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Buster Martin
Born (1906-09-01)1 September 1906 (disputed)
Died 12 April 2011(2011-04-12) (aged 104)
London, England
Occupation Van cleaner, Columnist (FHM)
Known for Oldest employee in the United Kingdom

Pierre Jean "Buster" Martin (1 September 1906?[1] – 12 April 2011) claimed to be the United Kingdom's oldest employee, stating that he was born in 1906.[2]

Until his death, Martin worked for Pimlico Plumbers, a well-known plumbing company in southeast London as a van cleaner, and notably refused to take a day off on the day he celebrated what he claimed was his 100th birthday.[3] He also received coverage in the media for fending off an attack from a group of youths in 2007;[4][5] his heroics were cited by the former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell as "living proof of why people should not be written off once they pass retirement age". Martin stated that he would not retire from working.[6][7]

Doubts have been raised about all of Martin's historical claims, including his age, which may have been only 97 at the time of his death.[8][9]


In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Martin claimed to have been born "up in the hills of the Basque Country" in France. He stated that his mother fell pregnant to a member of the affluent family she served, and he and his mother were smuggled to Britain to avoid the disgrace. His mother was put in a convent and he was placed in an orphanage near Bodmin in Cornwall,[10] run by the Sisters of Mercy, when he was three months old.[7] Martin says that he picked up his nickname "Buster" at age three for "whacking a priest on the nose".[11] He travelled to London, and found work running errands for stallholders in the Brixton market, the beginning of nearly 90 years of work.[4]

He reputedly met his future wife, Iriana, a native of Tonbridge, Kent, at the age of 13 (she was 12). He claimed that they were married a year later in France. Martin stated: "I got married in 1920 and had to go over to France as I couldn't get married here due to my legal status." It has to be noted, however, that the legal age for contracting marriage in France at the time was 18 for a boy and 15 for a girl, with the consent of their parents, or 21 without the consent of father and mother.[12] The couple stayed together for 35 years until Iriana reportedly died in 1955,[7] although no death certificate has been uncovered. They reportedly had 17 children, born between 1921 and 1934: "twins, triplets, singletons - all sorts",[13] among them Roberto, Rodrigues, and triplets named Georgina, Georgia and Giselle, but again no record of their births could be found. Martin claimed that they all moved abroad.[8]

He claimed to have left the Brixton market aged 14, and joined the British Army, where he became a physical training instructor.[13] He served in World War II, leaving the Armed Forces in 1955 after reaching the rank of regimental sergeant major.[7] After "taking up a wide range of trades",[3] he returned to the market, where he worked until he was 97. After complaining of boredom, he resumed work, starting at Pimlico Plumbers in London on a twenty-hour week (three days a week) three months before his claimed 100th birthday.[14]

On Martin's claimed centenary, his employer suggested that he take the day off to celebrate. However, he turned up for work. His colleagues threw him a surprise party at the company's headquarters and organized a tour of Chelsea F.C.'s Stamford Bridge ground.[3] Until 2006, Martin claimed never to have taken a day off for sickness in his ninety years of work, until an ingrown toenail forced him to take a few months' leave of work.[6]

On 22 February 2007, while walking to a bus stop from a local pub, Martin was attacked by three youths from behind. Their assault sent him "crashing to the floor", but he managed to defend himself; he says he "hit one in the groin and kicked another one". The youths ran off; Martin staggered to King's College Hospital, where he was kept in overnight. He reported for work the next morning, but his bosses refused to let him work.[4]

Martin stated that he would "only give up [working] when they put me in a wooden box".[6] He also offered his view on older workers: "Employers should pick people like us; we want to work and it puts money in our pockets and keeps us active".[7] His boss, Charlie Mullins, stated in an interview with a French TV station that they use Buster in all their publicity and managed to increase their business by 36% thanks to his popularity and the media interest.[15] Buster Martin died on 12 April 2011 at the claimed age of 104.[16]

