Man of the trees calls it a day!

When most working men are near to their mid 60’s, their thoughts would naturally centre around retirement and taking life easier.  But for one Ballynahinch man, retirement was the last thing on his mind when he reached 65!

Sammy McElnea has spent all his working life involved with trees in various ways during the last 60 years, 27 of these working for the Ministry of Agriculture – Forestry Division.

As a 19 year old living at his family home in Newcastle, he started his career with the “ministry” at nearby Tollymore Forest, before being engaged to carry out felling and extraction of forest produce either by hand or with horses at Castlewellan, Rostrevor and Bannagher Forests.

He left the Forest Service in 1979 and started his own sawmill at Rademon near Crossgar, producing a range of timber fencing products mainly for Agricultural customers.

After some years, he joined the staff of Montalto Estate in Ballynahinch, where he helped to maintain the woodland and grounds around this well known Demesne.  However, when he reached the age of 65, he had to ‘retire’ from this job on his actual birthday.

The very next day he started as a team leader with Clarke Cunningham Tree Maintenance in Killyleagh, (a company where his eldest son was a manager), in charge of a team of Arborists involved with vegetation management around NIE power cables all over the Province.

Just short of his 70th birthday, he undertook a tree climbing course and is one of the oldest (and fittest) men to hold such an accreditation!

In 2007, Sammy followed CCTM to their new base at Carryduff and has been in charge of the stores there ever since.  He is the first person to arrive at 6.30am every morning to open up the premises ready for the influx of some 50 staff who may require saws and consumable items for their days work.  He also would make repairs to equipment and ensure that the correct stock levels of protective clothing and consumable items were available “off the shelf”.

Now that Sammy is in his 79th year, he has decided to retire before he becomes an octogenarian, but even that milestone would not faze a person like him!  Now he can look forward to taking things much easier and enjoying more bowls, gardening and being with his wife Anna and his close family circle.

All the staff at Clarke Cunningham Tree Maintenance Ltd will miss Sammy’s breadth of experience and knowledge within the business, but wish him a happy and enjoyable retirement.


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