AFTER 23 years of handing out parking tickets Kilkenny’s popular traffic warden still loves the job he does.
“It’s all about meeting the people and hearing about what is going on. I rarely get any hassle and if I do I let it in one ear and out the other and walk away,” he said.
John Christopher (or Johnny as he is commonly known) was beord in December 1957 and reared in Warrington on the Bennettsbridge Road with his parents the late Michael and Canice and his sisters Elizabeth Ruth and Benny. He still lives in the original family home with his wife Anne and they have one daughter, Colette who teaches in Birmingham.
Johnny went to school at Sheastown National School and when it closed he moved to the De La Salle and then onto the Tech in town. “I was 17 when I left school and I got my first summer job at Ormonde Motors on the Waterford Road and I also gave a stint as a porterman in the Club House Hotel and I worked for two years at the Ballyfoyle Farm Buildings. Due to the shortage of work I was let go and then got some work with PM Cantwells in the new school in Thomastown labouring and driving forklifts. I was working with a neighbour tilling when I got a letter one morning from the corporation telling me to report to the late Seamus McGuinness. I never thought I would get a job in the corporation I thought they were only for city people and I was a country boy. When I went in to see them they asked me would I do anything from sweeping the streets to digging graves and I said that I would. They gave me the job and after the 13 weeks was up they kept on extending it ,” he said.
“Then I heard that Gerry English, the traffic warden wanted to retire. Joe Gannon was the engineer in the Town Hall at the time and he heard that I was interested in the job and I got a month’s trial. I would spend half the day with Gerry English and the second half of the day with another traffic warden Johnny Lacey (who has since retired).
When asked if he considers his job to be a ‘tough one’ Johnny replies that there is ‘hassle in every job’. “I am there since 1988 so that must say something and I give out more tickets than anyone’. However the jovial traffic warden concedes that he is willing to give people a chance and does not hand out parking tickets without due consideration. “I am relaxed enough. I give people a chance and I am not waiting around corners to slap a ticket on your car. I have to live in town as well. If someone is just stopping for a minute and then moves on when they are told to they will probably avoid getting a ticket. But people parking on double yellow lines or with flashers on they are a different story. Generally I walk past first then I wait for a few minutes but if they are blocking traffic I would give them a ticket straight away,” he admits adding that is all about ‘fair play’. After over twenty years of patrolling High Street Johnny is a familiar face around the town. “I know the cars more than people by name to be honest,” he said.
The affable man had has no fear of enforcing the rules of the road and astonishingly attempted to get armed robbers to move on and park properly during a robbery at the post office in High Street in January 2009. “I injured my hand when I went over to try and stop them. I saw them walking up the street with balaclavas on them. The jeep was stopped outside Elverys. I had tried to move on the jeep but I didn’t know what was going on. It moved very slowly towards the post office and the next thing two or three of them ran out and I tried to stop one of them and they hit my hand with a gun or an imitation gun,” he recalls.
During his time as traffic warden in the town Johnny has seen many changes. “The town has changed big time. The barrier system is now in operation and there are height restrictions and there are no lorries going up and down the street during the day. There is far less heavy traffic during the day with most of it passing through early in the mornings. I enjoy the banter and I am always having a bit of a chat with someone. I hear a lot of things but I take a lot of it with a pinch of salt. It is a grand job, especially in the summer. I take the good with the bad. I don’t mind the cold but the worst is the rain. I just don’t think about it. You find yourself in all sorts of situations. A few times a month I end up changing punctures for people and I am always finding keys stuck in the boot of doors of cars. I just take them out and normally I put my phone number under the window and the owner that way,” he said. When asked if he would rather be doing something else Johnny replies no. “I love my job, I miss it when I am not working,” he said.