I WAS in Belfast city centre last week for the first time in three months. I was to meet a 'returned Yank', a man who has returned to these parts after nearly sixty years in USA. I was told he had two hours to spare.
SOME things happen by chance. In 1985, two men, one from Japan and the other from Donegal, were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for the discovery of the anti-parasite drug ivermectin. That was in 1978, but it was a few years later before the two men met.
So another year has passed. It was a year that will not readily be forgotten. Islamic State extremist attacks in Belgium, France and Germany, the destruction of Syria, the ongoing refugee crisis and the rise of the right wing vote throughout Europe, the fallout from the Brexit referendum in June and the election of former Apprentice host, Donald Trump, as US President and leader of the so-called free world are just a few of the events which few of us could have foreseen.
Belfast born artist John Lavery married Kathleen McDermott in 1889. Shortly after the birth of their daughter Eileen she died of tuberculosis early in 1891. In September 1903 while painting on the beach at Peg Meil in France he was introduced to Hazel Martyn, a 17-year-old who was accompanied by her mother and sister. Hazel fell in love with Lavery but her mother didn’t see him as a suitable partner since he was “a mere artist” – the Martyns were from Chicago and extremely wealthy – and was more than twice her age. She whisked her away to Paris and contacted Dr Pierre Trudeau a young New York doctor who was an admirer. Three days after Christmas they were married. They had barely settled into their apartment in Park Lane when Trudeau developed pneumonia and died leaving Hazel to give birth to their daughter the following October. Clandestine contact between Lavery and Hazel resumed and when she returned to Europe in July 1905 to the health spa at Malvern Wells he visited her and painted her portrait as “A Woman in Black.” Her mother was still opposed to the friendship and insisted on a six month separation. She brought Hazel to Rome and was delighted when she fell for a secretary at the US Embassy named Leonard Thomas. A second marriage was quickly arranged but Thomas jilted Hazel.
JUST before the start of the GAA Championships it is customary for the President or one of his acolytes to call a press conference to gravely inform the public that the Association are determined to eradicate foul play. Last year we were told that referees were going to concentrate on “cynical fouling” which was a “matter of grave concern” and referees wouldn’t hesitate to produce black cards.
I’m quite sure that Belfast-based teacher Finbar Carolan and his colleagues John Sullivan, Eamon McGirr and Gerry Burns never heard of Seamus Sutcliffe or Francis Johnston. Yet they all had a connection to one of the momentous events in Ireland in the twentieth century.
AS WE head to the final quarter of 2016, I have to say I’ve always felt that a year only starts when St Brigid’s Day has come, and it has all but ended when the All-Ireland football final has been played.
BILLY Gillen was impatient. You see, it was the day of the All Ireland hurling final and Billy, as usual, had a ticket for the match. Having arrived at Central Station at 8.30am he found there was a queue stretching out to the street. One of the ticket booths was unmanned and one of the two ticket attendants seemed to be conducting a go-slow campaign. When Billy reached the platform there were two trains bound for Dublin, one on each side of the platform.
Patrick McKeown was born on March 16, 1854 and, as was the custom in those days of high infant mortality, he was baptised the following day, St Patrick’s Day, in St Michael’s Catholic church near Dromara, Co Down.
On the morning of Tuesday, March 11, 1873, crowds of people made their way to Lower North Street. They went there to see the damage done by fire to the Alhambra. The Royal Alhambra Music Hall, probably Belfast’s first, was opened in 1871. In two short years it was playing to full houses every night of the week with the bars doing great business.