‘Century’ man who outshone Mary Peters

Flashback to last year when Harold McIntyre celebrated his 100th birthday. With him are daughters Barbara Ledlie, Hazel McClelland and Joan Menary
Flashback to last year when Harold McIntyre celebrated his 100th birthday. With him are daughters Barbara Ledlie, Hazel McClelland and Joan Menary

In September last year Harold McIntyre (then 100) upstaged none other than Mary Peters – and the Olympic Gold Medallist graciously accepted defeat!

It was the 25th anniversary of the opening of Carrick Eden Grange (CEG), where Harold was the only surviving original resident – and his death last Wednesday at the old Lurgan Hospital (after a short illness) means than none of the ‘originals’ remain.

Mary – who officially opened the Grange a quarter of a century ago – was the guest of honour that day, but it was Harold who stole the show!

His was a long and useful life, one of loyalty to the one and only job he loved- a district engineer on the railways - and to his extended family, who gathered in March last year to celebrate his century.

The staff made an entire day of it. And the generations shared the special day – daughters Joan Menary, Hazel McClelland and Barbara Ledlie, grandchildren Gillian, Susan, Andrew, Richard, Jenny and Alistair and 10 great-grandchildren. Son-in-law Alexander was there, but the other two, Kenneth and Jim are deceased.

And sadly, his late wife Maud died in 1979 – she was just 60 – when a gas explosion demolished their home at Old Rectory Park, a tragedy he never got over.

Harold was born on March 5, 1914 (he pre-dated the First World War) in Enniskillen, one of the family of seven of William and Emily McIntyre – he was the second youngest and was the last survivor.

He was educated at Enniskillen’s Model Primary School and went from there to Portora Royal. There was a real network of railways in those days, with his father William being a traffic inspector of the old GNR (Great Northern Railways).

Harold joined the GNR in late 1933 as an apprentice engineer in Clones, spending his entire working through the steam era and then the diesel period. He was initially moved back to his home town Enniskillen, then to Omagh on ‘The Derry Road’, then to Portadown (where he lived for the rest of his life) and later worked in Banbridge and Belfast.

He ended his career as District Engineer for the Southern Section of NIR when he reached 65, but the tragic death of his wife happened just two months later.

He moved into Carrick Eden Grange in 1989, and was loved and respected by staff and residents – a true gentleman. He spent his final days at Lurgan Hospital where the nurses said he invariably thanked them for everything they did for him – and even apologised when he needed help. He was truly one of the old school.

He often mourned the demise of the classic old Portadown train station at Watson Street, Edenderry, which was demolished to make way for the Northway road and was replaced with the far inferior station at Woodhouse Street-Wilson Street – although it has been vastly improved.

As a railway employee, he had a valuable free first-class pass and took his beloved wife and girls to many destinations, their favoured one being the North Coast. And he and Maud loved a day out in Belfast.

He was an avid reader, but family was first, and when the Portadown Times interviewed him on his ‘century’, he told us – “I have been blessed with a wonderful, family, and I have been fortunate that my three devoted daughters have been living close by.”

He was also an expert in local history – a member of the Craigavon Historical Society- and his deep love and knowledge of the railway system, from its halcyon days to the diminished network, made him a valued member of the society.

Since coming to Portadown, he was a member of Thomas Street Methodist Church, and Friday’s Service of Thanksgiving was from his place of worship.

The service was conducted by Rev Kenneth Robinson and burial was at Seagoe Cemetery, in the family grave, next to Maud.