There are many words to describe Robert Forde, but one particular phrase comes to mind: “Outstanding is his field”.

Whether as the 16-year-old boy who first walked through the doors of No. 8-10 East Bridge Street, Enniskillen on Monday, June 16, 1976, to start his job in the typesetting department of The Impartial Reporter’s then in-house printworks, or as the gentleman who retired from the Advertising department of this newspaper on December 28 last, Mr. Forde has been outstanding in all areas of his work.

He began his career in this newspaper the week after he finished school, and remained a member of staff for 47 years – almost a full quarter of this paper’s history.

Looking back, Mr. Forde still recalls his first day: “I was nervous as they come, frightened!

“I was coming into a business where I was told if I watch myself, I will be in it for the rest of my life, and unless I did something serious bad, there was no way I was going to leave.”

Mr. Forde began his career when the former printworks foreman, Bob Robinson, approached him to see if he would be interested in a job when the pair were practicing with Ballyreagh Silver Band.

Today, page make-up is done on a computer, but back when Mr. Forde began his career, there was a team of six to seven people who manned the laborious make-up of this newspaper.

Mr. Forde recalled working with Victor Swift, Tom Piece, Albert Cluff, Tony Quinn, Dinky McFarlane, and Rodney Bleakley in Production.

“When I started, the paper was just moving from being printed here, and was then contracted out to the Portadown News.

“We used to drive the paper’s [printing plates] to Portadown, and we brought the papers back with us.

“Then they were bunched up out the back, and then they were all delivered in bundles to the bus depot.

“They were all delivered [outside Enniskillen] on the UlsterBus, and we did the ones around the town,” he added.

He continued: “We moved around as the system changed, and the system got more and more modern.

“I was in typesetting, in Production, for 32 years. I had three bosses – Bob Robinson, Albert Cluff and Tony Quinn, who was a long-time boss, and he was fantastic.”

Impartial Reporter: Tom Pierce, Dinky McFarlance, Robert Forde, Harry Miller, Trevor Birney and Tony Quinn in the

Mr. Forde has fond memories of all of those he worked for, including members of the Trimble family.

He said: “I worked for Mrs. Gant [Joan Trimble] and Diana, who were wonderful people; two absolute ladies.”

As times changed, the Typesetting Department ceased to exist when Romanas Media Group, and later, Newsquest Media Group, bought this newspaper.

However, Robert stayed within The Impartial Reporter, and after a successful interview, he then joined the Advertising Department.

“I went to Advertising sales, where June Clarke was my manager. It was a challenge, but challenge has driven me all my life, and the fear of failure.

“I didn’t like to fail. I didn’t like to get beaten at something – I liked to beat the system,” he explained.

Outside of work, Mr. Forde has “a great passion and an interest in cattle”, namely Simmental cattle.

He has won many accolades, including an Interbreed Beef Championship at Balmoral Show, and has judged cattle across the British Isles.

In addition, he has served on the British Simmental Cattle Society Council in England.

Mr. Forde says his interest in farming helped him build contacts.

“I built up great clients, and I built up our features [pages], and created features, and then we had the Farming Journal magazine started up – [the] Covid-19 [pandemic] was the demise of it, but I had great customers in it.”

Reflecting on some of the highlights from his more than four-decades-strong career in this newspaper, he said: “The happiest moments would be seeing small businesses starting up, and who became regular advertisers, and who would tell me they got an awful lot of business through advertising in The Impartial Reporter.

“I have seen many a small business in my 13 years in advertising develop into good, strong businesses, with good employment, starting from humble beginnings and growing to big businesses.”

Mr. Forde’s time in this newspaper has covered many significant events, and in his time, he has worked under six editors.

Even in his retirement, he remains “fantastically proud” of his long association with The Impartial Reporter.

Thanking his many customers from throughout the years, he said: “I am fantastically proud of my loyal client base – I had some fantastic customers, who I can’t say enough good things about.”

Now in his retirement, he hopes to spend more time in nature, whether that’s gardening or travelling, as well as creating even more memories with his wife, Lorna.

He said: “I have a great interest in nature, especially gardening, and it will use up whatever spare time I have.

“I would love to see the west coast of Ireland, and other hidden places I have never been.”

Paying warm tribute to Mr. Forde, June Clarke, Advertising Manager at The Impartial Reporter, said:

“Robert has been an exceptional and loyal colleague to all his friends at The Impartial Reporter for more than 47 and a half years.

“Having spent the past 13 years in the Advertising Department, he sold advertising packages to many, many local businesses, covering especially his beloved farming community.

“Robert was a pleasure to work with, and we all wish him a very healthy and happy retirement.”