We kick start 2024 with a wonderful Words of Wisdom from renowned author and Belfast Telegraph journalist, Alf McCreary.

Tell us a bit about yourself Alf?

I was born in 1940 and brought up in the Model Village of Bessbrook in South Armagh, educated at Newry Grammar School and Queen’s University Belfast, graduating with an Honours Degree in Modern History, then earning a Diploma in Education. Married to Hilary, we have three adult children and five delightful grandchildren.

What do you work at?

I am a professional author and journalist. I worked full-time for the Belfast Telegraph from 1964 to1984 as reporter, senior feature writer, and leader writer. I won several awards for my reporting of the Troubles, including UK Regional Journalist of the Year and runner-up as UK News Reporter of the Year. I also won the Northern Ireland journalist of the Year Award, as well as Feature Writer of the Year and Columnist of the Year.

A highlight of my career was being appointed MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2014 for my contributions to journalism and charities in Northern Ireland”. I worked as Head of Information Services at Queen’s University from 1985-1998 and have been freelance since then, still writing for the Belfast Telegraph, the News Letter and other publications.

I’ve also written 36 books during past 60 years, including the best-selling Titanic Port, the biography of Gordon Wilson from Enniskillen, and my autobiography titled Behind the Headlines, published by Colourpoint.

Your earliest memory?

Watching US soldiers practicing their rifle skills in Bessbrook village in preparation for the Normandy landings, also walking down the main street of the village with my lifelong friend and second cousin Geoffrey Martin on our way to our first day at Primary School at the age of 5.

What does getting older mean to you?

Trying not to think of myself as older. Valuing the riches of life each day and grateful for being able to continue as a professional writer. Also using my energies and my concentration more efficiently. Learning to pace myself better.

The most difficult and most rewarding things about growing older?

The difficult things include keeping pace with new technology which is important in my professional career, learning to move on and to look forward and not back. Also very difficult to lose longtime friends who have passed on.

The rewarding things are my writing, my friends and having the opportunities to follow my favourite pursuits including walking, coffee shops, classical music concerts and overseas and British Isles travel when it suits me.

My travels in the Developing World In Africa, Asia and Latin America were off the tourist track, and very tough but unforgettable. I liked the USA but I’m no longer into long-haul travel. I return regularly to the Canary Islands for winter sun and am also very fond of France, Spain and Italy, but recently discovered beautiful Portugal, and especially Porto. I also love Ireland in rare good weather but dont we all!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep working hard but not to worry too much about the future which will take care of itself. Try to live more in the present, and seek out inspiring people, rather than habitual moaners who get me down.

The best age of your life?

Every age has its high points - my early days in the Model Village, my first year at Queen’s, my career in the Belfast Telegraph including reporting during the Troubles for news outlets at home and overseas, and above all my later years in learning to make the best of each day.

Proudest achievement?

Hard to pick out one - playing hockey for British Universities v German Universities in Munich, sharing such a close family life with my wife and children, and being able to earn my living for nearly 60 years as a writer and of course receiving my MBE personally from Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace, a wonderful memory.

Biggest misconception about getting older?

Thinking that I would slow down.

New Year resolution?

To live to the fullest, to remember the words of Goethe “Nothing should be prized more highly than the value of each day”, and to constantly think of the song performed by the excellent Willie Nelson “Don’t let the old man in”.

Alf McCreary interviews local people about their faith and religion for his Belfast Telegraph Perspectives page every Saturday.