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Sir Cliff's back on the hunt for journalist who showed faith

An Ulster Log

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 25/06/2016

Cliff Richard with Eddie McIlwaine
Cliff Richard with Eddie McIlwaine
In tune: Tanya Houghton who is appearing at Eastside Arts Festival

God and rock'n'roll go well together in the hands of someone who loves them both. Whoever wrote these words about Cliff Richard after his concert in the King's Hall in Belfast one night in the early Eighties was spot on.

And as life returns to normal for the 75-year-old singer, now a knight of the realm and cleared after that police investigation into allegations of child abuse was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, I hope researching the name of the newspaper reviewer that night in Belfast will be one of the everyday tasks he tackles again as his worries of the past two years evaporate.

Sir Cliff and I have been casual acquaintances for a long time but he knows I wasn't the author of that descriptive phrase (I wish I had been) although I was at the gig. I remember the evening well because it was backstage at that concert in the King's Hall that I introduced the star to his youngest fan - a two-year-old who loved watching the artist, once known as the Young One, on video while mum Wendy did the ironing.

The toddler, a little girl, recognised Cliff in the flesh instantly that famous night and posed for photographs in his arms for the next day's front page of the Belfast Telegraph.

The pop legend read the review the morning after. He was so taken with the writer's sentiments that he plans to have the words etched on his headstone.

Not, I hasten to add, that Cliff has any notion of dying. In spite of the recent deeply traumatic events he wants to be around for a long time yet.

The King's Hall show that inspired the review happened in the darker days of the Troubles when plain Cliff Richard was performing in front of a packed audience for the late promoter Jim Aiken.

"My aim was to cheer everyone up at the King's Hall back then when there wasn't much to be cheerful about," Cliff will tell you now.

"Those words added up to a simple profound statement that sums up my faith and my career. I want to be remembered as a rock'n'roller and a believer."

Down the years I tried - and failed - to remember that reviewers name for Sir Cliff a helping hand without success Now that his bad times are over, I'm sure the singer will renew his efforts.

How romance struck a chord for Tanya

It was love that brought distinguished harpist Tanya Houghton, originally from Birmingham, to live in Northern Ireland. She and Queen's University lecturer Trevor Agus met in a choir at Buckfast Abbey in Devon and it was an instant and mutual attraction. They have now been man and wife for two years and live in Helen's Bay.

Tanya will be at the Eastside Arts Festival in Belfast on August 19, playing at a harp and poetry evening in the Maitri Studio at The Mount. And she will be appearing with the Northern Ballet Company when they come to the Opera House on September 28.

The unheard of author who has a special turn of phrase

William Watson Purkey is a lecturer at the University of North Carolina, a noted author of a dozen books, and an authority on education.

However, like me, it's unlikely you'll have heard of him.

But you will, I'm sure, have read many of his quotations and sayings on greeting cards.

I've room to reproduce only one but I like it and I reckon this is one of the best from a man with a special turn of phrase which is always in demand:

"You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,

Love like you'll never be hurt,

Sing like there's nobody listening,

And live like it's Heaven on earth."

Caught short and need the loo? Don't bet on being able to find one

For some odd reason toilets have become an endangered species. If you're looking for a wee house for a comfort break you could be in trouble.

The other day in dire need I ended up in the lav of a church. The minister said I was welcome to use the toilet, so long as I said a prayer. Which brings me to newspaper columnist Richard Littlejohn who got into trouble for suggesting readers caught short should pop into the nearest betting office. Bookmakers weren't happy and now lock their toilets. If you want to use the loo you have to do a bet first.

Nobody can explain why there is a shortage of toilets. If you have an explanation let me know. A friend of mine has one answer. He carries a tin can - with a lid - in the car.

Sorry Jim, but this is one song that will really have to go...

"Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone", is a line from the lyrics of the country song He'll Have To Go, which was a hit for the late Jim Reeves in 1960. Tell you this, if I was on the phone to Irene and uttered those words in her ear she would hang up and call a doctor. And perhaps the cops, too, thinking I'd been kidnapped by aliens.

A married couple, Joe and Audrey Allison, who penned the lyrics have a lot to answer for. Okay, the ballad has won a few awards in its time but I reckon it's the slushiest love song ever to be put on a disc.

It was written by the Allison couple, inspired by their difficulty communicating by phone. Audrey had a soft voice and Joe couldn't make her out when she called him at the pub to say his dinner was ready.

Gold at end of Corry's Rainbow

Singing star Peter Corry (50), who found fame and fortune singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, is about to wish upon a star again as he sets the venue for his wedding. He and fiancee Fleur Mellor (36) plan to wed somewhere in Italy, on July 1 next year. "Just because we have been there on holiday and it is such a romantic country," he explains.

Peter and Fleur had a mighty success last night when they hosted a Twilight At The Trust bonanza evening at Mountstewart House when all the main rooms were occupied by choral groups, musicians, dancers and various artists before audiences and performers all came together in the Great Hall for a concert and a champagne reception.

"This Twilight gala is something I've always wanted to stage at this magnificent mansion," says Peter.

Already an established favourite, he won a Belfast Telegraph Go For It competition back in 1992 singing the Judy Garland classic hit and has been associated with the song from The Wizard of Oz film ever since. "Now, he prefers My Heart Goes On which sums up our relationship," says Fleur.

For Greer, the writing's on the wall

Mention of Errol Flynn here last week reminded me that one of the women he admired most was Hollywood star Greer Garson, who had strong Ulster connections. In fact, he once scrawled a glowing tribute to her on the wall of his bedroom in Belfast.

The two legends appeared together in the 1949 film That Forsyte Woman, and Flynn had feelings all of his career for this beautiful woman who won an Oscar in 1942 for Mrs Miniver, a film which Winston Churchill told the Commons did more for the war effort and morale than a flotilla of destroyers.

Feeling lonely one night on a visit to Belfast, Flynn wrote that wallpaper tribute to Greer in a house that has long since been demolished.

Greer, who was married three times and spent a lot of her time with family connections in Co Down, died in April 1996 at 92.

Born in Essex, she was the only child to Nina (nee Greer) from Drumaloor, Co Down and Londoner George Garson.

With a grandfather, David Greer, an RIC sergeant in Castlewellan, and other Ulster relations, Greer always referred to herself as Northern Irish.

Belfast Telegraph

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