THEY say that when you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life.
And for milkman, Philip McNamee, those words have rung particularly true over the last 46 years.
But tomorrow will be the 68-year-old’s very last day in his beloved profession and for many of his local, faithful customers, it is the end of an era.
Philip was born on a farm situated just outside of Newtownstewart in 1949.
He attended a small school called Gallon PS, and then moved on to St Colman’s High School in Strabane.
In 1964, when he was just 16-years-old, he left secondary school to help his family with the pigs on the farm.
But on a chilly day in February 1971, a lasting legacy was made as Philip embarked on his very first milk run, delivering milk across Victoria Bridge, Sion Mills and Strabane.
“That’s where I started out,” he explained. “The next year, I began delivering milk across the Omagh districts as well.
“There were very little dairies around at that time, and the demand for milk was high.
“There was also no such thing as skimmed, semi-skimmed or whole milk back then.
“Everyone’s milk was the same – they came in traditional glass bottles which clinked when they touched.”
In his flat-bodied, electric pick-up van, Philip spent decades delivering milk from the Grove Dairy in Castlederg across the depths of Tyrone in all seasons – from the Winter frost-ridden country roads of Plumbridge and Gortin, to Omagh, Ballygawley and beyond.
“I enjoyed it,” he described. “I was out and about early in the morning, sometimes doing seven-day shifts, beginning at 4am or 5am.
“You could be going out in very bad mornings with heavy frost and snow.
“But rarely did I miss a run – too many people were relying on me and I’d built up a trust with my customers.
“I’ve saved a few sheep in my time too,” he added. “If I saw any stuck on their backs during a run, I’d nip into the field and help them get back up again. Their owners would have known nothing about it.
“I’ve loved my job,” Philip reflected. “One thing I am certainly going to miss are the people I have met along the way, and friends that I have made.
“I’m going to miss that social aspect… Meeting people, talking to people, laughing with people.
“I don’t know where the time goes,” Philip reflected. “But all good things must come to an end.”
Currently Philip is living in Meadowvale, Omagh with his beloved wife of 44 years, Rosaleen.
They have been blessed with five children and 11 grandchildren.
And while Philip may not be continuing with his milk runs, he has vowed to keep himself busy by tending to sheep living on a Newtown farm – the same place where he spent his very happy childhood.
Cathy McPeake, Philip’s daughter, described him as being ‘more than a milkman’ to his customers.
“He would have taken the elderly the paper, or just sat for a cuppa with someone,” she said.
“He never cancelled his runs, even in the worst snow, to the most remote parts. He still went and did his job.
“I can’t see there ever being another milkman like him.”