100 - and still on the parish council

STEPHEN PULLINGER His is never the empty chair at parish council meetings even though no one could fault him after nearly 80 years service.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

His is never the empty chair at parish council meetings even though no one could fault him after nearly 80 years service.

While Jack Chase celebrates his 100th birthday today he remains just as committed to tackling the issues in his village of Caister, near Yarmouth - even though he is almost certainly the oldest parish councillor in the country.

“During the last election I talked about retiring for about one minute but the chairman of the council insisted I should carry on,” he said.

Marianne Webb, a spokesman for the National Association of Local Councils, said: “We don't keep this sort of record, but I have never come across anyone as old as Mr Chase still serving on a council.”

Pat Hacon, himself a Caister councillor since 1977, said: “He is the youngest centenarian you could meet. I have a picture of Caister Football Club in 1929 and he does not look much different.

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“I see him at every council meeting I attend, in fact I'm sure he goes to more than me.”

It is the spirit that shows itself when you mention Mr Chase's other big passion, golf, that is clearly the key to his longevity as a public servant.

Despite having knees “condemned” by doctors, the former seven-handicapper played his last round on the Caister links only a year ago.

“I still practise my swing with a seven iron and I have 80 new balls still waiting in their boxes,” he said, the twinkle in his eye betraying the fact that he still sees himself as having a future on the fairway.

As well as his continuing stint on Caister council, which began in 1927, Mr Chase also represented his village on Blofield and Flegg Rural District Council from 1948 and Yarmouth Borough Council from 1973, following local government re-organisation.

He is proud of his visible achievements that few other local councillors could match.

“I think my biggest achievement was overseeing the start of work on the seawall in Caister in the 1930s. Without that we probably would not still be here,” he said.

“And wherever I look in the village I can see things I helped to bring about, from our three brand new schools after the war to the King George V playing fields.”

His impact is also apparent in all the houses constructed by the Chase dynasty of builders.

His father built most of the homes in Tan Lane while his son Robert, former chairman of Norwich City Football Club, took the family business to even greater heights.

Although a Tory on the borough council Mr Chase described himself as “non-conformist”.

“I had great difficulty in being true to myself in the group I was in. As chairman of the housing committee I took the view that you can't be in that role unless you build houses and house people,” he said.

The self-confessed rebel was surprised when the Tory-controlled council awarded him the freedom of the borough in 2002 - joining an elite list including William Pitt the Elder and Lord Nelson.

Mr Chase is still quick to voice political views that sound surprisingly fresh and young.

“I am in favour of European countries some day coming together like the United States of America, but it will need to be led by the people rather than politicians,” he said.

On the topic of local government re-organisation he feels the number of councils should be halved, with fewer members and fewer tiers.

“Whenever we found ourselves three members short on a committee it seemed we got on quicker and better,” he said.

Mr Chase attributes his first interest in public service to his family, who had served as churchwardens and on the lifeboat as well as councillors.

“It is a shame there is no longer the same interest. Last time we could not find 16 parish councillors and had to co-opt people on rather than having an election.

“At my age younger people should be trying to bowl me off the council,” he said.

More than 130 people, including many council friends, will be visiting Mr Chase today at his home in Yarmouth Road.

He also has a series of celebrations planned culminating in a family lunch at Yarmouth Racecourse on Sunday. Among those attending will be his five children, nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.