Mae Simpson is the life and soul of Derry’s B&Q. Combining good old fashioned customer service with a razor sharp mind for figures, the bubbly 80-year-old is a fine example of how the company’s policy of welcoming over 50s to the workforce is a roaring success.
This week, Mae celebrated 19 years with the DIY chain and on Wednesday, she’ll celebrate her 80th birthday. To mark both occasions, the popular pensioner was treated to a pamper day by her workmates who even hired a hummer-style limouusine to bring her to work on Friday.
Mortified with all the attention she was getting, the grandmother of six said she was just happy to be working,
“I like meeting people and working at the check-out keeps my mind active. I was 61 when I started with B&Q and I’ve loved every minute of it. When I applied I’d just retired from my previous job because I was too old but I knew I didn’t really want retirement. I still don’t want it and I’ll be happy here for as long as they’ll have me,” she smiled.
Working the computerised scanning equipment in the Buncrana Road store is a far cry from Mae’s first role in the post office in Ballisodare, County Sligo in 1947. At just 15, Mae, who grew up in Sligo, Mae worked behind the counter when as she explains, all the adding up was done in her head,
“The till was just a drawer under the counter, all very different to what we have here!”
In a working life spanning 65 years, May also worked in England for Woolworths and Countrywide Supplies and with her husband Bob in their Shipquay Street Furniture store ‘Simpsons.’
The mother of four spent most of her working life working as a telephone operator and says she still loves dealing with people on a one to one level in her job at B&Q.
“It’s great just coming in every day and getting to talk to people and help them at the till. Isn’t it a shame the way people are shut down and made to feel they’re no use after a certain age, when a lot of us want to work on?”
Mae’s manager Thomas Sweeney said Mae, who’s now the store’s oldest employee across the North, had gone 12 years without a sick day.
“Mae is one of our best employees, without a doubt,” he said.
Modest about her record Mae, who lives in Prehen with her husband Bob, added: “It’s all just an attitude of mind. If you don’t think sick, you’ll be ok.”
She also revealed she has no plans to hang up her orange B&Q apron just yet.
“At this present moment in time I’m very happy and hopefully Thomas is happy with me too and I’ll stay on for as long as they’ll have me.
“I would miss it a lot if I had to leave. I absolutely love coming to work and I can’t praise the staff here enough, They’re just brilliant. I’d be lost without them,” said the sprightly octogenarian.