A mystery lady has resurrected my interest in Paddy the Second World War hero pigeon. She stepped out of a car by the harbour wall in Carnlough, armed with a duster and a tin of Brasso, and gave Paddy’s memorial plaque there a brisk clean-up. Then she produced her camera and took a couple of pictures of the now glittering plaque.
“I learned the true story of Paddy from my late father when I was little and I’ve never forgotten it,” she explained. “I call to see that the memorial is in good shape every now and again.”
I love the story of Paddy the Pigeon from Carnlough, too. He was decorated for bravery, awarded the Dickin Medal — the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross — after helping the Allies win the Second World War in his own feathery way.
Seven years ago Paddy was remembered with a race in his honour from St Mallow in France to Co Antrim lofts.
It was a long-distance flypast celebrating the little bird’s original achievement, flying from the dangerous Normandy beachhead to a safe haven in Hampshire a few days after D-Day in 1944 with vital information about German gun emplacements.
Now fanciers from clubs in Ballymena, Larne and Glenarm as well as members of Larne Historical Society think it is time there was another race to remember him.
The Dickin Medal has been awarded only 63 times since it was introduced in the blackout days of 1943 and Paddy’s gong, which is now in the hands of a private collector, is valued at around £10,000.
Paddy’s flight from the battlefield took four hours and 50 minutes those 73 years ago. His early training was at Ballykelly RAF base from where he took part in air-sea rescue dramas.
Paddy, originally from the Moyleen loft of the late Carnlough fancier Andrew Hughes who presented him to the National Pigeon Service to be trained for military duty, never flew on another wartime mission.
Glamorous singer Rita Ora will celebrate her 27th birthday on November 26 by releasing a new album. The long overdue second album will feature Your Song, which she co-wrote with pal Ed Sheeran.
“We have known one another since we were teenagers,” reveals the young lady, who launched her singing career in her father’s west London pub. “Ed and I click creatively. We enjoy the same kind of music and we get on so well together.”
In fact, Ed performed the backing vocals on Your Song, the title of Rita’s latest single, which was released this summer.
Rita adds:“I don’t want to hear sad songs anymore, I only want to hear love songs.”
Sheeran is playing sell-out shows in Belfast, Galway and Dublin next May, and there is a possibility that Rita will be one of his support acts.
She was born in Yugoslavia, but her parents moved to the UK when she was one. Aside from her singing, Rita is also a talented actress and was in the British film Spivs when still a teenager.
“I’m expecting so much from this latest LP,” she says.
“I’ve spent a lot of time getting it just right, and the tracks are so romantic.”
Somebody claimed on BBC Radio 4 the other day that I’ll Take You Home Kathleen is an Irish love ballad.
Let me set the record straight: Kathleen was written in 1875 by one Thomas Westendorf, who at the time was teaching at a reform school for juvenile offenders in Hendricks County, Indiana.
His wife was away visiting friends in New York and Westendorf was missing her, so he wrote his song and it was performed in public for the first time in the town hall.
So was Mrs W pleased? I’m not sure she was. You see, her Christian name was Jeanie, definitely not Kathleen. It isn’t recorded what she thought of the lyrics.
A man could get into trouble for making a mistake like that. Some of the lyrics of the much loved song go:
I’ll take you home again Kathleen.
Across the ocean wild and wide
To where your heart has ever been
Since first you were my bonny bride.
Slim Whitman, Bing Crosby, Johnny Cash and Hank Locklin all recorded versions.
But I’ve always preferred the late Josef Locke’s way with Kathleen.
It has always been a puzzle to me trying to work out if the two American Presidents named Roosevelt were related — even though there were many years between them.
Yes, I know that any sixth-form history student will give me a ready answer, but I’m not the only one who appears to be confused.
For example, in one pub quiz I witnessed, the answer was that Theodore and Franklin D the wartime leader and friend of Churchill, were related in some distant way.
Then, weeks later at another quiz, the quizmaster was adamant that there was no connection. I tend towards the first answer.
So there you are — I know that historians everywhere will now be in touch with the answer.
Theodore (1858-1919), the 26th President, was born in New York, and it seems the Roosevelt family were of Dutch descent. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919.
Franklin D (1882-1945), the 32nd President, was also born in New York. He was a good friend of the UK and won a record four presidential elections, in spite of being partially paralysed by polio.
There’s a lot of fuss out there about a lady called Jodie Whittaker being cast as the new Doctor Who, but the excitement is passing me by.
I couldn’t care less, even though Jodie is an accomplished actress who was in the acclaimed Broadchurch series.
You see, in all the years the time travelling doc has been on the television screen, I’ve never been tempted to watch the drama set around the Tardis.
Doctor Who has no appeal for me.
Here’s another kind of confession: I’ve never set my gaze on Game of Thrones either, even though scenes from this series were shot at various locations around Northern Ireland, boosting our tourism numbers, and it is currently the biggest global television hit.
I was about to put a tasty morsel in my mouth when my dinner-table neighbour asked: “How’s your food?”
I had to withdraw my fork to give her an answer. She was the fourth of the six of us sharing the meal to make the inquiry. And I still hadn’t tasted a bite.
There should be notices up in restaurants banning this silly, pointless question. It only spoils the meal.
After all, if the food isn’t up to scratch, then the diner will not be slow in making his or her feelings known, not only to their companions, but also to the management.
I remember at a wedding reception once in a plush hotel the bride came up with an answer when asked if her steak was tasty.
She said: “It probably came off some tough old cow. I only hope I’m a lot more tender to my new husband.”
Dew is a mid-summer phenomenon, advises Mavis Magill, of Mossley. “According to folklore it falls from heaven only in high summer months and vanishes in the early morning air and is sometimes called the daughter of the moon.”
The lady only mentions dew today because she says it cured her vertigo one dawn when she dipped her hands in grass that was sodden and breathed the wetness deeply up her nostrils.
“And the vertigo was gone in an instant”, claims Mavis, who also swears by dew as a lotion to cure sore eyes, itching and skin problems.
I once heard of a chap who cured his gout by walking through dewy grass in bare feet. There is another yarn out there which makes the claim that a girl looking for a husband should bathe her face in morning dew so that she will become beautiful and desirable.