Harrogate volunteer John Shannon celebrates his 100th birthday and a lifetime of giving

John Shannon blows out his 100 birthday cake candles
John Shannon blows out his 100 birthday cake candles

A man who has been volunteering since he was 17, has celebrated his 100th birthday surrounded by family, friends, and many of the people he has helped over the years.

Despite winning a string of awards and accolades in recognition of his service to the community, John Shannon insists that he is “just an ordinary man” doing his bit like anybody else.

Born in Barking, Essex, Mr Shannon began volunteering at the League of Nations Union Society where he was secretary, and over the last 83 years has been a volunteer in the Royal Navy Reserves, a football coach; a headteacher; head of PE at a secondary school; a Red Cross examiner; a principal lecturer, and the leader of a prison visiting scheme.

Drapers Pyrgo Priory School has named a school block after Mr Shannon, and the University of Winchester has made him an Honorary Fellow.

Mr Shannon has lived in the Harrogate district for 30 years and moved from Birstwith to where he now lives at Hampden House care home. He volunteers for the Carers’ Resource ‘Carers Time Off’ project, which involves visiting carers’ homes to give them respite.

He said: “If only everybody in the country, particularly when they retire, gave an hour or so a week, the country would be absolutely revolutionised for older people. There would be enough people for them to have a visit every day.

“When I visit people during my volunteering, I am always affected by the way that they cope with life; their optimism, stoicism, and the difficulties that they are overcoming. I am in awe of the work that volunteers do.

“My motivation to volunteer comes from three things. Certainly the demands of my school had an influence - they always endorsed volunteering. The example of my parents who both did voluntary work had a big impression on me, and I think more generally volunteering gives you an interest in things that are outside your normal life.”

Mr Shannon was honoured by Downing Street last year, and was presented with the Points of Light award for outstanding individuals making a difference, and collected a Harrogate and district volunteering oscar for ‘carer volunteer of the year’ in 2014.

He was shortlisted for the Britain’s Best Volunteer award the same year, and has also been recognised by the Duchess of Cornwall as the Royal Voluntary Service’s Diamond Champion.

Mr Shannon said: “We must accept any awards we get on behalf of all the wonderful volunteers who are doing it.” A massive 130 people attended Mr Shannon’s birthday party on Saturday, where he conquered the impressive feat of blowing out 100 candles.