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An Ulster Log: Why Gerald Seymour's set to bowl us all over again

By Eddie McIlwaine

As he sets his new book Vagabond (Hodder & Stoughton £14.99) in Northern Ireland, former television journalist Gerald Seymour must be thinking today of playing cricket on the flat roof of Ulster Television as he and his crew relaxed in quiet moments at the height of the Troubles.

"I kid you not," says Robin Walsh, who was UTV news editor at the time. "We both shared a passion for cricket so for a little lunchtime fun we organised games up on that roof, hard rubber balls and all, plus a hurling stick as the bat." (That very stick was found in a stolen ITN camera van after it was recovered in west Belfast).

Apparently they were keenly contested games with the likes of Gordon Burns and the late David Dunseith on the home side and Trevor (now Sir Trevor) McDonald and Peter Sissons as the opposition.

"On more than one occasion bombs stopped play, followed by a pall of smoke," adds Robin, who was president of Cricket Ireland last year. "We were able to identify the location from our vantage point up on the roof which was why, on occasion, our cameras were first on the scene."

Vagabond is Seymour's first novel to be set in the Troubles since his bestseller Harry's Game established him as a master storyteller in 1975.

It's about Danny Curnow, who works for Army intelligence as an agent and informer handler. His call sign is Vagabond. He is very good at his job, which is not for the faint-hearted. It is often dirty work and there is always a better source somewhere higher up the chain that must be protected. In these judgment calls, people are betrayed, lives are lost and families destroyed.

It's a great read, even if this Danny chap knows nothing about cricket.

It's time that I made another trunk call

Martha Anderson is puzzled today. Somebody asked her to pick up an elephant hair toothbrush for him at the chemist.

"He must have been joking," says Martha.

"Sure elephants don't have hair. I've been to Belfast Zoo to check if they did."

Which inevitably brings Martha to the stone elephant that stood above the front door of the Elephant Bar at the corner of North Street and Winetavern Street in Belfast.

And then vanished when the pub was demolished.

"Have you found it yet?" demands Martha.

Not a trace so far, I have to admit after I asked for help in tracking it down.

I know that old stone tusker is out there somewhere and I haven't given up.

Simple words of comfort

A good friend of mine has just died.

This verse may be some little comfort to his family:

'There is no night without a dawning

No winter without a spring

And beyond death's dark horizon

Our hearts once more will sing.

For those who leave us for a while

Have only gone away

Out of a restless, careworn world

Into a brighter day.'

Simple words – but mightily effective.

Davy Crockett’s Ulster lineage?

Did Davy Crockett, the King of the Wild Frontier, who was born in August 1786, have Northern Irish connections?

I've been told that his family originally hailed from south Londonderry and that there is a wall mural dedicated to this hero who was killed at the Alamo.

But I've a notion our Crocketts moved to Newtownbreda in the 1950s.

Davy, a native of Tennessee, became a Congressman in 1827 and was on his way to greatness when he met a violent end at the Alamo.

He was a frontiersman, a soldier and a politician and he hated to be addressed as Davy. He liked to be called David.

But did this Crockett have a direct descendant in Ulster?

Doggone it! Mum doesn't like you

Somebody slipped this poem called Mother Doesn't Want A Dog through my letterbox and I just had to share it with my readers.

It was written in the 1930s by American Judith Viorst.

Mother doesn't want a dog.

Mother says they smell,

And never sit when you say sit,

Or even when you yell.

And when you come home late at night

And there is ice and snow,

You have to go back out because

The dumb dog has to go.

Harry Lime still music to my ears

The Third Man movie thriller set in Vienna and shot in 1949 is hailed as one of the great movies starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton.

Well, it was alright, but I remember it best for its soundtrack music. Called The Harry Lime Theme after one of the main characters, it was written by Anton Karas, who played it as well on his zither.

Karas and his zither were in the UK charts in 1950 and I still can't get his tune out of my head.

The Third Man, directed by Carol Reid, will be screened at the Roe Valley Arts Centre in Limavady on Saturday, August 2, at 2pm. The screenwriter was Graham Greene.

The next Classic Saturday Screening at the centre is the Hollywood favourite Sunset Boulevard, starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden, on Saturday, September 6.

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