Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's most experienced posties get Christmas cards off in good time

By Donna Deeney

They have provided a first class service to their community for a combined 86 years.

Liam O'Keefe (70) is Royal Mail's oldest postman in Northern Ireland and has been delivering letters and packages for 38 years around Omagh.

His colleague Raymond Black, who is 64, has clocked up 48 years' loyal service, making him our longest-serving postie.

Neither has any intention of calling it a day just yet.

Taking a well-earned break from his deliveries around Fintona, Raymond told the Belfast Telegraph that he had lost count of the number of shoes he had worn out pounding the highways and byways of his rural route.

He said: "I started work for the Royal Mail in 1968 as a telegram boy when I was just 15 and between then and now I have seen quite a few changes.

"I had only a bike to get around at the start and I remember my first Christmas. The snow was three inches deep and it wasn't easy trying to get the wheels of a bike to go around in the snow.

"That's the thing about being a postman, especially in a rural area like Fintona.

"Over a long time you get to share in all kinds of events in people's lives - the births, the marriages and the deaths. It is a privileged part of the job.

"I walk around five miles every day and I wouldn't like to think about how many pairs of shoes I have worn out in my 48 years on the job.

"I love walking around the rural roads because you get to see things in nature that you would miss in the car, like the dew on the grass sparkling in the sunshine or the birds dipping in and out of the river looking for food.

"These past 48 years have passed by without me hardly realising it and I reckon I will keep at it for at least another two until I reach the 50 mark - then I will take it one year at a time."

Raymond described how his work pattern had altered over the years.

"Things have changed so much - there has been a huge increase in the number of parcels we deliver because of online shopping and over the past four or five years the number of cards we deliver at Christmas has dropped," he added.

"December is our busiest month by far and when it comes to Christmas Eve I will put my feet up in the knowledge that I did a good job helping to make other people's Christmas better.

"That's why it is so important to post parcels and cards in good time - the last thing anyone would want would be to miss out because you left it too late."

With so many years of service, the pair know a thing or two about the yuletide rush.

They are urging customers to always use the postcode on cards and parcels to help ensure they aren't delayed in the system.

Liam explained: "We know the lengths everyone, everywhere, in Royal Mail goes to during the festive season to help ensure gifts and cards are delivered on time at Christmas.

"So please help Royal Mail at its busiest time by posting your cards and gifts early and using the postcode."

UK latest recommended posting dates for Christmas 2016 are December 20 for second class mail and December 21 for first class mail.

Customers sending cards and presents abroad are also being encouraged to post early.

December 15 is predicted to be Royal Mail's busiest day, when it expects to handle millions of items of Christmas post in its Northern Ireland mail centre at Mallusk.

Belfast Telegraph

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