A special event was held at the weekend to mark the retirement of one of Derry’s best known youth workers.

Brendan Wilkinson has been involved with Pennyburn Youth Club for 48 years.

Former youth members joined Brendan’s family and friends at an celebration event in the Magnet Bar on Friday night to recognise the positive role he played in so many young people’s lives.

Tributes were paid to Brendan at the event for his commitment to young people in Derry and, in particular, the Pennyburn area of the city.
Brendan was born in Killea in Donegal.

Brendan’s father, Willie, was from the Lecky Road and his mother Martha Deveney was from Killea.

The second eldest of 11 children, he moved to Derry with the rest of the family when he was a young boy.

Brendan attended St Patrick's Primary School in Derry.

After leaving school at 14, he worked in the former BSR factory in the city for two years before serving his time as a bricklayer.

He worked as a bricklayer for several years but came across his true calling in 1966 when he started volunteering with the Pennyburn Youth Club.

At that time, the club was based at St Patrick's Primary School and Brendan helped out with the athletics coaching two nights per week.

He later got a job as a playground leader with the North West Council of Social Services, a job which saw him playing a leading role in developing play facilities in various areas of Derry.

In 1975, was appointed as full-time youth worker to Pennyburn Youth Club which had moved to its current base beside St Patrick's church.

He became one of a team of four youth workers at the club under the leader-in-charge, the late Gerry O'Kane.

Since then, Brendan has played a key role in providing activities and guidance for young people from throughout the Pennyburn area.

In 1991, he developed a programme in the club for disabled and non disabled members which received a major award.

He was recognised for his efforts in youth world in 2011 when he was awarded an MBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

At the time, Brendan said he was shocked at the honour.

“I thought it was some kind of joke. I didn’t realise what I had done to deserve an MBE,” he said.

“I’m just an ordinary, working class man from Derry who loves working with young people.”

A spokesperson for the management committee of Pennyburn Youth Club said Brendan would be sorely missed.

"He was empowered young people to follow their dreams," the spokesperson said.

"Brendan has encouraged many young people to got to university and up to six young people from the club have become youth workers and are now in full-time positions across the city, England the Republic of Ireland.

"He is a role model parexcellence.

"The committee, staff, current and past members of will never forget what Brendan has done for them and the Pennyburn community as a whole.
“We would like to wish Brendan good health to enjoy many years in his retirement.

"He will be sorely missed and will definitely be a hard act to follow."

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email [email protected] or [email protected] at any time.