IT was the end of an era when local postman Ian Tweedie retired recently after 47 years with the Post Office. Castlewellan resident Ian is well known in the local area for delivering the post around the Castlewellan area and local countryside.
Ian’s last day was 30 September, but his former work colleagues and friends held a special retirement dinner for him this past weekend at the Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle to mark the occasion.
Ian, who is originally from Downpatrick, began working for the Post Office in 1976 following in the footsteps of his father, who also worked for the Post Office. Ian applied for a job at the Lisburn branch, but soon after was placed in a role in Ballynahinch. He delivered the post in Belfast for a short time and then returned to the Ballynahinch Post Office before transferring to the Castlewellan Post Office for the rest of his career. “There’s been a lot of changes over the years from then to now,” he said. One of the big changes has been the types of things being delivered. “It’s mostly parcel post now rather than letters.” In the early years, the postman might also be asked to drop off some small things, such as soda bread from the local bakery or a few groceries, to postal customers living out in the rural area – something that helped strengthen the bond between the local postal workers and their customers. “You weren’t just the post,” Ian said.
He added that the part of his job he enjoyed most was just getting to know the customers on his route. “I’ve seen wee children grow up into big children and get married and have wee children of their own,” he said. “I was part of their lives really. I’d call with them every day.” He said that he was surprised to have so many people tell him they were going to miss him as their postman when they heard he was retiring. “When I was leaving, I just couldn’t believe it. I got over 100 cards. They wrote me letters too,” he said. “It would bring tears to your eyes. It was very emotional.” One local primary school even took a photo of him during one of his last visits to the school to hang in the school hallway as a way to say goodbye and remember him.
Now that he is retired, Ian is looking forward to spending more time with his family, especially his grandchildren. He also plans to work in his garden and to construct and paint more miniature buildings for the “gnome village” he has there, which his grandchildren enjoy seeing. He said he always just enjoyed “being out and about talking to people” as he delivered the post to houses and businesses, especially when the weather was nice. “It was a good secure job. People are always going to be posting letters and all,” he said. “I’ve done my job and I loved every minute of it.”