FOR almost seven decades Raymond Kirk has worked in the retail business in Strabane.
Now at the tender age of 83, he has decided the time is right to finally pull down the shutters on his career at RK Menswear on Upper Main Street.
Looking back on his years running the Strabane menswear shop Raymond credited his 67 successful years in business to the people of the town.
“The beauty of Strabane is its people,” said Raymond.
“I first came in to this building in Upper Main Street to serve my time. Back then it used to be a big store called O’Doherty Limited which ran from the corner up past Harley’s, at that stage there were about 30 people working here.
“In those days it was very different, you had to get to know the quality of materials and there were a lot different departments here.
“One was where you learned about all the different materials and one was a shoe shop where you got to know the leathers.
“That knowledge helped me a lot throughout my professional life.
“I am 83-years-old now and I suppose business hasn’t been bad to me. There were times it was tough, but all in all it has been very good to me.”
Recalling many fond memories over his years behind the shop counter Raymond said the best time for him was when peace came to Strabane.
“I lived through all the bombs and fighting in the town,” he explained.
“Buildings right outside like the old Town Hall, which was a beautiful building, were blown sky high.
“My store is one of the oldest buildings in the town, but it never suffered from any damage due to the Troubles.
“Really I don’t know how it escaped when there were bombs going off all over the town,” he continued.
“The previous owners of this building used to say the rosary every day in here and I say it myself. I wouldn’t miss it, so maybe that’s the reason it escaped damage. It was a relief when peace finally came to the town,” he continued.
Still feeling, and looking, sprightly Raymond explained it was his family who gently persuaded him to retire
“The family want me to rest and given my age I can understand that,” he said. “I also do a lot of voluntary work with St Pat’s Hall and I would like to dedicate more of my time to that, and to the church of course and helping out Fr Boland.”
Suffering from diabetes Raymond thanked his family for all their love and support over the years.
“Only for my wife Lillian I wouldn’t be here. I have been a diabetic as long as I have been working here. I have to take four injections a day, only for Lillian keeping me right I don’t know what I would have done.
“Another person I would like to thank is my daughter Aine, she’s fabulous, she would be a terrific person to take over the business but her heart lies with women’s fashion and not men’s.”
A big GAA enthusiast for both club and county, Raymond was one of the founding members of Sigersons GAC and was also heavily involved with Tyrone minor management committee alongside Fr Denis Faul. After hanging up his measuring tape Raymond hopes to dedicate more time to following his beloved GAA.
The veteran businessman extended his thanks to the people of Strabane and further afield for their support over the years.
And Raymond is entering retirement on a positive note – he explains he believes business in Strabane is steadily improving.
“The people of Strabane are unbelievable. The town itself may not be as pretty as it once was, although it’s getting better and there seems to be more interest coming to the town, but the people are wonderful.
“It is such a friendly town,” he added, “its people are its greatest asset.”