Colwyn proves the gypsies right

COLWYN Martin has three great loves — lacrosse, sailing and women — all have played their part in keeping him healthy for almost 100 years. 

Port Fairy's Colwyn Martin is motoring towards his 100th birthday.

Port Fairy's Colwyn Martin is motoring towards his 100th birthday.

He also attributes his fortunes to palm readings in the early 1940s by European gypsies, who foretold by the lines on his left hand that he had a long life ahead.

Considering he will celebrate his 100th birthday on June 30, it’s hard to argue with gypsy forecast.

He survived being shelled at sea, a Gestapo raid during World War II and numerous close calls during his years of ocean racing and world travel. 

The Port Fairy identity still does all his own cooking, washing and household chores. He has kept most of his teeth and rarely goes to sleep without catching the 11pm news bulletin.

He is one of Victoria’s oldest drivers, rings the town church bell weekly, attends Rotary and RSL meetings and has a memory as sharp as a pin.

Every morning he wakes in his South Beach home to the sound of waves which he says energises him for the next chapter in his remarkable life which started by the sea at Williamstown.

Colwyn rarely uses his hearing aides and drives without needing glasses — a point he made to a bespectacled policeman who pulled him over recently for a random test.

No long ago he did his last delivery round for Meals on Wheels which he did for more than 20 years helping clients younger and less healthy.

Colwyn’s life has been like one long adventure book starting when his family worked with shipping on Port Phillip Bay .

As a teenager he left Aussie shores to search for employment and at the age of 15 was a deckboy in the UK.

“I went 10,000 miles to look for work,” he said.

It led to a war career in the British merchant navy and he was one of the first Australians caught in enemy fire.

He boasts of having a girlfriend in every port when he was single and was with a German beauty in the Blue Grotto café in Hamburg when Gestapo stormtroopers called in.

“I knew what would happen if they found me out so I lifted my glass and said ‘Heil Hitler’ and they said ‘drink up my friend’”.

He married his late wife Elsie in Manchester during a bombing blitz and they moved to Australia soon after the war where they raised two daughters while he worked at the port of Melbourne.

Elsie died in 1972 of cancer which Colwyn associates with her working in cotton mill. 

After retiring from work he moved to Port Fairy where he integrated into the local community and pursued his passion for sailing and lacrosse which took him to major national and international competitions, most recently the English Masters during the 1990s. He also enjoyed regular tennis and swimming.

“I did a million miles of ocean racing as boatswain and only stopped it a few years ago — all the skippers died,” he quipped.

“We did 20 West Coasters and one Sydney to Hobart race.”

His fit body and mind can partly be attributed to a simple diet, no smoking or alcohol and rising early.

“I’m fairly strong minded and said to myself, I’m not touching it,” Colwyn said.

“I can’t understand why so many educated young people are taking drugs and thinking they have to drink heavily to be part of the scene.

“You waste too much daytime when you sleep in.”

VicRoads said yesterday Colwyn was among an elite few Victorians who still held a driver’s licence at the age of 100 or older.

He obtained his licence when he purchased his first car, a Volkswagen Beetle, shortly after the war and has since driven thousands of kilometres in Australia and internationally.

“I think I’ve only had a couple of convictions when booked for speeding in the Beetle at Colac and Winchelsea,” he said.

His 100th birthday will be celebrated with his family in Sydney, but he’ll return to Port Fairy in early July in time for the Rotary club annual meeting and a local celebration.

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