there is recorded, giving proof* of his great age.

Nettle Soup with Seared Scallop & Candied Orange Peel found here

*Take with more than one grain of salt

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50 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My theory: these people are just really bad at math.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make myself a cheese sandwich.

  2. One of the reasons I love visiting the Gimcrack (apart from that name!) is the quirky links you give us…like “wood chopper.”

    Now, where are the pussies?

    • Pussies are coming up shortly…..

  3. Parr didn’t live that long – it just seemed that long because he was eating garbage!

    i miss your posts about the antics at the gimcrack… 😦

  4. What a load of old…


    The King

  5. Jesus with diets like those it must have just seemed they were living that long. I will stick to a less virtuous diet even if it means just two score and nine!

  6. Inspiring….Especially the old guys who are still thinking with their wee wees 🙂

    • Welcome to the Gimcrack Hansi. Is this your first visit?

  7. Would the equivalent of being painted by Rubens today be having your picture taken by Annie Liebowitz? Pass the nettle soup, oh – and a copy of The Form.

    • I love Annie Leibovitz’s work!

  8. For years I’ve been giving my enemies the advice to “Drink plenty of tar-water and nettle soup, he advised, wear flannel next to the skin and eat simply – bread and cheese, raw onion and cold meat.” How disappointing to learn I may be extending their lives.

    • haha… you crack me up GG

  9. Urgh, just lost my appetite …

    • There is a South African butcher at 656 West Mowbray Road, Lane Cove, Nursemyra – he makes delicious biltong if you’re game to try it.

      • That would entail travelling over the bridge. Maybe I’ll just pick some up in New York instead 🙂

  10. As a bit of a genealogist I have run into a number of these strange happenings. Apparent exceptionally old people, Mothers apparently marrying their sons. Family stories which do not match the documents. Of even more interest are the skeletons in the cupboard which are accidentally revealed by aged relatives 🙂

  11. That nettle soup could have just popped out of American Psycho, which I happened to watch for the first time this evening.

    • What did you think of the film?

      • Actually, I liked it. I was pleased that the many scenes of outrageous violence weren’t very explicit nor lingered over. I wouldn’t read the book, I still have a very ugly image in my head from reading Less Than Zero many years over.

        What did you think of it, Nursie? Have you read the book?

      • many years ago

  12. Did they have less months in the year back then?

    • Good point Scarlet

  13. I really like that chandelier… if I live to be 160 I might actually be able to afford one…

    • I think I’d prefer the money to the chandelier

  14. I never did trust the ‘Births, Marriages and Deaths’ section of the ‘News of The World’…..or any other part.

  15. You know, seems like the oldest people say whisky is the reason they’ve lived so long and kept them healthy. I wonder if there is some truth to that? Which one of your regular readers would likely know for sure? 🙂

    • the one whose comment appears next…. 😉

      • Too funny. 🙂 I like your reply.

  16. If Dick van Dyke painted Parr he must be knocking on a bit as well …

  17. okay, they weren’t really people. they were dogs. Parr was 17 in dog years and Jenkins, 24.

    well, crap. that’s STILL damned old. to the whisky for me and stop trying to be witty. maybe by the time i’m 104, i’ll have it figured out.

  18. First got married at age 80. Must have realized he was going to outlive his money and needed a sugar mama

  19. Were the two infants fed sub rancid cheese and milk? No wonder they popped their clogs.

  20. The nettle soup is pretty.

    I think often that because bookkeeping in families tends to be very informal things end up being accepted into family lore as fact that may not in fact be so. And then again, even formal bookkeeping can be suspect – if I went by my mother’s marriage certificate, her birthday would be 20 days later than it is. She mistakenly wrote down the date of her marriage in the birthdate space. 🙂

  21. I love cheese so if I live up to 100 I’ll thank Swiss and Brie.

    • Would you like to live that long? I think I’ll be ready to pop off before then

  22. I’ve been absent for a while – it’s been horribly busy since I got back. I will now work to catch up on your doings.

    Eating simply IS the key, I think. I’m eating more fruit and veggies, less meat and wheat and dairy. Rancid cheese is technically still dairy, so I think I’ll keep avoiding it.

  23. I’ve dated a few wrecks of humanity.

    • Tsk tsk…. *meow*

  24. I wonder how old the oldest person who ever lived really was…

    • The longest unambiguously documented human lifespan is that of Jeanne Calment of France (1875-1997), who died at age 122 years, 164 days. She met Vincent van Gogh at age 12 or 13. This led to news media attention in 1985, after Calment turned 110. Subsequent investigation found documentation for Calment’s age, beyond any reasonable question, in the records of her native city, Arles, France


  25. I take all these stories of exceptionally long-lived people with a bucketload of salt. Usually their records have been confused with someone else (if the records are reliable in the first place), or their memory is faulty or they’re lying.

    I’m 189 by the way and my wife has just produced quadruplets! My secret for long life is hot sex and plenty of it.

    “He simply died of overexposure.” Better keep a close eye on Lady Gaga….

    • My son met Lady Gaga last night!!!

  26. I rather fancy that nettle soup.

  27. I love cheese, although I must admit the idea of it being rancid, sub or not is a bit of a turn off.

    Wood chopper – pretty cool!

  28. I want that nettle soup with the scallop in it. I also want to be hale and hearty into my ripe old age, whatever that turns out to be. I’d just as soon not wither away, I’d rather go out with a bang.

  29. My father often complains now about getting old. I have refrained from telling him he’s already been old for the last 25 years.

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