WHEN John Henderson was due to celebrate his 70th birthday, he was aware that family and friends had planned a party.
A dozen or so people was all John expected - until, that is, he stepped out of a car and into Ballinlea Orange Hall where more than one hundred people had gathered earlier to give him the surprise of his life.
Something else caused him to raise his eyebrows as well as giving him an emotional moment when two of his sisters Meg and Kate made an unscheduled appearance from England to complete the night.
It didn’t end there. For John, a former bus driver, was also re-united with a number of his former colleagues and his abiding interest in Clydesdale horses became another talking point during the evening when members of that fraternity turned up to add their congratulations.
“He’s a very decent man,” “One of the best,” were familiar comments from those present and the handshakes and well-wishes reflected the high regard in which John is held in the Moyarget area and beyond.
Pictures of John at school age adorned the walls of the hall and there were fond reminders of his wedding day.
Music and dance and a meal helped make the evening one to remember for a man who still lives life to the full.
He first became a bus driver in 1961 with the Ulster Transport Association (UTA) and although there was a brief period of broken service, he joined Ulsterbus in 1974 before leaving in 1994.
His life-long interest in Clydesdales has taken him all over the country and to other parts of the United Kingdom where he has acted as a judge.
John was a busy man throughout the evening with everyone wanting to have a chat and add their best wishes.
“I didn’t know this was going to happen. I thought there would be a dozen or so people here but this is a big shock,” John told the Times.
Shock or not, John Henderson will know that no one came to Ballinlea out of a sense of duty – it was out of respect and that was very evident throughout the celebrations.