Hey Jude... why Liverpool holds key to Co Antrim church's name
None of the faithful who turned up at St Jude's Parish Church in Muckamore, Co Antrim, the other evening to welcome new rector the Rev John McClure could have had any doubts in their heads about him being the right man for the job.
For there were 360 of them packed into the little place of worship - named after Jude, one of the 12 Apostles, the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes.
So, with such an enthusiastic turnout, it was obvious this was no lost cause of an event.
The Rev John has been married to Margot for 39 years and they have two daughters, Stephanie and Rachel, and one grandson, John, who is 16 months.
Margot was born in Parkgate and grew up in Muckamore. She has worked for the charity Extern Social, which is involved with the homeless and social issues, for more than 20 years.
The Rev John arrives at St Jude's and its sister parishes, St Catherine's at Killead and Gartree, Langford Lodge, after three years as curate at St Patrick's, Ballymena.
Prior to that, he served 14 years with the Irish Church Mission.
This new rector enjoys the occasional game of golf, walking with his springer spaniel, Lily, and is a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur football club.
Just how St Jude's got its name is down to the clergyman who was in the pulpit at the opening service way back in 1841.
He was the visiting Rev Hugh O'Neill, an evangelical Ulster preacher who was rector of St Jude's in Liverpool at the time.
So, naturally, he decided there just couldn't be anyone better to whom the new place of worship in Co Antrim should be dedicated.
Jude became associated with desperate situations because of a warning he once delivered to churchgoers everywhere who were suffering persecution, advising them that the faithful must keep going - even in harsh or difficult circumstances.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, Jude became a missionary, building up the foundations of the early Church.
However, he died a martyr's death.
Jude was an old man and ready to retire with his good works behind him when he was clubbed to death by an angry mob.
Jude is also the patron saint of the Chicago Police Department.
Ellie will be taking lead role at Ulster Hall
When willowy singer Ellie Rowsell strolls on stage at the Ulster Hall on November 27 you can be sure she will be strumming her lead guitar.
"I can't understand why girls in the music business tend to be just singers, or else play the piano," says Ellie (23).
"And, if they do pull on a guitar, it is sure to be the bass. Why not the lead?
"Girls might enjoy the lead guitar, like I do, as well as the vocals."
The young lady from north London and her band, Wolf Alice, will be in Belfast following a successful appearance at this year's Glastonbury.
Yet, only three years ago, this daughter of a painter and a nurse was in a day job in a denim repair shop.
Then along came the boys - Joff Oddie, Theo Ellis and Joel Amey - and alternative rock band Wolf Alice was formed and they along with Ellie had a huge hit with their album My Love is Cool.
The rest, as they say is history.
Musical appeal strikes a chord
If you have an old musical instrument gathering dust in the attic, here's a way of putting it to good use - even if it is damaged.
The all-female Lagan Camerata choir and their conductor, the very talented Judith Watson, are putting together a scheme whereby children (in the P5-to-Form 1 range), deprived of music tuition for one reason or another, can be given the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, be given singing tuition and learn to read music.
"But Camerata needs help to make our ambitious dream come true," says Judith. "Especially as we will be offering the tuition free."
So, as well as cash, the choir is looking for donations of instruments - specifically flutes, guitars and cellos.
"We can't begin this outreach programme until we have enough instruments to go round.
"So, even if the one in your attic is a wee bit damaged, let us have it anyway; we will have it repaired good as new," Judith adds.
You can contact Judith on 07845 391 842, or by email: email@example.com
This naming of racehorses is a Rum do
Imagine anyone calling a fine-looking racehorse Mango Chutney. Well, the animal, ridden by jockey Phillip Makin at Thirsk the other day, didn't seem to mind that highly-inappropriate name.
Trained by John Davies, he romped home a winner at odds of 7-2.
But there's more - the third horse home in the same race was called Major Crispies at 16-1.
Have horse-owners no shame, or respect for their four-legged friends?
And, yes, I'm aware that the name of the only horse ever to win the Grand National three times was Red Rum.
I know a racegoer who got hopelessly drunk on the stuff after that third famous victory.
And afterwards he made a trip to Scotland to say thanks to Red Rum, who was stabled near Falkirk in his retirement.
My friend never told me how much he won that National day, but I reckon it was a tidy sum.
When witches cast their evil spell in famed Scottish town
JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, was born in the picturesque Scottish town of Kirriemuir in 1860 and died at the age of 77.
I mention the author of this children's classic because a friend called Bill Grant, who lives there, claims that the town in the county of Angus is just as well known for its ancient coven of witches as for Barrie.
Bill says that some older houses still feature a witches 'stane' on the front wall to ward off the evil created by witches.
Women accused of witchcraft were put on trial at Forfar Assizes in September 1661, including a Helen Guthrie, originally from Donegal, who confessed to her own evil ways and then named other females who were arrested.
Many of them were put in prison, but some fled to Ireland.
Mike really ought to return to TV role and put politicians on the spot
I hope Mike Nesbitt, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, considers a return to the job at which he excelled.
Though he is still a busy MLA, Mike was an also-ran in the Strangford constituency at the Westminster election. In my opinion, however, he is always first past the post when it comes to being a television presenter. So I'm hoping he will make a comeback on the small screen.
At only 60, he could be a force to be reckoned with behind the microphone, asking the questions instead of having to do the answering in front of it. Viewers everywhere still have a high regard for Mike.
And they would welcome his return.
Patience needed if you want to make hay while sun shines
Living in the country as I do, there are always hay carts blocking the road at this time of the year, some horse drawn and others pulled by tractors.
But when I complained to a horseman friend called Philip Swann that the carts were a nuisance, he gave me some good advice.
According to Philip, to meet a loaded hay cart is lucky.
Make a wish immediately as you wait patiently for the driver to pull in so you can pass, he advises.
The wish will definitely come true, promises Swann.
The only proviso is that you aren't greedy and make an outrageous request.
But here's the warning from Philip.
If the hay cart is going away from you and you see its back first, the omens could be bad - so don't attempt to pass or make any kind of wish.