Belfast Telegraph

Why Belsen survivor did portrait of a Belfast padre

An Ulster Log

By Eddie McIlwaine

There aren't too many priests or missionaries who can claim to have had their portrait painted by an inmate of Belsen. Army chaplain Daniel Cummings, whose autobiography, Rest And Be Thankful (Colourpoint, £12.99), has just been published, is one such man.

The striking portrait of him, which I reproduce today, is included in the book in which Belfast-born Daniel tells the remarkable story of his time as a priest in the Philippines and his involvement as a chaplain in the D-Day landings. He also describes being there to see the horrors behind the wire when the Belsen concentration camp was liberated at the end of the Second World War.

Talented artist Hans Baumeister, believed to have been a Pole, managed to survive and Daniel was there to give him aid and comfort, and restore his faith in human nature when the gates swung open. For which Baumeister expressed his gratitude by creating the portrait.

But Daniel Cummings doesn't make a big issue in the book about the permanent tribute this artist paid him. In fact, although a page is devoted to Baumeister's work, the author of Rest And Be Thankful makes little or no reference to the painting. He was never a boastful person.

In fact, he had to be persuaded to write his memoirs by his niece Rosemary Doherty. Daniel finished his script in 1970 and his wish was that the book, of which Rosemary chose the title and edited, should not appear on the shelves until long after his passing. He died in 1977.

After the war and back in Ireland, Daniel had an experience on the leafy bank of the River Blackwater, a tributary of the Boyne in Co Meath, which I just have to mention. There in the undergrowth on the site of what used to be an ancient monastery he found a Swearing Stone, one of only six in the whole of Europe, carved from sandstone, but with no inscriptions and only two oval holes.

It was through these holes in the five-feet tall stone that newly-weds joined hands and pledged trust and fidelity forever more. And I hope they still do.

Kara has her gun sights on Annie ...

Actress Kara Swinney (22) is delighted that she was chosen to play sharpshooter Annie Oakley in the musical Annie Get Your Gun which opens at the Theatre At The Mill in Mossley, Newtownabbey on Monday.

For Kara loves the story of the gun-totin' sweethearts that is being revived by Peter Corry with great songs by Irving Berlin like There's No Business Like Show Business and Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better as the theatre celebrates its fifth birthday.

"I am really looking forward to belting out the iconic There's No Business Like Show Business, but what is really special is playing a real flesh and blood personality," says Kara.

The production runs to Saturday, October 10, with a matinee at 2.30pm that day.

How Wogan's top cowboy sang about a reindeer

Don't be surprised if Terry Wogan bursts into Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer as he travels the country in Mason McQueen's taxi in his new Food Trip television programme.

You see, Rudolph was a No 1 hit for Gene Autry once upon a time, and Wogan (76) is a devoted fan of the singing cowboy.

Autry, who was born in 1907 on September 29, appeared in 93 films as the straight-shooting hero and was an important figure in country music with ballads like Back In The Saddle Again (his horse was called Champion). He had to cut short a visit to Belfast in 1939 and return home to Hollywood as war clouds gathered. He died in 1998 at 91.

I can understand why Sir Terry likes Autry and that other cowboy star of the Fifties and Sixties, Roy Rogers, who also came here in 1953 with his wife Dale and horse Trigger. Roy was known as The King of the Cowboys.

Mind you, I find Wogan's food show on BBC2 a bore. Maybe it's time for Terry to retire. Especially as his BBC Radio 2 show on a Sunday clashes with Ivan Martin on U105.

In a Caribbean frame of mind

Who had a hit with a song called Caribbean way back in 1953 and took it to No.1 again in 1957, asks Andrea Magill of Comber? I can tell her the man who wrote and sang the hit that made the UK smile again was Mitchell Torok,  who will be 86 next month.

You'll note that I said "again" above because Mitchell Torok wrote Caribbean to cheer us up after the sudden death in 1953 of iconic favourite Hank Williams who every country and western fan without exception loved.

I remember Mitchell, who had other hits with When Mexico Gave Up The Rhumba and Mexican Joe, which was huge for the late Jim Reeves, played the Ulster Hall in the winter of 1956 - and the place was packed.

Forgetting what-was-her-name

Here's a book every husband out there just has to read - The Man Who Forgot His Wife by one John O'Farrell  (Black Swan). The blurb describes the novel as a rare treat.

Central character Vaughan has forgotten he even has a wife. Her name, her face, their history together, everything she has ever told him, everything he has said to her - it has all gone, mysteriously. Just how rare that treat is you'll find out in the unputdownable pages.

There aren't too many husbands who would dare forget the other half. Women will also enjoy this yarn too about a man who did.

Singers hail their amazing Grace

Gospel singers Keith Getty and his wife Kristyn, whose In Christ Alone has been voted the most popular hymn anywhere, have been home on holiday to introduce their new daughter, Grace Alexandra, just three months old, to family and friends in Coleraine and Glengormley.

The couple, who already have two daughters, Eliza Joy and Charlotte Juliana, are on their way back to their home in Nashville tomorrow to plan a Christmas tour around Canada and the US.

"It's our biggest yet," says Keith, who hopes to sell-out the Carnegie Hall in Manhattan come December.

"We were there at Yuletide last year on my 40th birthday."

On tour the pair will also grace the Kennedy Centre and play at the UN.

Belfast Telegraph


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