There was a Christmas lunch with a difference in St Columba’s Hall, Omagh, on Wednesday afternoon when Bishop Ken Good joined local clergy and members of the Drumragh Evergreen Club to honour Drumragh parishioner Dave Mullan’s forthcoming 100th birthday.
Dave will celebrate the milestone on Christmas Day but fellow parishioners and friends in the Evergreen Club decided to mark the occasion a fortnight early and in style. Dozens of them turned out to share in the fun, enjoying a three-course Christmas lunch including roast turkey and trimmings.
Journalists and photographers from the local press in Omagh turned up to record the birthday party. Bishop Good said the press would have a job deciding whether to put Dave or Theresa May on their front pages the next day.
The Bishop told the Evergreen Club members that Mr Mullan had been born in County Monaghan, where he grew up on a farm and, after leaving school, had gone to England in search of work. When he was 20, the Second World War broke out. Dave enlisted and saw action in North Africa where one of his brothers – a fellow soldier – was killed.
Dave returned to Ireland after the war, settling in Omagh. “He couldn’t tell me why he chose Omagh,” Bishop Good said, “but obviously he made a good choice. He worked in the Department of Agriculture and he retired 36 years ago, so he’s got good value out of the pension.”
The Bishop described Mr Mullan as a “celebrity” and said his memory was amazing. “He remembers all of the names, all of the places where he was, with remarkable ease. He has a sense of humour; he is bright; he is alert; and he is a joy and a pleasure to be with.
“Dave,” the Bishop continued, “I want to say to you what a pleasure it is to be here today and what a joy your company is. You’re interesting. You’re a blessing to us. We say ‘Happy birthday’ to you on Christmas Day and God bless you.”
After dessert, a large birthday cake was wheeled out on a hostess trolley and – to a resounding chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ – the man of the hour blew out all the candles in one breath.