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Killyleagh native who perfected chocolate

By Eddie McIlwaine

My hospital consultant is going to scoff – I'm about to tell him that a successful operation I had several weeks ago also cured my obsession with chocolate.

I used to devour three bars of Cadburys a day plus a couple of king-size Mars Bars.

However, since undergoing serious work on my back in a ward of the Royal Victoria, I have simply lost my taste for all chocolate delicacies.

I've lost a couple of pounds in weight, too, along with my appetite for chocolate of any kind.

Here's the point of this story, though – I'm still fascinated, as I have been since boyhood – by the life and times of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1750), who was born in Killyleagh and grew up to become an eminent physician, scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and after whom Sloane Square and several streets in London are named.

But the real claim to fame of Hans, who was created a baronet in 1716, is that he invented chocolate.

In fact, the Hans Sloane Chocolate Festival will be staged in the grounds of Killyleagh Castle – where he romped as a boy – from September 19 until September 21.

Sloane was in Jamaica in 1687 as doctor to the governor and took time out to discover 800 new species of plants.

Among them was cocoa, which he decided had a nauseating taste – until he perfected a recipe, which included mixing it with milk.

He brought the recipe back to England and it was sold at first as a medicine until the Cadbury lot put it on the market as Sloane's drinking chocolate.

The rest is history – Cadbury eventually produced the chocolate we know today and Hans Sloane became a Fellow of the Royal Society and a founder of the British Museum.

Not bad for a son of a wee village in Co Down, whose detailed story will be told at that Killyleagh Festival next month.

But I have still lost all my desire for his chocolate.

Anthony answers a prayer

My reference to Anthony the Patron Saint of Lost Things reminded Killead woman Vera Rogers of a curious experience she had on holiday in Italy way back in 1974.

She and her husband Leckie took their year-old daughter Alice on a bus tour one day to Verona and Lake Garda, where they stopped on the shore for a picnic.

After the buns and coffee in an eaterie, they got back on the coach.

"I discovered as the bus moved off that my handbag was missing," says Vera. "I thought it was in the buggy, stored with the luggage, but when we arrived at our next stop it wasn't there.

"So the driver promised to go back to the cafe on our way to Padua – our next stop.

"It was then that another passenger suggested we should pray to St Anthony and, when we arrived at the cafe, she looked after Alice while Leckie and I searched for the handbag.

"Guess what? I found it exactly where I had left it."

The coach then took the holidaymakers on their way and arrived at Padua, where St Anthony's Basilica is situated.

But on the return journey to their hotel, the bus broke down.

"I've often wondered if that breakdown was brought about by St Christopher letting me know he was still there," declares Vera.

St Christopher is, of course, the Patron Saint of Travellers.

Kylie poised for soap return

Ever-young Kylie Minogue could soon be back in Neighbours, where she became a star as a teenager, playing nice Charlene to Jason Donovan as her boyfriend Scott.

Kylie, still a favourite everywhere as a singer, has been invited to re-appear in the television soap, which is soon to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

I hope she agrees.

Doesn't Kylie, who returns to Belfast as part of a world tour on November 9, still look a dream in middle age?

Neighbours fans everywhere are keeping their fingers crossed.

Poetic justice: The odd case of poor McGonigal

Imagine being called the world's worst poet.

The label was attached to William McGonigal, a weaver who did indeed write appalling rhymes.

He passed away on this date in 1902 and a great sigh of relief erupted everywhere.

Even Queen Victoria refused to listen to William when the Dundee man turned up at Balmoral Castle. He held recitals, including one in Belfast, at which he was pelted with rotten fruit.

The odd thing is McGonigal is remembered in Scotland where, I once asked a local to name his favourite poet, and the only one he knew was William.

He thought Rabbie Burns had once played for Rangers. Honest.

Comic scores: Jimmy releases a ditty with bite

Comic Jimmy Cricket is well aware of the old proverb about being once bitten, twice shy.

Which has inspired him to write and release on record a novelty song called I Was Bit By Luis Suarez.

It was penned on the back of the infamous World Cup incident, when footballer Suarez was accused of biting an opponent.

The ditty with bite is on the Rolling Tear label, which specialises in comedy and will be released next month along with a video.

And Jimmy adds: "I couldn't believe what happened on the pitch that day, so I wrote the song about me bumping into Mr Suarez."

'Legendary' status: A sense of sporting perspective

One of our most over-worked words – especially when describing minor celebrities and sports stars – is 'legend'. I got to thinking about it when a Press release described three footballers on a visit to The Waterfront as 'legends'.

I had heard of only one of them and he could be described as a good player, but never a legend. The real legends with whom I have been acquainted in sport were Sir Stanley Matthews, Artie Bell, the 1950s motorcycle racer, rugby man Jack Kyle and cricketer Denis Compton.

Sir Alex Ferguson? Not quite. George Best was a flawed legend, but with a special talent. Rory McIlroy, at just 25, is well on his way to becoming our greatest legend of all. I hope he makes it.






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