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Derby Daily Telegraph - 12 December 1935

Many Derbyshire villages take pride in the ripe old age such a number of inhabitants attain, but probably no village in the county can claim such a remarkable record of longevity as Shirley.
THIS pretty village hiding away among the by-ways off the Derby Ashbourne road, has only about 200 inhabitants, but of that number seven are more than 80 years of age. And between 70 and 80 years of age are 14 aspiring octogenarians.
    These veterans proudly claim that their fine record is Shirley's shining testimonial. And they say that not only is Shirley a healthy place, but they cultivate a plain and hard-working mode of life that keeps them hale and hearty where mere townsmen would be doddering down a decline.
    An 84 year old man who has not been into Derby for 20 years was one of the octogenarians I interviewed, writes a "Telegraph" representative.
    He was Mr. George Gilman of the Derby Lane Farm Shirley. Mind you, when he last visited Derby it was as a patient at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, so probably that had something to do with it!
    For his age, Mr. Gilman is remarkably active, and is often to be seen about the farm, mending hedges, stripping fruit trees or cleaning out sheds.
    He has never smoked, drinks very little, and attributes his long life to "good healthy living."
    Mrs. Sarah Alexander, of Church Cottages, is the oldest of them all. She was 86 last June. Her husband, Mr. Edward Alexander, is 78, and was formerly a carpenter.
    Although they have only been in Shirley for ten years they are local people, for Mrs. Alexander was born at Biggin-by-Hartington, and her husband at Ellastone. Mr. Alexander was responsible for repairing part of the little schoolroom, and the roof of the parish church.
    Next to Mrs. Alexander in age comes Mr. Alfred Wheeldon, who celebrates his 85th birthday on Sunday. Unlike most of the others, he was born and lived all his life in Shirley. For 22 years he was a farmer, but now he "takes things easily." When I called he was on his daily walk.
    Mrs. Scott, mother of the local school teacher, is more than 80 years. How much more I was unable to find out, because I called at an inopportune time.
    At first Mrs. Scott thought I had something to sell. Finally, when she understood what I wanted, she seemed to be about to tell me when the smell of burning became noticeable.
    "I'm sorry I must go. That's my dinner" she said hurriedly. And I was left on the doorstep.
    Mrs. Mary Bull (83) is one of the halest and heartiest of them all. She believes in walking, and plenty of it, and often walks the mile or so to catch the 'bus into derby or Ashbourne.
    At Sunny Bank live Mr. and Mrs. A. Harper, 82 and 83 years respectively.

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