THE career of a Carrickmacross human landmark is set to come to end next week, with the retirement of Garda Martin McKenna after 24 years directing traffic in Carrickmacross.
Affectionately known as “Martin the Guard”, Martin has been supervising traffic since 1989 and become something of a minor celebrity due to his friendly nature and what can only be described as the ‘human touch’.
A Facebook page was recently set up for Martin which has garnered some 2,135 likes. The page is a testament to the 59-year-old’s Garda’s popularity throughout the town and beyond.
Speaking to Monaghan Democrat this week, Martin told the paper that; “My last working day will be the 11 February, a day before my 60th birthday.
“It will be just shy of 24 years on the beat in Carrickmacross, as I started on 7 March 1989.” says Martin, who has had the opportunity to watch the town grow and change over the years. “It has changed greatly throughout Tiger Years and maybe a little through the recession.
“Carrick has always been a busy, bustling town, since I first came here in 1986. The traffic has gotten busier, and remained busy even after the bypass was brought in 2005. I remember in the 1990s there would be queues of cars down both the Castleblayney and the Ardee Roads to get into town. That’s now gone.
“The thing about this jobs is that everyday I went to work was different.”
For Martin one of the highlights of the jobs was being able to interact with people, and he got great pleasure from the helping and indeed connecting with tourists who visited the town over the years.
“In the summer months the CIE buses have tours of the town and bus loads of tourists would come and park on the main street. Be they Canadians, Americans or from Europe, they would come to ask for directions, take a photo or just to talk.
“I knew all many of the bus drivers and they would brief the tourists, and tell them to come up and visit me and take a photo.
“From April to September there was a massive influx of people, and I must say I really enjoyed it. Visitors that I met would even come back years later to talk and I’ve stayed in contact with several. I made some great friends.
“I got great satisfaction and enjoyment from the visitors, be it the banter or sharing of stories.”
Martin of course was a landmark among local people, and became an instition for commuters coming through the town and also the local people he would encounter on the beat.”
During all 24 years on the street in Carrick, Martin says that he can’t recall any particularly nasty incident involving himself.
“I’d like to think that having a Garda prescence on the street has been a big deterrant in stopping crime in Carrickmacross, so I hope I played my part in that.” says Martin, whose current beat is from 2pm to 12 midnight. “Of course you get the odd disturbance on a weekend night. On Friday and Saturday, you get the odd person who want a row no matter what, but most see sense pretty quickly.”
“I think the prescence of a mobile Garda who is visable to the public is a help in both deterring crime and giving the public a sense of security.”
Martin has also worked closely through the District Court with Judge Sean MacBride who he describes as a man who “calls a spade a spade”, while he has also enjoyed working with both Sergent Forde and Superintendent Russell.
Martin’s career in Carrickmacross might never have been, as he was involved in a serious car crash outside of Monaghan town in 1984.
“I was involved in a bad accident. In those day there wasn’t the awareness surrounding head injuries and it took me 18 months to get back to work. At first I had a pensive energy and nervousness about returning, it was challenging time. Initially I was assigned to lighter duties, and then in 1989 I went on the beat in the Carrickmacross.
“I started my career in 1973, and will have been a Garda for 40 years,” says Martin, who is planning his retirment, which will include partaking in his passion for running. “It’s going to be very different not working in Carrickmacross every day. It’s going to be a massive change to my routine, but I don’t live far away and I have plenty of good reason to return. There is a great station party there at the moment and I will miss them. I will also miss the people of Carrickmacross who have always been a pleasure to work with and who
“I glad to be ending my career in full health and I’m now looking forward to turning a new page in my book of destiny.”