Charlie standing proudly in front of his newly-painted home.

‘It’s so wonderful to have so many good neighbours’

Arranging an interview with Charlie Conerty wasn’t an easy task, as reporter Michelle Taite found out. He didn’t own a phone but we were informed by a neighbour “if he wasn’t at home, he wouldn’t be far away”.

On Monday, the Celt landed outside the pebble-dashed bungalow, freshly painted in neutral tones and knocked on the door, listening to the faint sound of the radio playing in his kitchen. The sun was high in the sky, reflecting off the home’s grey tin roof.

Ten minutes and a lot of knocking later, another neighbour pulls up and laughs, “if the wee tractor isn’t there, Charlie isn’t either.”

It turns out the popular Virginia man had a lot of mileage to make up for, and a lot of friends who had been dying to see him following his recent stint in the hospital.

So, we contacted yet another neighbour and made arrangements to meet with Charlie the following morning. As it turns out Charlie has a lot of good neighbours.

Sure enough when we arrived the next day, old red was parked out front and the door was left open, “come on in” a voice sounded from the kitchen.

Dressed smart in a shirt and slacks, I was welcomed with a smile, which surely hadn’t left his face since he returned home from hospital the week before. The last thing he had expected was that his neighbours had been hard at work while he was away, giving his old bungalow a facelift.

“My niece Marie dropped me home and, when I saw it, I couldn’t believe it. It’s so wonderful to have so many good neighbours,” says Charlie.

The friendly man couldn’t believe the difference to his home, which hadn’t been painted in over 15 years. Pots and plants brightened up the front, along with a little purple bench, all bought by his neighbours.

“It’s lovely going out in the morning and sitting on it in the sun,” continued the grateful gentleman. “Everybody is so good. It’s unbelievable.”

Charlie’s kitchen was decorated with photos of loved ones and memorabilia. We sat for half an hour as he told stories of his past, before heading outside to take some photos for his debut appearance in the Celt.

As he exited the house, he made a beeline for his Massey Ferguson saying “maybe we should take a picture with my tractor”. We then grabbed another snap as he stood proudly in front of his new home.

Charlie is known widely in the area for his outgoing personality and his heart of gold. He loves visiting his friends and helping them out in any way he can.

Speaking about the man himself, neighbour Keith Kivlehan says “Charlie is the most welcoming man you will ever meet.”

“From the day I moved to Garryross and most of our neighbours moved there, Charlie was always the first man we met.”

“He would introduce himself and offer his help in any way he could, mostly him and his little red tractor,” continued Keith. “He looks after his neighbours very well and never asks for anything in return. Nor would he allow you to do anything for him. As he says, he has everything he needs and doesn’t want any more. The only way we could give back was to do something when he wasn’t around.”

So, that’s what they did. “We organised it through our neighbourhood watch group to give him something to cheer him up when he came home from the hospital. As a community, we all got together, cleaned, scrubbed and painted. We were delighted to see the smile on his face. This was very much a community get together and everyone pulled together equally.”

Charlie, however, was equally grateful for the kindness shown to him by his friends daily. “Some of my neighbours come over every evening and they stay for five or ten minutes with me. I have such wonderful neighbours,” he says with a smile.

As we came to the end of our ceilí, sorry interview, Charlie waved me goodbye as he hopped onto his tractor, giving me an open invitation to pop in for a cup of tea whenever I’m passing.