Denmead 100-year-old is drawing 'overwhelming' artwork while battling cancer

At the ripe age of 100, ‘chatterbox’ Boris Mayfield shows immense skill bringing to life boats on canvas – and his memory serves him so well that the details shine through as if he’s still in his war days working as an architect.

By Hollie Busby
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 4:12 pm

Born on March 4, 1921, Boris is still very independent.

However, he’s not in good health and has been given just ‘weeks’ to live by his doctor.

Last September, the community hero was diagnosed with cancer of the spine, but mentally-strong Boris doesn’t let this hinder his outlook on life.

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Boris Mayfield (aged 100) shows off his latest sketch. Picture: Mike Cooter (210122)

Just days ago, he went on a two-mile walk in the village – without the assistance of his carers.

‘He knows exactly what he's doing,’ says one of his carers, Rachel Pritchard.

‘He still loves his walks and goes for breakfast every week. On Wednesdays he goes for lunch with the company [Droxford-based Verina Daly Care].

The artist – who designed ships during the Second World War at Southwick– is so well-loved in the village that The Denmead Bake House have gone so far as to name a breakfast after him.

Drawing of the Medusa by artist Boris Mayfield, aged 100. Picture: Mike Cooter (210122)

When Rachel was presented with Boris’ drawing of HMS Medusa on a visit - which he’d drawn just a few weeks ago - she was in complete disbelief. ‘I was overwhelmed by his drawing talent,’ she says. ‘He takes tablets for his hands because he gets cramp in them.

‘I honestly thought it was a trick when I first walked in and saw his art.

‘But Boris said, “no, I've just drawn that today!”.

Boris’ skill for drawing was picked up on when he was forced to pack up college when the Second World War broke out.

Boris Mayfield with the card he received on his 100th birthday last year. Picture: Mike Cooter (210122)

Before that, he’d been indentured as a junior architect – but at that point had little training.

‘I was drafted into the shipyard at Southwick,’ says Boris.

‘They’d just been given a contract to build Harbour Defence Motor Launches and I was the only one who could draw them full size on the floor.

They built the bones of the boat all around these patterns.

Boris Mayfield's artwork.

‘From there they built the structure of the boat, then the patterns I'd made were also transferred to other shipyards.

‘In the end, there were 480 of these boats - all to the exact same drawings.’

Almost 80 years on, Boris’ talent for drawing still thrives.

Scattered across the living room table, and piled high on his settee are drawings he’s accumulated over the years, many of which have been lovingly drawn from his bungalow kitchen, overlooking fields of luscious green countryside.

Some are drawings preserved in folders from his youth.

He is eager to show off not just his drawing of HMS Medusa, (a Harbour Defence Motor Launch which first launched in 1943), but his vibrant illustrations of garden birds, cars he’s taken delight in over the years , an energetic sketch of a man swimming in the sea – the waves battering against his body at full tilt. There are so many.

Boris with his glass of shandy. Picture: Mike Cooter (210122)

Boris was born in London to Herbert and Gwendoline.

He was one of five boys. Later his parents adopted a girl and her daughter, Tracy Brown, became his beloved niece and his closest remaining relative.

He has many friends who he is deeply fond of, some of whom were once his paperboys and came to his aid when he was stung by a wasp when in his 70s.

‘I have 20 minutes to live if I’m stung by a wasp because I’m allergic,’ he says.

Boris made a dash for the health centre in the village so the doctors could inject him with adrenaline, before being told to ‘go home and lie down’.

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‘I was still in the bed when the newspaper boys came later in the afternoon,’ he explains.

‘They got me a cup of tea and then they said, “Can I get you a cup of tea every day for a month?”

‘I said: “Yes of course, but why?”

‘They said, “To get my humanities certificate with the Scouts”.

Carer Rachel adds: ‘We are incredibly proud of Boris and he’s such a heart-stealer.

‘He’s a chatterbox, he’ll tell you anything about history that you want to know.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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Pictured is: Boris Mayfield's artwork.