By Helen Riddell
CASTLETOWNBERE postman John O’Connor made his final delivery last Friday after clocking up 19 years of service.
John was one of just two postmen working from the Castletownbere post office, and worked on the rural route.
‘My route took me 9km west of Castletownbere and 8km to the east,’ he explained. Originally from Dingle, John moved to Castletownbere to work as a fisherman.
‘I was fishing for 20 years, and when a postman who was working in Castletownbere had gone on sick leave, postmaster Noel Harrington asked me if I could cover for three weeks. That was in January 2000 and before I knew it, the three weeks turned into 19 years!’
Working in a rural area on the Atlantic seaboard John was used to being in every type of weather condition. ‘I went out in all weathers, rain hail and snow. During the “Beast from the East” in 2018, we were supplied with special grips for the tyres, and despite the heavy snow, we still kept delivering mail,’ he recalled. ‘The customers all helped out, though, and in some inaccessible areas, one person would come to meet me to collect the mail on behalf of their neighbours.’
Storm Ophelia also didn’t deter the mail getting through, said John. ‘The worst of the storm only lasted a couple of hours, so once it started to calm, I was able to make deliveries.’
John is conscious he is the only person that some people talk to during the day.
‘A lot of the people on my route wouldn’t see anyone from one day to the next, apart from the postman, so they enjoy the chat and to hear all the news from Castletownbere,’ he said.
Although he recounts how one customer wasn’t impressed that he wasn’t fully up to speed with local news. ‘I remember one lady asked me what time was “the removal”. I replied that I didn’t know who had died and asked her the person’s name. ‘Well,” she said to me, “what kind of postman are you if you don’t know who’s dead?”!’
Although overall letter post has reduced in volume, John says Internet shopping is responsible for even more packages to deliver. The most unusual and certainly the largest delivery he ever had was a net hauler for a trawler. ‘They had to get a forklift to load it onto the mail truck in Cork, and it took four of us here in the sorting office in Casltetownbere to unload it!’
And, fortunately, just as he was trying to workout the logistics of getting it into his van and out for delivery, the trawler owner came to collect it himself.
John’s colleagues in Castletownbere marked his retirement with a small celebration last week, and a presentation was made by Timmy Clifford from the Bantry office.
John, who is married to Gretta, and has two sons and a daughter, is looking forward to his retirement. ‘Our daughter lives in New Zealand, so the first thing I’m doing is heading over there on a long holiday to visit her,’ he promised.