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Bus-ted! How a reporter's scoop got him a telling off

An Ulster Log

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 30/07/2016

'The Ed picked up the telephone and tore a strip off the poor soul, still shaking from his narrow escape, for not being on an earlier bus on his way to an interview in Ballymena'
'The Ed picked up the telephone and tore a strip off the poor soul, still shaking from his narrow escape, for not being on an earlier bus on his way to an interview in Ballymena'
Ann Skelly
A brass plaque for the Oldpark Printworks

It was on this very date in 1960 that a double-decker Ulster Transport bus crashed into a bridge near Templepatrick, suitable only for cars and single deckers. And with passengers sprawled everywhere, a newspaper colleague of mine was landed with an unexpected exclusive.

You see, he was on the bus when the driver thundered into the overhead archway of the bridge which carried railway traffic to Antrim and Londonderry.

My friend, shaken but unbowed, found his way to the nearest phone and dictated his eye-witness story down the line to a copytaker for that day's front page of the first edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

Did my intrepid pal earn praise from the editor at the time? Not at all, the Ed picked up the telephone and tore a strip off the poor soul, still shaking from his narrow escape, for not being on an earlier bus on his way to an interview in Ballymena.

I'm not going to tell you that reporter's name. All I'll say is that in later years he went on to become one of Northern Ireland's most knowledgeable and reliable political correspondents. He is still with us and still my friend.

The bus driver who hit the offending bridge? I can't remember his name. If he is still around perhaps he will get in touch, if only to deny the rumour that he thought he was in a single-decker.

Footballer Ann rocked by television role

Only a few months ago, 19-year-old Ann Skelly was best known as a football player for Wexford and turning out for Leinster in cup matches. But even though she was a junior international football star for Ireland, Ann's first love was acting. Her dream of a career in television suddenly became a reality when she was chosen for a role in the daily afternoon crime serial Red Rock, now being screened on BBC1. She plays 15-year-old schoolgirl Rachel Reid, caught up in the mystery and mayhem of the series set in a fictional Irish village.

But football hasn't been forgotten and Ann, who last year was still a student at the Irish Film Academy, is keeping fit for the new season in September. In the meantime, Red Rock will run until October on BBC screens and she has also just been offered a role in the RTE drama Rebellion.

Hold your horses ... he hasn't been dubbed 'Sir' Jeffrey yet

An interviewer on BBC TV was wrong to address MP Jeffrey Donaldson as "Sir."

Yes, I know Jeffrey was awarded a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours. But the tradition is that he can't call himself a Sir Knight and nor can anyone else until he goes to the Palace to kneel before HM while she lays her sword on his shoulder.

I know I'm splitting hairs and some will say making a fuss about nothing, but rules are rules and must be observed.

Memories of the old printing firm based in Belfast's Oldpark area

Anyone remember the Oldpark Printworks Ltd which once employed good folk up around the Cliftonville district of Belfast?

Retired banker Alan Harty remembers it well and tells me the printing firm finally went out of business in 1961.

What he can't tell me, though, is the nature of what material the Printworks printed.

"We called it The Printies when I was a boy," he recalls, and he has kept a brass plaque, which I reproduce today, of its name to remember the hustle and bustle of the work that went on there.

Who wrote such lovely words about saying a last goodbye?

Here's a thoughtful poem that I heard read the other day at a funeral.

I wonder if anyone knows who wrote it?

When I come to the end of the road

And the sun has set for me,

I want no tears in a gloom-filled room,

Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little - but not for long

And not with your head bowed low,

Remember the love that we once shared,

Miss me - but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take,

And each must go alone,

It's all a part of the Master's plan

A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart

Go to your friends that we know,

And bury your sorrows in doing good works,

Miss me -­ but let me go.

Tale of Clabby's Wonder Donkey

Down in Clabby, Co Fermanagh, people still talk about the Donkey Derby of 1957 which was won by an animal called Oswald (strange name for an ass) whose performance was so fast and so powerful as he flashed past the winning post that he is known to this day as the Wonder Donkey of the County.

But who rode that wonder winner? Alan Harty, who was there as a Northern Banker on that special day, is wondering about the name. Was it a boy or a girl on board?

"The Clabby Donkey Derby which attracted animals, their owners and riders from all over Ireland was a huge attraction back in the Fifties," says Alan.

I was asking a couple of weeks ago how Clabby got its name, revealing that I love arriving in places with strange sounding names.

Clabby is from the Irish Clabaigh which means a place of pock-marked land. There's nothing pock-marked about Clabby's green and lush fields so perhaps someone who lives there will tell me how the hamlet came to be so called.

Mystery photograph distils questions

Cheers! Here's a mystery picture that brings back memories of Dunville's Whiskey, the drinks company that gave birth to Distillery Football Club, now based at Ballyskeagh.

Once upon a time Dunville's and Distillery shared an address in Belfast's Distillery Street where the team played at Grosvenor Park.

Which brings me to that photo which I reproduce today and which Distillery director Terry Thompson found in the archives. It was apparently taken sometime between 1900 and 1910 - but what was the occasion?

Either a group of Dunville workers on a day out or Distillery supporters returning from or going to an Irish Cup final. If you can shed some light on what was going on, never mind the passage of time, get in touch.

Dunville's closed in 1936, but there are still a few bottles of Dunville's around.

Belfast Telegraph

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