Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Top marks for Liam (89) as he picks up IT qualification

The old adage that you're never too old to learn has proven to be true in the case of one Northern Irish student who has just received top marks in his City and Guilds.

At a time when many people would be content to put their feet up, Liam Harkin is showing no signs of slowing down. He will celebrate his 90th birthday next summer but by then he hopes to have gained even more qualifications from the North West College.

Like many others at the time, Liam left school when he was 14 to begin work but his mother Margaret, a strong advocate of education, encouraged him to take up night classes.

Recalling his inspirational mother, the Londonderry pensioner said: "She was a wonderful woman and reared 16 of us. I was the seventh and she was a great woman for learning.

"I left school at 14 because in those days that's what you did, but she insisted I continue my education at night classes which I did, so I suppose it is from her that I get it from."

Liam pursued a working life in the city's famous shirt factories which led to him opening his own factory in Abercorn Road. At its height his factory employed 80 people.

But after 25 years, cheaper imports forced Liam out of business. He then worked as a barman in one of Derry's best known public houses, the Don Bar - where he was still pulling pints when he was 80.

"I always liked to keep myself busy and I used to go to Pilots Row community centre where I was shown how to use a computer but I didn't have to do any exam in it," he said. "I signed up at the Tech (North West College) for these exams and I passed.

"There were five different parts, all to do with IT, and I passed the lot. I will be 90 on my next birthday and I am going back again in the new year to do some more. I learned to email, use the internet and word processing and now I speak to my daughter Lorraine in California all the time, but I don't use Facebook yet."

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