George Montague, the 'oldest gay in the village', dies aged 98
GEORGE Montague, known as the ‘oldest gay in the village’, has died at the age of 98.
Mr Montague passed away peacefully yesterday with his husband Somchai Phukkhlai at his bedside.
A statement on his Twitter account said that Mr Montague "thanks everyone who has been supporting his campaigns so that he might have helped a little for us to live in a better world".
He had long been a prominent and popular presence at Brighton and Hove’s annual Pride parades, riding a mobility scooter decked out in colourful decorations and carrying a banner that said ‘I’m the oldest gay in the village’.
During the Second World War, he served as a physical training instructor in the RAF for pilots fighting in the Battle of Britain and realised he was gay in his twenties, at a time when it was still illegal to be homosexual.
Speaking to The Argus back in 2013, Mr Montague said that he still got married at age 37.
He said: “It was just expected that everyone got married.
“I didn’t know whether you could stop being homosexual or not, so I told myself I could stop and I did for four years.
“It’s very difficult to understand now.”
He was married to his wife Vera for more than two decades, with the couple having three children. However, he said he was “always convinced” she knew he was gay.
He said: “She could have divorced me, she could have taken me to the cleaners but she didn’t.”
After the death of his mother in 1982, he came out to his family and was warmly received. He then left his wife in the following year to allow her to find another partner and, although they had a falling out at the time, they were good friends when she died in 1999.
Mr Montague later met his partner Somchai in 1997, entering into a civil partnership in 2006 and getting married at Brighton Town Hall in 2015.
He bought a home in Brighton in the early 2000s, after first visiting in the 1950s to explore the gay scene.
In recent years, he had campaigned to have his conviction for gross indecency removed following a campaign to have it overturned before he died.
He told The Argus had been placed on a local police “queer list” of suspected practising homosexuals and that the conviction caused him to lose his position as a senior scout commissioner.
However, he was able to convince local journalists to keep his name out of the papers to save the embarrassment of his family and the scouts.
The government announced earlier this year that a pardons scheme to “right the wrongs of the past” would be extended to any conviction imposed due to consensual homosexual activity.
In a post on Twitter in January, Mr Montague said he was “very happy” by the government’s decision.
He told The Argus that he was grateful to have lived long enough to see society become more tolerant of LGBTQ+ people.
He said: “I spent my early years ashamed of being gay and terrified of being found out and, as the climate has changed, now I want to shout it from the rooftops.”