Northern Ireland news

William Pimley (99) travels down memory lane at St Malachy's College eight decades on

William Pimley, back to St Malachy's College in his 100th year, with his great grandson Deaglán Pimley. Picture by Hugh Russell

IT is a momentous month for west Belfast man William Pimley.

And as he prepares to celebrate his 100th birthday, he went back in time yesterday and returned to his former school after more than eight decades.

Smiling as he walked through the doors of St Malachy's College, the visit had added poignancy as he was met by his great-grandson Deaglán Pimley, who has recently started the north Belfast school as a year 8 pupil.

Accompanied by several members of his family, Mr Pimley, who is originally from the Falls Road area, was given a tour by principal Paul McBride and archivist Gerry McNamee.

He visited the historic O'Laverty Library where he recalled memories of his school days and viewed a framed picture featuring the names of the teachers who had taught him in 1933 when he joined the college.

But there was one particular place Mr Pimley wanted to see again - the chapel in the school.

And in a touching moment in the church, the 99-year-old broke into song, singing the hymn Hallelujah.

He said it was "lovely" to be able to return.

"It's 86 years since I started here, the last time I was in this building was in 1937," he said.

"I sang in the choir of the centenary year of the school in 1933 as that was the year that I started.

"They formed a choir for the centenary and they picked me, even though I was only through the door."

Mr Pimley was also shown the school register from August 30 1933, which featured his name marking his first day at the school.

It recorded that he left the college on February 22 1937 to start a job in the GPO as a technician and then the traffic division.

"As a pupil I left in 1937 as the GPO called me and I was there for 46 years," he said.

Mr Pimley, who will celebrate his 100th birthday on November 25, also pursued a sporting career, competing in the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in 1974 representing Northern Ireland in bowling.

He also played rugby and hurling in Derry after living in the city for a time.

He has been blessed with five children, 10 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

His son David said it was wonderful for his father return to the school.

"I think he is overawed, but it's lovely for him to be able to visit," he said.

"Obviously 1933 is a long time ago, but it's good for him to come back and see the school again."

Deaglán, who started in St Malachy's in September, said he was "excited" to have his great-grandfather visit the school.

"It's nice to see him back here to the school he once went to and get a tour of what it is like today," he said.

As the tour came to a close yesterday, Mr Pimley presented a copy of the 1933 school magazine to be donated to the St Malachy's College archives.

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