Cancer Research shop volunteers honoured for 20 years of service

Margaret Neely, left, and Sylvia McKeegan pictured with shop manager Rae Armstrong. DER3318-163KM
Margaret Neely, left, and Sylvia McKeegan pictured with shop manager Rae Armstrong. DER3318-163KM

Two local volunteers have been honoured for 20 years of service at the Cancer Research N. Ireland shop in Derry’s city centre.

Ninety-three years-old former shirt factory worker, Sylvia McKeegan and former Gransha Hospital nurse Margaret Neely (72,) were presented with their long service pins and a celebratory cake by manager, Rae Armstrong last week in the Ferryquay Street shop.

Margaret Neely, right, and Sylvia McKeegan pictured with shop manager Rae Armstrong. DER3318-164KM

Margaret Neely, right, and Sylvia McKeegan pictured with shop manager Rae Armstrong. DER3318-164KM

Commenting during the presentation, Sylvia and Margaret said they were very glad they decided to join not long after the shop opened back in May, 1998.

Sylvia was just walking by noticed the shop and called in and the woman there told her they were looking for volunteers. It was a bit of a change from her previous career in the once-booming shirt factory industry in Derry. “I had retired 13 years before. I worked the City Factory, but started in Ebrington. In those days you could walk out of one and into the other. I earned 5 shillings, 4 and sixpence a week when I was 14.”

“It was a bit like the pubs, you couldn’t pass a place without passing a factory,” says Margaret, who also got a start at Ebrington factory before becoming a nurse.

Margaret, herself a cancer survivor, saw the ad in the window of the shop as she was preparing to retire 20 years ago. “I was leaving full-time work and it was to have something else to get yourself out.”

Both ladies, who have taken part in collections and even a Cancer Research fashion show since joining, and over the years the introduction of new till technology has brought quite a few laughs. “It told me I wasn’t here yesterday!” Margaret said.

The ladies have also noticed a much wider range of clothes sizes are available today than 20 years ago, while footfall has increased considerably .

Quizzed on her volunteering career, Sylvia said: “I enjoy it because you meet a lot of people; I meet people I haven’t seen in years.”

And neither Waterside woman is planning a second retirement any time soon. “Because somebody writes an age on you, you’re not dead, there’s still a brain in there! And we’re sticking around the pension!” Margaret laughs.

Paying tribute to the volunteers, Rae said: “They make a big contribution, they never miss days and they are willing to help out in whatever way they can. It’s just like a family and we’re always looking for new volunteers because we find we are that busy.”

Anyone who fancies volunteering at the Cancer Research Shop can call in and just ask for Rae.