Our wishes for a happy New Year
As 2014 draws to a close, Una Brankin asks five well-known local people about their highs and lows of 2014, and what they're looking forward to in 2015.
Former Apprentice winner Dr Leah Totton (26) managed to save someone's life in 2014 - in a London tube station. The Londonderry-born beauty guru was heading home after a meeting with her boss, Sir Alan Sugar, when she noticed a diabetic man collapse from potentially fatal hypoglycaemia, and rushed to clear his airways. Leah says:
People know me from The Apprentice, but I am a qualified doctor with experience in emergency medicine, so I'm trained to deal with situations like this. The moment I saw this man, I could tell he was unwell - his face was grey and sweaty - and when I saw him collapse, I did the natural thing and went to his aid, and raised the alarm with some policemen nearby. I was just doing what I was trained to do and feel grateful to have been in the right place at the right time and able to help.
Overall, 2014 has been an exceptional year for me. I opened the doors to our flagship London clinic on my 26th birthday, January 22, 2014, and I'm delighted to have had a hugely successful year. We have just employed an additional three members of staff, launched a laser division to the company and been nominated for two national awards.
On a personal level, I have enjoyed treating thousands of clients. I have learnt a lot about business from my mentor and business partner, Lord Sugar, and I have kept up my academic work, undertaking a masters in dermatology and continuing my medical research.
I am very excited for 2015 - we will become the first UK clinic to launch a new anti-ageing facial treatment, which will lift and firm the face, at our London clinic from late January. We are also launching Dr Leah under-eye cream in autumn 2015 , which is the fruit of the scientific research I have been involved in for several years - our waiting list for the product is already looking fairly long!
It's been great spending time with my family at home in Derry over Christmas and I'm really looking forward to New Year with them as well. It is my favourite time of year and as I have not had a break at all this year, it will be lovely to relax back at home after such a busy time.
John Linehan and his hilarious alter-ego May McFettridge are currently celebrating their 25th consecutive year in the panto at the Grand Opera House in Belfast. Married to Brenda, the couple live in Belfast and have two grown-up daughters. He says:
The best thing about this year has been having my knee back to normal and being able to do the panto with no pain. After the replacement operation two years ago, I'd be in agony on stage, but with all the physio this year, I've been able to get back to playing golf and that has straightened me up and put the bad leg back in sync with the good one. Mind you, the other knee will need to be replaced at some stage eventually; it's starting to make noises.
I've been celebrating with a few beers after the golf so any weight that came off on the Fortwilliam fairways went straight back on in the clubhouse, but I feel great. After my last trip to Africa with the Children in Crossfire charity, I did five full rounds of golf in six days - I was tired after that but not sore.
Getting the dressing room named after me in the Opera House and the bronze bust put up in the Grand Circle this year was a lovely gesture. I never, ever would have thought 25 years ago I'd still be doing this. I remember my good friend Gene Fitzpatrick doing the panto the year before I started, and saying "Never again - all those shows would kill you".
We've two shows on New Year's Eve but they're back-to-back, which is good, and I have the energy for them this year. My wife Brenda and I are hoping to get a wee break in January - we haven't been away for years because of my bad leg and in previous years I was just delighted to get into bed after the panto. Before any holiday, though, I'm doing a short tour with Jimmy Cricket, which starts 10 days after the panto ends. I'm looking forward to that, though.
Then the next thing, we've to get the garden done and the house painted for our daughter Kerry's wedding in August. We've relatives coming from near and far for that. And after that, I'll be starting to think about the next panto. I'll be back if they have me.
U105 presenter Maurice Jay (46) has seen his popular breakfast show go from strength to strength this year. After a well deserved Christmas break at his home in Holywood with his partner Deirdre and his sons Evan (7) and Reilly (5) by his ex-wife Sam, Maurice is hoping to repeat his show's success and have a US holiday in 2015. Maurice says:
I waited so long for the birth of the boys that just seeing them growing up healthy and happy has been the best thing about 2014 for me. They've had good school reports and they're doing very well at golf. Steve Crooks is teaching them at the Holywood Golf Club. I got back into golf this year, too - as a kid I was taught by Rory McIlroy's coach, Michael Bannon, before Rory was even born. I gave up after he came along! But I've had a few lessons over the last 25 years and it's been great to get back into it with the boys.
I have them with me this year over Christmas. On New Year's Eve we all stand in front of the TV when it's the stroke of 12 in Australia or New York and take a selfie, and pretend we've rung in the new year in Times Square or somewhere exotic. Then we'll watch Jools Holland's Hogmanay Hootenanny.
Career-wise, 2014 has been good. We've had good ratings for the show and hope to keep them up next year. It would be nice to get a holiday in 2015 - we haven't been away for a while and I'd love to go to Disneyland in Florida with the boys.
On another note, we've been building up such a good vibe in our arts and culture scene in Northern Ireland over the past few years so it's sad to see all the cuts in funding coming on board. I'm supporting the "13p for the arts" campaign but there has to be some entrepreneurship along with state funding to keep it alive.
