Friday 23 August 2019

Great-granddad whose home was robbed receives cards from around the globe for his 101st birthday bash

Pat Gillespie received birthday wishes from as far away as Japan last year
Pat Gillespie received birthday wishes from as far away as Japan last year

Leona O'Neill

The centenarian whose story circled the globe after he was robbed in his Tyrone home last month will celebrate his 101st birthday with his family this Saturday - and he says he's planning for 100 more.

Much-loved local character Pat Gillespie endured a horrific ordeal after three masked men forced their way into his home on Railway Street in Strabane at the end of October.

The gang held Pat in his chair while they ransacked his bedroom, searched his pockets and made off with a sum of cash, leaving him shocked and shaken.

But all will be forgotten on Saturday when Pat's eight children, 27 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren will gather to celebrate the life less ordinary of the table tennis championship-winning, speed boat racing, wacky car inventing Tyrone man.

"I'm feeling fantastic about my birthday, I feel good," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I'm seriously thinking of running for another 100, there's no harm in it. A lot of people ask me what my secret to long life is. I think it's to keep your mind occupied. Have a hobby, have a sport. Love everything that you do, especially sports.

"I was interested in sports all my life. I jumped from one sport to the next. I was fairly successful at most of them.

"I like to be first at everything and in sport I like to see the chequered flag. I think another secret is not to worry. I worry about literally nothing. Other than that I think it's a matter for yourself. I think it's up to you to keep busy and keep doing something, making something or breaking something.

"I have been very fortunate and very happy in my life. I really enjoyed life, I had a good rousing life and I always kept fairly fit. I don't think I ever had a bad cold in my life."

Speaking about his robbery ordeal, Pat says that the support he received locally, nationally and internationally showed him 'that there are still good people in the world'.

"I wasn't too happy about the burglary," he said.

"I couldn't understand why people would have done that. I never hurt a fly in my life, and it made me very sad to think that somebody would do that.

"Although, I don't hold it against them. If that's the way they want to live their life then that's their business and good luck to them.

"The support that I got after the incident was unbelievable. I was told that the whole town of Strabane was behind me and I saw that the other night when I was turning on the Christmas lights in our town. It was unbelievable the amount of people who wished me well. And I got so many letters and cards from abroad. I got letters from Japan, America, Canada, all over Ireland and from Switzerland - people who I don't know at all.

"I want to thank all those people from across the world who took time to reach out to me, helped me, sent me letters, sent me cards, it was very good of people. I appreciated every single one of them. It showed me that there are some good people left in the world still."

And Pat has big plans for the upcoming year. "Who knows what I'll be making or breaking or building in my 101st year," he says.

"I've slowed down over the last couple of years. When you reach over 100 you haven't the same strength so I'll probably just work away in my workshop. I have plenty of inventions to work on, but I can't tell you about them as they're all top secret. Watch this space."

Pat will be blowing out the candles on his 101st birthday cake at home in Strabane on Saturday alongside his family in a low-key celebration of an extraordinary life.

Belfast Telegraph

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