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How the tragic Somme death of great uncle inspired book

Former news editor Steven Moore (58) was inspired to write two books about the First World War by the death on the first day of the Battle of the Somme of his great uncle, Sergeant John Reid Moore (22), who served with a trench battery unit after joining up with the 14th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.

In a letter home dated November 1915, the sergeant wrote: "There is no word of us going back to the trenches and as far as I can hear we won't be back again until after Christmas and I don't care as it is not much of a picnic."

But brave soldier Moore did indeed return to the trenches and was killed on July 1, 1916 as the Somme erupted and he was involved in an advance.

Now journalist Steven's two books, which are dedicated to his great uncle, are in the shops today from Colourpoint, entitled The Irish on the Somme: A Battlefield Guide, £16, and 100 Irish Stories of the Great War: Ireland's Experience of the 1914-18 Conflict', £12.99.

Author Moore has another dedication - to his father, another John Reid Moore (84), "a man of honour and integrity" who proofed the tomes.

"My great uncle John and his brother William joined up in the 14th," explained Steven.

"William, who also served in the 12th Battalion, ended up as a Second Lieutenant and won the Military Cross and survived the war."

Steven, who is married to Heather with whom he has sons Nicholas, Andrew and Christopher, admits that writing books is a lonely occupation, but he adds: "Throughout this work I have happily walked in the company of eminent historians, and most rewarding of all retraced the footsteps of hundreds of soldiers through their memoirs, letters or obituaries."

It took him five years to put his military books together. "It has always been a part-time hobby which I researched in spurts," explains the writer, who has other best-sellers like The Chocolate Soldiers to his name.

Like any rose, George could be thorny

I'm reminded of the great George Best today because the red rose named after him when he passed away is growing in abundance in my garden. George and I had many revealing chats, the most memorable of which took place while he was in the bath in the dressing room at Windsor Park with me perched on the edge. He had just been sent off for throwing mud at the referee.

Darcey on her toes for Strictly

Darcey Bussell, the celebrated ballerina who used to thrill audiences at the Grand Opera House in Belfast, will be a judge once again when Strictly Come Dancing returns to television at the end of September.

And when Len Goodman retires as head judge at the end of this series, Darcey will be a favourite to take over. I used to talk to her when she was on the bill at the Opera House and she was as good at the chat and small talk as she was light on her feet.

The lady, mother of two daughters with banker husband Angus Forbes, seems to pop up everywhere these days. I spotted her picking a winner at Goodwood Races where she declined to get up on a horse for fun. "I have really strong legs," she revealed, "but horse riding isn't for me, although I enjoy watching them run."

The Opera House is one of Darcey's favourite theatres and I hope to meet up with her there in the not too distant future, even though she is no longer a ballerina.

Roma set for Ben-Hur presentation

A vintage copy of the book on which the blockbuster Ben-Hur - which opens across the province on September 6 - is based is to be presented to the film's executive producer Roma Downey by Michael McAdam, in whose Movie House cinemas the epic will be screened.

The novel, set in Biblical times, was written by Lew Wallace in 1880. The edition which has come to light now is dated 1945 and was published by Dean & Son of London.

The original (1959) Ben-Hur movie, one of whose stars was the late Stephen Boyd, a son of Glengormley, was also based on the Wallace tome. Roma, from Londonderry, was a Boyd fan.

The hardback was presented to Mr McAdam by an anonymous donor after she learned in my column that Michael wanted the new film to be dedicated to the memory of Boyd (real name Billy Millar), for whom he has always had a high regard as an actor.

Lewis 'Lew' Wallace, from Indiana, was an American lawyer, Union general in the American Civil War, politician, diplomat and author whose Ben-Hur is best-known as a historical adventure story - a tale of the Christ.

Carnmoney church expansion might only please Almighty

For a little while the other day, my home village of Carnmoney went missing. Or to put it another way, I drove through without recognising anything familiar.

In fact, at first glance I thought an architect had erected a lookalike of the Waterfront Hall on the site of an old lecture hall where I used to play badminton. What has happened is that the Presbyterian church buildings have been extended and modernised, and I have to say are looking good to accommodate packed services every Sunday and on weekdays and nights, too.

But the downside is that Carnmoney is no longer a picturesque village with a church on the side. It is now a dominating church with a village almost as an afterthought. How times change - I hope the Almighty is pleased.

The Chilean dictator who loved to be mistaken for an Irishman

Here's a good pub quiz question: what nationality was Bernardo O'Higgins? You'd be wrong if you thought old Bernardo was Irish.

In spite of his name, I'm informed by Pat Sloan of Antrim, who came across him as she studies the history of Chile, that O'Higgins, born in August 1778 (he died in 1842) was a Chilean patriot.

He fought for the Patriots against the Royalists to establish the Republic of Chile, but once in power he was inclined to be a dictator and was forced to resign.

He lived a quiet life after only a year in office and loved to be mistaken for an Irishman.

Could catching falling leaves really help fend off the cold?

With autumn just around the corner and the leaves soon to come tumbling down, it can be a bore having to brush them up from the path or blow them away.

But take heart, for I'm informed by Jimmy Anderson - a gardener who knows about these things - that catching as many falling leaves as possible in one hand will lead to many happy months ahead. "Even a single leaf grabbed before it touches the ground will preserve the person doing the grabbing from colds during the coming winter," says Jimmy.

A load of baloney, I hear my readers proclaim. However, Jimmy has a warning too - he claims it is unlucky to bring withered leaves into the house.

Belfast Telegraph


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