Our ‘words of wisdom’ interview celebrates our older people and the contribution they make. It gets their take on life, lessons learned and advice they would give to their younger self and younger people today. We recently caught up with Castlederg’s Pat O’Loughlin. Pat talked to us about his love of running which has seen him take part in almost 70 marathons while raising thousands of pounds for charity along the way. At 84, he’s still working in his watch and jewellery repair shop – he even talked us through changing a battery watch for one of his loyal customers. Let’s find out what ‘words of wisdom’ Pat has for us…

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Belleek in Co Fermanagh in 1936 and am one of eight children. When I was younger I spent time living in England and Belfast before settling in Castlederg in 1962. I married my 'long suffering wife’ Philomena in 1980 which was also the year I ran my first marathon and welcomed the arrival of our first son – an eventful time to say the least.

In 1959 I was a part of county Fermanagh’s Junior All-Ireland winning GAA team. Unfortunately, my county career was short lived due to a knee injury, but I continued playing football and won many medals.

What did/do you work at?

I started out farming but I didn’t like it, so I tried my hand at fixing bicycles in my father’s garage. I was good with my hands and the local jewellers asked me to help him with fixing clocks. I enjoyed this line of work and eventually opened my own jewellery and watch repairs shop in Castlederg in 1962.

What has it been like living during the current pandemic?

Thankfully it didn’t affect me too much. I was still able to go for walks and fetch the newspaper – I wouldn’t be one for going to the pubs.

My daughter and her family live in Australia so it’s been hard not seeing them, but we’ve managed to keep in touch through video calls – Philomena is a dab hand at technology!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I don’t have too many regrets. When I was younger I would have been quite shy so I suppose I would encourage my younger self to have more confidence – not too much though as that could get me into trouble!

What advice would you give to younger people today?

Look at what your skills and abilities are and use this to your strength; whether it be music, sport, numbers etc.

What age has been the best age of your life? Why?

I suppose there’s been highs throughout my life. Over the past 40 years I got into jogging and I’ve managed to complete around 66 marathons for different charities.

What in your opinion was the best decade? Why?

I’d say the 1980s as that’s when my three children were born.

Proudest achievement?

A family friend has MS and over the last 20 years I’ve managed to raise over £90,000 for MS research and was awarded a Gold Star at Hillsborough Castle. In 2005 I received an MBE for services to the local community.

What is the biggest misconception about getting older?

Just because you’re a certain age doesn’t mean you have to stop all the things you enjoy. In October 2020 I walked Dublin’s virtual marathon. I downloaded an app that was able to tell me when I had completed the 26.2 mile distance. I had my son walking alongside me for support, and people greeted and cheered us on along the way. I believe the secret to marathon success is a good breakfast, lots of water and lots of carbs!

Left: Pat took part in Dublin's 2020 virtual marathon while raising money for MS

Any lasting words of wisdom for our readers?

Use your abilities to your strength and have confidence in yourself.

Would you like to take part in our words of wisdom interview? Or do you know an inspirational older person who is young at heart and defies the stereotype of an older person? Does your Granny love to surf? Or maybe you have a Grandad mad for skydiving? Perhaps your older parents are still working or are selfless volunteers continuing to make a difference to their community. If you know someone who fits the bill and who would be happy to be interviewed, we’d love to hear from you.

Get in touch by emailing communications@copni.org