William hits the high notes at his 100th birthday celebration in Leeds

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Music has played an important role in the long life of Leeds pensioner William Whilesmith.

So it is surely only appropriate that an occasion which formed part of his 100th birthday celebrations proved a truly harmonious experience for all concerned.

William Whilesmith at today's celebration.

William Whilesmith at today's celebration.

Great-grandfather William, who turned 100 on Sunday, took delivery of his latest batch of presents and cards today at a community luncheon club he attends at St Nicholas Church, in Gipton.

And, before lunch, members of the choir from the neighbouring St Nicholas Catholic Primary School treated the birthday boy and his fellow club regulars to some musical entertainment.

Songs performed by the children included Bring Me Sunshine, Singin’ In The Rain and I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.

But William, from Seacroft, was not to be outdone, bringing the house down with his own rousing rendition of The Rose of Tralee.

The former bus driver, who used to sing with both the Leeds Transport Choir and the Leeds Philharmonic Choir, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The celebrations have been fantastic – they’ve been never-ending, they just keep on going!

“This is a great occasion today, marvellous. I didn’t think I would get to 100 but here I am.”

William’s singing provided him with a happy memory during the difficult days of the Second World War, when he served as a lance corporal with the Royal Army Service Corps.

He spent time in France, Germany, Holland and Belgium – but it was while he was stationed closer to home, in Guiseley, that an officer heard him singing and, suitably impressed, arranged for him to go to entertain thousands of workers at a Lancaster bomber factory in Yeadon.

William, whose wife, Irene, died in 1990, also has a vivid recollection of many notable events from his home city’s 20th century story, including the installation of Britain’s first permanent set of traffic lights on Park Row in 1928 and the opening of Leeds Civic Hall by King George V and Queen Mary in 1933.

His earliest memory, however, is a visit to Chapel Allerton Hospital at the age of three, when he shook the hand of a soldier who had been wounded during the First World War.

The centenarian’s proud daughter, Chris Mariani-Marini, told the YEP she had been “blown away” by the generosity of the volunteers at St Nicholas and also at Seacroft’s Our Lady of Good Counsel, the church her dad attends.

She added: “The children singing has been the icing on the cake. He’s just got such optimism and I think that’s what keeps him going, he is always looking forward.”