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All The Best: Dr Eamon Phoenix


The fiftysomething is a political historian and broadcaster and head of life-long learning at Stranmillis University College. He lives in Belfast with wife Alice and they have one daughter, Mary-Alice.

My best moment:

Meeting my wife at a dance in Queen's just before Christmas 1977. We were of different academic disciplines -- Alice had just done a degree in physics and I was doing my post-doctorate in Irish history. She's been a great companion and my best friend throughout the years.


My best buy:

A clapped-out Fiat 127, Alice and I bought it when we were first married and it was our first car. We were commuting up and down from Fermanagh in those early years and this tiny little matchbox of a car would bring us all the way from Enniskillen. When it eventually died we felt as if we should be having a funeral.


My best song:

Anything by The Beatles, but Hey Jude especially. I remember just coming into my teens around the time they were having hits and brought about this revolution in music.


My best way to relax:

There are two ways; the first is playing tennis in the garden with our grandchild, Nicole, who is eight and the love of our lives. The second is going for long walks with Alice along the Lagan towpath or the Ballyliffin Strand in Donegal with the tempestuous Atlantic roaring by.


My best job:

It was actually before I got a proper job. While I was a research student I worked for an antiquarian bookseller in a big Victorian house in south Belfast. I was paid £3 an hour which wasn't bad back then. I summarised Irish history books for catalogues for the American market. I could become absorbed in the most unusual books and I could be paid in money or in kind.


My best advice:

There were two pieces given to me. One was by my mother who is still alive and saw all the hardship of the post-war Depression era. She always told the four of us siblings, "Education is easily carried". The second came from a great Irish historian born in Derry called F S L Lyons, who was a famous lecturer at Trinity University. He wrote at the outbreak of the Troubles that "to understand the past is to cease to live in it". That has always guided me in trying to de-mythologise history.


My best gift:

It was given to me years ago by an elderly cousin. It is a Gaelic Bible that was owned by my great grandfather George Phoenix, who was a national teacher and born in 1819. The Bible was given to him by his wife and in the front of it he has painstakingly put the family tree in Gaelic.


My best achievement:

Any contribution I have made to a greater understanding of Irish history. I enjoy bringing public history to audiences all over Northern Ireland and looking for the local connection.

Again, I'm torn between two. One is a very old movie that captures pre-war Belfast, it's called Odd Man Out. It has the famous sequence with James Mason dying of a gunshot wound outside the Crown Bar. The second one is The Day Of The Jackal with Edward Fox about the attempted assassination of Charles de Gaulle.

I'm not a great reader of fiction but my best book is one that I picked up when I was about 15 and is about Belfast. Published in 1946, it is called As I Roved Out and was written by Cathal O'Byrne and really demonstrated the golden age of Belfast.


From Belfast Telegraph