A man, who at 30 thought he may have only months to live, will celebrate his 70th birthday knowing he is the world’s longest surviving liver transplant patient.

Retired police mechanic Gordon Bridewell astonished his doctors with his recovery and even now he refuses to give up work entirely. He helps in the family motor repairs business at Etchilhampton.

He is a big supporter of nephew Tommy Bridewell, a British superbike racer. When Tommy and his late brother, Ollie – who died in a motorcycle training run in 2007 – were boys, he spent a lot of time working on their bikes.

But Mr Bridewell, of Woodland Way, Devizes, feels without a kick in the leg playing football at police headquarters in his 20s he would not be alive today.

The knock led to minor surgery, but he did not recover well and this prompted prolonged tests.

He said: “If I hadn’t had that operation, they wouldn’t have found the liver problem.”

He was diagnosed with a tumour on his liver at King's College Hospital in London and introduced to surgeon Prof Roy Calne. When a second tumour proved inoperable, a transplant was his only hope.

Mr Bridewell said: “We have become close friends and stay in touch, even though he is working abroad. One time, he said, ‘You are an icon.’ I didn’t know what he was talking about, but he explained I was the longest surviving liver transplant patient in the world.

“In those days, people didn’t talk about liver transplants because people didn’t survive. My case was written about in the Lancet, but not in the ordinary press.”

After surgery in 1975, he spent months in King’s and time recuperating at Addenbrookes Hospital.

He said: “I was determined I was going to get better. I gave myself a year to get back to work and it took 13 months. No-one had managed to get back to a manual sort of job.”

Mr Bridewell said: “I like to quietly point out how, if it hadn’t been for a donor, I wouldn’t be here today, but I don’t like to brow beat people about it.”

He is still called to speak to people awaiting transplants and said: “I think, when they see me, it gives them encouragement.”

Ten years ago, Mr Bridewell, then Britain’s longest surviving liver transplant patient, was invited to Downing Street, to meet Tony Blair.

On February 22, Mr Bridewell – who is divorced with a step-daughter and step-grandchild – will celebrate his 70th birthday with family and friends.