Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Life-saver Molly Hamill celebrates but keeps feet firmly on the ground

You could say that Molly Hamill, who is throwing a party to celebrate her 80th Longest Day of the Year, has been stringing folk along for nearly 40 years.

For Molly’s job at Martin-Baker Aircraft Company for three decades and a bit was lacing the nylon strings — the ripcords — into silk parachutes.

The ’chutes became part of the ejector seats for military aircraft which Martin-Baker still test at Langford Lodge, the old American wartime base on the Lough Neagh shore.

“I like to think that the work that I did at Martin-Baker helped to save many young lives of aircrew who had to abandon stricken planes in trouble,” says Molly.

Yet in all her years connecting with aviation as she laced those vital cords, the little old lady who never married and who has lived in Crumlin Village all her life, hasn’t been up in an aircraft.

“Fifteen years ago I retired at 65,” says Molly, who will tell you that a Martin-Baker company known today as Langford Lodge Engineering, is still in the former military depot and still involved with the rudiments and safety aspect of military flying.

In fact, a rocket sled track at Langford on which the ejector seats are tested is still in regular use by Martin-Baker technicians and is believed to be one of only two in existence in the UK.

Molly left Crumlin PE School at 14 and eventually got a job in the old Crumlin Woollen Mill where her mother Mary, who hailed from Dunadry, was a weaver already.

“I don’t mind at all that I’ve never had a flight,” she confides, “although I wouldn’t say no if a trip in a helicopter was on offer.

“A plane ride just never happened for me — my holidays are always by bus or car to Daniel O’Donnell concerts and other gigs in Belfast so it was never necessary to get up in the air.”

And she adds “What you’ve never done you’ve never missed.”

Down the last 60 years, Martin-Baker has become the leading world authority on ejector and crashworthy seats.

Its work has saved thousands of lives largely due to tests and experiments carried out by staff at its Langford base.

RADIO DOYEN POISED TO LAUNCH STATION FOR GOLDEN OLDIES

You just have to call John Rosborough (59) Mr Northern Ireland Radio.

The man who began his career way back with Downtown, then moved to Citybeat before setting up U105 at UTV, has just become managing director of his fourth new station.

He's heading Belfast FM, which will cater eventually for over-55s, retired already and about to retire listeners in the city.

The man was born to be a wireless genius -- even appearing in front of the mike with his kind of late night music on occasion, as well as being a background studio type.

"We haven't even got a frequency yet -- the licence has just been granted by Ofcom," confides John, "but we hope to be on air inside the next two years, with good debate and conversation and easy listening music."

Belfast FM will be a non-profit-making station, with the commercial money ploughed back into the company.

"We haven't got a detailed prescription or a masterplan yet," we are still working on it," adds Rosborough.

I expect a lot of young broadcasters will be trained at Belfast FM and some veteran broadcasters -- like John -- could make comebacks. He's bound to have his own late night show.

DAGGERS DRAWN FOR DEAVER TALK

EX-FOLK singer, lawyer , journalist turned novelist Jeffrey Deaver will be at the Ulster Museum on Wednesday June 26 (7pm) to talk about his successful career as a crime writer.

He will be discussing his latest book entitled The Kill Room with fellow author, Dubliner John Connolly.

This is a No Alibis Bookshop promotion -- tickets are priced £5 -- at which Jeffrey will be presented as the writer of 30 novels, two collections of short stories and a non-fiction law book. He has received many awards including having his The Bodies Left Behind named Novel of the Year by the International Thriller Writers' Association.

Jeffrey has been awarded the prestigious Steel Dagger and the Short Story Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association and he is a three-time recipient of the Ellery Queen Readers' Award for Best Short Story of the Year and a winner of the British Thumping Good Read Award.

MARIE IS WAKING UP AGAIN TO BELFAST

PLAYWRIGHT Marie Jones is turning the clock back at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast as she appears as street gossip Molly in her own comedy production entitled Weddins Weeins and Wakes which runs until July 7.

Marie played the part of Molly 12 years ago when the piece was originally presented at the theatre. Now it is making a comeback by popular request, with Sean Kearns, Marty Maguire, Katie Tumelty, Roisin Gallagher, Matthew McElhinney and Kerri Quinn also in the cast.

The director is Marie's husband Ian McElhinney, who was in Coronation Street not all that long ago. They could do with him back.

AMAZING BECKY TAKES BOW (WOW)

HERE'S a picture everyone wants to see after I told the story of Becky the wonder dog who was found dumped in a sack in a river to drown, rescued and groomed by schoolteacher Margaret McKnight.

Now Becky is the main star at the Opera House next month when she takes the role of Sandy the four-legged star in Annie the Musical, being staged from July 25-27. Becky, who will be playing opposite Lauren Clarke (12) (left) and Lara Mulgrew (10) on alternate days, is quite a character as Margaret discovered as she taught her how to act.

"She's a rather special animal," says director Adam Knight.

"And Lauren and Lara are extraordinary too as the two Annies."

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