One of Derry’s best known youth workers, Brendan Wilkinson of Pennyburn Youth Club, is to retire at the end of this week after almost half a century working in the sector.
Killea-born Brendan was brought up in Springtown Camp in Derry and it was here that he first learned the real meaning of ‘community’.
He first volunteered at his beloved Pennyburn Youth Club in 1966, taking on the role as athletics coach two nights a week. At this stage, the club was based in St Patrick’s Primary School.
In 1975, Brendan’s career in youth work took a major turn when he applied to become a full time youth worker at the new purpose-built club next door to St Patrick’s Church on Buncrana Road.
He joined a team of four full time youth workers under the leadership of the late Gerry O’Kane.
The success of Pennyburn YC is down to the strong leadership provided by both Gerry O’Kane and Brendan Wilkinson.
One former youth club member says of Brendan: “Brendy raised hundreds of us from wanes into teens and into adulthood. The man is a living legend.
“Westport trips were up there with the best weekends I have ever had. He was a very popular youth worker in the club. All the young people and staff got on really well with Brendan.”
Pennyburn Youth Club is held in very high esteem across the country, within the Western Education and Library Board and with the inspectorate team at the Department of Education.
In 1991, Brendan developed an integration club and, alongside members, received the Barleys Youth Award for integration from the Queen Mother at a special ceremony in London.
In 2011, Brendan was recognised by Queen Elizabeth II when he received an MBE for services to young people.
A spokesperson for the club said: “The club committee, staff, current and past members will never forget what Brendan has done for them and for the Pennyburn community as a whole. We’d like to wish him all the best in his retirement. He’ll be sorely missed - a hard act to follow.”