Friends reunited - thanks to a feature in the Antrim Guardian!

WE’RE very proud of our features in the Antrim Guardian, and thanks to one we ran earlier in lockdown, the paper has helped to reunite two old friends who haven’t spoken since the 1970s.

We told the story of Tommy Crilly, a Magherafelt native, who like many made Antrim his home. His family came to the town as part of the first wave of Enkalon workers, with his uncle one of the first 22 through the door of the Dutch-owned factory.

He now lives on the Dublin Road.

Tommy was educated at St Malachy’s College in Belfast, in the same year as former Nottingham Forest Northern Ireland international player and former Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill.

He worked at the airport for a period, working on building the runway and the RAF accommodation block at Aldergrove.

Acknowledging that 1972 was ‘a bad year’, in May he left for England, working in Clacton with the intention to travel to London and live and work there permanently.

But fate intervened and he got a late call-up to teacher training college back in Northern Ireland.

And that is where we stepped in.

After the article ran on our website, we were contacted by Geoff Watters, who wrote from America.

“I recently read an article in the Antrim Guardian and I would like to contact the person who was the subject of the article, Thomas Crilly,” he said.

“If you could find an address or phone number for Mr. Crilly, I would be very grateful.

“He and I were school friends and haven’t spoken in about 50 years!”

We duly put the two in contact.

Mr Watters said: “Thank you so much for passing along my information, Tom and I were in touch over the weekend and shared a lot of great memories.”

Tommy added: “How Geoff, who lives in America got to read your article is truly amazing.

“In your piece you referenced how in 1972 I had gone to England to work.

“I actually went along with Geoff and was to take up accommodation with him in September as he was going to King’s College.

“However my plans were changed when I was home on a short visit and I never saw him since then.

“So this is indeed most welcome.

“The power of your hand!”

Tommy completed four years of training and qualified as a post-primary teacher of French and Irish.

He then went to France for a year, to Ussel.

Home beckoned once again and despite qualifying as a post-primary teacher, Tommy took a job at St Comgall’s in Antrim, working there from 1977 to 1990.

In 2005, Tommy returned to substitute teaching, with a period at Malone Integrated College in Belfast.

A stalwart of CLG Naomh Comhghall, he acted as a coach and administrator and received an award in the 1990s from former Antrim Mayor Paddy Marks.

Tommy stepped back in 2015 but added that the club is still very dependent on volunteers.

As well as sport, Tommy’s other passions include music - he plays guitar, banjo and mandolin - particularly Irish traditional, folk and rock.

He also has a keen interest in photography.

Geoff has since settled in Wisconsin with his family.

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