105-year-old Billy is full of praise for choir

William Noble, aged 105, visits Belfast Cathedral
William Noble, aged 105, visits Belfast Cathedral

A 105-year-old Jordanstown man is backing a new cross-community choir at St Anne’s Cathedral, 95 years after he first sang there as a boy.

Billy Noble, born in January 1909, was the oldest chorister present by almost nine decades at the rehearsal of the cross community choir school in St Anne’s Cathedral last week.

Billy’s son Denis revealed that his father’s involvement in choirs began around 1923 when he was a pupil at Skegoniell Primary School. Billy then graduated to singing in St Anne’s Boys’ Choir, a decision which was motivated more by his love of football than by his passion for singing.

Denis explained: “Like Pavarotti, my father could not read music, but he had a good singing voice. He liked football, and by joining the choir he had access to a better pitch, which was a big attraction for him!”

Billy, a former Belfast Inst pupil, worked as a civil servant before his retirement. He became Comptroller of Estate Duty in Northern Ireland, and was awarded the CBE in 1973. He still lives in the same Jordanstown house which he bought in 1938 when embarking on married life with his late wife Maude, and now attends St Patrick’s Parish Church in Jordanstown.

Billy told the Times he was ‘a wee bit chuffed‘ to be invited back to St Anne’s to meet the new choir as part of the Belfast Cathedral Choir School Project. The scheme involves pupils from Edenbrooke Primary, Sacred Heart Primary and Cliftonville Integrated Primary working with singing tutors from St Anne’s in their schools on weekdays. The project aims to help St Anne’s build a new cross-community boys’ choir, as well as taking the cathedral’s musical expertise into the community.

Billy’s daughter-in-law Pamela Noble revealed that despite the age difference, Billy made a big impression on the young choristers. She laughed: “The wee boys couldn’t believe how old he was. They all gathered around him and they kept asking if he was really 105 years old!”