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Tyrone market trader still going strong

Paddy Reilly has had a stall at the Saturday market in Cookstown for almost 40 years, and he doesn’t have any intention of taking it easy after recently celebrating his 80th birthday.

From early morning he can be seen preparing to get his flower stall - a mix of fresh and silk flowers - ready for customers at Burn Road aiming for a 9.30am start.

He’s become a familiar face to hundreds of shoppers over the years, and is looking forward to making a return to the stall after the festive break.

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Paddy works with his son Peter, who runs the Cabin Flower Shop based in Dungannon, and previously worked alongside his late wife Peggy.

Cookstown market was a lot busier when Paddy and Peggy started coming to the town with about 150 stalls selling all kinds of wares.

“Before Christmas there were 20 or 24 stalls,” says Paddy, who blames the multi stores for the decline of the street markets. “The stalls can’t compete with them.”

Paddy was born in the townland of Garvagh, Donaghmore, to Paddy and Mary Reilly, and after leaving St Patrick’s Primary School he went on to study at Dungannon Technical College.

He wanted to be a joiner but ended up working at Moygashel Mills and later made forklifts at John Finlay (Engineers).

He has been very active in parish and community life being a founding member of Donaghmore Credit Union, and for 25 years was an active member of the Order of Malta. He was also did voluntarily hospital work in the 1960s and 1970s.

Recalling how the business started off, Paddy said flower arranging was a hobby of Peggy’s who gave the flowers to neighbours. They began selling the flowers within the local community and then set up the market stall in Cookstown and travelled over to Omagh each Monday, as they tried to build up the business.

Paddy also took part with Peggy at flower arranging demonstrations at Women’s Institutes and other organisations in the area.

Nowadays, the business supplies flowers for weddings and funerals in local churches and for special occasions in towns and villages across Mid Ulster.

Paddy suffered a period of ill health around the start of last year which saw him in hospital having two operations virtually back to back.

But he is back to being his usual cheerful, optimistic self and still skips every morning to get himself going.

As well as Peter, he has another son Paddy Junior and two daughters Roisin and Patricia and three grand children.

A few weeks ago they held a special 80th birthday dinner for him the Greenvale Hotel, Cookstown, which Paddy describes as “a good night”,

Paddy is firmly focused on getting back to the stall in Cookstown and enjoying a bit of ‘craic’ with the public as well as catching up with what’s going on.