A FORMER engineer and greatgrandfather to 16 celebrated his milestone 100th birthday, receiving his second card from royalty.
Last Wednesday, August 23, a Bangor nursing home was filled with four generations of the same family as they all gathered to celebrate the 100th birthday of Kilkeel native Victor Heaney. Victor has been a resident at the home since April. In the lounge there were balloons, 100th birthday themed pastries and the iconic card from King Charles III and Queen Camilla.
Now the only centenarian at the Bangor home, Victor is a father to five, grandfather to nine and great-grandfather to 16. The card this year was not the only one he received from royalty, marrying May Scott in 1942, the couple would receive a letter from the late Queen Elizabeth marking their 60th wedding anniversary in 2002. Together, the couple had five children, Harold, Roland, Evelyn, Hazel and Noel.
Sadly, May passed away in 2008. Noted as a ‘hard worker’ by his daughter, Evelyn Stewart, Victor had many occupations in his long life. He was involved in the construction of a tunnel which runs through the Silent Valley; while working on the scheme, the young Victor was gassed twice, and had to be carried out. His father and brother Sandy were also part of the workforce on the Binnian Tunnel project, which was constructed between 1947 and 1951 and covered some 2.5 miles. It was built through the mountains to divert water from the Annalong Valley to Silent Valley reservoir. Two teams started from opposite sides and met in the middle, some 800 metres under the roof of the mountain. The tunnel was created using blasting and drilling techniques, and certainly without the assistance of any modern technology. He also worked on a farm, then for the road services and spent the majority of his adult life working hard with the Department of Environment (DoE) as an assistant engineer.
Noting her parents had received a card from the late Queen Elizabeth II to mark their 60th wedding anniversary, Evelyn said: “When dad wasn’t working, he was travelling in his caravan, he loved his caravan, he loved going on holidays. He would have gone down south and over to England. “Whenever his days in the caravan were over, his mobility wasn’t great, he didn’t drive so he got a mobility scooter, he was known for going around Bangor on it. “He went to Bob and Bert’s in Bangor, when they saw him coming, they would have got his breakfast and everything ready.” Victor’s job as an assistant engineer meant a lot of travel; he would also write a manual for the DoE in his youth. “He travelled a lot with work; we left Kilkeel in the early 1950s, we lived in different places. He was in Bangor for about 30 or 40 years, for his work as the Assistant Engineer for the DoE,” said Evelyn. “It was a job with a lot of responsibility, he was very good at it. He actually wrote a manual for the DoE, for the road works. “He had a very interesting life, he just seemed to thrive in that. When he retired, he just went to his caravan, he thoroughly enjoyed it, he retired at 65.”
Victor, who was one of five children, and the youngest son of George and Mary Ellen, has one surviving sibling, Josephine. In addition to his early job on a farm, where he honed his skills with a horse and plough, he also spent time working for a butcher, Willie Scott, and loved travelling around the country in the butcher’s van. Also, at one stage, Victor and Sandy worked for Limmer and Trinidad, a contractor specialising in tarmacking. Victor was also involved in the project to extend Kilkeel Harbour in the 1970s.