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Collette and Mary have checked out for the final time

Mary Gildea and Colette Ward.

Mary Gildea and Colette Ward.


EIGHT of Tesco’s longest-serving workers, who accepted an offer of voluntary redundancy, recently waved goodbye to the colleagues in Letterkenny after close on 200 years of service.
Among them were Collette Ward (50) and Mary Gildea (37) who have hung up their uniform after more than five decades’ service.
Indeed, Collette, who started working for Quinnsworth back in February 1985 having completed her Leaving Cert in Loreto Letterkenny a year earlier, was the longest serving employee.
Collette, who worked in the off-licence, had become such a familiar face that many older customers planned their shopping around her working hours.
“What happened in Tesco, stays in Tesco,” she laughs.
Despite loving the job she has decided to cash up and (for the time being at least!) and take things easy.
“I can’t believe how quickly the last 31 years have flown by. I remember my first day at Quinnsworth as if it was yesterday – it has been a major part of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I accepted an offer of voluntary redundancy because I felt that it was too good to turn down. I’m out of there three weeks and now my day starts with a morning walk. I don’t know myself,” she said.
“I had a fantastic time working there over the years and am proud to be able to call a lot of my colleagues good friends. However, I feel that the time in now right to more on,” she added.
A native of Convoy, Collette (nee Bonner) is married to Anthony Ward and the couple are heavily involved with Letterkenny Athletic Club. Their eldest son, Caolan, is a member of the Donegal Senior football panel. He plays with St Eunan’s GAA Club.
“The thing is miss most is the eleven o clock tea-breaks. Seriously though, I really miss the staff and customers. We had some great craic down through the years,” she said.
Mary Gildea, like Collette, joined the company straight from school.
“I was also a Convent girl and used to work in there on evenings and weekends. After my Leaving cert I spent some time in Derry but the money in the shop was too good,” she said.
Mary has worked behind the bakery counter at the Letterkenny branch for the past twenty years.
“There’s a woman from Fintown who comes into the shop every Saturday morning at 11am. You could set your clock by her. I don’t even know her name but she would stand and chat to me for twenty minutes every time she came in – she was lovely.
“I’ll miss working at Tesco as I’ve made so many close friends there but there does comes a time when you feel the need to move on.
“I was out in the Letterkenny Institute of Technology last week as I’m thinking of going back to college. I wouldn’t mind becoming an environmental health officer,” she said.
“We had many a good night out and, like Collette, I’ll miss the craic but we’ve made friends that will last for life,” she added.
While eight of Tesco’s longest-serving workers have accepted an offer of voluntary redundancy, three workers who are on pre-1996 contracts continue to work for the retail chain.
“It wasn’t feasible for them to go but, hopefully, things work out alright for them under these new contracts,” she said.
Tesco is seeking to bring long-service employees’ pay and conditions into line with the rest of its workers.

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