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How my pal Joe finally tracked down his quarry after 50 years


Joe, Kevin and Ryan are in my picture today aboard their great machine

Joe, Kevin and Ryan are in my picture today aboard their great machine

Singing sensation: Bronagh Gallagher

Singing sensation: Bronagh Gallagher

Joe, Kevin and Ryan are in my picture today aboard their great machine

Joe Bradley wasn't happy when his father, Patrick, sold the vintage engine which had been part of the family for years. And the 60-year-old quarryman has been telling me how he tracked down the towering, heavyweight machine and eventually brought it back home to Kilrea as a Bradley heirloom.

Patrick - now passed on - bought the mighty engine way back in the 1940s from a W J L Gray in Bangor to drive a stone-crusher at the Bradleys' Tamneymore quarry at Garvagh.

The six-stroke, seven-horsepower machine served the Bradleys well until 1960, one of its claims to fame being that it was used to tear down an old railway bridge in Kilrea.

It also took on holy orders at the Cistercian monastery in Portglenone, Co Antrim, providing steam to wash and clean animal feed.

However, Joe has always regretted that it was sold in 1967 and had several owners before going for restoration as a collector's item to sawmill owner Willie Smith, of Glamis, near Kirrie in Scotland, who rebuilt the engine to its glittering best.

That agricultural engine became Willie's pride and joy and he said he would never part with it, even when Joe made yearly trips across the sea to his mill, hoping he would change his mind.

But Willie and Joe came to an arrangement that, if the sawmill man ever did have a change of heart, Joe would get first refusal.

And then Willie died at 88 and, with no one aware of the promise, the machine that Joe desperately wanted back at his place in Kilrea went to auction.

All appeared lost until Mr Bradley discovered that the auction was taking place in Forfar.

Joe dashed from his home to Scotland and arrived in Forfar just in time to make the last bid, which was successful, and the vintage machine belonged to the Bradleys once again.

Joe and his wife, Sharon, have a son, Kevin, a daughter, Bronagh, and one grandchild. Another son, Ryan, a rally driver, was killed in an accident.

Joe, Kevin and Ryan are in my picture today aboard their great machine.

Bronagh to be mane attraction in Limavady

Multi-talented Bronagh Gallagher will have no excuses if a single hair is out of place when she appears in the Danny Boy Auditorium at the Roe Valley centre in Limavady on Saturday, November 11.

In her younger days, Bronagh, who is from Londonderry, worked as a hairdresser.

She then switched to acting and singing, and her big break came when she was cast to play Bernie in The Commitments.

"I still like to keep my hand in, creating hairstyles now and then," she tells me.

Bronagh, who has appeared in Pulp Fiction, Star Wars and Divorcing Jack since those early cutting and trimming days, stamped her authority on the film and music scene in 1996 when her picture in the role of Bernie appeared on an Irish postage stamp.

She will also perform at the Duncairn Arts Centre in Belfast on Saturday, November 25.

Bronagh has also released her latest single, Heal Me, which is featured on new album Gather Your Greatness. Her first album was Precious Soul, for which she not only wrote the music, but also played the drums.

She began performing as a teenager in a band called The Listener.

I need a steer on old cow's tale

I've just had an old legend thrust upon me that sets out to explain why the simple cow that provides our milk has sweet breath.

Apparently, the breath is sweet because, when Jesus was born in the stable, a cow warmed him with her breath when she saw him shivering.

She then drew the hay over Jesus with her lips.

As a reward for her kindness, I'm told, she was informed from on high that her breath and that of her descendants would be forever sweet.

The cow was also given the privilege of carrying her calf for nine months like a human female.

Can anyone explain the origin of this old world belief?

It also claims, by the way, that the milk of a red cow is superior to that of any other cow.

Singer Peter makes it a family affair

Soon to be married singer Peter Corry will be showing family loyalty when he joins up with his brother, Alan, and his Festival Brass in Glenmachan Church on Friday, October 20, at a concert that has become a regular feature of the Belfast autumn season.

Peter, who marries choreographer Fleur Mellor, from Leicester, next June, tells me the wedding will be in Italy. Alan will be there to usher the happy couple down the aisle.

Peter and Fleur met when she was working on the production of one of his musicals three years ago.

At the Glenmachan, where Wilfred Pyper will be compere, one of the songs Peter will be playing for the audience will be Phil Coulter's emotive Remember Me.

What would you name a road after Rory? Drive, of course

Will Rory McIlroy will ever have a street or road named after him? He surely deserves the tribute after all his accomplishments.

I'm prompted to ask the question because I've just confirmed that a by-way in east Antrim, called The Longshot, was named in honour of the great Fred Daly after he won the Open 70 years ago in 1947.

He was the first professional from Northern Ireland to carry off the Claret Jug, but why not name a street after Rory to celebrate his breathtaking achievements too?

Before he died in 1990, the great Fred told me how flattered he was that the name of a road was inspired by his fantastic success at tournament, which he won aged 36 with a score of 293.

What would you call a road named for Rory? Suggestions welcome.

Why Hurricane Irma is just storm in a teacup for baby Mary Robinson

What hurricane? Little Mary Robinson calmly sucks her thumb and appears to be asking that question, behind closed doors in her boarded-up home at West Palm Beach, Florida, as Hurricane Irma rages outside.

The picture of the nine-month-old baby was taken by her father, Stephen, in the early hours of Monday as Irma peaked.

Stephen, an accountant from Belfast, and his wife, Claire, also an accountant, have lived and worked in Florida for several years.

They chose to stay indoors instead of trying to escape Irma.

It turned out the decision to ride out the storm was the right one, as the family survived unscathed.

Mary's sister, Hannah, was asleep a few yards away as the snap was taken, unaware of the drama.

Who inspired Belfast poet of the working classes?

I'm told the late poet Robert Atkinson (1894-1949) was a natural romantic who penned what he called "working-class verses" in his idle hours.

He must have been a true romantic to have written a poem like this:

I worshipped you in silence

And built for you a throne,

Within the sanctuary of my heart,

Ruling my world alone.

No stars were ever brighter

As your dear sparkling eyes

Wielding a power that lured me,

Nearer to paradise.

The lady who inspired the work, called The Language of Love, must have been the love of his life.

Can someone tell me more about Robert Atkinson, his life and times in Belfast and, particularly, who his muse was?

Belfast Telegraph