TO have spent 14 years washing nearly 17,000 cups and saucers at a meeting of a local men's group is an achievement in itself.

But for Reg Barnett, a member of Darlington Men's Forum, the work he has done is extra-special as he is 100-years-old.

Every month, Mr Barnett, a retired railway controller, washes the dishes for about 100 people at the group's meetings.

Yesterday, at the first meeting of a new year, members of the forum, which meets at St Cuthbert's Parish Hall, presented the centenarian with embroidered tea towels and some whisky to thank him for his work.

Mr Barnett's friend, Nancy Foster, whom he lives with, runs the group and suggested he joined.

He said: "It has always been my job to do the washing-up. It keeps my hands clean after all the gardening. I really enjoy the meetings, we get some very interesting and very, very good speakers."

Mr Barnett believes the secret of his longevity is to keep an active life.

As well as his work for the forum, he is heavily involved with St Cuthbert's Church.

He was a church warden for 17 years and still works as a sidesman and reads lessons in services. Until recently, he kept two allotments and regularly used to grow up to 5,000 wallflowers for the church.

A collection in lieu of presents for his 100th birthday raised £1,000 for the church organ appeal.

And, as a keen whisky drinker, he also received 24 bottles of the drink from his friends.

He added: "I think all the whisky helps me. I like a drop or two of that, and Nancy keeps me going as well."

Bill Alderson, the chairman of the group, said: "He's a fantastic fellow. If I get to his age, I hope I'm as fit as he is.

"Sometimes we get 120 to 140 people at the meetings.

"Every time we get a speaker, I always say to them, 'look at this lad washing the cups and saucers'.

"A lot of them cannot believe it when I tell them his age."