“Stay away from the salt and the sweet things and enjoy a wee glass of whiskey every day.”
That is the sage advice from 100-year-old Johnny Gallagher who tonight (Tuesday) is celebrating his milestone birthday with a huge party in the British Legion clubrooms in Ballymoney.
The former Air Force man and breadman will be surrounded by friends and family - some of whom have made the journey home from Australia to celebrate with this remarkable man.
Born on October 21st, 1914, in Hamilton Place in Portrush, Johnny was the son of Edward and Margaret Gallagher.
Educated in the Kelly Memorial Hall in Victoria Street in Portrush, Johnny had two brothers James and Tommy.
He lived in Portrush for 22 years and was a mechanic in a garage in Eglinton Lane.
During his time as a mechanic, he was also emplyed as an occasional chauffeur for some of the professional gentlemen of Portrush such as Dr Sloan Bolton.
Johnny then joined the Royal Air Force on July 12th, 1936.
“I had to knock a few Orangemen out of the road to get joining up,” joked Johnny who still retains a sparkling sense of humour.
He was sent to West Drayton and Uxbridge in the South of England for training.
“My brothers joined the Ack Ack in Belfast and Derry. They had the real hard jobs,” said Johnny referring to his brothers’ duties as anti-aircraft soldiers.
It was while Johnny was there that he was sent to witness a little bit of history in London in 1937.
“We watched King George VI’s Coronation and saw him going from the Palace to Westminster Cathedral.
“His wife and two weans were there too,” added Johnny jokingly referring to the Queen Mother and the then Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
When World War II broke out, Johnny saw action all over the world including Basra, Singapore, Baghdad, Capetown and the Gold Coast.
In 1943 he married Mary with whom he had three chidlren - Jackie, Robert and Elizabeth.
After the war, Johnny began a 36 year working life as a breadman for Agnew McMaster, then the Co-Op and Mother’s Pride.
Delivering bread around Dervock, Bushmills, Derrykeighan and Loughguile, Johnny soon became a household name, instantly recognised by people all around the area.
After this, he spent five years working as a security guard on the gate at Flemings before finally deciding to retire.
In his spare time Johnny always loved fishing.
“Mind you, nowadays all these boats have motors, we had to row any time we wanted to go fishing.
“And it’s a long row from Portandoo (in Portrush) out to the Skerries which is where we used to fish.”
After the war, Johnny also became a member of Ballymoney Royal British Legion in 1946.
He has been chairman of the branch four times.
“One time they even voted me in when I was in Australia!
“So you may guess there wasn’t many looking for it,” he laughed, with that fantastic sense of humour still in tact.
So, Johnny will be raising a glass tonight in Ballymoney along with his three children - including Jackie and his wife Gay who made the trip from Perth in Australia for the occasion - grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
And he can also look forward to receiving a telegram from Queen Elizabeth II and a commemorative coin and a 2,000 euro cheque from the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins.