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An Ulster Log: Parachute note made Bill fall for lovely Kay

By Eddie Mcilwaine

Published 21/11/2015

Bill Eames
Bill Eames
Stage star: Caroline Curran will be performing in My Big Fat Belfast Christmas
Happy return: Jacqui Abbott will perform in Belfast next year

War time RAF pilot Bill Eames, now 92, has been reminiscing in the wake of the Remembrance season, about falling in love - never mind the danger he faced flying his Stirling bomber over hot spots in occupied France at the height of the conflict.

And Bill, who lives in Lisburn, recalls that the sweetheart he proposed to after touching down at the end of yet another successful mission dropping supplies to the men on the ground in late 1944 was a WAAF called Emily Kay who was his parachute packer.

Emily - always known as Kay throughout her service (she didn't like her Christian name Emily) - was one of the team who checked and packed parachutes for the crews of the Stirlings and Albemarles and other makes of planes which flew out of the Harwell base near Oxford.

But the parachute the girl from Blackburn prepared for Bill was the only one in which a romantic note was tucked for him to read in his cockpit as he took off.

"When I touched down after another safe return from France, I always found time to stick my chewing gum on the window of her parachute station to let Kay know I was safe," recalls Bill who has just belatedly been awarded the French Legion of Honour Medal for his war service, along with other servicemen who helped liberate France.

Once when he was injured, when his aircraft was damaged by enemy fire and he was struck by flak, Bill refused to land at a more convenient RAF base and made it home safely to Harwell where Kay was waiting.

As the Second World War moved slowly to a close after D-Day, Bill was involved in dropping supplies to troops on the ground, especially to the Airborne Division at Arnhem.

Bill was just 22 and a Flight Sgt when he met and fell in love with Kay, but they didn't get married until the war was over.

Sadly, after a happy union which lasted around 40 years and produced two children and seven grandchildren, Kay died 30 years ago.

A Nativity play that has family in a holy row

You'll remember Caroline Curran in Fifty Shades of Red White and Blue and now she's is about to pop up in My Big Fat Belfast Christmas, a seasonal comedy she and pal Julie Maxwell wrote and star in at the Theatre in the Mill, Newtownabbey, from December 1 until January 2.

It's the first time the pair of them have written together and they have come up with a bold, brash take on the Nativity Story.

It's the night before Christmas and Ma Mary and Da Joe are getting the house ready for the homecoming of elder daughter Mary and her new boyfriend Youcef - known as 'yer man'.

Meanwhile, younger sister Mags is not looking forward to the return of older sis Mary, known as Lady Muck.

The mayhem that ensues is watched over by the photo of Granny Lillian, the family matriarch who has passed away.

Caroline plays Mags, while Julie is older sis Mary. Ma Mary is played by Abigail McGibbon. Paddy Buchanan, appears as Youcef and James Doran is the Da, Joe.

The piece is being directed by talented Belfast writer and director Fionnuala Kennedy.

A reunion that brings back many beautiful memories

If you think you recognise Jacqui Abbott you aren't wrong. Jacqui was once the female interest in The Beautiful South with hits like Perfect 10 and Rotterdam before she left to raise her family.

But now she and former South partner Paul Heaton are back singing together again.

The much admired duo, who are famed for hits such as Don't Marry Her, Marry Me, will be performing at the Ulster Hall on April 12 and in Londonderry's Forum on April 13.

Appropriately one of their songs together this time is called What Have We Become?

Wisdom, Laughter and Lines is Jacqui and Paul's latest offering and their second album since the multi-million selling days of The Beautiful South, who were riding high in the Ninetiess and early Noughties.

"This new album is a contemporary production full of lyrical wit and humour, but retaining a strong social conscience that touches on the changing social landscape of Britain," says Jacqui.

Elvis had newspapers all shook up

Have you ever wondered why Elvis Presley never appeared in concert anywhere in the British Isles? He did make a brief stopover at Prestwick when his plane home from Army duty in Germany touched down on March 3, 1960.

Word that Elvis was on his way leaked and hundreds of teenage fans were there to greet him. He hadn't a clue where he was but shook hands and signed autographs while the plane was refuelled.

But why did Presley never play London or any famous theatres? Including Belfast.

My theory is that certain newspapers are to blame. There were headlines at the time demanding that Presley should not be allowed to appear in Britain and be a bad influence on British youth.

So Elvis simply stayed away.

A corner that will always be Best

The late George Best, the 10th anniversary of whose death will be commemorated next week, always enjoyed a good book and one which I know intrigued him was My Lady of the Chimney Corner.

So one of his regrets in the later stages of his career was that he never got to play even once for Chimney Corner, the club that took its name from Alexander Irvine's story about his parents and their life in Pogue's Entry in Antrim town.

So it is ironic that this afternoon while Corner are playing East Belfast in the first round of the Intermediate Cup, a Best exhibition will be staged at Allen Park (1.00pm-5.30pm), with photographs, books and magazines featuring George.

A prayer for sea men everywhere

Men who go down to the sea in ships will be among the worshippers at a harvest service in the Church of the Holy Spirit at Manse Road, Mossley tomorrow evening (6pm).

For this is harvest with a difference - a harvest of the sea service, conducted by Rector Neil Cutcliffe with Portavogie Fishermen's Choir leading the praise.

Retired tugboat man John Coulter, who is in the Merchant Navy Association (Northern Ireland branch) explains: "The church will be decorated with fishing nets, sails and pictures of the sea, the hymns will have thoughts of the ocean and we will be praying for sailors to be safe, as well as for ordinary civilians."

The standard of the Merchant Navy Association of Australia will be on parade at the service. The branch no longer exists but the standard is in the safe keeping of Mr Coulter who was made an honorary member.

Belfast Telegraph

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