Eighty-six years young is how his neighbours describe Mr William McIlheron, of Glenavy, Ballyvallagh, Raloo, Larne, farmer, stone mason and bricklayer.
Certainly, when one meets Mr McIlheron (pictured) for the first time, they will guess his age to be in the early sixties for, not only does he look young, the fact that he may be up on a roof putting slates or tiles on, will almost convince them.
Now in semi-retirement and his 20 acre farm let, Mr McIlheron does not take on any of the big building jobs he used to do but to pass the time he may help a neighbour to erect a shed or do some repair work. He also keeps a few poultry and ducks.
Brought up on his father’s holding at nearby Slimero, Mr McIlheron, in addition to helping out on the farm, worked for the Belfast Water Commissioners.
Always interested in building walls and fences, he served his apprenticeship as a stone mason and later became a bricklayer.
Mr McIlheron moved into his present farm over 30 years ago and to use his own words: “There were no buildings on it – the spot where my bungalow and out-offices now stand was just an open field.”
First priority was to provide a house to live in, also sheds for the cattle. The next few years were certainly busy ones.
In addition to his work in the surrounding district, he erected his own bungalow and sheds, found time to grow potatoes and oats, also look after cattle and rear calves.
In the farm work he was ably assisted by his wife, Maria, and members of the family, all of whom are now married.
Quite a number of farm dwelling houses in the district were erected by this farmer-builder. One example of his work is the Ballyfore Mission Hall which seats upward of 200 people.