Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Sunday Life reclaims the celebs with Ulster ties

Van Morrison
Van Morrison

Van Morrison and Liam Neeson might be renowned for being as Northern Irish as the Ulster Fry. But they are just part of a long list of A-listers with family ties to Northern Ireland. It turns out the Province has been home to them all, from millionaires to Hollywood stars, fashion icons to notorious politicians.



We can also lay claim to “Harry Potter” — and the secret service agent who was driving John F Kennedy’s limo when the President was murdered.

Today, we reveal the Ulster connections of this disparate bunch of celebs.

Eddie Izzard

The cross-dressing comic lived by the sea in North Down until he was aged five while his BP accountant dad, John, worked in Belfast.

He said living at Ashford Drive, Bangor, and attending Ballyholme school were the happiest days of his life.

Bear Grylls

TV tough guy Bear, 35 — whose grand

mother was Ulster Unionist MP Lady Fisher — was raised in the not-very-wild streets of Donaghadee until he was four.

He moved with his family to the Isle of Wight before carving out a name for himself as an SAS-trained adventurer famed for biting off snakes’ heads and squeezing water from animal dung on his survival shows.

Sam Neill

Christened Nigel John Dermot Neill, the Jurassic Park star was born and grew up in Omagh while his dad served with the Irish Guards.

His Co Tyrone roots are well-hidden by his New Zealand accent, as he moved to the country aged eight.

Sixth Duke of|Westminster

Billionaire Gerald Grosvenor, 57, was also born in Omagh, and as a child lived on an island in the middle of Lough Erne.

The third richest man in Britain worth £6.5 billion, he was also made head of the Territorial Army.

Ray Stevenson

An actor, 45, who has starred in the TV series Rome and movies The Punisher and Outpost, was born in Lisburn.

He was the second of three sons of an RAF pilot and a mother from the Republic, he left the Province at the age of eight to live in Newcastle and pursue his thespian dreams.

Kiera Chaplin

Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin would have been left speechless by how his stunning Belfast-born granddaughter turned out.

An actress, model, IT girl and multi-millionaire, the 27-year-old fondly remembers holidays in Millisle and the “pokie man” who sold her ice creams.

Chaim Herzog

The sixth president of Israel was born in Belfast in 1918, where his dad Dr Isaac Herzog was rabbi.

A plaque marks his memory at his childhood home at 2 Norman Villas off Cliftonville Road. He died in 1997.

William Greer, JFK’s|driver

William Greer joined the US Secret Service after he emigrated from a farm in Stewartstown, Co Tyrone, in 1929.

Greer was driving President Kennedy’s limo when he was assassinated in Dallas November 22, 1963.

The Tyrone guard has been criticised for applying the breaks and turning to look at the injured JFK when the first shot rang out rather than speeding off.

Before his own death Greer apologised to Jackie Kennedy for his actions.

Paddy Ashdown

The former Liberal Democrat leader, 68, spent much of his childhood at the farm near Donaghadee that his father bought in 1945.

He attended a local primary school and was a boarder at Garth House in Bangor. Paddy, who served as a Marine on the streets of Belfast during the Troubles, later returned to chair Review of Parading in Northern Ireland.

Other celebs with little-known Ulster links include guitarist Ian Mitchell from Downpatrick who was briefly part of the Bay City Rollers — whose hits were written by Londonderry songwriter Phil Coulter.

Bassist Bobby Kildea from indie band Belle and Sebastian is from Bangor.

There is Lisburn-born West End sensation Connie Fisher, and bestselling Brisbane novelist Nick Earls, born in Newtownards, whose books are often compared to the work of Nick Hornby.

No doubt the list doesn’t end there and there are loads more celebs with local connections. If you can think of any that we’ve missed, ring Aaron on 028 90 264315.

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