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My pal Turlough and covering the murder trial of the century


Judge Turlough O'Donnell

Judge Turlough O'Donnell

Isn't Rachel Hunter looking good at 47?

Isn't Rachel Hunter looking good at 47?

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Aideen Fox

Aideen Fox


Judge Turlough O'Donnell

In our younger days, His Honour, the good judge Turlough O'Donnell and I once had roles to play in the murder trial of the last man hanged in Northern Ireland. Turlough, who has died aged 92, was a 36-year-old junior barrister for the defence back in 1961, led by James Brown QC, and I was in the Press box at Downpatrick Courthouse, reporting the case for the Belfast Telegraph.

In the dock was Robert McGladdery, accused and found guilty by the jury at the end of a seven-day trial of the murder of 19-year-old shop assistant Pearl Gamble. His trial, at which he pleaded his innocence, had been switched from Newry, where McGladdery lived, after two national newspapers published interviews with him before his arrest, which could have been prejudicial to him getting a fair hearing.

Just before the case began, McGladdery, through a prison officer, asked me to provide him with a copy of the Belfast Telegraph each day, so he could read how my late colleague Graham McKenzie and I were reporting the proceedings.

I asked barrister O'Donnell to find out from court officials if providing a daily Belfast Telegraph would be permissible and there were no objections. I never did find out if the accused approved of our way with the legal words.

McGladdery was sentenced to death by Lord Justice Curran. It was the first and only time I saw the formal black cap being placed on a judge's head. Just how His Lordship was feeling as he pronounced the death sentence I'll never know - his own daughter, Patricia, had been murdered in the 1950s.

McGladdery was hanged at Crumlin Road Prison just before Christmas that year of 1961. In the condemned cell an hour before going to the gallows, he confessed to the killing to Presbyterian minister the Rev William Vance and asked for it to be made public. Hanging was abolished in the province soon afterwards.

Turlough O'Donnell and I kept in touch occasionally in the years that followed and, on a few occasions, he gave me good advice with legal matters. He went on to become a distinguished judge and a leading figure in Northern Ireland legal circles.

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I saw little of this great and humble man when he and his wife, Eileen, who died eight years ago, moved to live in Co Louth.

Why Rachel still looks fabulous at 47

Isn't Rachel Hunter looking good at 47? The first time we met was way back in the early 1990s at the King's Hall, where we were seated side by side up in the balcony at a Rod Stewart concert.

Unaware who she was, I asked her which of his hits she liked best. "All of them," she replied. I only discovered she was Rod's wife - although those legs looked familiar - when the lights went up at the interval. I wonder if she still enjoys all his songs now that she and Rod are no longer an item.

Anyway, all these years later I caught a glimpse of Rachel again, this time on the Co Down coast on a visit here to watch their son, Liam, playing ice hockey for Great Britain. And she hasn't changed a bit. What's the lady's secret? Rod, whom I first met back in the 1960s, when he was brought to Belfast as a comparative unknown by the late Jim Aiken, always had good taste in wives.

Recalling Rod's Belfast tribute

It was on this date in 1997 that the legend that was Rod McKuen announced from the stage of the Ulster Hall that he had dedicated one of his songs to Belfast.

The name of the composition was The Things Men Do and I mention it today because of the 20th anniversary and the fact that the album Sold Out, on which it first appeared, is back in popularity.

Fans of McKuen, who died in 2015 aged 81, are urging that it should be reissued.

The original lyrics of The Things Men Do were also included in McKuen's Pocket Book of Poems, which has already been re-released.

McKuen, my long-distance friend in Beverley Hills, called me on the phone just months before his passing to tell me he was so relieved that some kind of peace was being restored here.

But would he like the state our province is in now?

His lyrics were heart-warming and he projected honesty and truth in albums like Sold Out, which he recorded at Carnegie Hall in New York.

He was also nominated for an Oscar for Jean, the theme tune of the film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Aideen's on song for St Agnes' 60th

It's anniversary time for student Aideen Fox (21), as she prepares to step on to Belfast's Grand Opera House stage to play rough and tumble Sally in Me and My Girl with St Agnes' Choral Society.

You see, the society is celebrating its 60th year with this musical. Aideen, who has a passion for musical theatre, is taking time off from her biochemistry course at Queen's University, Belfast to take on the star role.

"It's a dream come true," says the talented woman from Carrickmore, Co Tyrone. "Sally is a Cockney with a heart of gold and is a delight to play."

Aideen has been on the Grand Opera House stage before in shows like High Society with New Lyric Operatic and has attained grades in acting, singing, piano and Irish dancing, which have made her an all-round performer.

She also performed with St Agnes's at a Music and Memories 60th anniversary night at the Ulster Hall.

Me and My Girl is at the Grand Opera House from Tuesday until Saturday next week.

When time comes to face the final curtain, I'll do it my way

Half a century ago this week, when songwriter Paul Anka - he will be 76 in July - was putting the lyrics of his best-known song together, he faced huge criticism for his efforts.

Critics sneered at his grammar, the mawkishness of his composition and the way he used some words differently to their usual meaning.

The song? It was My Way.

And all the criticism vanished when the ballad was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1969 and they became the most popular lyrics of all time.

Today, My Way is the favourite choice to be sung at gravesides everywhere, leaving Abide With Me and Jesus Loves Me trailing in its wake.

Mind you, much as I enjoy Ol' Blue Eyes singing the Anka song, I will not have it at my funeral, when it comes around.

Love life will blossom like a dream with flowers beneath your pillow

If you are an unwed young woman eager to find a husband, here's what you should do on Wednesday, June 21, the longest day of the year: go out into the countryside and pick nine different kinds of flower.

And that night, when you go to bed, put the blooms under your pillow.

The claim of the folksy old tale - related to me by a lady who refuses to let me use her name - is that you will dream the identity of the man you will marry inside a year. The reason my anonymous storyteller doesn't want to be named is that she used this method to find a husband one June 21... but then divorced him.

June 21 and midsummer have always been associated with love and marriage.

After the nuptials comes the honeymoon, when the couple should share meals prepared with honey so that their life together will be sweet and long-lasting.

Make your wedding a corker ... just don't let the fizz go out of it

Here's another romantic story associated with marriage, which originated at the Dunadry Hotel in Templepatrick.

On the wall is a plaque made up of scores and scores of champagne bottle corks with their open ends upwards.

Each cork represents the wedding of a couple who have had their reception in the Dunadry and is a hope for a happy relationship ahead. Here's the downside, though: if a couple split up and divorce, their cork is turned upside down.

And, sadly, there are a few upside-down corks on the plaque.

The Dunadry has just been sold, so I hope the new owners don't take the marriage plaque with all its history down.

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