Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Centenarian ice cream seller returns to work

Jackie Martin
Image caption Jackie Martin might just be Northern Ireland's oldest ice cream seller

Jackie Martin is probably the oldest person who was itching to get back to work with the easing of lockdown restrictions.

The Donaghadee man is 100 years old and is a regular feature in the well-known Cabin ice cream parlour in the harbour town.

"Jackie is extraordinary. He comes here every day on his bicycle and is a faithful and loyal member of staff" says business owner Una Gaskin.

"He opens up the shop and scolds me for being late because I'm never on time."

The centenarian also takes control of stock deliveries, with Wednesdays being his favourite day when the vans pull up outside.

'Bit of life about town'

"He loves organising the delivered stock and he tortures the van drivers over where to put the stuff," says Una.

"Jackie also helps out with the making of the ice cream up on our family farm. He brings the stainless steel buckets we use up to the farm on the handle bars of his bike."

While Una and her young assistant Hannah were busy scooping up the ice cream and adding the chocolate sprinkles and raspberry syrup to the cone orders, Jackie sat contented in the corner of the shop surrounded by boxes of flakes for the 99s.

His job was overseeing the flow of customers being allowed in one-by-one.

"I just help the girls out with the social-distancing measures and looking after the orders coming in," he says.

"It's great to see the wee shop open again and a bit of life about the town."

Image caption Owner Una Gaskin and her assistant Hannah

When asked how a 100-year-old still manages to hold down a job he replies: "I only work a couple of hours a day. The girls in the shop do the rest."

Leaning against the wall next to him is his trusty bike.

"Oh that's mine," he said, lest there is any doubt.

"I use it to cycle down to the Cabin but I walk the bike back because it's all uphill."

Sweet secrets

Una says the lockdown period is the longest time the shop has been closed in its history.

"Even when the shutters were down, Jackie would pop in to make sure everything was all right," she says.

"The only thing he doesn't like are the new PPE screens, although he understands they're needed for everyone's safety."

The shop owner says her most senior member of staff is simply wonderful and she does not know what they would do without him.

As for Jackie, he puts his energy and healthy outlook on life down to two things.

"Oh I like ice cream. It keeps you going and it cleans your stomach out," he says.

So is ice cream the secret of a long life?

"Oh it is, it is" he says. "Ice cream and sea air!"

More on this story