A former council officer has used his green-fingered expertise to help lay the groundwork for Carrick’s future floral success.
Matt Hunter, a stalwart of Carrickfergus Borough Council’s Parks, Countryside and Amenities department, retired earlier this month after almost four decades with the local authority.
A keen gardening enthusiast, the 58-year-old was a well-known face at the council’s Sullatober depot, where he was most recently based as an operations officer.
A reception was held for Matt in the Mayor’s Parlour at Carrickfergus Town Hall to mark his 38 year’s service.
The local man spent his last few months with the council helping colleagues prepare for the borough’s 2014 Britain in Bloom bid.
This year, Carrick is one of the nominees for the Large Town category, while Whitehead is in the running for the Small Town title.
Judges from the prestigious contest are to visit the town next week.
Matt said: “I would have been involved at the maintenance end of things in the run up to [the competition], making sure everything is sorted and looking at its best.”
During his tenure, Matt witnessed a burgeoning interest in horticulture in the borough, one that would eventually lead to the foundation of the Carrickfergus in Bloom contest.
“I started with the Parks and Countryside department in 1976; at that time they were just starting to put in a nursery at Seapark. That was when the floral thing really started to kick off in the town,” said Matt, who trained at Greenmount College.
“One of the first big projects that sticks in my mind are the flowerbeds along the seafront; they went in about 24 or 25 years ago. I was also involved to a minor extent with the first redesign of Marine Gardens.”
With spring and summer having traditionally been the busiest period for the former Parks and Countryside officer, Matt is looking forward to a well-earned rest in his retirement.
“I’ll still be doing a bit of private gardening work for family and friends, and I’ll be keeping in touch with any of the community gardening groups I would’ve worked with such as Brighter Whitehead,” he said.
“I’d like to express my appreciation to the Town Clerk, Sheila McClelland. She has really put Carrick on the map and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with her.”
The Carrick man was accompanied by his wife, Maureen, daughter Emma and several family members during the visit to the Parlour, where he was presented with tokens of appreciation by the Mayor, Alderman Charlie Johnston.
Also paying tribute to Matt after his departure from the council was Parks and Countryside chairperson, Alderman May Beattie. “Matt was always a highly knowledgeable and approachable officer. We really appreciate all he has done over the years,” she said.