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Willie on song for 90th birthday

By Eddie McIlwaine

One of Londonderry's favourites, bass singer Willie Loughlin, will celebrate his 90th birthday tomorrow. And he is hoping to have recovered from illness in time to take his place in the choir of First Derry Presbyterian Church.

"I've been in that choir for 75 years and I have no thoughts of retiring," declares Willie, who damaged his shoulder in a fall just a few weeks ago. The former laundryman in his home city has performed everywhere, including Germany, New Zealand and the Holy Land.

Tragically, on a visit to Canada in 1993, his wife, Ruby, was killed in a car crash. Willie and three friends, who were also in the car, survived.

"I managed to carry on with my life after that tragedy," he confides. "And I think of Ruby every time I sing the 121st Psalm - I To The Hills Will Lift Mine Eyes - which she and I loved.

"I've sung in many different venues around the world, and the Ulster Hall in Belfast, with its unique acoustics, is special to me.

"However, there is no place to match First Derry and its choirbox."

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