By Sarah Slevin
Joe Killeen has seen many changes through his 52 years working with An Post but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
As Galway’s longest serving postman, or postal-operative, which is the current title, Joe explains how things are always changing in the postal world.
“There’s changes every day and every week, but you don’t notice them, they’re just part of life.”
“Change is nice because you could get stuck in a rut. I like change because you meet different people all the time,” he says.
Joe turned 69 on St Patrick’s Day 2021 and started his postal service career at the age of 16.
In 1968, Joe was balancing his schoolwork with farm work when he took an exam for the post office, which was then known as the Department of Post and Telegraphs.
At the time, Joe says that phones were a “scarce commodity” in Ireland, so there were jobs going as telegraph boys.
“Around early September, I got the word that I was to join the post office… and I selected Loughrea when I got the final call,” he says.
Since then, Joe has been in many different positions at An Post and has been promoted into management positions over the years.
From 2014 though, Joe chose to take on a driving position when the service of Athenry and Loughrea amalgamated, and he is still there to this day.
Serving 480 houses plus up to fifty commercial premises, Joe, along with his van and bicycle have a busy day.
Every minute counts for a postman. Joe explains how for urban houses the timing for delivery is roughly 45 seconds while it is a little longer for rural houses at one minute.
Joe is well-versed on all the postal changes over the years – he has seen the move to automated sorting and has also dealt with the effects of online shopping.
He has taken all the changes in his stride and enjoys the movement he has experienced throughout his time with the company.
However, one thing that hasn’t changed for Joe is the joy of meeting people.
“I’m a people person. I like meeting people on the footpath, they’re friendly towards you. It’s a wonderful thing to meet new people, you feel as if you’ve achieved something during the day.”
“Strangers today will become your friends tomorrow and onwards,” he says.
Joe laughs about how he likes to keep up with young people and jokes about them always having an answer for his signature catchphrase.
“There’s a saying I have and its ‘what’s new in a young person’s life?’” he laughs.
Joe has many fond memories over his 52 years in the postal world, but one in particular stands out.
While out for his grocery shop, a young child spotted him and shouted, ‘how’re Joe, how’re Joe’ to the standstill of the whole shop. Joe explains how the three-year-old boy picked up the phrase from the meetings his parents had with Joe and in that moment Joe felt a “closeness and friendliness”.
Covid-19 has affected some of these encounters, but Joe says the warmth is still there, just at a distance.
All in all, Joe feels lucky to be on the frontline and has sympathy for those out of work because of restrictions. He is happy with the way An Post has dealt with the Covid-19 safety regulations and doesn’t see working through the pandemic as a big challenge.
There are two elements though that do make a postal-operative’s job that bit harder: dogs and the weather.
Though he admits, people have become much better at keeping their dogs at bay. As for the weather, there isn’t much hope to control that.