If you want to know the time ask a policeman. If you want to know what’s the best tonic for a dodgy cough, ask Valerie Cook.
At Bradley’s Pharmacy on Abercorn Road - everybody asks for Valerie. Not surprising since she’s been working there for the past 45 years and at one stage even lived in the house next door.
And now the Derry pharmacy assistant has been nominated for a national pharmacy award and made it into the final three.
“It’s lovely to be recognised like this,” said Valerie. “I’ve never been put forward for anything before.”
Valerie first began working in Abercorn Road when the then pharmacist William Temple took her on to help after school.
“I had no idea I’d still be here 45 years later,” said Valerie. “My uncle played in the Britannia Band with William Temple and he mentioned that he needed someone to help out. That’s where it all started. My uncle who got me the job, Albert Jackson, is still a customer here to this day.”
Affectionately known for many years as Willie Temple’s - the local pharmacy has seen a lot of changes over the years.
“So many changes,” said Valerie. “We used to have to write everything out by hand, but now all you do is look at the computer and it tells you everything. When I got married I lived in the house next door. William Temple lived above the shop. The shop has now been extended into the house.”
Despite working in the shop for more than four decades, Valerie said the job never gets boring.
“It’s tiring sometimes now that I am getting older. But I’m part of the furniture here.
“I see people coming in here that I have served for years, and their children and their grandchildren.
“I remember how at night Mr Temple and I would have been out and about delivering the medicine for the elderly and housebound. Nowadays the medicine is delivered for anyone.”
After the retirement of William Temple, the business was sold to Kieran McBrien of Duffy’s Chemists and then to the current owner Liam Bradley.
Valerie will now go on to the Pharmacy Awards in Belfast at the end of January where she will find out if she has won the award of Pharmacy Assistant of the Year.
“I am looking forward to it,” she said. “The customers have really got behind me and a few of them have asked me if they can vote for me. I had to tell them it is the judges who decide.”
Leanne Connolly, pharmacist at Bradley’s said Valerie is a great asset to the business.
“No one ever asks for me when they ring here,” she said. “They all want to talk to Valerie. She is a great worker. Valerie has undertaken OTC medicine training. pharmacy technician qualifications, ACT qualifications and is a smoking cessation advisor. Even with her extensive knowledge she still attends all after work training opportunities and continues monthly training within the branch. Valerie is an exceptional individual who is a credit to the pharmacy profession. She is a very well known member of the community.”