There were many words of thanks and congratulations for well known Stranorlar man Bartley McGlynn originally from Glenfin on Friday last as he marked his retirement from Donegal County Council after almost 42 years of service. With so many memories and years of experience we were delighted when Bartley took time out to talk to us about his time in the Council, his most memorable moments, the changes he has seen and most importantly his plans for the future.
“I started working in Donegal County Council on October 1, 1973 and my first job was, believe it or not, ‘water charges’. At that time the domestic water charge was £1.50 per year and all the bills were handwritten. We were based in the Council Chamber in a section known as the Rates Office. It was a busy office, we worked hard but we also had great fun,” says Bartley.
“I then moved to Motor Tax soon after, again another busy office. There were a lot of deadlines and I enjoyed the fact that I was dealing with the public. We had a great team in Motor Tax and many of us were new to the Council. Ten people were appointed of the panel when I joined the Council and we all became great friends.
“In the early years we had an hour and 15 minutes for lunch each day so that meant we had time for many recreational activities such as soccer, snooker, pool or cards. Many of the Council staff lived in Lifford and Strabane at this time and it meant that there was great camaraderie among staff and we had a great social scene.
“I worked in a range of Council services from Housing to Sanitary Services to Planning and I acted as Town Clerk in both Bundoran and Buncrana Town Councils. I joined the Finance Section in July 1986 and have worked in all areas of Finance and in 2001 I became the Senior Executive Officer and I acted as Head of Finance for the 2010 budget. I have worked with six County Managers, now called Chief Executives, and 7 Finance Officers or Heads of Finance,” he said.
Bartley has seen many changes in the Council from the decentralisation of Council services to changes in the Council’s accounting system to advancements in technology, the abolition of Town Councils and to the recent introduction of Irish Water.
“Decentralisation of Council services in 2001 was a massive change for the Council. Many staff moved to work in area offices and whilst people continued to work together the dynamic changed in that you didn’t get a chance to meet them everyday in the building.
“Changing from a cash accounting system to an accrual accounting system was also a massive shift. This was introduced in 2001 and meant that I had to start learning all over again.
“The changes that have been brought about by computers and technology have also been significant. When I started out letters were typed on a typewriter but now everything is done on email or online yet it doesn’t seem to mean less paper!
“The abolition of the Town Councils and the introduction of Irish Water were also substantial changes especially from a finance perspective. The behind the scenes work was colossal and it was a big ask for the staff in my service but as always they worked tirelessly to get the job done.”
When asked to recall his most memorable moments, Bartley has no hesitation in telling us about the day the full driving licences were being awarded and his pride and joy in seeing Donegal won the Inter Local Authorities league.
“When I look back over the years there have been a number of memorable moments. The first is the awarding of full driving licences to holders of second provisional licences. I was acting Assistant Staff Officer in Motor Tax at the time and the first I heard about it was on the radio in the morning. I came into work and there was a queue up to the Garda Barracks in Lifford. We didn’t get closing all day and we had to call in staff from all over the Council to try and deal with the queues. It was mayhem. There was also a backlog of post to deal with but we got through it and people got their driving licences so everyone was happy.
“Most people who know me know that I am very passionate about sport and especially about soccer and one of my other most memorable moments was when we set up the HAC football team in Lifford. At that time the North Western Health Board, the Department of Agriculture and the Council were all based in Lifford and we had enough players to make up a team to compete in local leagues. We had great fun, made great friends and won (and lost) a few games along the way!
“I also played for the Councils mens’ team and managed the ladies team for a few years. We competed in the Inter Local Authority league in the 1980s. In 1984 we won the league but the women did better than that – they won it five times in a row. Teresa Conway played for the ladies team and I can easily say that Teresa was one of the best women soccer players in the country. I can’t say strongly enough how important this league was to us especially when our teams were playing in the finals. The sense of camaraderie, the craic and the banter all led to a great working environment. No matter how far you had to travel for a match we were all still at work the next morning at 9 o’clock.
“The last number of years have been difficult for everyone and, as Senior Executive Officer in the Council’s Finance Section, navigating the organisations financial position has certainly been a challenge.
“For me the greatest challenge has been assisting with the management of the Council’s financial position, this is a hands on job and something that has to be monitored on a daily basis. I have also experienced two staff moratoriums and they have been tough. I have seen first hand the pressure that is put on the staff that is left.”
When asked what advice he would give to someone starting out today, Bartley very clearly believes it is all about respect.
“I would simply say that respect is most important, respect for colleagues at work and the general public who we serve. It is also important to have respect for the elected members who have been put there to represent the public and I have the greatest regard for the work they do”.
“As a public service we are open to a lot of scrutiny much more so than if we were in the private sector and my advice is do your job well and do it honestly and you will never go far wrong.”
After almost 42 years working with the Council Bartley is looking forward to quality family time.
“I am looking forward to spending more time with my family. In the last 20 years myself and Celine have spent a lot of time at work and we both want to spend more time together and with the family. I have three daughters Nuala is in Singapore, Sarah is in Dublin and Maeve is in London and we hope to do a bit more travel, visiting the girls and I am especially looking forward to Nuala’s wedding later this year”.
“I am also looking forward to having more time to spend on the Twin Towns Celtic Supporters Club, the Donegal Sports Star Awards Committee and I am on the board of the Finn Valley Swimming Pool and LATCH.
In concluding his interview Bartley was keen to mention three things.
“Before I finish up I want to mention a few things. Firstly, Lifford – I have spent all of my working life in Lifford and when I first came to Lifford it was a wonderful, vibrant town. It had the Army Barracks, the Customs, two factories, the NWHB, the Department of Agriculture, Land Registry, the Inter Counties Hotel, the Dog Track, not to mention all the sporting clubs and facilities. Lifford is still very much a sporting town and I would like to think that we played a small part in this legacy.
“Secondly the elected members – I have had the pleasure of working with many elected members over the years. I have the greatest respect and regard for the work they do and I would like to think that I have had a good working relationship with all of them.
“Finally the staff – we have the best staff in Donegal County Council and many are good friends as well as work colleagues particularly the finance staff. Much of the work that is done in finance is behind the scene and often goes unnoticed. But this work is always done with great care and diligence and always with the citizen in mind”.
Bartley’s concluding remark says it all:
“I hope I have served the people of Donegal well over the years …”