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The evening Glenn Millar wowed Ulster congregation

By Eddie McIlwaine

It will be 73 years in August since legendary Second World War bandleader Glenn Miller sat down at the organ of Gartree Parish Church on the shore of Lough Neagh, near Crumlin village, and treated worshippers to his version of hymns like Abide with Me as well as many of his hits, including In the Mood.

Glenn had made time during a trip to nearby Langford Lodge, an American Army base during the war, to visit the picturesque place of worship which was where the soldiers and airmen who were far from home came to pray.

The little pedal organ, whose ivories Miller tinkled, is still there and played on special occasions in the Gartree church - which is getting a new rector, the Rev John McClure. The organ is now looked on as a valuable collector's item, but the parish will never part with it.

August 11, 1944, the date of that memorable stop-over by the famous bandman, will be recalled tomorrow at the annual Glenn Miller Festival in Clarinda, Iowa, where he was born in 1904.

"We are delighted that Glenn's time in Northern Ireland and especially at Gartree is still remembered," one of the festival organisers,Des Withers, with connections in Drogheda, tells me. "We know he had an affection for the church and its people."

Before he left that summer evening with his swing orchestra to entertain other military at the old Plaza ballroom in Belfast, Miller was emotionally moved by a young local singer who stepped on to the improvised stage at Langford and sang Danny Boy.

Glenn, impressed by this youthful balladeer, made him a promise they would meet again when the last all clear was sounded to talk about building a professional career in show business for him.

Alas, it wasn't to be - a few months after leaving Northern Ireland the aircraft carrying Glenn on a flight to Paris in December 1944 disappeared in thick fog.

There has been speculation that it could have been shot down by friendly fire but fault with the engine is thought to be the most likely reason for the crash.

All three people on board died and no bodies or wreckage were ever recovered from the English Channel. Glenn was only 40 years old. The worshippers in Gartree, aware of the Glen Miller Festival in Iowa, will be thinking of their famous wartime guest when Abide with Me echoes out again at tomorrow's service.

Lucy's Corrie storyline grips viewers

The electrifying performance of actress Lucy Fallon is captivating Coronation Street viewers as she plays the role of innocent 16-year-old Bethany who has fallen under the spell of a much older man grooming her for evil deeds.

This is Lancashire lass Lucy's first major role in one of the Street's most shocking storylines.

Everybody is talking about Lucy(21) as Bethany and the dangerous, manipulative Nathan (Christopher Harper) whom the young girl thinks she loves and who she believes loves her in return. It's no understatement to say Nathan is currently the most hated character in television.

Lucy, whose parents Andrew and Angela Fallon are watching their daughter's performance, won a Best Newcomer plaque at the Inside Soap Awards last year.

She took advice from the NSPCC before shooting some of the current scenes.

"There are important issues being aired in this story and I hope young people watching Corrie will become aware of them," she says.

Politicians aren't like lemmings

A politician in Belfast once compared his critics and opponents to the lemming. I cannot recall his name but I'd love to tell him he did the little rodent an injustice. 

You see, I've done some research and found out that the lemming is highly intelligent and lives well in the Arctic and Norway where it encounters and deals with all kinds of weather.

How many politicians of your acquaintance could you describe as highly intelligent?

The lemming, sometimes mistaken for the muskrat, is about six inches long with soft fur and a short tail and refuses to hibernate even in the harshest of winters.

This little creature is a solitary animal.

Males and females only come together to mate and then go off on their lonely way again. One misconception about this courageous little rodent - it doesn't commit suicide by jumping off cliffs.

This daft idea was mistakenly formed in an early 19th century board game called lemmings which did indeed have them leaping to their deaths.

Is there peace at end of the rainbow?

It was so moving that singer Ariana Grande closed her One Love concert in memory of the Manchester bomb victims with a sensitive version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

The song was written by Yip Harburg for Judy Garland to perform in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Judy as Dorothy turned that ballad into a massive hit.

But she had some telling words to say too in the storyline that are so appropriate now after the terrible terrorist atrocities which occurred in Manchester and Manchester.

At one stage Dorothy, wondering if there is a place somewhere out there where there isn't any trouble, turns to Toto and asks: "Do you suppose there is such a place Toto? There must be.

"It's not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. It's far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain ..."

Memorable words that kind of sum up the feelings after the Old Trafford cricket ground gig that would never have taken place if there wasn't serious trouble all around us.

Why my swing vote hinged on candidate with most courtesy

So who did I vote for in the general election?

It was an easy decision.

I scratched my X next to the name of the candidate who shut my garden gate as he left after dropping his card into the letterbox at my home.

All the other candidates who called at my home in the hope of getting my vote left the gate wide open, swinging in the wind.

The one that I opted for was the tidiest and best mannered of an unimpressive bunch.

He may find it ironic that he swung my support by making sure that my gate didn't blow hither and thither in the breeze.

Just goes to show that if you show constituents a bit of respect, you can prosper.

So, did he top the poll in my constituency?

I haven't bothered to check yet.

I know who I blame for the lack of humour on this TV panel show

You'll be glad to know that I'm no longer a grumpy old man. In fact, summer has brightened up a wee bit in recent weeks.

And it's all down to The Blame Game ending its run of juvenile humour and childish nonsense on BBC One last week.

In the final programme, which I only watched by accident while waiting for a phone call, Liverpudlian John Bishop was a guest. He forgot to bring an interpreter so I couldn't make out a word.

The Blame Game is described as a comedy chat show. But the panellists don't chat, they shout one another down.

Bring back Roy Walker, former host of Catchphrase, please, for some real humour.

How worshippers overcame absence of official preacher

The guest preacher failed to show at a parish church I know well last Sunday.

But worshippers were determined to carry on without him.

Volunteers from the pews read the lessons and the church warden said the prayers and took charge of the formalities.

And even the hymns were as tuneful as on any other Sabbath.

Everybody there was in good spirits when the service came to an end.

Which begs the question: in this day and age when clergymen are in short supply do we really need them at all?

Perhaps that's a controversial thought, but on an odd occasion the absence of the ordained preacher may not be the calamity he would imagine.

After all we manage to praise the Lord in our own ways for the rest of the week.

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