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An Ulster Log: My warm and happy portrait of a great lady

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 08/08/2015

Much-loved artist Lady Coralie Kinahan
Much-loved artist Lady Coralie Kinahan
Amy Harper from Belfast who auditioned for a main part in the play WestSide Story and out of 100 she was selected.
War service : Matt Cameron

Much-loved artist Lady Coralie Kinahan, who has died aged 90, once told me how much she detested obituaries.

"Obits are sad and cheerless," she insisted. "If you write about me when I'm gone, do it as a tribute of warm and happy thoughts and words (but only if I deserve them)." And then, after a pause, she added: "If you go first which is unlikely, I'll say something nice about you."

Coralie, from the old established de Burgh family of Kildare which also claims singer Chris de Burgh, never got the opportunity to do me the honours and I'm sad she is gone.

It's an honour to write an appreciation of her and I'll keep a promise I made once upon a time to this lady who was married to the late Sir Robin Kinahan, the last of the aristocratic Lord Mayors of Belfast and a former Lord Lieutenant of the city, for nearly 50 years. Which means keeping my tribute as warm as possible which is what she truly deserves.

Lady K is being cremated in England and her ashes brought home to be scattered in the woods at Castle Upton which she loved. There will be a memorial service in St Patrick's Parish Church, Templepatrick on September 1.

Never mind her dislike of obituaries, Coralie didn't like the word "widow" either and you won't find it in a book she wrote called Behind Every Great Man about her family and his. Away from her easel she wrote at least one novel, and another of her tomes was You Can't Shoot The English, a history of Northern Ireland, circa 1966, three years before the Troubles erupted.

But it was as an artist that Coralie excelled and it was her paintings that brought us together at Templepatrick's Castle Upton, where the Kinahans lived from 1963. I loved to write about her and her artistic temperament. One picture, looking out over Belfast Lough with the towering Harland & Wolff cranes featured, is my favourite.

I had my 12-year-old daughter Zara with me on one visit and Lady K persuaded Zara to sit for her. The resultant portrait went out on a few exhibitions and then its artist delivered it personally to my home.

And the picture of Zara, now an adult, hangs on the wall of my drawing room to this day.

Take some time out and go see Amy

Amy Harper (22), who will be appearing in The Red Velvet Cabaret at The Mac in Belfast next Friday and Saturday, will be reviving a song first made famous by Mae West.

The young woman from the east of the city will be performing a song called Guy What Takes His Time at the gigs, where she will be the support act to Peter Corry.

The song was a showstopper once upon a time for legendary actress Mae (1893-1980) and was revived a little while back by Christina Aguilera. In part, it goes ... "A guy what takes his time, I'll go for any time/I'm a fast movin' gal who likes them slow..."

A wee bit naughty? Perhaps.

Amy, based in London, is home to work with Peter.

Ballymoney pays tribute to Battle of Britain brave

Two Battle of Britain heroes, Flight Lieutenant Robert Stevenson Cromie and Flight Sergeant Matt Cameron, will be remembered at a ceremony in Ballymoney next Saturday and Sunday, in aid of charity.

Organised by the town's First Presbyterian Church, the Portrush Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association, Ballymoney Museum and the Royal British Legion, the event will also pay homage to other RAF airmen who gave their all in the Second World War.

And as a feature of this special day, the Ulster Aviation Society's replica Spitfire will be present. It's just like the legendary aircraft that led the fight in the air against the Nazis all those years ago. The Spitfire will be on show along with wartime artefacts and military heritage vehicles.

Both Cromie, a medical officer with 615 Squadron, killed in August 1940 during a Luftwaffe attack on his base at Kenley, and Cameron, who served with 66 Squadron at Coltishall at Duxford and survived the war, are buried in Ballymoney Cemetery.

Cromie was a native of Ballymoney and a graduate of QUB.

Bleary drum up even more success

Bleary and District Pipe Band, Co Armagh, who will be on parade at the Belfast Tattoo in September, have done it again and retained the Grade 2 Scottish championship at Dunbarton. 

What a season it has been for Bleary and their drum major Brian Wilson. The band have already won the Grade 2 British Championship, come third in the European Championships and taken first in a Craigavon event. They are now heading to the World Championships in Glasgow next month with high hopes.

In Dunbarton, Brian Wilson, who will be heading up the Belfast Tattoo on September 4 and 5 for the third year, was awarded first place in the senior drum major section.

Oh, what a web they weave ...

Never kill a spider, even if it's threatening to climb all over the bath just as you're stepping in. Spiders have a liking for hiding out in the bath, I'm told by Annie Mills, of Glengormley. She quotes this verse to me as a kind of warning: "If you wish to live and thrive,  let the spider run alive."

According to Annie, a spider protected the infant Jesus during the Flight into Egypt. Legend has it that during the journey, the family took refuge in a cave and a spider wove a thick web of protection across the entrance.

If a spider drops on you from its web on the ceiling, chances are you'll be mentioned favourably in somebody's will. Or you might win the Lottery.

Trevor's volunteering recognised

You have to hand it to Trevor Monteith, who refuses to let his age be a deterrent.

Trevor is 80 and a volunteer with Carrick Gateway Club.

He has been honoured with the Unsung Hero title in the first regional Lloyds Bank Foundation Charity Awards for his hard work helping others.

Five other charity workers will be going for national awards: April Dalzell, from Dundonald Sea Cadets (Against the Odds Award); Caroline Lynch, Learmount Community Development (Valuing Volunteers Award); Meabh Austin, Council for Homeless NI (Enterprising Collaboration Award); Kerry Boyd, Autism NI (Championing Change) and Christina McCallion, of Foyle Search and Rescue (Outstanding Impact).

Belfast Telegraph

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