THE first time I tried to make contact with Herbie Jones it was a no-go.

"He's out on his bike. I'm not expecting him for a while," his long-time partner, Beryl, cheerfully explained.

I held the mouthpiece away from me, silently mouthing the words, "But the man is 92 years of age!"

Meeting him, I'm surprised that I was ever surprised. Herbie Jones has got more life in him than most people with half his years. Runaway migrant to Canada with an itch for adventure, ace motorcyclist, D-Day warrior with a marked aversion to doing what the Army told him and accomplished photographer, Herbie is even now far from ready to call it a day.

The man who in his mid-seventies slept rough while going around France on a motor-cycle and who describes his highly unusual photographs as the work of a Marxist-Leninist humanist is working on his memoirs.

It should be some read. Herbie was born in Coldra Road, Newport, in 1913 and remembers chatting to soldiers injured in the First World War as they strolled or sat in Belle Vue Park. He went to St Woolos and Brynglas schools and when he left told his mother that he wanted to be a farmer.

As an ambition it wasn't unobtainable. A relative owned a farm at Radyr, near Cardiff, to which he was apprenticed. After a year of that he came back and pottered around in the family business, a shop at 85, Commercial Road, Newport.

For a man of broadly pacifist views, Herbie was, as a lad, extremely handy with his fists and boxed for Newport Scouts.

"I loved the outdoors and particularly being a member of the 3rd Newport Scouts. I used to go off on an old bike and sleep rough. There can't be a lime kiln in Monmouthshire I haven't slept in," he laughs.

After an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with his father, he booked passage to Australia but was told at the height of the recession there was no more room for migrants.

"So I sailed to Canada on the Duchess of Atholl, thinking I would be a cowboy or shoot Indians or hang by my fingers from the edges of cliffs and other things I'd read about in boys' adventure books.

"On the trip across I kissed my first girl. I worked for a right little rat on a farm near Toronto who cheated me, then 16, out of my wages. The next farmer I worked for was a nice chap but when the winter snows came, he wanted me to work for my bed and food only.

"I remember riding a horse bareback and having a Winchester repeating rifle. There was a barnyard cock who strutted about and I decided to take him down a peg by putting a bullet through his coxcomb.

"Unfortunately, I blew his head off. Panicked, I buried the body in a dunghill and was horrified a short while afterwards to see that a pig had dug it up right in front of the farmer and was eating it. Fortunately the farmer didn't realise it was his best bird."

Rather than work for nothing, the young Herbie left for Toronto, living in a doss house with a huge Bowie knife constantly to hand. By this time an old rugby injury had flared up and he was advised to have it treated in Britain.

"Fortunately, Canada wanted to get rid of people because of the Depression. I was given a ticket to Liverpool and from there to Newport. The only drawback was that my documents were stamped 'undesirable character'," he smiles.

An early encounter with motorcycles had given Herbie a passion for the freedom of the road. Once back in Newport he worked in his father's business while continuing with sporting, motorcycling and outdoor pursuits in his free time

. "When the war came I joined the Royal Corps of Signals as a despatch rider. I can honestly say that joining the Army was the worst thing that ever happened to me. It was horrible." For the first time Herbie seems subdued.

"They transferred me to the Middlesex Regiment and then to the Seaforth Highlanders, with whom I landed in Normandy on D-Day Plus One. In Britain I'd gone awol and been stopped two months' pay because I wanted to go home and see my wife in Newport.

"As I was fighting I thought, 'They are not even paying me for this'.

"I have always been against armies and fighting but I enjoyed my time in the front line because I was using my initiative. I was considered to be one of the best scroungers in the British Army."

With the return of peace, Herbie threw himself into his passion for motorcycling, acquiring several exotic machines and riding them with gusto. In 1952 he crossed the channel into France and roughed it to Italy and back, an adventure which he was to repeat several times and which gave him an abiding love of France.

"The outdoors has always been important to me," he says. "In my mid-seventies I had a Suzuki, which I took across the Channel, into Luxembourg and back through the South of France equipped only with light camping gear. I didn't put my head under a roof for six weeks.

"I love the freedom of motorcycling. As I ride along I think just how marvellous it is simply to be alive."

Another kind of freedom - to devise colourful, intricate and bizarre photographic compositions - came when Herbie, who lives in Allt-yr-Yn Road, discovered photography 15 years ago. Vegetables and motorbike parts, toys and items of clothing find their way into his work which generally has a strong anti-war message.

Newport Photographic Club's retiring president, Peter Ekin-Wood, is a fan. "Herbie just does his own thing and continues to win prizes. He is a delight to have in the club," he says.

But if you're Herbie there's always another project around the corner. His carefully written stack of manuscript memoirs will be typed up at some point into a complete memoir, the full story of the man who must surely be Newport's most senior colourful character. When the book does come out they'll be queuing around the block.

Herbie Jones is a blast from the past riding into the future with headlights blazing and a whoop of pure joy on his lips.