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Friday People: George Jones

We ask personalities about the special relationships in their lives

By Kerry McKittrick

The 69-year-old radio presenter and singer lives near Mount Stewart, Co Down, with his wife Hilarym and they have two children, Jason (41) and Natalie (38). He hosts the afternoon show on Downtown Radio


We met when I was playing with the Dave Glover Showband in a ballroom in Bangor called Caproni's. We played there about once a month and I would see her with her boyfriend. One day she wasn't with him so I went and spoke to her, and it turned out they had broken up. We went out for a meal and to see the movie Camelot two nights later.

Hilary was a dental nurse but being the wife of a broadcaster/entertainer/musician must be one of the most traumatic jobs there is. I travel a lot and sometimes she will come with me and other times she won't, so it can be quite lonely for her.

She's stuck with me through the bad times and the good times, though, and for that I owe her millions.


We're a very close family, even though Jason lives in Holland. He comes over with his family two or three times a year. We all meet up in Austria to go skiing.

In the 1970s, because of the Troubles I decided to move to South Africa, as we didn't see any future here for the children. Everything went wrong, though. Our son nearly died of typhoid because of a fly that landed on his ice cream, so I sent them both home. Then Natalie was born blind, although she had about seven operations, which got a bit of her sight back.


He used to be the compere at the Abercorn restaurant in Belfast but we've been skiing for about 40 years. He's like a brother to Hilary and I, and like an uncle to our two kids. He's still singing and recently toured with me at the Waterfront Hall. He's actually primarily an architect but he's retired from that now.


My father was known as a 'carrier' – he had two lorries which he drove down round the docks. My mum looked after us. She had lived in Montreal for a long time before she got married.

I have one sister, Henrietta, but she's known as Lally and we're still very close (right).

Lally taught me how to sing and bought me my first guitar for my 11th birthday which I then taught myself how to play.

A couple of years later a few of us had formed a skiffle band and learned a few songs between us – Van Morrison was in it too. We decided to do a concert for the neighbourhood. My father came to watch and sat the whole way through.

Afterwards he said: "It was all right. Just remember, you'll never get anywhere playing that aul' ukelele". He didn't know the difference between the guitar and the ukelele. He still insisted that I worked – we needed money as we were poor.


The best girls are those who blossom with personality and looks. One is Sky sports presenter Natalie Sawyer. She's a beautiful girl with a great personality.


Hilary is my guiding light so she's the person I would turn to. We always discuss everything. I can be hard to shut up and tend to make my own mind up. Hilary would have to subtly change it.


Lally was the person who taught me how to sing so she put me on the path musically.

In broadcasting terms it would have to be a guy called Ian Kennedy, who used to be senior in the BBC. He guided me through the maze of radio broadcasting at Radio Ulster, giving me some great advice.


Ray Charles would be first. He's one of the greatest exponents of soul music there has ever been in the world. There are few people I would call a genius but he's one.

Next would be the late Nelson Mandela for his whole determination and how he stood up for what he believed in under duress. I would love to have been able to speak to him.

Then John Lennon. The Beatles caused the greatest revolution in music there ever was and I think it will be a long time before it happens again.

Finally, Hillary Clinton who I actually interviewed at the White House years ago. I found her amazingly interesting.

George Jones is on Downtown Radio, weekdays from 2pm. For details visit

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