POPULAR postman Ian Prince has finally hung up his delivery sack after 45 years of service.
Navigating the Great Storm of 1987 on a bicycle and racing a delivery train to Bournemouth are just two memories Ian will look back on after what he described as a “wonderful and rewarding career”.
He officially retired on Friday after delivering mail in the Barnes Lane area of Milford for the past nine years. To mark the occasion a socially distanced farewell party was held at Lymington sorting office attended by past and present colleagues and senior Royal Mail staff.
Ian said: “The send-off I received was absolutely fantastic – I am still feeling pretty emotional about it. I have absolutely loved the job for 45 years – it was everything I could have ever wanted, and many of my lovely customers have become very dear friends over the years.”
Although Ian was eligible for retirement when he marked his 65th birthday in April, he decided to stay on in his keyworker role throughout the Covid lockdown so he could support his customers.
He said: “After so many years of getting up early and working in all weathers, I am ready to enjoy retirement with my family, but I wanted to continue working until the lockdown eased.”
Ian grew up in Gordon Road, Pennington, and attended the primary and secondary schools in the village as well as playing for the town cricket club and singing in the church choir.
After leaving school Ian initially worked at Travis Arnold sawmill in Grove Road, before joining the Post Office at the Lymington depot when he was 20.
His first round was in Keyhaven, where he would go out on his delivery round in the morning before returning to the depot to hand-sort the mail. He would then return to Keyhaven in the evening to collect the outgoing mail.
Ian said: “The job was very regimented in the early days – it was rather like having a job in the civil service. On Saturday afternoons we would be out delivering telegrams that had arrived on the old tickertape machine.”
Ian was promoted to higher grade postman and over the years undertook deliveries across the whole area of Lymington, Pennington, Boldre, Shirley Holmes, Sway and Hordle.
He said: “I was acting manager at Lymington for three years and was very honoured to receive the general manager’s award for the work I did in setting up the electronic sorting system in the early 1990s.”
Ian also recalls he was teaching a new recruit the bicycle delivery round in Sway when the Great Storm of 1987 arrived.
He said: “We were literally dodging trees as they blew down around us. It was terrifying. From a health-and-safety point of view you would never be allowed to go out in those conditions these days.”
On another occasion Ian and two colleagues travelled to Brockenhurst to collect the post from the mail-sorting train, but it failed to stop at the station. They then raced to Bournemouth to meet it so they could collect the New Forest post and ensure it was sorted and delivered that morning.
When the higher grade postman role was abolished Ian decided he would rather spend his time out delivering than transferring to a line manager’s job in the sorting office.
He became the postman for Milford and undertook the deliveries in Barnes Lane and the surrounding area for nine years.
Ian said: “My customers for the last nine years have been particularly special to me. Many of them have become friends and I will miss seeing them every day very much, but I am looking forward to being able to spend more time with my three children and two grandsons.”
Ian wore his senior postman’s uniform for his final delivery round on Friday when many of his customers came out to wish him a happy retirement.
Marylou Morgan said: “Ian was just the most caring postman we have ever met. He was absolutely dedicated to his job and his customers, and just a very nice person to know. We will all miss him.
Neighbour Christopher Beeton added: “He was a very kind and genuine man. He was very personable and always made the effort to say hello.
“If there was ever a parcel to deliver and you are not in, he would always try to find a neighbour to leave it with. It sounds like a small gesture – but things like that mean a lot to older people.”