EXCLUSIVE: ‘V-Day’ hero dies aged 92: Old Etonian who became a ‘national treasure’ when he gave hilarious stiff upper-lip CNN interview moments after being one of first to get a Covid jab passes away peacefully at home
- Martin Kenyon, 92, became a national treasure after an interview with CNN
- He was leaving the hospital after receiving his Pfizer jab on ‘V-Day’ in 2020
- Daughters, Eliza and Nina, announced that he died the day before the Queen
The 92-year-old grandfather who became a ‘national treasure’ after his charming stiff-upper-lip interview with CNN when he went for a Covid jab and became an internet sensation, has died peacefully at home.
Old Etonian Martin Kenyon made the world chuckle in the darkest days of the pandemic after being nabbed by a US reporter outside Guy’s Hospital where he’d been one of the first people in the world to receive a Pfizer jab on ‘V-Day’, December 8, 2020.
He told the interviewer he’d turned up at the hospital but ‘I couldn’t damn well find anywhere to park my car, so I was late.’
After a ‘rather nasty lunch’, he had his vaccination, which ‘didn’t hurt a bit.’
Martin Kenyon, pictured in his London home, died peacefully at his home in Shropshire
Martin Kenyon, 91, pictured during the interview, in which he spoke about being one of the first person to receive Pfizer’s jab at Guy’s Hospital in London, with CNN’s Cyril Vanier
The former officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers was swiftly hailed a ‘national treasure’ with his clipped vowels which harked back to a bygone era, and caused general hilarity the next day when he enquired of Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain: ‘Who are you?’
This week, Mr Kenyon’s daughters Eliza and Nina shared the sad news that the former director of the Overseas Students Trust and anti-Apartheid campaigner passed away the day before the Queen, whom he met more than once during his richly varied life.
Speaking to the MailOnline, Eliza and Nina also said they told his neighbours in Stockwell, South London, saying: ‘Our beloved, unique, impossible, wonderful Pa died on Wednesday morning last.
‘Thank you for being part of his London life. Having lived here since 1975, the root system is deep, and the connections are strong.
‘And of course, he now travels in the good company of Queen Elizabeth II, which he would be very glad about.’
Broadcaster and former London Assembly chair Sir Trevor Phillips, an old friend of Mr Kenyon’s, wrote of him in The Times in 2020: ‘His observation that “there’s no point in dying now, having lived this long” was delivered in an accent that, for many, will have evoked a pre-war England populated by the plucky, debonair men and women who stood alone against fascism.’
‘Having upstaged an American TV anchorman on Wednesday, the following day on Good Morning Britain the pensioner ate Piers Morgan for breakfast — “Who are you?”.
‘His no-nonsense exhortation to take the vaccine will save many lives by persuading what are now called “hesitants” to protect themselves and others.’
As a teenage scholar at Eton, Mr Kenyon, son of a decorated Army officer who served in both World Wars, was chosen to show Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret around the school when their father, King George VI, visited to confer a knighthood on the provost, or chairman of the governors, Henry Marten.
His daughter Eliza told MailOnline that Mr Kenyon met the Queen again in the 1980s when he was a key figure behind the scenes in the Anti-Apartheid movement, ‘He went to a reception at Buckingham Palace and Pa was presented to the Queen.
‘At the time, he was lobbying quite hard for sanctions against South Africa when the Thatcher government was opposing them.
Mr Kenyon with his family – (Left to right) his daughter Nina; his grandson Leo; Ben Clarke; Mr Kenyon himself; his daughter Eliza; his granddaughter Molly and son-in-law Andrew
‘He told us how when he was presented to the Queen, she tapped her nose and said, “I’m playing my part behind the scenes too, Mr. Kenyon”.’
Professional singer Eliza, 46, described her father, who once met Martin Luther King, as ‘a forcefield for positive change in race relations.’
Through his lifelong links with the Anglican Church, he was asked to look after the young Desmond Tutu when he came to London as a priest early in his career.
Ms Kenyon recalled how her father had given no inkling to his family about the TV interview in December 2020.
‘My sister Nina rang me up and said “Turn the telly on!” and there he was. He was fiercely independent and hadn’t told us he was going to the hospital.’
Mr Kenyon told anyone who asked exactly why he wanted to have the jab – in order to be able to hug his ‘delightful grandchildren’ Molly, now 12, and Leo, nine, at Christmas.
Eliza said that the family were glad that through his media appearances, others learned of his positive contributions to the world
Eliza said that the family were glad that through his media appearances, others learned of his positive contributions to the world.
‘It was a delight for Nina and for me. Pa was given a moment of very public recognition. So much of his work had been behind the scenes, creating resistance in good ways, for example, in the process of catalysing the end of apartheid in South Africa, and here he was being seen and honoured.
‘So for us it was in part about the jab but was also an unexpected boon of acknowledgement at the 11th hour of his life.
‘How many other people are there behind the scenes effecting quite significant change who aren’t seen, but on this occasion, our beloved father did get his moment in the sun.
‘He certainly wouldn’t have sought the limelight, but it was a beautiful moment of harvest for him.’
In his final months, bedbound at home and cared for by his daughters, Mr Kenyon was greeted by ‘a stream of visitors from different parts of his life and the world’, his daughter said, until his heart ‘had finally done its work last Wednesday.’
Eliza added: ‘He led the way for the Queen, dying a day before she did… perhaps there was some kind of cosmic wink there. They’d crossed paths in a good way over the years.’
Mr Kenyon, who was 92, will have a quiet funeral with his close family and Godchildren in Shropshire, his ancestral lands, and a Service of Celebration and Remembrance at St Michael’s Church, Stockwell on November 12th.
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