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How Anne beat Vera to become the first 'Forces Sweetheart'

By Eddie McIlwaine

Songwriters Walter Kent and Nat Burton were super-optimists when they put together the lyrics of The White Cliffs of Dover just after the Battle of Britain in 1941.

Here's what they wrote:

There'll be bluebirds over

The white cliffs of Dover

Tomorrow

Just you wait and see

There'll be love and laughter

And peace ever after

Tomorrow

When the world is free.

If you look at their verses today and observe the state of the world, with trouble everywhere, you can only smile - grimly.

I mention the ballad now after recalling in a previous Log that the 'Forces Sweetheart', Vera Lynn, recorded it in 1942 and turned it into a huge hit.

I remember The White Cliffs of Dover for personal reasons. As a little boy, my aunt, Sadie Boyd, home on leave from the WRAF for whom she had served in dangerous places, sang it to me on her knee in our parlour at Carnmoney. I've always remembered the line "And Jimmy will go to sleep in his own little room again". Jimmy, of course, was a soldier who would be coming home when the war was over.

But I have to tell you that Vera Lynn, now a grand Dame and 100 years old, wasn't the first Forces Sweetheart of the Second World War.

That honour went to the late Anne Shelton, who used to sing Lay Down Your Arms and her favourite, Lili Marlene, and many wartime hits to the troops at the front.

Anne, who died in 1994 at the age of 66, began her career singing in her school uniform with the Albert Ambrose Orchestra on the old BBC Light Programme.

"It saved me from being evacuated out of London during the Blitz," she once explained.

Three years after the war, Anne was chosen ahead of Vera and others to join soldiers and airmen on the 1948 Berlin airlift, during which the USA and the UK flew food and fuel to Berlin from bases in West Germany after Russian forces enforced a land blockade of the city.

She always loved singing about the bluebirds flying around the Dover cliffs, but Anne once explained on a visit to Belfast that seagulls were her personal favourite birds.

"One day, on a trip to the countryside, I watched a mighty flock of seagulls pecking in a meadow. It was a beautiful sight, which I've never forgotten," she said.

Jacinta prepares to rise from the Ashes

Everything will turn to Ashes when diva Jacinta Whyte, from Dublin, arrives at the Grand Opera House in Belfast in August.

You see, Jacinta will be starring in the musical version of Frank McCourt's unforgettable book, Angela's Ashes. It's the emotional story of an Irish childhood, which, in book form, won the Pulitzer Prize for its author.

Jacinta has the part of Angela in the run, which opens at the Grand Opera House on Tuesday, August 1 for a week.

"This is a dream role, which will have the audience in tears one minute and splitting their sides the next," she tells me.

McCourt's book is the story of his own escapades in 1940s Ireland, held back by a drunken father and a tired-out mother and a group of pompous priests.

Who was real-life Lucy Jordan?

Is The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, Marianne Faithfull's version of which is back in favour, the saddest pop song ever written?

Miss Faithfull will tell you that is going a bit far - although she agrees the lyrics will take your breath away.

It's the story of a housewife, driven mad by the boredom of cooking, cleaning the house and all the other chores, who finally cracks. The song was written by Shel Silverstein in 1974.

Here is a verse:

At the age of 37

She realised she'd never ride

Through Paris in a sports car

With the warm wind in her hair

So she let the phone keep ringing

As she sat there softly singing

Pretty nursery rhymes she'd memorised

In her daddy's easy chair

Her husband he's off to work

And the kids are off to school

And there were oh so many ways

For her to spend her days

She could clean the house for hours

Or rearrange the flowers

Or run naked through the shady street

Screaming all the way.

Why Mike's a good bet for Strangford

For my sins, I probably won't bother to vote at Thursday's General Election, but I will be having a bet on one seeker after a seat at Westminster.

My tip is Mike Nesbitt, former Ulster Unionist Party leader, who I feel in my bones will make a fairytale comeback by snatching victory in Strangford. (Although, just be cautious - not many fairytales happen in politics here.) You'll get reasonable bookmaking odds on Mike, who will be going flat out to prove he's still a political force.

And, sure, if he doesn't win the seat, he can always bid for a bit-part in his favourite soap, Emmerdale.

In Strangford, he's worth a fiver of my money.

He and I once upon a time occasionally shared a Press box at Windsor Park, where he was a witness when I turned up at one match wearing odd Hush Puppies, one black and the other brown.

To be fair, here are the other candidates he's up against: Kellie Armstrong (Alliance), Ricky Bamford (Green Party), Joe Boyle (SDLP), Claire Hiscott (Conservatives), Carole Murphy (Sinn Fein) and Jim Shannon (DUP).

Rooster named after Stanley Matthews scored with hens

Never underestimate the pet that shares and brightens up your life.

The runaway romance of sheepdog Blake and lamb Bella reminds me of the handsome rooster that used to share our dinner table in Carnmoney - much to my mother's disgust - when I was a boy.

I bought him for six old pence as a day-old chick in the pet shop at Gresham Street in Belfast.

He even perched on the back of an empty chair at meal times - much to my mother's embarrassment.

One evening, she could stand no more of his company and ordered me to lock him in the henhouse overnight.

And the plan certainly worked. Stanley, as I called him after footballer Stanley Matthews, emerged from the henhouse next morning, crowing with new-found joy.

I have a soft spot for politicians... 34 million miles away to be precise

Did my hearing deceive me or did I really hear a young lady on the wireless explaining how she is in training to go to Mars?

Apparently, it's going to take her seven months once she and her astronaut colleagues get a strong enough rocket to power their spaceship.

I don't doubt her sanity for a moment. If the 34 million-mile trip becomes a reality, I'd like her to persuade a couple of politicians I know to accompany her.

Spiders can cure boils? That's an old wives' tale with legs

There is an old Irish legend that the webs and bodies of spiders figure in traditional cures.

For example, if you suffer from a bad cough, jaundice, or boils, a cure is to wear a dead spider in a matchbox round your neck until you are better.

You'll look a bit odd out shopping, or at church, but who cares if health is restored?

And if a spider drops on your shoulder from the ceiling, you could be quids in.

You might even win the Lottery, or back a winner at Ascot.

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