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Jim retires after 39 years 20.11.08

by Damian Dowds, Inishowen Independent

JIM Henderson, Buncrana Town Council’s long serving revenue collector, retired last week after 39 years of collecting rents, rates and water charges in the urban area.
Colleagues gathered in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel on Friday for a lunch to mark his retirement, and the council itself will hold an official retirement function at a later date. Along with his wife Sally, Jim is also well known for his work with the local meals-on-wheels committee which provides hot dinners a couple of times a week to more than 20 elderly people in the Buncrana area.
“I started with the Council on the first Saturday of July 1969, taking over from the previous rent collectors Teresa Crossan and Rosaleen Doherty who had retired at the same time,” Jim recalled. The position was part-time at first and he collected house rents only, but in time his responsibilities grew to include the collection of water charges and commercial rates.
“The water rates on homes were always the most controversial and I wasn’t too sorry to see them abolished in 1996,” he said.
Educated by the Christian Brothers in Derry, he spent a couple of years in London, working first with the tax office and then as a carpenter. On returning to Buncrana, he worked with his brother Hugh, selling shoes door to door from a van. Indeed, he continued to work in the family business until the late 1980s before he went full-time with the Council when his role was expanded to include commercial rate collection following the retirement of Colm Grant.
Rents today range from around €20 per week upwards, but they were much lower when Jim Henderson first pounded Buncrana’s streets with his rent collector’s book in hand. “The lowest fixed rate was just five pence per week,” he recalled, “and when the homes on St Egney’s Terrace
Jim Henderson, centre, with wife Sally and from left, Buncrana Town Clerk Seamus Canning, Samantha Nolan, incoming revenue collector, and retired Town Clerk Paul Doyle.
were being bought out at a fixed rate, the weekly repayment was just 11 shillings and eight pence (approximately 60 pence).”
“The houses on Maginn Avenue sold for just £100 – mind you some people at the time thought that was dear enough and I suppose it was.”
He credits wife Sally with the position of unofficial rent collecting assistant. “If I’d missed someone because they were out, they’d sometimes call down to the house with the rent and Sally would take a note of what was what. She’s always been good like that.” The couple have been married since August 1967 and have five sons – Martin, Liam, Ciaran, Shaun and Hugh Patrick but no daughters; “One woman about the house is enough,” he quipped mischievously. So what kind of skills does one need to be a revenue collector?
“Patience is the big thing, particularly when collecting the commercial rates. You might have to call back time and again to get the money, but you can never be abrupt with people,” he says. “It’s a very people orientated job, and I’d always have yarns with the people I’d meet and carry news to them – or they’d give the news to me!” Although he turns 65 tomorrow, he has no grand plans on how to spend the retirement that now stretches out before him. “I like footering about in the garden, and I have a new greenhouse picked out but not yet bought. God knows, with the summer we had, you’d need a greenhouse in weather like this.”
His successor, Samantha Nolan, has been accompanying him on his rounds for the past couple of weeks as she learns the ropes. “I wish her all the best in her new post and I’ve told her that she can contact me any time she needs to. After 39 years at it, there’s not too much that I don’t know about the job.”

Town Mayor Dermot McLaughlin paid tribute to Jim Henderson at Thursday night’s Town Council meeting, saying, “I thank Jim for his long service to the Council and wish him a long and happy retirement.”
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