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Why 'C' change couldn't stop tragedy hitting shipping line

An Ulster Log

By Eddie McIlwaine

Exactly 150 years ago, in 1867, shipowner Joseph Fisher set up business in the port of Newry with his sons, Joe jnr and Frank, and they established a quaint way of giving their vessels names.

Shipping magnate Fisher, a native of Kilkeel, called his schooners after trees and flowers and also named them after villages and streets, I'm reliably informed by Butler Armstrong, who enjoys researching ship owning in his native Co Down.

But after a shipwreck tragedy involving the Clanrye - named after a local river - which sank in the Irish Sea in 1886, with the loss of her nine crew, names with the letter 'C' were avoided.

The Fisher family had ships on the high seas with names like Jasmine, Rowan, Broom, Ebony and Oak. Joe even had a ship called after himself. The Joseph Fisher was built in Paisley in 1896.

However, the avoidance of the letter 'C' didn't prevent a further tragedy.

In April 1937, a Fisher vessel called Alder was rammed by the Lady of Cavan in thick fog in Carlingford Lough. The skipper, Robert Campbell, and his wife were among six people lost when the ship sank in just 10 minutes.

Campbell and his crew at first thought there was no immediate danger, but the skipper of the Lady of Cavan believed differently and offered them the chance to clamber aboard their ship - only to have it declined.

When the Cavan reversed her engines, the damage became apparent and the Alder began to list.

Water rushed in through the gaping hole in her side and she sank, taking all aboard with her.

Whatever happened to the Joseph Fisher Company - once the largest seagoing business in Newry?

Butler Armstrong and I would love to know.

Patsy's on the ball in Bobby Moore biopic

Actress Patsy Kensit looked nothing like this when I first set eyes on her.
She was just four years old and had found a kind of stardom in a Birds Eye peas commercial.

Now, as a grown-up, Patsy has been playing the fiery mum Betty Dean in the drama series Tina and Bobby, which concludes on ITV on Friday.

In Tina and Bobby - the story of the life and times of football legend Bobby Moore, who captained England to World Cup victory in 1966, and his first wife, Tina - Patsy emerges as mother to Tina, the troubled childhood sweetheart of the footballer (The couple divorced in 1984).

After a spell in Emmerdale, Patsy joined Holby City, but she left in 2010 to spend more time with her family. She has been married four times, and one of her ex-husbands is Liam Gallagher of Oasis.

In Tina and Bobby, Tina is played by Michelle Keegan, once of Coronation Street, and Bobby is Lorne MacFayden (ex-Granchester). The drama is based on a book by Tina.

Bobby Moore died in 1993, aged 52.

The evening I was toasted for rescuing Princess Margaret

Lord Snowdon, or as I first knew him, Tony Armstrong-Jones when he was married to Princess Margaret, has died at 86. He was a society photographer in his day and a good friend to journalists as he proved one afternoon in 1963 when the couple were on a visit to plane makers Short & Harland in Belfast.

Somehow Margaret took a wrong turn away from the official party touring the works and was lost down a long passageway. I came to her rescue and guided the princess back to her husband's side.

Later in the evening when the official part of the visit was over and Margaret was elsewhere he sought us reporters out for a drink and a chat. He was that kind of chap and we appreciated what he did.

The couple had two children during their 18-year marriage. Margaret died in 2002.

It looks like a case of booking early for new Christmas panto

Christmas always comes early at Belfast's Grand Opera House.

Or to put it another way this year's annual Yule pantomime at the theatre has already been booked. 

It will be Peter Pan and believe it or not, 8,000 tickets have already been sold for the production. That's 28% of the total.

Just shows how popular panto is.  

Peter Pan opens on December 2 on a run into January next. 

And immediately after the final curtain comes down the theatre, soon to be 125 years old, is closing its doors so that renovations and a spring clean can be carried out.

Maybe next year they will put on Cinderella so that she can tidy up after the builders leave.

A fascinating glimpse into the life of an illustrious diplomat

Historian S Alex Blair returns to Ballymoney Town Hall on Wednesday (January 25, 8pm) to talk about the life and times of Lord Macartney of Lisanoure, Loughgiel.

In his day His Lordship came face to face with and engaged in conversation with notables such as Catherine the Great, The Empress of Russia and the Great Khan of China.

He was one of the most illustrious British diplomats of his day and his life is sure to be a great talking point.

He coined the immortal phrase that Britain controls "a vast Empire on which the sun never sets".

Lord Maccartney died on May 31, 1806.

Mr Blair will also give talks on different topics on Wednesday,  February 22 and on Wednesday, March 22.

Fascinating tale of purple reign

Way back in the third century BC, the colour Tyrian Purple was all the rage. It was achieved by mixing the liquids found inside two different kinds of shellfish. Around 250,000 of them were cracked open to make a single ounce of dye. This made it so expensive that one Roman emperor had to tell his wife he couldn't afford to buy her a Tyrian dress.

Or so I'm told in a new book called The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair (John Murray, £20), who explains that colours have been crucial to humans throughout history, governing everything from our body clocks to the names of our countries.

For example, Argentina comes from 'argentum', the Latin for silver, of which Argentina once had large reserves.

I loved the chapter on a colour called Baker-Miller pink. In 1979 two officers at the US Naval Correctional Centre in Seattle mixed a pint of red paint with a gallon of white and used it to redecorate the cells, whereupon the violence that had previously plagued the centre disappeared overnight.

There are a few jails around the UK whose cells could do with a coat.

So, who was singer Peter's muse?

The love song that touches a nerve with me every time I hear it is Where Do You Go To (My Lovely). But when I asked its writer, Peter Sarstedt, the name of the beautiful woman he was singing about, he replied: "The lady is whoever you want her to be." And he has just died, aged 75, without revealing the name of that mystery female.

Was she real, I wonder. An ex-lover who had given him the push? I like to think that Sarstedt had his first wife, Anita Atke, in mind when he sat down to write the sensitive verses way back in 1966.

However, he wasn't saying when we met briefly in Dublin once upon a time - although Anita, from Denmark, whom he married in 1969 (the year Where Do You Go To was a hit), claims to this day that the girl Peter called 'Marie-Claire' is really her.

They were divorced in 1974 and Anita later married a surgeon.

"Anita says my song is all about her - and she could be right," Sarstedt confided to me.

No matter who the mystery female is, Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) captured the hearts of romantic souls like me - and still does.

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