A Second World War veteran credits the companionship of his dog and “good food” for helping him to reach his 105th birthday.
Camelon man Walter Sharp, who is thought to be the oldest person in Falkirk district, celebrated today’s milestone with his family and trusted sidekick Harry the West Highland Terrier.
He was visited by Provost Billy Buchanan who handed over a congratulatory card from the Queen as well as a D-Day badge, a bottle of whisky and two special glasses featuring the Falkirk Coat of Arms.
Further celebrations are planned for Saturday when Walter will visit one of his favourite Italian restaurants in Kirkcaldy with relatives to order his signature dish — fried eggs and chips!
Reflecting on his new age, he said: “I feel good.
“I don’t feel as spritely but I still get there.
“Everybody stops me and asks me what age I am — the school kids are the best. Nobody can believe you’re 105!”
Born in 50 Glasgow Road, Camelon on August 7, 1914 — just three days after the outbreak of the First World War — Walter was one of five children along with brothers Robert, Jack and William and sister Helen.
After attending Carmuirs Primary School and Camelon High School, he began working at the Carmuirs Iron Works before joining the Army at the age of 26.
Walter earned a clutch of medals in recognition of the service he gave to his country over a six-year period, including France’s Legion of Honour and the African Star, and toured several countries such as Belgium, The Netherlands and Italy.
During his career in the military he would also meet his wife, Doris, who died in 1990, while serving in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Surrey.
The thought of being able to return home to Doris for a period was one the Camelon resident still recalls with zeal.
He explained: “We went right through Africa and over to Bari in Italy and that was the best Christmas present I ever got.
“We were all singing Pack Up Your Troubles and this brigadier said, ‘Stop singing that song, you’re going home for the second front’.
“That was in the December but it was the March before we did.”
Walter admits to witnessing various harrowing sights in the line of duty, including 20 men being killed when a bomb landed in Portsmouth on his very first night in the Army.
However, he also has fond memories of his military days, many of which revolve around how pleasantly surprised he was at the fare on offer.
Walter continued: “We thought we would be eating just vegetables in Africa but it was meat and vegetables every day!
“In Italy, there were 12 at a table and if it was good you used to wash the dinner set and go back and join the queue again!”
Walter and his wife had their son Brian, who is now 72, after marrying in Horley in 1944 where the local church bells rang for the first time since being silenced at the start of the war.
A role with Carmuirs Iron Works remained open upon his return home from the frontline.
Walter was made redundant for a short time when the factory closed its doors for good in 1967 but he soon afterwards secured work with bus builder Alexander Dennis as a storeman before taking retirement.
Up until a few years ago he was jokingly known as the world’s oldest paper boy as he would get up at 6.30am every day to deliver newspapers to his neighbours in Camelon’s Carmuirs Avenue, where he still lives.
When he wasn’t putting in a shift, the avid East Stirlingshire FC supporter would regularly go to watch the club’s home matches with Brian and was also known to spend his spare time gardening.
Son Brian beamed with pride as he spoke of his dad’s latest milestone at his Polmont home where he and wife Catherine welcomed Walter for a small family gathering to mark the occasion.
Brian said: “I’m very proud.
“He’s registered blind and got a hearing aid but considering he’s 105 he’s doing not bad!
“He dresses himself when he gets up, he runs his own bath, he goes a short walk with the dog up to the shops. He was also one of the first in Scotland to get the French Legion of Honour in 2015.”
It’s a well-known fact within the family that Walter doesn’t go anywhere without his pet pooch and vice versa.
As well as providing company, Harry provides comfort for the Sharps, as Brian explained: “Harry is my dad’s second Westie.
“Rory the first dog lived for 15 years and the strange thing was we discovered he was born on the day my mother died. On Harry’s birthday next year he’ll be 15 and that in dog years is 105!”
Daughter-in-law Catherine paid tribute to the part the Westie plays in supporting Walter.
She said: “Walter and Harry keep each other going! It’s amazing, he’s so fit and still able to live in his own home.” Walter has celebrated many a milestone with Harry in his later years.
The significance of their bond isn’t lost on him.
Walter made that much clear when he revealed his secret to a long and happy life.
He said: “I’ve got a good wee dog to keep me happy — and I like good food.”