Tributes have been paid to “a legendary man of Donabate” on his retirement as local postmaster after 33 years of public service.

Dad-of-eight Neil Smith was surrounded by family and friends at a gathering in Keelings pub as the community turned out to thank him last Wednesday.

Neil (75) will be remembered as the face behind the post office counter and for running The Emerald Shop which was the heartbeat of the village for many years.

Paying homage, Cllr Adrian Henchy (FF) said: “As someone who was born and reared in Portrane, now living in Donabate, Neil was a constant presence in my life as a close friend of my father and my late mother.

“I recall growing up on the peninsula the very close bond and friendship between Neil and Patsy McGarrity, the station master of Donabate Train Station.

“In so many ways Neil and Patsy were the eyes and ears of our local village.

“Not only did they know everybody, they knew everything that was going on and nothing got past Donabate Railway Bridge without the nod from Neil and Patsy – two unique and special characters.

“Neil will be greatly missed around the village and in our local post office.”

Manchester Utd fan Neil was one of the original organisers of the Mini Euros on Portrane green. He was also a keen GAA player in his youth and is a long-standing member of Donabate Golf Club.

He was also one of a group of community volunteers who came together in the late 1980s to push for a community centre and has spent decades supporting the parish council, community organisations and sports groups.

After moving to Churchtown, Neil kept up the daily commute to his beloved Donabate and has no intention of severing ties with the peninsula now he has retired.

He told Dublin Gazette: “I’ve seen a lot of comings and goings over the years and it’s grown from a small village to a busy town.

“The send-off took me a bit by surprise but it was lovely to see so many familiar faces.

“There were people there who I hadn’t seen for years; old customers of the shop before the post office was even there.”

A modest Neil was joined by his children Paul, Patricia, Nigel, David, Leandra, Sinead, Andrew and Michael at the bash along with his partner Joan and sister Ellyn.

The presentation of a cake in the shape of the post office brought laughter and applause.

He admitted: “I will miss it, but I’ve a few plans. A nice quiet Christmas with family and then maybe a few holidays. I might travel the world a bit at a time, who knows?”