JOINING the Army at the age of 18 was the best thing he could have done, reckons Brighouse postman Dave Woolley.
“I was brought up in Rotherham and working for the Gas Board but I was a typical lad really. I had started getting into a bit of trouble, nothing serious, but it could have escalated if I hadn’t decided to go down to the recruiting office and sign up. I never looked back,” said Dave.
He served in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment for 22 years and travelled all over the world. He saw service in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Germany and Gibraltar and went on exercises to Puerto Rico, Canada, Hong Kong and many parts of Europe. “I have a lot to thank the Army for. I went to some amazing places and made some good friends. It was like one big family and it was a good life.”
Dave is a familiar face on the streets of Brighouse. He has been a postman for more than 20 years, since leaving the Army, and he knows the town like the back of his hand. He retires in May when he is 65 and turns his back on 4.30am alarm calls.
“The past two winters have been a bit difficult, with all the ice and snow, but on the whole I’ve loved the job. I like being out and about and most people appreciate what we do, getting the post to them day in day out.”
But though he plans to hang up his postman’s bag in the spring, he certainly won’t be retiring his running shoes. When he left the Army and settled into ‘civvie street’, he found he soon put weight on.
“When I got to more than 16 stone I knew I’d have to take myself in hand. I saw a notice appealing for people to take part in the Great North Run in 1999 and I thought I’d give it a go. I started training in May and by the date of the race in October I’d lost three stone and developed a real taste for running. The atmosphere on the Great North Run is fantastic and there’s such amazing support from the crowd.”
Since then Dave has taken part in numerous Great North Runs and raised thousands of pounds for a variety of charities. Recently he joined Halifax Harriers and has started training with the beginners group.
“Running is part of my routine now. I usually go out two or three times a week. Some mornings walking downstairs is a bit difficult but once my knees get going it’s fine!” he said.
Macmillan Nurses, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Help for Heroes are among the charities which have benefitted from Dave’s flying feet. Last year he was pleased to raise his largest amount - £700 - for the Army Benevolent Fund, a charity close to his heart. Dave has kept up links with the Army - he is chairman of the Halifax branch of the Duke of Wellington’s Regimental Association and a member of the Huddersfield Veterans’ Association.
He has also raised money for Take Heart, the charity for Yorkshire Heart Centre, after a health scare last year. “It turned out I had an irregular heart beat and that I needed an operation. I kept putting it off because I was terrified of having a major operation - then they told me it could be done with keyhole surgery!”
Dave’s wife Rona is an equally familiar face in Brighouse. She was a hairdresser in the town for a number of years and also worked at Bearder Solicitors. The couple decided to settle in Rastrick during the final months of Dave’s Army career which he spent working for the TA in Huddersfield. They have two children - Tracy (‘TJ’) and Mark who lives in Holland.
“I never looked back once I joined the Army. They say ‘once a Duke, always a Duke’ and it’s true - I enjoyed every minute.”