I don't usually make any New Years resolutions - I'm a bit boring! I just wish for health and happiness, especially for the next 15 years to see the boys growing up.
The Maurice Jay Breakfast Show is on U105, Monday to Friday, 6-9am
Leading make-up artist Paddy McGurgan opened a new make-up store in Newry's Quays shopping centre this year, to add to his renowned flagship on Belfast's Royal Avenue. Despite a hectic schedule beautifying celebrities and top models, Armagh-born Paddy will continue to dispense brilliant advice right here in his Weekend beauty column every Saturday in 2015. Paddy says:
I had an absolutely brilliant year. The best thing has to be that I was asked to be main artist at Paris Fashion Week for an amazing Dutch brand. It was a wonderful experience for myself and the girls from the store that came along. The second best thing would be my baby sister's graduation from the University of Ulster in Coleraine. I'm so proud of her.
I like to spend New Year's Eve with friends, catching up. As for New Year's day, I have a late, late family dinner and sit for ages around the table. My New Year resolutions are to book out the time to travel more and see more of the world. I've been so busy recently, holidays have gone by the wayside.
Of course, 2015 will be a very exciting time for me personally. I have lots plans for Make Up Pro Store and just can't wait to get it started.
Writer and producer Leesa Harker (37) almost died in 2014, but she made it to the opening night of her hit one-woman play Dirty Dancin’ In Le Shebeen during a gruelling course of chemotherapy for breast cancer. Leesa will be ringing in the New Year at home in Belfast with her daughters Lola (6) and Rexie (4). Leesa says:
I had a wig on for the opening night of Dirty Dancin’ in the Grand Opera House in Belfast — it was right in the middle of the chemo and I thought I’d never make it, so it was great to be there with all the family and celebrate its success. That was a massive highlight of 2014.
I was very tired the next day and was hospitalised for a week. I had a bad reaction to a different type of chemo they were trying and nearly died. I was very seriously ill — my heart was struggling to beat. I was basically poisoned by the chemo, so it was great to have had that window to see the opening of the show.
Chemo is harder on women my age than it is on children and older people. I’ve had joint pain and fatigue; it takes your body a while to adjust to such a harsh medical regime but I feel fine now, really good. I’m still on hormonal medication — my cancer was hormonal — but it’s purely preventative.
I always stay at home on New Year’s Eve; I was never one to go out. The taxis are too expensive and there’s too much hype. I prefer being at home with the kids. We’re all in bed well before midnight and I like to lie there listening to the ships’ horns going off in the docks — I’m a weirdo! Living close to the city centre, I can hear the fireworks, too.
The New Year’s busy for me. I’ve Slimmer For Christmas on at the Theatre at the Mill at Newtownabbey at the minute, then Maggie Muff ’s back to where it all started at the MAC in Belfast, from Tuesday January 13 to Sunday 26.
I don’t really make any New Year resolutions — I don’t believe in saying I’m going to lose weight and go to the gym. But there’s one thing I’ve learned from 2014, and that’s not to sweat the small stuff. Those things don’t matter when you have to face a life-or-death situation.
When you have cancer, you always have a small percentage of doubt for your recovery, no matter what you’re told. What if the treatment doesn’t work? So you just don’t worry about the stupid, menial things any more. When I’d the chemo all finished, the doctors said “just get on with life”, and that’s what I intend to do.
- Dirty Dancin’ in Le Shebeen is at The MAC, Belfast, from January 13-25. For details, visit themaclive.com
Ballymoney beauty Rebekah Shirley was stunned to be crowned Miss Northern Ireland 2014 in May this year. The 18-year-old put university on hold for the year while carrying out her duties. She is singles and live in Ballymoney. Rebekah says:
This has probably been the best year of my life so far. The two big things have been winning Miss Northern Ireland back in May and recently taking part in the Miss World pageant.
The Miss World competition meant I spent nearly a month in London and even doing that was brilliant as I’ve never even been to London before. Miss World was very different from Miss Northern Ireland as it’s such a big pageant. We got shown all the sights and went on bus tours around the city. We also got to see Phantom of the Opera in the West End and we even got to see an Oxford debate. It was full-on but I loved it.
People think that backstage at these events there’s a lot of animosity and girls don’t get on but it’s not like that. For both Miss World and Miss Northern Ireland the girls are like one big team and very supportive of one another. We all got on so well and I really enjoyed meeting people from all over the world.
The best thing I’ve done so far as Miss Northern Ireland was the ‘jailbreak’ to raise money for the Northern Ireland Hospice. I was only in Crumlin Road Gaol for a day but I know people are still donating money, which is brilliant.
For me, the first half of 2015 will mean finishing off my term as Miss Northern Ireland. You think a year is a long time, but there has been so much to do I can’t believe I’ve already done half of my term. It was a big life change but I’ll never forget it and I hold it very close to my heart. I want to make the most of my last few months in 2015 before handing over the crown.
Once my term is over I’ll be heading off to Northumbria University to study media production. I’ll really miss being Miss Northern Ireland but I’ve already enjoyed it so much so I have no regrets.