NOT too many people can say they have enjoyed every day of their working lives but 82-year-old Portadown man Norman Rowland is one of them.
After 65 years in the pharmacy trade, the past 22 off which have been with Hamill’s Pharmacy in Thomas Street, Norman has decided that it’s time to devote more time to his family and hobbies.
Norman, originally from Margaret Street in Edgarstown but now living on the Armagh Road, began work after leaving school at the age of 16. As the third eldest of 10 children, he was expected to help support the family and recalls “throwing the schoolbag over the wall” on his final day at Hart Memorial school.
But it was a stroke of luck which landed him his first proper job and started him off in a fulfilling working life which was to last until last week.
Said Norman, “A fella who lived beside me was an engineer and was out on strike, so he was doing temporary deliveries for Rowe’s chemist in Woodhouse Street. He had to go back to work so he asked me to go down to Davy Rowe’s and do the deliveries. Davy said he would give me a trial for two weeks.
“I took my dad’s advice which was to ‘give 110 per cent’ and I ended up staying for seven years.”
At that time, Norman made his deliveries - of medicines, baby milk and prescription bills - on an old-style ‘Daisy Bell’ bicycle. He said, “I was as fit as a fiddle. I delivered all over the town and as far out as Blacker’s Mill in rain, hail and snow. Most people used bicycles then; there were still horses on the road and just a few cars.”
These days, deliveries are made in a special van and last week, for old time’s sake, Norman did a full day’s deliveries to round off his long and happy career.
After Rowe’s, Norman moved to Kennedy’s chemist in Belfast for a year, before returning to Portadown to work for Alfie Martin’s in Main Street for 18 years.
His next move was to Stewart’s in Armagh for a year and then to Jimmy McNally’s in Thomas Street, Portadown, for 16 years.
After Mr McNally’s untimely death, the chemist was taken over by Marian Hamill, where Norman remained for the past 22 years.
He said, “I enjoyed all my duties. If I had stopped every time I was offered a cup of tea or dinner, I would never have got through my rounds. But I did keep an eye on people, particularly those who lived on their own.
“I met some wonderful people and this is what I will miss, but I often meet them in the town and that won’t change. I also had so many good colleagues down the years. The past 22 years in Hamill’s has been a very happy time; Marian, her son Turlough and her staff have been good friends as well as colleagues.”
Although Norman went part-time a year ago, he found that even that was too much and for the past number of months has been training up his young replacement, David Cranston.
He said, “I am in good health and want to do other things, My wife (Felicity) and I are very interested in music, drama and travel and we also record for Craigavon Talking Newspaper for the Blind.”
The couple, who have two sons and four grandchildren, also intend spending more time visiting friends in Scotland and Ballina and Norman’s brother Jim in Canada.
Norman, a former member of St Mark’s Brass Band, and Felicity have a few trips already planned, including one to Belfast to see the Titanic visitor attraction and an Ulster Orchestra concert.
Meanwhile, Norman’s big ambition is to receive a telegram from the Queen on his 100th birthday, and this time it’ll be someone else making the all-important delivery.