Happy 100th birthday to Billy!

Wednesday January 24th 2024

Billy, left, at his surprise 100th birthday party with his younger brother Frank.

William (Billy) Gillespie, the oldest parishioner of Kilwaughter & St Patrick’s, Cairncastle, with All Saints’, Craigyhill, celebrated his 100th birthday at a surprise party held in Millbrook Community Centre on Saturday January 20.

Organised by his nieces Jennifer McKane and Alison Read, Billy arrived to be greeted by his brother Frank (who is in his mid-90s), several generations of his wider family circle, many neighbours and friends, as well as the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev George Davison, and the Rev Arlene Moore, priest-in-charge.

Billy with Meta McIlhinney and Jean Glenholmes from St Patrick’s, Cairncastle.

Billy has lived all his life in the Kilwaughter/Millbrook area and attended the Millbrook Hall branch of the parish church until it closed. After this, he often travelled to St Patrick’s, Cairncastle, with his late sisters, bringing them to regular Sunday worship. He remains a mine of information about the history of the parish and the Kilwaughter & Millbrook communities.

Balloons and banners decorated the hall and tables. Congratulatory cards signed personally by Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla and a lovely letter from the Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mr David McCorkell, KStJ DL, were proudly displayed alongside a cake made to represent Billy’s signature blue bobble hat.

When the cheers and clapping subsided and Billy was seated – beaming with joy – the mobile phones went into action as well-wishers gathered round to offer their personal greetings, take selfies or group pics and add to the growing pile of birthday cards and gifts on the table in front of him.

The parish presented Billy with an inscribed giant print NKJV Bible.  People had been invited (if they wished) to give a donation to RNLI in honour of Billy and he was delighted to hear a total of £600 had been raised for this worthy cause in his name.

Bishop George thanked the family for inviting him to join with them in celebrating Billy and his milestone birthday and prayed God’s blessing on the splendid buffet all those gathered proceeded to enjoy. 

Billy with East Antrim Coast Dancers.

As the party continued, Billy was especially thrilled to discover East Antrim Coast Dancers had arrived, and proudly pointed out in their midst a young relation of his who had won many medals for her Irish dancing skills.

Billy enjoyed stomping his feet and clapping heartily along with ‘I’ll tell me MA/Belle of Belfast City!’ As the party drew to a close, the larger official birthday cake arrived, featuring two of his former and much beloved dogs, Lady Diana and Friendly. And as Billy ably blew out the candles, all gathered once more wished him God’s richest blessing.


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