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Colm Cusack
I never let it hold me back


Colm Cusack, who is best-known as the smiling face welcoming all and sundry to Destined’s offices, worked in factories for most of his life, before becoming house manager at Princes Street.

Colm, who’s now 64, grew up in Creggan where he still lives with his brother and sister-in-law.

“We’ve lived at 17 Melmore Gardens since I was about four. We were a happy family growing up.

We used to play football - I wasn’t good but I enjoyed playing. It passed the time. We also played cowboys and Indians.  In my family there are three boys and three girls, and they would all look out for me.

“I was about fifteen years old when I learned I had learning disability. I’d been to St Eugene’s [primary school], where I got on well. Mr Duffy was the principal. And Danny McLaughlin, who was a teacher there, lived across the street from me. He was a good neighbour. I was never bullied at school.

“My mother didn’t know there was anything different about me till I left school. The doctors diagnosed me. It was a bit of a shock, but I didn’t let it hold me back.”


Shortly after leaving school, Colm was involved in a bad accident, when he was exploring the abandoned Foyle Hill hospital, close to his Creggan home.

“I was up there messing around, when part of the wall from in between the windows fell on my foot. It was very serious; I was in Altnagelvin Hospital for three weeks, and they sent me to a hospital in Belfast for a skin graft. Even now, part of my heel isn’t flat and I wear different shoes. I won’t be doing that again! The people in the hospital were good to me. There was a young woman, a patient of about fifteen or sixteen, who would come in to talk to me and make sure I was all right.”

After he recovered, Colm enrolled in a workshop for people with learning disabilities, based on the Northland Road.

“I did a lot of things there, like making wire hangers for coats in the dry cleaners and stapling shirt collars and straps. No one really picked on me. They were good to me, and I could look after myself.”

After a brief placement with Diamond Corrugated Casings in Pennyburn, Colm then got a full-time job in the United Technologies factory in Creggan.

“I worked on the machines cutting wire harnesses for the Ford Motor Company. I was there for nineteen-and-a-half years. It closed in 1997. I enjoyed it there. It was good craic. Sometimes they would slag you off, and I would give it back. I wasn’t treated differently. I was treated just as one of the workers I was happy with that.

“We would sometimes get up to mischief. Like when someone was going to get married, we would cover them in eggs and flour - nothing too bad. The supervisors were good to me, like when I was bad with asthma they let me off for six weeks. That gave me time to recover.”


Outside work, Colm led a very quiet life. He didn’t socialise with his co-workers, nor did he visit pubs.

“I didn’t have a girl friend, but a girl asked me once. I refused because it involved a third party. I like a girl to ask me directly. But she asked someone else to ask me.”

Even today, Colm rarely goes out at night. He doesn’t like the dark and worries that the town has become a bit dangerous. “Someone might come over and give you a thump. I have only been to bar once or twice. I am happy to stay out of them.”

After United Technologies closed, Colm tended to stay at home, where he would indulge his passion for rug-making. He still sends away for kits and makes the rugs himself. He also enjoys word puzzles and watching TV, with CSI Miami top of his current list of favourite shows.

Six years ago, however, he became involved with Destined and soon discovered his new vocation.

“I would be the funny guy in Destined. They would be lost without me. I am also the house manager. I go and buy the stuff that is needed and keep the place clean. Sometimes I would tell other people to do stuff.

“I also open up the centre and welcome people. And if any women come in, I give them a hug and a kiss! I like my job in Destined.

“I spend a lot of time in Destined. I sometimes slag off the staff, and they slag me back but nothing too serious. They are very good and supportive.”

As a younger man, Colm had ambitions to become a security man but never got to do it.

“I haven’t any qualifications. But I sometimes do courses at Destined, like computers. In fact, I am working my way through three courses at the minute - chips, peas and gravy!”