Part-time soldier retires after 40 years in the TA; Eileen, 61, finally hangs up her uniform.
MERSEYSIDE'S longest-serving Territorial Army soldier has retired at the age of 61. Eileen Halliday, of Sunbery Road, Anfield, joined the TA forty years ago.
Last night she said if it were not for her time as a volunteer soldier, she would never have met her husband, travelled most of Europe, or filled her mantlepiece with copious medals.
The mother-of-one who works as a night-shift carer at St Joseph's Hospice in Crosby, started out operating the TA's telegraph system in her holidays, and in recent years moved up to train new recruits.
Yesterday she retired from the TA on the last day possible - the day before her 61st birthday.
Normally, TA members hang up their uniforms at age 45, but Mrs Halliday has moved to different squadrons and carried on serving all over Liverpool.
She said: "I have done so much since I joined the TA - I've travelled to Germany and France.
"When I was younger I ran marathons for the TA.
"I learned skills I wouldn't have otherwise and have worked in many different areas doing a bit of everything, really.
"I've met some really lovely people from all walks of life and made some life-long friends."
Mrs Halliday joined the TA when she was 21, shortly before her brother Harry Heatley became a member.
She said: "My father was in the TA and it always looked like fun. I even met my husband in the TA at a social event when I was 25."
Mrs Halliday and her husband Robert, 64, have an adopted daughter, Deborah Halliday, who, after completing her PhD in medical science, is due to marry this year.
The Merseyside woman who was born in Ireland said: "My husband used to mind my daughter when I went away with the TA and because I had my family I didn't think about joining the army.
"I also get a lot of enjoyment from my civilian job at St Joseph's Hospice."
After spending 30 years in Liverpool's 59 Squadron, Mrs Halliday then moved to the Liverpool University Officer Training Corps based in Mather Avenue, Liverpool, where she worked with students looking to join the army.
Mrs Halliday said: "I have really enjoyed all my life in the TA, but particularly looking after the young students.
"I have seen many students join the TA while they're at university and go on to join the army afterwards. It's lovely to see them learn and develop."
Captain David Hurdof the LUOTC said: "If Eileen isn't the longest serving TA member in the country it must be pretty close.
"She is an absolutely amazing person and we really are going to miss her.
"Eileen has a heart of gold and is such a caring person. She has worked wonders with the younger members."
Eileen's brother Harry, of Blantyre Road, Wavertree, is a sergeant major for the TA.
He said: "Eileen was a telegraph operator in the TA for many years and went on to become a sergeant, but she took a step down so that she could continue serving and training new recruits.
"Considering people normally stay in the TA for 22 years, this is a big achievement."
Mrs Halliday said that while she has hung up her uniform for the last time, she would encourage anyone to get involved with the TA.
She said: "I would advise anyone to join the TA. It was a great thing to do and the people at LUOTC have been amazing."
Eileen Halliday, longest-serving female member of the TA, with her brother Harry' Eileen Halliday pictured 20 years ago with her brother Harry Heatley Picture: TONY KENWRIGHT