The ‘Oldest Gay in the Village’ to be Pride Ambassador

Besi Besemar July 5, 2013

George & Somchai
George & Somchai

George Sydney Montague is better known to everyone as the Oldest Gay in the Village. For the last few years he has proudly rode on his mobility scooter on the Pride Parade. In June he celebrated his 90th birthday and invited friends and family to his home on Marine Parade in Brighton. People came from as far afield as Singapore and Norway to give George their best wishes.

George was born in 1923 and left school in 1937 aged 14 saying in his own words: “I was not grammar school material”. The only thing George was good at was woodwork so he became a pattern maker. In 1941 he was 18 and desperate to join up and fight for his country. Despite working in a reserve occupation, which meant he didn’t have to fight, he managed to pass the test and was accepted as an air crew wireless operator/air gunner, but failed the exams. He was posted to Southern Rhodesia where he was promoted to the rank of corporal as a physical training instructor. On being demobbed he started his own pattern making business which eventually moved from wood into metal patterns and became very successful.

George realised he was gay in his twenties, when it was illegal to be homosexual. Like many of his friends at the time George married. He was 37. His wife, Vera, knew George’s gay friends but the issue of George’s sexuality was never discussed. George believed if he got married he could stop being gay, which of course never happened. He fathered three children and now has three grandchildren who he is very proud of and loves dearly. At a family gathering after his family had grown up, George decided to come out to his children and the rest of his family.

He said:

“Sorry guys your dad is gay”.

Paula his daughter, said:

“Oh daddy we’ve know for years.”

After his coming out George lived apart from his wife and after a while they became friends again.

George says:

“Vera found someone who made the last years of her life far happier than I could.”

George, his family and grandchildren
George, his family and grandchildren

On June 28, 1997 George met his partner Somchai Phukkhlai in London; they have been civil partners since 2006 and will shortly be celebrating their 16th anniversary together. They have homes in Brighton and Thailand where they spend the English winter.

George says the thing that most pleased him about his birthday celebration was a letter he received afterwards from his sister-in-law regarding the complete change of her views on homosexuality after meeting all his friends at his 90th birthday party.

She wrote:

“It was an education to find that your gay community are no different to anyone else; I found them pleasant and warm and it’s really good that there is no longer any discrimination which should, on reflection, have disappeared many eons ago.”

George will once again be on his scooter at Pride this year as one of the first four Pride Ambassadors ever in Brighton & Hove. He received the largest number of nominations in June and is immensely proud to have been chosen and says he will represent all the older LGBT people in the city.

George at Pride 2012
George at Pride 2012