The ZimmersEdit

Through the intervention of celebrity publicist Max Clifford,[14] Martin joined the The Zimmers, a band consisting of forty old age pensioners. The group was put together by BBC film maker Tim Samuels for a documentary on the marginalisation of older people in Britain. The Zimmers shot to fame in 2007 with their cover of The Who's "My Generation".[17] Martin also accepted a position on men's magazine FHM as an "agony uncle," offering advice to the magazine's readers.[18]

London Marathon 2008Edit

After walking the 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) distance of the Great Capital Run in 2 hours 22 minutes[19] and the Roding Valley Half Marathon in 5 hours 13 minutes,[20] Martin was entered for the 2008 London Marathon. According to press reports, he walked the 26 mile course in approximately 10 hours. The official London Marathon 2008 Results list shows intermediate results for 5 km, 10 km and 15 km but no finishing time for Buster Martin, who carried the race number 32858 on race day.[citation needed] His four minders - Harmander Singh (32857), Samm Mullins (32856), Anil K Gupta (51611) and Mirmal Singh Lotay (23984) - are still officially listed with a finishing time of 9 hours 59 minutes.[Clarification needed][21] If the claims about his age were true, he would have been the oldest recorded marathon participant in the world. The record-holder is Dimitrion Yordanidis who ran at a verified 98 years of age.[22] However, officials of the Guinness World Records organisation said that they did not consider Martin eligible for the record because he had never provided proof of the date of his birth. Robert Young, an independent senior consultant for gerontology for Guinness World Records stated that his sources had told him that Martin had two birth dates registered with the British NHS: 1 September 1906, and 1 September 1913, which would have made him 94 years old at the time.[23]

London bookmakers William Hill refused to pay out £13,300 in alleged winnings for two bets which had been placed on Buster Martin's marathon efforts and would have benefitted the Rhys Daniels Trust. The bookmakers demand a birth certificate as proof of age, stating that other documents like a passport or a naturalisation certificate are only "proof of nationality" and, in this case, based on "self-certification".[24] The Los Angeles Times reported on 12 April 2008 that Martin "follows a diligent regimen of beer, cigarettes and red meat".


  2. "100 year old [sic Buster at the head of Pimlico's float for the Lord Mayor's show"]. Lord Mayor's Show. 27 October 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-04. [dead link]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "100-year-old told 'take day off'". BBC News. 1 September 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "100-year-old Buster fights off three muggers". London: The Daily Mail. 28 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  5. "Karate kick Buster, 100, floors gang". Metro. 8 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Martin, Nicole (3 March 2007). "I'll work till I drop, says 'Mr Centenarian'". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Kirby, Terry (3 March 2007). "The centenarian hailed by Ming for seeing off muggers". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Times: "Marathon man, 'Buster' Martin, may be up to some old tricks"
  9. BBC: "How do record holders prove their age?"
  10. Barkham, Patrick (21 July 2008). "The strange tale of Buster Martin". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  11. "Centenarian Martin runs toward world record". 
  12. Age of Marriage in France. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Saga Magazine". 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Iggulden, Amy. "Buster groomed to become king of rock 'n' old". The Daily Telegraph. 30 May 2007
  15. "M6 TV Report". 
  16. "'Oldest' marathon runner Buster Martin dies". BBC News. 13 April 2011. 
  17. Harpley, Emma (12 April 2007). "OAPs are rock stars of the future". Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  18. "FHM welcomes centenarian agony uncles". London: 26 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  19. "Great Run". "Race: BUPA Great Capital Run 2007; First name: Buster; Surname: Martin; Race: 12341" 
  20. "Roding Valley Half Marathon 2008 Results". 
  21. "London Marathon 2008 Results". 
  22. "Guinness World Records". 25 March 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-17. [dead link]
  23. Thea Chard (2008-04-12). "British marathon man's number: 101, or maybe 94". Los Angeles Times.,1,3899136.story. Retrieved 2009-03-17. [dead link] (page 2)
  24. "Buster told to prove his age". 

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