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Pain behind Bridie Gallagher's song revealed in son's book

An Ulster Log

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 17/10/2015

Bridie Gallagher
Bridie Gallagher
Guilty pleasure: Love Story, starring Ali MacGraw, was a hit in the US and UK

There were tears in eyes everywhere when favourite diva Bridie Gallagher sang A Mother's Love's A Blessing. For in 1976 her son Peter Livingstone, just 21, was killed in a motorbike accident. So Bridie, who first recorded the ballad 20 years before the tragedy, had a poignant reason for laying down tracks for a new version.

Now, Bridie's other son, Jim Livingstone, has written a book about his mum's glittering career and how she recovered from her great loss and carried on in showbusiness.

It's titled Bridie Gallagher: The Girl From Donegal and will be in the shops next week from the Collins House of Cork, priced £17.99.

But the Bridie hit that I loved most of all and can still enjoy is It's A Sin To Tell, a pop song which gets a mention in one of Jim's chapters.

Bridie, wife of the late Bob Livingstone, came to Belfast from her home village of Creeslough in Donegal in 1948 as an aspiring pop singer. However, it was as a singer of folksy Irish ballads like The Hills of Donegal (naturally), Glenswilly and The Whistling Gypsy that made her a household name around the world, appearing in theatres like the Sydney Opera House, London's Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall, New York, always billed as "The Girl from Donegal".

"No matter where she travelled mother was devoted to Donegal," says Jim, now 62, and a retired civil servant. "She was in hospital with a broken hip once and was delighted to find on the wall above her bed, a picture of a beach called The White Gate close to where she used to live. She loved this beach dearly and spent a lot of time there. What a coincidence that a picture of The White Gate was at her bed in the Royal Victoria - it cheered her up no end."

Bridie, whose other recording that charmed her public was The Boys From The Co Armagh and one of her own favourites in a long career that she launched as a teenager in a Creeslough community centre was The Homes Of Donegal.

She died in January 2012 at 87 and Jim pays wonderful homage to his mother and her memory in the new book.

Love Story remake will fulfil Erich’s dying wish

I learn from Hollywood that plans are afoot to shoot a modern version of the mighty romantic film Love Story which, of course, was the screen take on the bestseller by the late Erich Segal, who died five years ago last January at 72.

It was Segal’s wish before his passing that Love Story should be filmed over again, although he had no problems with the original starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal back in 1970.

There are folk out there who don’t like to admit they have read the touching tale by this classics professor about the poor girl student who falls in love with the son of a rich businessman and then dies of leukaemia. It grabbed the heart of America and the UK both as a book and a movie.

The Segal line from the printed page and the film that everyone remembers is “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. Segal also wrote the screenplay for Yellow Submarine and became a pal of the Beatles.

Critics have dismissed Love Story as banal, but I reckon Love Story is on everyone’s secret reading list. What other books can you name to join Segal on that list?

Margaret’s in tune with service for fallen heroes

Soprano Margaret Keys, the singer whose voice is described as warm and loving, will be the guest soloist at the British Festival of Remembrance in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast on Saturday, October 31.

She will be on stage at this poignant event with the Pipes and Drums and Band of the Royal Irish Regiment.

It will be even more emotional than usual when the Service of Remembrance takes place, for this year sees the 75th anniversary of several Second World War battles in which so many died.

An evening of reflection and camaraderie is anticipated as Margaret sings all the old wartime hits that brought the people so much comfort in those blackout years, supported by the soldier musicians.

Margaret, a former school teacher who found her real vocation and success in song, is a Londonderry lady who says it will be an honour to pay homage to all the victims of the war from both Northern Ireland and all of Ireland.

Day I walked out on a Friel play

I fear today that I'm in a minority of one who wasn't impressed by the plays of Brian Friel whose passing has created a wealth of tributes from around the world. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I would have run a mile rather than sit through a Friel drama.

In fact, I once walked out of one of his plays in the Grand Opera House, Belfast. He was too serious for me. Or was it the truth that I wasn't bright enough to appreciate what was up there on the stage?

The man was private. I once spotted him in a Donegal hotel - where he was sitting alone in the lounge - and approached him for a chat, only to be told politely I was intruding. Ah well, I didn't appreciate his genius but I don't expect he read my columns either.

The affair with a twist in its tale

I was intrigued by the apparently true story of the loving wife who was devastated when she found out that the husband she adored was cheating on her.

So she decided to take her life by jumping out of an upstairs window of their home.

However, she landed on her husband, just out of the front door, killing him instantly. She recovered from her injuries, married again and lived to a ripe old age.

The story appears in the second book by journalist Sam Leith called Sod's Law (Why Life Always Lands Butter-Side Down) published by Atlantic Books at £7.99.

It says on the flyleaf that the first book did terribly.

It's Miller time at the Waterfront

Another gig to remind us of the war is the visit to Belfast's Waterfront Hall on Sunday, October 25, of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, conducted by Ray McVay.

It's going to be a nostalgic concert of music of the Second World War and wartime chart toppers, including St Louis Blues March, Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug, Tuxedo Junction, In The Mood, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Pennsylvania 6-5000 and String Of Pearls. Classic hits celebrating the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra's birth will be on the menu. The orchestra will perform the second half of the concert in uniforms of the US Army Air Force.

Miller was at the height of his fame in 1944 when he was lost in a small plane flying to France.

Belfast Telegraph

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