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A few notes on Richard, the man with golden flute

By Eddie McIlwaine

When flautist Richard Douglas raises his instrument to his lips at the King's Chorale Christmas concert next Saturday December 6, at 7.30pm the audience in Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in Belfast will be in for something special.

For not only will 48-year-old Richard be treating them to the sweetest of sounds - he will be doing so on a 14 carat gold Japanese Miyazawa flute made specially for him by an instrument maker called Yamamoto.

"I was working for a company which sold Yamamoto's flutes, and after he heard me playing one of them he went to the trouble of making this one just for me," says Richard.

"He liked the sounds I was getting."

So Richard has been playing his Miyazawa on special occasions like this King's Chorale gig, where the conductor will be Mark Spratt.

By the way, this Miyazawa flute is valued at £18,000, which just goes to show the regard manufacturer Yamamoto has for Richard.

The musician, who's married to barrister Lindsay Boal, with whom he has two children, was invited to play with King's Chorale after secretary Paula Trimble fell in love with the way he rendered O Holy Night at a concert in Bangor Castle.

"I will definitely be playing O Holy Night again at Fisherwick," promises Richard, who teaches flute at Sullivan Upper in Holywood, as well as being a performer much in demand.

Magic moment for panto star Jayne

It will be like coming home when the actress with a sweet singing voice, Jayne Wisener, steps on stage at the Grand Opera House in Belfast as Princess Jasmine in the pantomime Aladdin, which will run until mid-January.

For as a little girl, Jayne was a regular in the stalls when her parents brought her to see shows at the venue.

"I grew to love the theatre," says Ballymoney-born Jayne, now 27, an old girl of Coleraine High School.

In 2005, she represented Antrim in the Rose of Tralee, but it was while she was performing in a youth production of West Side Story at the Millennium Forum in Londonderry, that she was spotted by a talent scout, who asked her to audition for a part in the film version of Sweeney Todd, in which she eventually got the role of Johanna, even though at 19 she was four years older than the part dictated.

"I always look younger than my years so I got to play Johanna," Jayne explains.

She is delighted to be appearing in Aladdin with May McFettridge and Paddy Jenkins, two of her favourite comedians.

Parachute hero who set records for free-fall

RAF Squadron Leader Jake McLaughlin, who has died at 83, was a skilled parachutist who in his time carried out tests on ejector seats for combat aircraft at a branch of Martin Baker, one of whose plants was at Langford Lodge on the Lough Neagh shore.

Once, when he was a dispatcher in a Fairfield C119 aircraft, he saved the life of a soldier whose static line became entangled with his equipment as he jumped. Jake immediately seized the man, who would have fallen to his death, and held him with one hand until they were hauled back inside.

McLaughlin, born in Co Laois in the Republic, joined the RAF as a 17-year-old after finding the Army recruiting office in the same street closed.

He was such a natural parachutist that he was quickly promoted as an instructor and wound up in the celebrated RAF Falcon Display team, where he set world records for free-fall jumps.

Altogether, Jake made 1,213 jumps during his career, from 59 types of aircraft. As C.O. of No 58 Squadron he served in Belize and also in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, where he had an affection for RAF Aldergrove, where his photograph in jumping gear hung.

Jake McLaughlin, whose wife Betty died 10 years ago, is survived by two sons.

Talking shop about good old days

A charming lady called Mildred Bass will be delighted to learn today that there has been a response to an appeal she made here in my column for former workers in Charlie Burke's shop in east Belfast.

Evelyn Betts (nee Jordan) and her sisters Sadie and Lily were employees there and Evelyn knew Mildred's mother Eileen Seaton, who also served behind the counter of the shop in her time.

Mildred would love to have a get-together with surviving Burke's store folk to talk about old times.

Just for the record, Burke's place closed down several years ago and Charlie is long dead.

Alcove should take centre-stage

Every time I take a seat in the Grand Opera House circle I have to pass an alcove and I always remark that it looks a little bit deserted and lonely (can an alcove in a theatre be lonely?).

And I wonder what could be done to cheer that alcove up. What about a picture or two or even a statue of some celeb who played on that Opera House stage in Belfast? The alcove I'm going on about is the one on the left of the circle though there is another alcove on the right side where the feature is a bust of Frank Matcham, the impresario who had this theatre built more than 100 years ago. Why not a bust of someone special in that alcove on the left?

Branch out for 250th celebrations

A Festival of Christmas Trees is coming to a head at St Patrick's Parish Church in Broughshane today (noon-8pm) and it isn't just to celebrate the Yuletime season. 

You see St Pat's - where the Dean of Connor, the Very Rev John Bond is the rector - is about to celebrate its 250th anniversary and the festival will launch that big occasion.

There will be plenty of market stalls, lunches and teas at the event and an opportunity to gaze upon some beautiful decorations in this parish of Skerry, Rathcavan and Newtowncrommelin.

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