Belfast Telegraph

By George! actor John Lynch born to play Belfast Boy

By Eddie McIlwaine

John Lynch, who plays a top cop in The Fall, is an actor I once advised that he looked more like George Best than the football legend did in his heyday. And today, in his 50s, never mind the slightly thickening waistline, the uncanny resemblance is still there.

So, back in 2000, Lynch just had to play George in the film Best. Not only take the starring role, but co-write the script with his then-wife, Mary McGuckian.

I had my doubts about John, from Newry, in the role of my favourite character, whom I knew well, until I talked to the actor and realised he had a respect and a liking for George, who died in 2005.

My last reservations were swept away when I saw the rushes.

The film, whose cast included Ian Bannen as Sir Matt Busby and Jerome Flynn as Sir Bobby Charlton and had parts for Stephen Fry and James Ellis, was a success - especially, of course, with Manchester United followers.

Lynch has appeared in hit films like Cal with Helen Mirren, In the Name of the Father with Daniel Day-Lewis and The Railway Station Man with Julie Christie. He was in Edward II in 1991 and was Gerry in one of my favourites, Sliding Doors, in 1998.

Lynch is also a writer. His first novel, Torn Water, was published in 2005 by Fourth Estate and his second, Falling Out of Heaven, appeared in 2010.

Now he and The Fall co-star, Gillian Anderson, have been lighting up BBC screens in the third series of the thriller, set in Northern Ireland.

And he still looks like George.

Margaret takes a bite out of Big Apple

Soprano Margaret Keys will tell you that New York's Carnegie Hall is a famous auditorium you pass by and dream of performing in one day.

And now the dream is about to become a reality for the singer from Londonderry. She will be the star guest at a United Nations Peace Concert in the Manhattan venue on Monday, December 19.

From the celebrated Perelman stage, Margaret will be treating a packed audience calling for global peace to O Holy Night, Let There Be Peace on Earth, classical favourites and a Broadway medley.

"Of course, I'll be laying Danny Boy on them, too," says the young lady, who before the trip to New York will be appearing at a Salvation Army Christmas concert in the Albert Hall, London on Thursday, November 24 and who, next spring, will be recording an album with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

Messages from her neighbour in Derry, Peace Laureate John Hume, and President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, will be read out at the event.The former teacher at St Eithne's Primary School in Derry, Margaret was singing part-time when she decided to take the plunge and became a full-time diva.

She now has a first-class Masters degree from the Royal Conservatoire of Music and Drama and her dreamy voice is listened to all over the place on record and in concert.

Even the Pope enjoyed songs the Keys' way when she appeared for him in Philadelphia.

We're all nuts about conkers

The McIlwaine Conker Championships are about to be resumed this winter after a lapse of three years, caused by a chestnut famine, when the six trees in my garden didn't bear fruit season after season.

However, all has been well this year and the lawns have a mighty scattering of chestnuts from trees now producing once again.

Which means I'm going to be challenged for the title of Mr Conker by new neighbour Turlough McShane.

It will be the first conker tussle at my place since 2013. Don't ask me why the chestnut trees were on strike. The laws of nature can be perplexing.

In case you don't know, a conker is simply a chestnut by another name. The first recorded game of conkers using chestnuts was on the Isle of Wight in 1848.

To play the game, a 10-inch shoelace is threaded through a hole cut end-to-end in the conker with a huge knot at one end to keep it secure.

Two opponents, each armed with a conker, take turns to strike one another's chestnut with their own. The winner is the player whose conker lasts the longest before crumbling.

Day I got on wrong side of law

The fuss over the controversial Ashers appeal case reminds me of a tangle I had once upon a time with the-then Lord Chief Justice, Lord MacDermott, in the now-derelict Crumlin Road courthouse during a murder trial in the early-1960s.

I was a young reporter, arriving late in court from another assignment, and His Lordship gave me a severe lecture and threatened to put me in the dock for talking.

He ordered me not to leave the Press box until the court rose. It meant the running story I was to telephone to the Belfast Telegraph didn't happen.

And it took a lot of negotiating between officials at the Assizes and my news editor, Fred Gamble, for the situation to be sorted out.

Lord MacDermott, who accused me of showing disrespect for the law, wasn't aware that, in fact, I was getting a list of jurors required the next day for another case and checking them over with a fellow journalist before dispatching them to the BT, which was doing the court a service by publishing them.

Remembering the Ulsterman who drove JFK on fateful day

It will be exactly 53 years next Tueday since Ulsterman William Robert Greer was the driver at the wheel of the car in which President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

Now the man from Stewartstown, Co Tyrone, who emigrated to America as a 20-year-old and eventually joined JFK's staff after service in the navy and the Secret Service, is being remembered in a Hidden Gems and Forgotten People exhibition that opens in Ballymena Central Library on Monday and runs until December 8.

Greer, who died in 1985, was close to the Kennedy family and chauffeured the president on many occasions. Like all agents involved, he has been the target of much speculation for his actions that day.

Greer retired on disability from the Secret Service in 1966 and died of cancer in North Carolina aged 76.

DJ John is still spinning four decades later

There are few radio programmes that are able to trace their beginnings back four decades. But Take it Easy can. On Sunday, November 27 it will be exactly 40 years since John Rosborough, now 60, hosted his first regular Sunday night show on Downtown Radio.

Take it Easy is now in its third incarnation: it first ran from November 1976 until February 1990, then from November 2005 to June 2009 on U105, before returning to Downtown in September 2010.

The show has a loyal following and John is aware that a number of today's listeners have been tuning in since the earliest days.

The show on November 27 will be a special - a who's who of artists like Dire Straits and Gerry Rafferty, who have become familiar on Take It Easy.

How my close shave in Antrim left me feeling really smooth

I had a close shave the other day. But before you conclude I'm talking about some kind of accident, let me explain that I'm referring to a real shave with soap and razor in a barber's shop. In the Turkish barbers at High Street, Antrim to be exact.

I left with a smooth chin, delighted that the old tradition of getting a shave and haircut hadn't disappeared after all.

Are there any other barbers working away with keen blades out there? Let me know.

Belfast Telegraph


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