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Judy bids to go where her Grace first saw the light

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 05/09/2015

Judy Collins
Judy Collins

If time allows, Judy Collins will slip away to Buncrana during her autumn visit here to live the John Newton Experience in the seaside town where he took refuge after his slave ship, The Greyhound, was shipwrecked in 1748.

For it was while he was waiting in Buncrana for repairs to be carried out that Newton journeyed to Londonderry Cathedral and underwent a Christian conversion that led to him writing Amazing Grace, which became a hit for Judy many years later in 1970, and is rated the best hymn ever penned.

But it was in Donegal's Buncrana, after Newton and his crew nearly perished during a storm in Lough Swilly, where the slave trader first saw the light.

Today, the resort hosts Newton lectures, has a greyhound viewing panel and memorials everywhere to the sea dog who saw the error of his way.

Judy, now 76, who plays the town hall in Galway on Wednesday, October 7, the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, on Friday, October 9, and Dun Laoghaire in Co Dublin on Saturday, October 10, told me from her home in New York: "It would be special to soak up the Newton atmosphere."

She will be singing Amazing Grace and her other hits, Both Sides Now (written by Joni Mitchell), Chelsea Morning and Send In The Clowns to charm her audiences in Galway, Belfast and Dun Laoghaire.

However, her special treat will be tracks from her latest album, Strangers Again, on which she duets with Willie Nelson, Jackson Brown, Don McLean, Jeff Bridges, Glen Hansard and several others. "All men who have carved out the melodies and the memories of the decades, past and present - with soulful voices," she explains.

Judy revisits Send In The Clowns with McLean and sings Leonard Bernstein's Make Our Garden Grow with Bridges - the first time she has ever performed this one in public.

Another first for her is When I Go with Nelson, a cowboy-style ballad about the transition from life to death.

Michelle’s jumping for joy at dance

There aren’t too many Highland Hustle directors around and a packed audience at the Belfast Tattoo this afternoon (2.30pm) and tonight (8pm) in the Odyssey Arena, will vote Michelle Johnston (26) as one of the talented.

Her passion is highland and Scottish national dance and she has won major prizes as a competitor on the world Highland circuit.  Michelle is also the Adult Ulster Highland champion and has lifted medals in the  UK, European and North American events.

As Hustle director, tonight she will have 98 on-their-toes dancers answering her every command on stage in the Odyssey, now known as the SSE Arena.

Want to see this wonderful spectacle for yourself?

There are still a few tickets available for this afternoon’s performance, and also for the evening show.

For further details, tel: 028 9073 9074.

Tear-jerker of a poem takes me back home

Every time I read Thomas Hood’s tear-jerking poem I Remember, I Remember, I think of the house where I grew up in Carnmoney  Village and which I fear is soon to be demolished.

So I had a point of having this picture taken, just for old time’s sake. That’s me (above) standing under the bedroom window I used to gaze out of on a Saturday morning to check if Granny Boyd’s shop down the street had taken delivery of my Rover comic.

But was Hood (1799-1845) in a state of melancholy when he wrote his verses?

I remember, I remember

The house where I was born

The little window where the sun

Came peeping in at morn

He never came a wink too soon

Nor brought too long a day

But now I often wish the night

Had borne my breath away.

And the final lines of I Remember read like this:

But now ’tis little joy

To know I’m farther off from Heaven

Than when I was a boy.

Here’s an idea: every journalist should write a story about the house where they grew up.

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