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An Ulster Log: Lulu's back in town, with an accent on her audience

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 03/10/2015

Star role: Rachel Tucker will be appearing in Wicked

Much-loved singer Lulu will have a special treat for her Belfast audience when she plays the Waterfront Hall next Saturday.

"I'm going to greet them in their very own accent," reveals the lady from Glasgow who will be 67 on November 3.

"I've always loved the way the folk in your city talk - it's a bit like the Glasgow way with words. I've enjoyed it since my first time singing there when I was only 15. Back then I was intrigued by the way the youngsters pronounced their Lulus."

And Lulu, real name Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie and a granny twice over, promises she will stroll into the Waterfront spotlight on that Saturday night and call out to the packed stalls and balcony: "Hey, what about ye Belfast?"

"I'm practising your Belfast way with words, so that I'll have it right on the night," adds the star, whose hits down the years included The Boat That I Row, To Sir With Love, Boom Bang-a-Bang and Relight My Fire with Take That.

Lulu will entertain the folk at the Waterfront with all of the old favourites and will also sing tracks from her latest album Making Life Rhyme - especially one called Cry, which is currently her favourite.

She wrote Cry and all the other songs on the album herself.

Lulu once had a fling with George Best in the Sixties when they were young, free and tasting early success.

"We were both lonely in spite of the great things that were happening to us," she says.

"And the loneliness brought us together.

"Besides, I definitely enjoyed George's Belfast accent. We had a brief and innocent time together. I went to see him play for Manchester United and he came to my concerts. It lasted several months simply because there were a lot of parallels in our lives. Of course, I loved him. What was there not to love about George?"

Lulu, who married twice, first to Maurice Gibb and then to John Frieda, who is father of her son Jordan (37), is making her first visit here in 10 years. She also appears at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, next Sunday and the Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny, on October 13.

Witch star is heading to the West End? Why it’s Rachel

Just like me, Andrew Lloyd-Webber was mesmerised by Rachel Tucker singing The Way We Were on the BBC talent series I’d Do Anything.

I always knew Rachel was going to be a star — I’d been telling her the fairytale would come true when she was appearing with her Tucker Family group.

Now Rachel (33) is justifying my faith in her by appearing on Broadway, the second time around, to reprise the role of witch Elphaba in the Gerschwin Theatre in the musical Wicked.

I’m chuffed her career has blossomed, especially after she gave 1,000 performances of Elphaba in the West End. I’m not surprised that theatre critics have described her as the most exciting new voice to transfer from the West End.

The day Ray was man in the middle at Twickenham

There was an Ulsterman in the middle of the park the day England beat the Wallabies for the first time at Twickenham on February 1, 1958.

And celebrated referee Ray Williams is still going strong — just turned 91 a few days ago — and still with his wife, Freda (89), to whom he has been married for 64 years, by his side, says their son, David.

The Duke of Gloucester made it a right Royal occasion that afternoon 57 years ago as England won 9-6 and Peter Jackson scored a try fans talk about to this day. In a distinguished career, Williams refereed 21 international matches — a world record — and his style on the pitch is still as big a talking point as that Jackson try for England.

In fact, in his day, Raymond was the most respected ref in rugby. But he took up the whistle almost by accident.

“He was asked to take charge of a match involving North one Saturday in an emergency when he was only young,” says David.

“That was how being an official started for him. Tennis was his other great love. He joined the Windsor club in Belfast and, in 1946, was Ulster hardcourt champion.”

Ray Williams had a reputation, too, as a tennis umpire and was on duty at a King’s Hall tournament which included players such as Billie Jean King.

Bobby's ball now in Wayne's court

I'm delighted that Wayne Rooney has beaten Bobby Charlton's goalscoring record.

There are those who will say that nobody embodies the values of Manchester united better than Bobby Charlton (right) but I, for one, have always found him a difficult man to talk to.

These are landmark days for Wayne Rooney. He's now in his 12th year at Manchester United and is still seemingly an integral part of Louis van Gaal's attacking corps.

But here's a thought: should penalty kick scores count on the way to a record number of goals? Spot kicks are easier to convert than goals from outfield, obviously. Rooney has scored six times with penalties so far while Bobby got three.

There's life in that old apple yet

An apple a day keeps the doctor away is an old saying our favourite greengrocer Daniel Arthurs has been reviving. And now scientists are agreeing with the man who keeps Crumlin village and south Antrim supplied with fresh veg.

The boffins claim to have found a chemical in apple peel that slows down ageing. I've just ordered a stone of apples from Daniel to test their theory. Apparently this wonder fruit rejuvenates tired muscles in just a couple of months. I wonder if Petula Clark, now 82 and still looking good, is on an apple diet? By the way, if you fancy munching an apple or two to get young again, be careful not to pick up green cookers that are only used for baking.

Belfast pub had visitors tee'd off

The experience of 10 London golfers, here to play our courses and sample our culture, makes a mockery of John McGillen's hopes for the future of Northern Ireland tourism.

The 53-year-old head of the industry envisages it becoming a £1bn business employing 55,000.

The visitors, aged between 32 and 70, and all professional people, were subjected to verbal abuse in a well-known city centre pub just because of their English accents. So they drank up and left.

Sadly, Mr McGillen appears to blame the Press for some of this kind of naked bigotry.

But it wasn't all bad. They wound up in the Crown Bar where they got a very warm greeting indeed.

Belfast Telegraph

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