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It's the very last word on some of the first people to live here

By Eddie McIlwaine

Who were The Cruthin? That's a question I was asked once upon a time by Van Morrison and I hadn't a clue, but I was able to point Van (and myself) to an absorbing book by academic Dr Ian Adamson on the subject of these, the earliest inhabitants of Ireland and Britain.

And today I can tell you that to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original release, an updated edition of The Cruthin tome (Colourpoint £9.99) has just been published.

The re-appearance of such an influential book is fully justified because over those four decades, Ian's writings and research have never ceased to provoke debate.

And this author has been hard at work bringing these ancient peoples bang up-to-date, if you follow my drift.

Van, like myself, will be delighted to find out any fresh information about what is claimed to be a contentious and controversial history of the first Irish folk even if, until Ian came along, the Cruthin identity was being deliberately ignored.

He will tell readers of the new Cruthin that the fact that not enough is still not known about these ancients is a tragic consequence of Irish history itself.

And he should know - a retired medical doctor, Ian is a member of the UUP and a former lord mayor of Belfast. He was also High Sheriff a few years back.

Now we know when they’ll see us again

The Three Degrees — in my picture Valerie Holiday, Helen Scott and Freddie Pool — haven’t been in town for a while with their soulful voices.

So they are delighted to sign a deal which brings them to the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, in the spring. On Saturday, May 2, to be exact.

Especially as they will be on stage with that sweet-sounding group Hot Chocolate. Never mind those so-listenable voices, the girls are known, too, for their expensive gowns which set off a breathtaking set. And, of course, the Degrees are known around the world  for songs like When Will I See You Again? and My Simple Heart. They have been touring for 40 years and still appeal to all generations. I remember them making a cameo appearance in the movie The French Connection singing Everybody Goes to the Moon and they have been connecting with an adoring public ever since.

Let’s have Blue Plaque for our war hero Terry

You’ll have read my obituary on Squadron Leader Terence Bulloch, the Coastal Command wartime pilot who sank and severely damaged more German U-boats than  any other pilot. He was 98.

Terry, awarded the DSO and Bar and DFC and Bar, was born at No 1 Belsize Road in Lisburn to Elsie and Sam Bulloch, a linen trader.

The house, first called Montreagh and now known as Parklands and occupied by Praxis, is still in good repair.

Ernie Cromie and his Ulster Aviation Society are hoping to persuade the organisers of the traditional Blue Plaque scheme, which marks the birthplaces of successful Ulster folk, to have one erected at Parklands to honour this homebred flying ace.

Terry Bulloch was educated at Campbell College and joined the RAF when he was 19.

He was still a young boy when the family moved to Malone in Belfast.

However, Bulloch always looked upon Lisburn as his home town even though he and his wife Linda would eventually settle in London.

Jack's legacy goes beyond rugby

Here's another little snippet which flashed into Norman Kennedy's head when he read my tribute to Jack Kyle, the rugby legend who died last month aged 88 after a prolonged illness.

Norman remembers when he was a leading light in Belfast East Rotary in the 1980s and the Rotarians raised £25,000 for a charity in Chingla, Zambia, where Jack was a surgeon. After retiring from club rugby in 1963, Kyle embarked on humanitarian work in Sumatra and Indonesia.

Between 1966 and 2000, he worked as a consultant surgeon in Chingola, before returning to Northern Ireland. In 2001, he established the The Jack Kyle Bursary Fund in support of the Queen's University RFC Rugby Academy.

Stewart's ode to four-legged pal

Everybody will watch James Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life this Christmas, but when his dog Beau died this amiable film star was so upset that he wrote a poem about his pet. Here's an extract:

He never came to me when I would call,

Unless I had a tennis ball,

Or he felt like it, But mostly he didn't come at all,

He never learned to heel,

Or sit or stay,

He did things his way,

Discipline was not his bag,

But when you were with him things sure didn't drag,

He'd dig up a rosebush just to spite me,

And when I'd grab him, he'd turn and bite me.

Stewart, who starred in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, died in 1997 at 89.

Nicknames with a story to tell...

Mention the shipyard and every ex-Harland & Wolff man has a nickname story to tell.

As I've explained in a previous column, every plater and joiner was given a label by his mates. It was a Harland tradition that has sadly disappeared along with the great liners on the ramps.

But who was The Sand Dancer? He worked in the yard 25 years ago, according to Sandy Rainey, but what was his job and why did he have such an outrageous nickname?

And why was someone called Nail in the Boot? Honestly, that was one carpenter's way of being addressed and he always responded.

If you know the answers or have any oddball nicknames of your own, get in touch.

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