Saturday 25 May 2019

A part of life is gone as post offices shut

Caroline Foxe with family and friends marking the closure of the post office in Foulkesmills
Caroline Foxe with family and friends marking the closure of the post office in Foulkesmills

David Looby

The closure of three rural post offices in the district over recent days marks the end of an era for local communities.

Duncannon, Foulksmills and Ballywilliam post offices were closed for the final time after the postmistresses took up a retirement package from An Post, following years of poor footfall and inaction on the part of the parent company.

Foulksmills postmistress Caroline Foxe said it was a very emotional day for her on Saturday when she closed the post office which had been in the community since the early 1800s.

'I invited customers to come in for tea and coffee and cake to mark the occasion. The phone was going non stop with messages. It was just devastating. There was more water in the post office than in the river Corach down the road with all the tears shed.'

Describing the move to close post offices as devastating for local communities, Caroline said: 'It's not something I wanted to do. I felt I had no choice. I was talking to the regional An Post manager this morning and told him the reasons for closing far outweighed the reasons for staying open. I wanted to stay because of the emotional attachment to customers, some of whom received their first pension payment from me 18 years ago. I hope voters won't forget the Government for what they did because I certainly won't.'

Caroline worked for eight years running Foulksmills post office for the previous owners, before taking on the business herself, while also opening a shop.

The shop changed hands and was closed earlier this year and now the village is left without a shop or post office. Caroline said the closure of Duncannon Post Office last Wednesday will also have a huge impact on life in the village, as will the closure of Ballywilliam post office.

'That's three gone in one week in one small area.'

Describing the sensation of not being at work to serve her customers on Monday as very strange, Caroline said she knew them all so well and will miss serving them.

'I have a few customers in their nineties who were still coming in. Now they'll have to travel to the nearest post office. When you see the sign coming down it does pull at your heart strings. It's the end for an era for Foulksmills as the post office here goes back to the early 1800s when stage coaches were passing through the village. That is why people thought the post office here would never close as they associate it with post when it has become more retail and no post is sorted in rural sub post office anymore. This is a tough one, not only for people here but for people living in Ballywilliam and Duncannon also.'

Duncannon postmistress Theresa Foley said in an interview with this newspaper earlier this year that running a post office in the area is no longer viable due to the lack of footfall.

'It is a very difficult decision as An Post won't let anyone else take over the business,' she said.

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