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Why no one can hold a candle to my pal, birthday boy Denis Tuohy

By Eddie McIlwaine

Man of many talents Denis Tuohy is taking a break from his acting, broadcasting and writing careers to keep an important date in London.

He is off to the Big Smoke to be wined and dined by his four children - Mark, Chris, Eleanor and Catherine (and 10 grandchildren).

The occasion? His 80th birthday is tomorrow. The party is scheduled for next Sunday, April 9 in Richmond upon Thames, where he lived for 20 years.

Denis, who now resides in Rostrevor and has been a favourite face and voice for more years than he cares to remember, will be seen soon on Irish language station TG4, playing a prosecuting barrister in an episode of documentary series Fir Maru agus Gra (Men, Killing and Love), centred around a trial at the Old Bailey.

His scenes were filmed in English, the voice-over is in Irish, as well as interviews with gardai and journalists, but there are also English interviews. The programme is also subtitled.

It's going to be a busy spring for this thespian and journalist, who shows no signs of putting his feet up.

He will be remembered for his hit UTV series The Troubles I've Seen, which he produced and presented, featuring the recollections of journalists who reported the Troubles.

Denis performed the opening ceremony at the James Ellis Bridge recently and points out that he and Jimmy had been friends for 50 years.

"As an actor, I was in his Over The Bridge and I'm probably the only survivor from the original production.

"At a rehearsal for an episode of RTE's Fair City, I could see other actors trying to work out where they'd seen me before.

"One of them came up to me at coffee time. 'Tell me,' she said, 'didn't you used to be Denis Tuohy?'"

I think about Tuohy every time I hear that Elton John song Candle in the Wind (he wrote it in tribute to Marilyn Monroe).

You see, back on April 20, 1964, Denis was the first face seen on new BBC TV channel BBC2 after an unkind power failure had wiped out the original screening.

Next evening, Denis famously walked into shot, lit a candle on a table and, as the studio lights went up - after he had blown out the flickering flame - went on to host a programme called Line-Up. Viewers loved the way he smiled mischievously into the camera just as the candle was doused.

Sally Ann's Alice bound for Opera House

Members of the Salvation Army will be gracing the Grand Opera House with their presence next week, when one of their very own stars in Belfast Operatic's production of the musical Jekyll and Hyde.

She is Salvationist Alice Johnston, the primary school teacher wife of Keith Pyper, who is also in the Sally Army.

Alice plays Emma Carew, just one of the two love interests of baritone Karl McGuckin, who is both Jekyll and Hyde in the show, which opens at the theatre for a week on Tuesday, April 4.

She has been with the company for 10 years and is an established favourite with theatregoers and fellow members of the Salvation Army. Karl's other love interest is Lucy Harris, played by 18-year-old Emma Martin in her final year at grammar school and planning for a professional career in showbusiness.

Away from rehearsals for Jekyll and Hyde, Emma has just found time to pass her driving lesson.

Another spring concert is happening at Belmont Presbyterian Church on Friday, April 7, with Belfast Phoenix Choir on stage (7.30pm). And next Saturday, April 8, a spring concert featuring King's Chorale with Mark Spratt conducting will take place at Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in Belfast (7.30pm).

Pianist Ivan hits the right note

Classical pianist Ivan Ilic is bringing his stark and gently mournful performance to Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart for a matinee performance tomorrow (2pm).

Ivan, who began his piano studies aged just six, now holds degrees in music and mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, and he studied at the Conservatoire Superieur de Paris, where he took a Premier Prix in piano performance.

He has performed throughout America, Europe and South America, including concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York, Wigmore Hall in London, Dublin's National Concert Hall, Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto and the American Academy in Rome.

In recent years, Ilic's approach has broadened in scope. He acted in two French short films, Luc Plissonneau's Les Mains and Benoit Maire's Le Berger.

His articles have been published on the websites of Gramophone and he has also co-produced several radio programmes for Swiss Radio.

His Flowerfield concert will feature Beethoven, Chopin and Hadyn.

Dodgems bump horses off top spot

The dodgem cars are taking over from the horses at Ballyclare May Fair, which runs this year from Tuesday, May 23 until Saturday, May 27.

There will still be horses for hire and to buy at this event, though, which was first held in the town way back in 1756, but not in great numbers.

"The amusements are still a mighty attraction at the fair, even though they are now situated in a car park close to Dixon Park, the home of Ballyclare Comrades," says Joe Cullen, the 67-year-old Londondonderry businessman, who has been organising the swings and roundabouts there for the past 34 years.

"But everything changes and horse trading is no longer the main attraction.

"Bumper cars - another name for the dodgems - are number one on the amusement popularity list, along with the Yellowman sweet delicacy. The fair wouldn't be the same without Yellowman."

I have an affection for the fair in Ballyclare. One of my claims to fame is that I once graced the turf of Dixon Park as a member of a Ballyclare High School team in the final of a grand fair football competition.

There's too much 'fake news' to bother with April Fools' Day

This is April Fools' Day, in case you didn't know, so watch out. Although I can tell you that this occasion of practical jokes and hoaxes is waning in popularity.

There's just too much "fake news" out there in the real world for folk to deal in silly pranks in this day and age. I'm glad All Fools' Day, as it is also known, never became a public holiday.

It all began in 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII invented the Gregorian Calendar to replace the old Julian one, thus changing New Year's Day to January 1.

But many people either refused to accept the new date, or forgot about the changeover, and continued to celebrate New Year on April 1.

And, naturally enough, this obstinate and absent-minded lot were made fun of for years.

I've copped on now with regard to Portland Avenue's nickname

I was puzzled about the nickname of Portland Avenue in Glengormley being "the police escape". Now, Lowry Murray, of Ballyclare, has come up with an explanation.

According to Lowry, the police station, way back when, was on the corner of the village's Hightown Road and locals with something on their conscience used Portland Avenue as a route which avoided then passing the cops.

Sounds reasonable enough and the tag has stuck - even though the police station is no longer on Hightown Road.

If you happen to know any good puns, then drop me a one-liner

What is a creative pun? A lady called Rae gives this as a definition: no matter how much you push the envelope, it will remain stationery.

And what about this, also from Rae: a hole has been found in the nudist camp wall - the police are looking into it.

Quite a creative woman is Rae. Perhaps she'll get in touch with a few more puns.

You can send me your favourite, too.

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