Manchester, 1937: England’s Oldest Man

British Pathé’s collection of films contains a 23 second clip from 1937 introducing Michael Moore, supposedly England’s oldest man. But was it true?

Who Was Michael Moore?

According to the news reel recorded in Manchester in 1937, Michael Moore was England’s oldest man.

“He’s still able to look after himself – and cook his own meals”

Narrator talking about Michael Moore, “Manchester”, 1937, British Pathé

He claimed to be 123 years old and the son of a soldier who fought at the Battle of Waterloo. That decisive engagement, which ended Napoleon Bonaparte’s military campaign across Europe and ultimately his position as Emperor of the French, occurred in June 1815.

The footage shows Michael Moore walking along a street of terraced houses, supported by a walking stick and with a slight limp. But he also seems to have a steady balance and decent pace.

Mr. Moore is then shown lighting a pipe and looking at the camera. Meanwhile the narrator tells us he’s still able to look after himself. Clearly, an elderly man cooking his own meals is clearly a point of note.

How Did He Become England’s Oldest Man?

The narrator never explains why Michael Moore remains silent on the question of how he’s got to such a great age.

He may never have been asked. There may have been sound recording problems, he might have been deaf or had problems speaking properly.

Perhaps he just had little idea of what to say in an age where ordinary people rarely spoke to filmmakers.

And you’ll notice we aren’t told anything else about him, either. Was he born in Manchester? Where had he worked. Ironically these are the things we would be more interested in today than a less than credible age.

Was He Really England’s Oldest Man?

In 2020, the oldest verified man ever recorded was Jiroemon Kimura (1897–2013) of Japan, who lived from 1897 to 2013. He died when he was 116 years and 54 days old

Robert Weighton became the oldest living man in February 2020. A resident of Alton in Hampshire, England, widower Robert still lived independently in his own flat at the age of 111 years, 343 days.

Does Michael Moore look old enough to be 123? He lived at a time when running water, indoor toilets and comprehensive medical care was the preserve of the rich. Domestic coal fires and large scale heavy industry made city air thick with pollutants. Meanwhile, many homes in the terraces suffered from damp.

His story hasn’t survived into the modern age except for this film clip. Furthermore, the verified oldest man in the world ever recorded was 7 years short of Michael Moore’s claim of 123 years. The age claim was clearly not widely accepted or backed up by evidence.

However, it still makes a good story. Plus, it was a chance to capture one of Manchester’s elderly working class folk on film in an age when they were largely ignored as individuals.

Watch British Pathé: Manchester (1937)

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