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Navy chief’s special tribute as war veteran reaches 100

A SECOND World War veteran from Omagh celebrated his 100th birthday by receiving a special video message from the highest-ranking naval officer in the UK.
 
Tommy McFarland, who is currently a resident at Hillview nursing home, was one of three brothers to serve in the Royal Navy during the 1939-45 war, while his sister Ruby joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.
 
He was later recalled to the navy during the Korean War in 1953, before being demobbed at the end of 1954.
 
Mr McFarland is also well-known in the town for working at local newspaper, the Tyrone Constitution, for more than 50 years.
 
Sadly, due to Covid-19 restrictions, his son, also called Tommy, was the only relative allowed to visit him on his birthday.
 
He brought with him a cake decorated by the veteran’s great-granddaughter Sofia (13), which was iced with an anchor and naval signal flags indicating 100, as well as several specially-recorded video clips to show to his father.
 
In honour of his wartime service, the current head of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin, recorded a message from behind his desk in Portsmouth. Further messages were recorded by the Limavady branch of the Royal Naval Association, of which he is a member, as well as others from his former colleagues at the Tyrone ‘Con’.
 
Upon reaching his 100th birthday, Mr McFarland also received a card from the Queen and a congratulatory letter from Irish president, Michael D Higgins.
 
When asked what his father’s secret was for a long life, his son replied, “My dad always said if you want to live longer, stay away from doctors! Apart from cream for the skin cancer on his head, he is on absolutely no medication. My mother always said he was too well-looked after.”
 
Born in Omagh on January 17, 1921, Tommy was one of four children and grew up in Ashfield Terrace. He attended Omagh Model school until class seven, when he left at the age of just 15 to join the ‘Con’.
 
In November 1940, Tommy went to Belfast and completed the paperwork and medical for joining the Royal Navy. His older brother, Willie, had joined before the war as a regular while younger brother, Bob, also joined in 1940.
 
 
He started training in Plymouth in January 1941 but it was delayed by several weeks due to the heavy bombing of the city by German air force, the Luftwaffe. He spent many nights on firewatch in the dockyard.
 
There were heavy casualties, both civilian and naval, in Plymouth during this period. 
 
On April 11, 1945, while home on leave, Tommy married Dorothy (Dolly) Duncan in St Columba’s Church. Tommy was then demobbed in 1946 and returned to the ‘Con’ to finish his apprenticeship.
 
The couple moved into Glenview Cottages to start family life and both their children were born there. In 1956, Tommy and Dolly moved to Johnston Park, where they lived together until 2019.
 
When Tommy retired in 1993, apart from his naval service, he had worked at the ‘Con’ for 57 years.
 
Over the years, he was heavily involved in local organisations, especially the Royal British Legion and St Columba’s Church. He joined the British Legion in 1946, held various offices and is still a member.
 
Unfortunately, in 2019, his beloved wife, Dolly, was diagnosed with dementia and had to move into Knockmoyle Lodge care facility, outside Omagh. Tommy then decided to leave Johnston Park and move into Hillview care facility, where he is always ready to talk about times past with visitors when conditions allow.
 
 
 

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Ulster Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW