Old Tom Parr
Old Tom Parr
c. 1482/1483 (reputedly)
|Died||November 1635 |
|Burial place||Westminster Abbey, London|
|Other names||Old Parr|
|Known for||Longevity claimant|
(m. 1563; died 1593)
Jane Lloyd (m. 1605)
|Children||2 (died in infancy)|
Thomas Parr (c. 1482/1483 (reputedly) – 1635) was an Englishman who was said to have lived for 152 years. He is often referred to simply as Old Parr or Old Tom Parr.
A portrait of Parr hangs at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, with an inscription which reads "Thomas Parr died at the age of 152 yeares 9 months" "The old old very old man or Thomas Parr, son of John Parr of Winington in the Parish of Alberbury who was borne in the year 1483 in Rayne of King Edward IV being 152 years old in the year 1635". The portrait was once in the collection of the Leighton family of Loton Park, which is in Parr's home parish of Alberbury.
Records vary, but Parr was allegedly born around 1483 in the parish of Alberbury, Shropshire. He existed and even thrived on a diet of "subrancid cheese and milk in every form, coarse and hard bread and small drink, generally sour whey", as the physician William Harvey wrote. "On this sorry fare, but living in his home, free from care, did this poor man attain to such length of days." He married Jane Taylor at the age of 80 and had two children, both of whom died in infancy.
Tom Parr purportedly had an affair when he was more than 100 years old, and fathered a child born out of wedlock, for which he had to do public penance in the church porch. After the death of his first wife at the alleged age of 110, he married Jane Lloyd at the alleged age of 122. As news of his reported age spread, 'Old Parr' became a national celebrity and was painted by Rubens and Van Dyck.
In 1635, Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel, visited Parr and took him to London to meet King Charles I. However, he was blind and feeble when the Earl of Arundel met him, so it seems that he was very old, possibly a centenarian. Charles asked what Parr had done that was greater than any other man, and the latter replied that he had performed penance (for his affair) at the age of 100.
Parr was treated as a spectacle in London, but the food and environment caused him to die after a few weeks. The king arranged for him to be buried in Westminster Abbey on 25 November [O.S. 15 November] 1635.[a] The inscription of his gravestone reads:
Doubts of his age
William Harvey (1578–1657), the physician who discovered the circulation of the blood, performed an autopsy on Parr's body. The results were published in the book De ortu et natura sanguinis by John Betts as an attachment. Harvey examined Parr's body and found all his internal organs to be in a perfect state. No apparent cause of death could be determined, and it was assumed that Parr had simply died of overexposure. A modern interpretation of the results of the autopsy suggests that Parr was probably less than 70 years of age.
It is possible that Parr's records were confused with those of his grandfather. Parr did not claim to be able to remember specific events from the 15th century.
- John Taylor wrote about Parr in his poem of 1635, The Old, Old, Very Old Man, or the Age and Long Life of Thomas Parr, drawing the moral that longevity comes from a simple country lifestyle.
- A portrait of Parr hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
- Old Parr is mentioned in Dickens's Dombey and Son, chapter 41, and also in his The Old Curiosity Shop, Chapter The Last. A pony who lives an unusually long life is compared to Parr.
- Parr's old age is mentioned in the book Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.
- Mark Twain, in 1871, "proposed writing 'An Autobiography of Old Parr, the gentleman who lived to be 153 years old' but apparently never did so."
- Bram Stoker makes a reference to Thomas Parr in Dracula, the character of Abraham Van Helsing citing Parr's great age as an example of "inexplicable" phenomena that are nevertheless real.
- Old Parr is referred to in the opening page of James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake (1939).
- His story was featured on the TV show Beyond Belief!! on the American network Nickelodeon in 1992.
- The Scotch whisky brand Grand Old Parr is named after him and recounts his claimed birth and death years on its label.
- Parr has been used as an example of the supposed health benefits of some natural medicines, including herbal colon cleansing.
- In the film The Champ (1979), a small statue of Parr instigates a conversation between a boy and his stepfather.
- Parr is named in Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein.
- Old Parr is mentioned in Robert Graves's poem A Country Mansion.
- Until 2014, there was a pub named "The Old Parrs Head" at 120 Blythe Road, in Hammersmith, London.
- In Patrick O'Brian's The Surgeon's Mate, Stephen Maturin uses Old Parr as an example to encourage an aged friend contemplating marriage
- Margaret George's novel Elizabeth I imagines a meeting between Old Parr and the Queen.
- Elizabeth Hobbs's animation film "The Old, Old, Very Old Man"
- During Parr's lifetime, two calendars were in use in Europe: the Julian ("Old Style") calendar in Protestant and Orthodox regions, including Britain; and the Gregorian ("New Style") calendar in Roman Catholic Europe. At Parr's burial, Gregorian dates were ten days ahead of Julian dates: thus his burial is recorded as taking place on 15 November 1635 Old Style, but can be converted to a New Style (modern) date of 25 November 1635.
- "Information from Westminster Abbey on Parr's life, including the inscription on his gravestone]". Retrieved 10 January 2008.
- Shropshire Museums. "Darwin Country". Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- Thomas, Keith (1 September 2017). "Parr, Thomas [called Old Parr] (d. 1635), supposed centenarian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/21403. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
- Long Livers a Curious History by Eugenius Philalethes 1722
- Pine, L. G. (July 1965). "Thomas Parr – the most long-lived Englishman". Shropshire Magazine. Famous Shropshire sons – no. 5. 17 (5): 26–7.
- William Harvey Archived 25 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine San José State University. Retrieved on: 10 January 2008
- Pitskhelauri, G. Z. (1978). "William Harvey and the anatomo-pathological dissection he performed on Thomas Parr's corpse (on the occasion of the 400 years anniversary of W. Harvey's birth)". Santé Publique (Bucur). 21 (1–2): 141–145. PMID 371041. PubMed.gov. Retrieved on: 12 October 2017
- Thomas Parr NNDb.com Retrieved on: 15 March 2011
- Lüth, Paul (1965). Geschichte der Geriatrie (in German). Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke. pp. 153–4.
- Taylor, John (1635). The Old, Old, Very Old Man; or, The Age and Long Life of Thomas Par, the son of John Parr of Winnington. Internet Archive. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
- Sir Peter Paul Rubens. "Portrait of Thomas Parr". The National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain, volume 1, p. 5
- "Oldparr". FinnegansWiki.
- The Life and Times of Thomas Parr. northstar-website-design.com