Derry pioneers celebrate 50 years of abstinence

Presentation of Gold Pioneer pins were made to this group at St. Brigid's Church, Carnhill. Pictured are from back, Tom Doherty, Neil McGilloway, Therese Garnon, Nell McCallion and at front are, from left, Evelyn Nelson, Catherine Gallagher, Father Michael McGavigan C.C. John Casey.
Presentation of Gold Pioneer pins were made to this group at St. Brigid's Church, Carnhill. Pictured are from back, Tom Doherty, Neil McGilloway, Therese Garnon, Nell McCallion and at front are, from left, Evelyn Nelson, Catherine Gallagher, Father Michael McGavigan C.C. John Casey.

Seven local pioneers were presented with their gold pins and certificates last week to mark their 50 years abstinence from alcohol.

The ceremony, conducted by fellow pioneer, Father Michael McGavigan, was celebrated at the Three Patrons Parish, St. Brigid’s Carnhill on Thursday evening.

Those presented with a gold pioneer pin were, Tom Doherty, Neil McGilloway, Therese Garnon, Nell McCallion, Evelyn Nelson, Catherine Gallagher, and John Casey.

Congratulating them, Andrew Doherty, of the Pioneers Association, said: “This is a great achievement for those who first took the pin so long ago.

“Sadly we don’t have too many younger members coming through. We would like to encourage those among the younger generation that the pin is available.”

Mr. Doherty explained that those who become pioneers actually agree to three things. “Firstly, the most obvious is that they do not drink alcohol. Secondly we ask those excessive drinkers who take the pin to say a prayer. Finally we ask those who do so to actually wear the pin and help promote the lifestyle choice.

“It is important pioneers set a good example. We would love to see those secondary school pupils in the city, who have already taken a pledge at their confirmation, to take a pin, wear it and avoid the temptation of alcohol.”

Pioneer, John Casey, said of his fifty years abstinence: “To be honest I never really thought on it.”

The well known Bogside based funeral director added: “I was 15 years of age when I took my first pin. My father and mother, Michael and Betsy Casey, never drank. I still went to dances as a young man and I still did everything everyone else did so I never missed out.”

Mr. Casey ran Downtown Taxis for a number of years and said his experience there underlined his decision to avoid ‘the sauce.’

“I dispatched late at night and watching drunk people coming in, becoming aggressive and even violent turned me off drink completely.”

The gold pin hasn’t affected his wicked side as John joked: “I was thinking about going out and having a drink last weekend just to see what I was missing.” The well respected funeral director and father of four, admitted: “It can be an emotional job, but like everything you find your own way to switch off.”