Plans to stage a reunion for staff of the former TJ Walker store next week have brought memories flooding back for an Armagh man now living in Australia.
Tommy Cullen still has fond memories of his placement as an apprentice to the furnishings department at the iconic city store.
And now, many years later and thousands of miles away, he has reached out to wish all those attending the big reunion on Monday his very best wishes.
The reunion has been organised for those who worked at TJ Walkers – formerly of Market Street in the city – between the 1950’s and 1990’s.
All staff employed within this period are invited to attend the function in the Armagh City Hotel on Monday, April 17 at 2pm, where a light tea will be provided.
The store was run for many years by Mervyn Walker, who left his beloved city in 2020 for a new life in Scotland. He ran the shop alongside his late wife Ivy up until their retirement in 2014.
The history of TJ Walkers stretches back to 1911, when it was opened by Mervyn’s dad, Thomas J. Walker – nicknamed TJ – as a general drapery store, which expanded over the years to include a highly-regarded fashion store.
Priscilla Anderson (Scott), who started working in TJ Walkers in 1962 says the aim of the reunion is to “get everybody meeting again to talk about old memories”.
And while not able to be there in person, Tommy – who now lives in Melbourne – has many memories of his own.
It was, in fact, his first job!
Armagh I highlighted plans for the reunion almost three weeks ago.
And Tommy, who likes to keep abreast of what’s happening ‘back home’ via Armagh’s number one news source, still has the letter of offer of employment.
It is dated from 6th September, 1965, and offers the opportunity of “embarking on an interesting and profitable career”.
Actually named Vivion but now more commonly known as Tommy, he has asked Armagh I to forward the letter on to the organisers which we are glad to be able to do.
He recalls: “I was happily employed at this great retail establishment; it was my first job following my school days.
“It was a wonderful opportunity then and one I still appreciate to this day.
“Sadly, due to timing, I am not able to be there in person to connect and share very happy moments with former colleagues from that important chapter in my life.
“In my library collection I still have the original letter offering me Apprenticeship in the Furnishing Departments, which was the crucial stepping stone in my career.”
The sense of belonging, the friendships which endured, many life-long associations began at TJ Walker.
And it is with great fondness that days at the store – which closed in 2014 – are recalled by many.
The same is so true for Tommy, who adds: “Despite many years since departing Armagh, I still stay connected with workers from the store and especially Mr Mervyn Walker.
“He made my life richer having learned so much from him, his managers and fellow workers : a true Gentleman.
“I was proud to be associated with the Emporium and truly admired the enterprising leader who had so much vision in some very challenging trading times.
“My very best wishes to everyone. I often reflect and cherish all those happy times during that period in my working life in Armagh.
“Thank-you to everyone, especially Mervyn. I was lucky to enter his store and gain so much knowledge which set me up for life.”