By Martin Walsh
A popular postman in Courtmacsherry has packed his postbag and van for the last time – after 38 years of loyal service to An Post and lots of changes delivered
Like most postmen, Billy Drake has been bitten by a dog or two during his time delivering the mail.
But, he says, that around the Courtmacsherry area, the incidents of angry dogs were pretty rare during his 38 years of service that ended two weeks ago.
Billy remains a hugely popular figure – and not just in Courtmacsherry.
On his daily deliveries, everybody knew him and he knew most, if not all, the inhabitants of the 560 dwellings including summertime regular Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Billy took up his postal duties in the coastal village on October 1983 and was based there until the post office closed in 1995.
His preferred mode of transport was a motorbike.
‘I had a great time on the bike, stopping at houses and having a cup of tea or coffee, and at Christmas time, having a few little drinks,’ he recalled, pausing before adding with a wry smile – ‘like every other postman in the country in those times!’
With a lifelong interest in greyhound racing, Billy is a regular at the track and a member of a syndicate that has enjoyed plenty of success.
So it came as no surprise that when the motor bike was replaced with a van, he was able to bring a companion along on his journeys – and his new work colleague was a happy canine.
‘That dog belonged to the Hurleys and he came away with me every day for about 15 years. His name was Beamish, and he was a great old pal, he only died two years ago.’
When Courtmacsherry’s post office closed, Billy transferred to Timoleague. ‘I wasn’t happy going there the first day. I was accustomed to sorting in Courtmacsherry, I had my own routine. There was nothing wrong with the crew there, they were all fine, but it was just the hassle of changing. Eventually, it all settled down and we always had great banter.’
Billy has witnessed many changes since the early days. ‘People always look forward to the postman coming around, they would be waiting at the door – most of the time for a chat – but, of course, that is all gone now because we are only allowed so much time for every delivery.’ He added: ‘In the early days of Covid we were encouraged to call to the elderly and check on them. But that didn’t last too long, with the trackers, everything now is about time and money.’
Very much a people person, Billy is a familiar figure behind the counter in the Pier House in Courtmacsherry serving his customers. An ardent Leeds United fan, he added: ‘I like meeting people all the time and enjoy walking around the countryside. I’ll take it easy, I won’t go too mad! But the mornings are getting brighter and the days are getting longer.
‘I have made loads of friends, and the Hurleys at Woodside have been absolutely fantastic over the years.’
Certainly, Billy has no notion of calling time on anything else yet, aside from his post run and probably, on occasion, from behind the bar.