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Hugo Duncan: Queen of country Philomena on mend after health scare

In good spirits: Philomena Begley
In good spirits: Philomena Begley

By Hugo Duncan

When I received a call on Saturday night to say Philomena Begley had been admitted to hospital with an irregular heartbeat, I was particularly concerned. Philomena, always upbeat and cheery, is not a person you would associate with a hospital bed.

Then, on Sunday morning, I heard from her son, Aidan, that she was undergoing tests and expected to be out within a couple of days.

It was a pleasant surprise, then, to receive a call on Monday morning, while I was on my way to the BBC in Belfast, and hear Philomena's voice at the end of the phone.

It was even more pleasant to learn she was in great form and looking forward to getting home.

Obviously, she was unable to appear on my Hugo Duncan and Friends show at the Grand Opera House in Belfast on Monday night as scheduled, so promoter David Hull and I put our heads together and decided that we would ask Susan McCann to come on board.

This she did without a moment's hesitation, and we were absolutely delighted. Like Philomena, she is a true professional who carries herself well on stage.

Not only did Susan prove a more than capable stand-in, but Philomena's son, who formerly played with The Miracles and latterly has been playing and managing Cliona Hagan's band, came along and I had a chat with him on stage.

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Aidan has certainly inherited his mother's enthusiasm for the business, and I understand he may be launching a new project shortly.

He has much in keeping with his mother in that he does not allow the grass to grow under his feet and is always willing to try something new.

The whole audience of 900-plus people joined in wishing Philomena a speedy return to full health, with Aidan asked to convey their good wishes to her.

To the delight of everyone, Philomena was released from hospital on Tuesday and was understandably relieved to get back home. She was well enough yesterday to go shopping in Dungannon in the beautiful February sunshine.

No doubt we will see her in action behind the microphone again shortly. In my estimation, she still has a lot to offer the entertainment scene.

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