A career of firsts – working in a mail environment
LAST POST Cavan’s first post woman retires
From cycling in a skirt to being one of the only vans on the road throughout a global pandemic, Maria Waters looked back on her career as Cavan’s first ever post woman. She retired last Friday after over four decades of service and ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
Determined from a young age, Maria started working in Kells doing telegrams when she was aged just 17 years. On her 18th birthday, she got the choice of working as a post woman in Naas, Drogheda or Cavan. She chose the latter.
In 1980, it was somewhat unusual for women to work outside of the home. While Maria was pulling on her father’s An Post cap, many were at home cooking and cleaning.
“I was a bit of a tomboy,” she laughed.
“Back in that stage, if you were working in the bank and you got married you had to leave,” she explained, adding that it was the same for telephonists.
Being the only female in the sorting office, Maria recalled it felt “very strange at times”.
However she remembered being treated respectfully. When she first began her job at An Post, the men would hold the door open for her. This lasted for about six months, after which time she was considered “one of the crew”.
Like everybody else on the team, she delivered cards and bills around Cavan Town on foot in all weathers. After two years, she moved up to “half walking, half bicycle” serving the Tullacmongan, Highfield Road and Swellan areas. At the time, there were only bikes suitable for males with “high bars” so Maria had to order one specifically for her.
“I progressed from that to a van,” she said, explaining she did her bicycle run in the mornings and then collected mail from post offices around the county afterwards.
She then delivered post in the Ballyhaise-Drung area for 16 years before delivering to Kingscourt, where she has remained post woman for the past 26 years.
Maria remembered when the first official uniform came in, which consisted of a skirt and a jacket.
“They’ve come a long way with the uniform, especially for females,” she said, remembering the “horrible blackie navy” material the original uniform was made from.
“Wet gear wasn’t a thing back then either,” she recalled.
Keeping on the topic of firsts, Maria described what it was like working on the front line during the pandemic, delivering many parcels and checking in on people six days per week.
“You were the only one people saw,” she said.
Email taking over
“Back in the day, we would have been very busy with letters and cards.
Over the past 10 to 15 years she has noticed “email has taken over”.
As the mother of three and grandmother to six reminisced on her 43 years working for An Post, it was evident the fondness she had for her job, the people she worked with and those to whom she delivered the mail.
“I’ll miss the camaraderie, I’ll miss working with my work mates, I’ll miss my people that I’ve known for 26 years.”
“There’s been births, deaths, marriages, divorces, everything,” she said.
“It was a pleasure working in the job, being the first female it hardened me up over life.”