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Calls to name new bridge at Connswater in honour of Jimmy Ellis

By Linda Stewart

Late actor Jimmy Ellis could be honoured in his native east Belfast by having a new bridge named in his honour.

The team behind the Connswater Community Greenway received a flood of entries proposing the late actor and director as part of a public competition to name a number of small bridges and walkways along the new route.

They have decided to put his name forward for another, larger bridge that will be located elsewhere on the greenway, close to where he grew up in Park Avenue.

It will also be close to the Sam Thompson Bridge in Victoria Park, which Ellis was due to unveil in 2014, but passed away before he could do so.

Welcoming the bridge naming call, his widow Robina said: "Toto, I and the rest of the Ellis family are very touched and happy at the possibility of a bridge being named after Jimmy.

"It would be a very appropriate legacy because it was entirely due to Jimmy that Sam Thompson's play, Over The Bridge, saw the light of day.

"Jimmy had been due to open Sam's bridge in April 2014 but sadly he died of a stroke four weeks before it opened. It would be particularly meaningful for Jimmy and Sam to have bridges side by side."

As for the rest of the route, contenders include everything from Avalon, related to Van Morrison, Marshwiggle Way, highlighting the CS Lewis connection, and Grace Bannister Bridge, paying tribute to the first female lord mayor of Belfast.

Last month the Connswater Community Greenway in partnership with Belfast City Council gave the public the opportunity to officially name major links along the greenway, including three bridges within Greenville Park and Orangefield Park and a major new pathway that extends from Orangefield Park to Braniel.  

The judges are now asking the public to vote for their favourite from the following names.

Nominations for the existing bridge connecting Greenville Park to Orangefield Park are Collyard's Bridge, the name given locally of the orchard and house that once existed in grounds of Orangefield Park, and Grace Bannister bridge. Grace Bannister is remembered in the area for having given dedicated service on several school boards and she was the first female lord mayor of Belfast and high sheriff of Belfast from 1979-1980. 

Contenders for the new bridge connecting Greenville Park to Orangefield Park are Avalon, a mythical island paradise with links to east Belfast's Van Morrison who has an album, Avalon Sunset, which includes the track Orangefield. One suggestion for the new bridge at Orangefield Lane is Kingfisher Bridge. The other is Scholars' Bridge, as the bridge is used by children in the surrounding schools.

Nominations for the path linking Orangefield Park with the Braniel are Laburnum Lane, as it goes through an area called Laburnum, and Marshwiggle Way, after the marsh-dwelling race in the Narnia books written by CS Lewis.

Anne McMurray, Connswater Community Greenway Trust and naming panel chair, said: "We had a fantastic response to this campaign and we gave careful consideration to all the submissions.

"As a panel we had to ensure that each shortlisted name represents the values of the Connswater Community Greenway Project, and reflects a sense of place and significance to this part of the greenway at Orangefield Park."

The panel confirmed that there will be a number of further structures to be named along the Connswater Community Greenway during 2016. You can vote for your favourite bridge and pathway names from today until Wednesday, March 30. You can also vote online at www.connswatergreenway.co.uk/Vote.

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