Belfast Telegraph

Nationalist who was admired on both sides of old Senate chamber

Thomas McAllister
Thomas McAllister
Star-in-the-making Corrie Earley (19) has a really Wicked ambition as she prepares to join the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London

By Eddie McIlwaine

Once upon a time, a prominent nationalist was appointed Deputy Speaker in the Northern Ireland Senate, which in its heyday was dominated by the Unionist Party.

So, who was this Senator who rose to such a prominent role in the Upper Chamber at Stormont?

Well, I can tell you today he was Senator Thomas Stanislaus McAllister, a Ballymena solicitor who served as Deputy Speaker from 1930 until 1932, and again from 1942 until 1944.

I'm indebted to his grandson, computer expert Alastair Rea, for providing the information after I mentioned this nationalist connection with the Speaker's position in this column.

But before his elevation to the Senate, Thomas McAllister was an MP in the Ulster Commons, chosen as a Nationalist Party member for Co Antrim at the General Election of 1925.

He moved to the Senate in 1929, taking his reputation as an eloquent speaker with him, soon becoming party leader. He served for 15 years, until his death in 1950 at 71.

During those years, this Senator was often on his feet, getting involved in the heat of debate. It was no surprise - he was the obvious choice - when he became Deputy Speaker. He was also considered for the position of Speaker itself.

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Aside from his commitment to the political scene, Senator McAllister, the principal of the legal firm of Messrs T S McAllister & Son, of Wellington Street in Ballymena, was a familiar figure in the courts.

In his younger days, I learn from his family, he was a noted huntsman and racing cyclist, and he played football for Bohemians. Indeed, the young Tom McAllister was quite a nifty and versatile amateur full-back with the Southern Irish League club, turning out occasionally as a forward and scoring a goal or two.

But his ambitions never lay entirely in sport, and it was no surprise when he turned to the law and later got involved in politics.

The Senate, with its plush red seats, was abolished in 1973, even though some interesting debates took place there.

In its heyday, that Upper House was highly regarded in political circles, and its nominated members did their share of good works.

Corrie dreams of a spell in the West End

Star-in-the-making Corrie Earley (19) has a really Wicked ambition as she prepares to join the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.

In other words, the young lady from Carnmoney, who is a favourite of Peter Corry and has appeared on stage with him, dreams of playing a role in the hit West End musical Wicked - the Story of the Witches of Oz.

"I love to perform the song Defying Gravity from the show," she explains.

"And, one day, when I have finished my course at Trinity Laban, I want to take on the role of Glinda, the wicked witch of the west."

Corrie, who went to Belfast Metropolitan College, will be saying farewell to home and friends on Saturday, August 12, and singing all her best-loved numbers at a special show in the Theatre at the Mill, Mossley, before she leaves for London.

She adds: "It's a dream come true being accepted at Trinity Laban. My best friend, Daniel Kerr, who has appeared in many musicals with me here at home, has been accepted at the conservatoire, too."

The day granny Boyd saved my life

If my mother were alive today, she would have understanding and sympathy for the suffering parents of Baby Charlie Gard, for whom we are all praying.

Soon after my birth, around midnight, our family doctor said I wouldn't see the dawn, wrapped my body in a towel and discarded me in a shoe box to die and await burial.

But my maternal grandmother, Sarah Boyd, who had delivered many infants in her day, picked me up and breathed new life into my lungs, along with a massage and sips of whiskey.

And I survived and somehow that brief sojourn in the shoe box did me no harm at all, for I'm still around at a reasonably great age.

Even though family legend has it that, after those initial drops, I became too fond of the hard stuff for a year or so.

I'm not comparing myself to Charlie; mine was merely a premature birth; this little one has many serious problems.

I'm reminded of the stories I've heard down the years about the drama of my birth, which make me realise all this time later the state my mum, Marty, was in when she gazed at me in that shoe box.

Ghost ship due a spirited appearance

It will be 80 years on Tuesday, August 8 since troubled sea captain Elijah Baufman. So, I won't be surprised if his ghost ship, the Humboldt, makes another appearance.

It is claimed by sensible old seadogs that the American steamer, which Baufman loved dearly and wept real tears when she was retired, puts in a brief appearance somewhere on the high seas on special occasions.

The anniversary of his passing, back in August 1937, seems like an ideal time for her to reappear - if there is any truth in these ghostly rumours.

The Humboldt was about to be towed away for scrap from a San Francisco dockyard in 1934 when she broke away from her moorings and, according to legend, has been a drifting ghost ever since - only appearing to acknowledge her former skipper's birthdays and other anniversaries.

Don't scoff: there are more than 150 ships that refused to die floating on the oceans of the world - the rogue elephants of the waves.

Are they ghost ships, or just floating derelicts seafarers discount and can't be bothered to round up?

I'll leave you to decide.

Tyrone comic's brush with death no laughing matter

Storyteller Owen O'Neill will be telling an audience in the Roe Valley Arts Centre, Limavady,next Thursday (8pm) that once upon a time he was struck by lightning.

Obviously, he survived or else it would be a ghost of the Cookstown comic that is appearing in his one-man show.

It will be made up of gags, a theatrical monologue and poetry, alongside true stories of his life like his brush with death when he was only nine.

He will be talking about mundane things such as queuing for breakfast, family events and how he once appeared in a film with Liam Neeson.

I've never been struck by lightning, but a few years ago on holiday in Tenerife, volcano Mount Teide gave a slight shudder and scared the daylights out of me.

Why James Nesbitt should have cold feet about entering politics

I'm getting the impression that actor James Nesbitt, who made his name in Cold Feet, has aspirations to be a politician.

I hope I'm wrong and James sticks at what he's best at and forgets about ever being involved with one or other of the parties trying to run the province.

However, he has been spouting on in public about the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage when really I'm certain his fans and admirers would prefer him to be telling them more about his next play or television series.

Although I'm not saying he shouldn't have an opinion on these controversial subjects, James is far better suited to portraying a politician on screen.

And that is as far as this talented Ulsterman should go.

It's a fine and dandy name but why was it given to this street?

How did Dandy Street off the Shore Road in Belfast, get its name?

Wise guys will tell me it's because Desperate Dan and Keyhole Kate of the Dandy comic used to live there.

But I'm being serious.

Since I was being driven past this pleasant byway of nice houses last week I can't sleep at night for wondering just why developers once had the bright idea of picking on this name.

An odd choice, I claim.

Unless there was a well-known Mr Dandy once upon a time who it is called after?

Somebody please enlighten me so I can doze in peace. I have tried looking it up on the internet but there is very little there about the street apart from incidents which happened during the Troubles.

Surely there must be a better story to be told about Dandy Street than those contained in its recent history.

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