Jack’s recipe for a long life

A cheery outlook and a dedication to his family have helped to keep Jack McCullough on track to reaching a happy 100. The centenarian received his telegram from the Queen last Thursday, March 10, the day before he celebrated his 100th birthday surrounded by family at a restaurant gathering in Holywood. Amongst those attending the milestone bash were Jack’s 85 year-old sister, Marie, who travelled from Reading with her daughter to surprise Jack after years of not having seen each other. The party was organised by close family in Holywood, including Jack’s son Maurice who said his dad has always been a hard-working family man who is never short of a joke to tell. Jack was born in Carrickfergus on March 11, 1922, and raised on Davy’s Street for the first seven years of his life before his dad Ezekiel’s job as a storeman with the Ordnance Depot took the family to Holywood. Mum Theresa cared for the family at their Downshire Road home and Jack attended St Patrick’s Primary School before setting off at the age of 15 to find work in England. Says Maurice: “One of his friends was down in Devon and dad went to work as a porter in a hotel. He worked in a couple of hotels and at 19 he came back to join the Royal Ulster Rifles and trained in Ballymena. “He was posted to Plymouth, then Chigwell with the Royal Ulster Rifles. Then the battalion he was with amalgamated with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and he went into training as a trainer there for heavy machine guns and Bren carriers. “He deployed back to Northern Ireland for the latter part of the war and when he was demobbed in 1947 he went back to England, to Derby, to work for the heavy engineering works for the railway.” In 1950 Jack returned to Holywood where he followed in his father’s footsteps, taking up a position as a storeman with the Ordnance Depot where his dad had worked. Jack was promoted to senior storeman within a couple of years and then in 1968 took up a position as a housing warden, working in property management for the Civil Service until his retirement in 1980. Maurice recalls that finances were often tight in the household and in order to provide for his family Jack took on extra work with the Territorial Army, working his way up to the rank of quartermaster sergeant during his 12 years with the TA. Jack and his wife Christina raised five children – Trevor, Jacqueline, Maurice, Gemma and Carolyn – at the family home in Loughview Estate, Holywood, and later Saleen Park in the town. Hard working as Jack was, he always had time for his family as Maurice recalls. “He was a very good dad and very into the family. When he was off work at the weekends we’d have been off to Ballymenoch Park and I always remember weekend picnics and going off to the seashore in the summer. Mum was a hard worker too, it was a full-time job with five kids.” Christina died in October 2018 at the age of 90, ending 66 years of marriage to Jack. Throughout much of his life Jack has maintained an interest in photography, gardening and car mechanics. Maurice adds: “He was also interested in DIY because they had to fix a lot of things for themselves in those days. “He loved swimming in the summertime and was a great sea swimmer. He’s also a great practical joker, he was always telling jokes and he still to this day has a great memory for jokes. “He’s sharp as a tack and knows everything that’s going on. He only stopped driving when he was 95 and until that he was out and about and active every day. “He is still living on his own in Holywood, with the carers in four times a day and myself and my sister also in every day.” Reflecting on what has contributed to his dad’s longevity, Maurice says: “Keeping a jolly outlook on life and not taking things too seriously. He always looks at the funny side of things. “Also, he was always used to hard work, from 15 years old. You can’t imagine a young person of 15 going off to England to work now, they are still a child really, but in those days they were more grown up.” Friday’s celebrations marked the first social gathering Jack has been a part of since the outbreak of Covid. “We’ve been trying to guard him as much as we possibly could,” explains Maurice. In addition to his sister Marie, Jack has one remaining brother, Anthony, who’s 92 and lives in Holywood.