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People: William Olphert on his special relationships


Eastern promise: William Olphert lived and worked in China

Eastern promise: William Olphert lived and worked in China

Eastern promise: William Olphert lived and worked in China

The 40-year-old former church minister is the current managing director of the Chinese Welfare Association (NI). He lives in Ballymena with his musician wife Rebekah and children, Cameron (13) and Caoilin (11).

My wife, Rebekah

Rebekah and I both went to York University - she studied music and I studied Mandarin and linguistics. I used to take her to all these obscure noodle places - even the homes of Chinese and Korean professors. We lived in London for a while and I also spent some time in South Korea

We moved back to Northern Ireland a few years ago where I started working as an interpreter. Rebekah is a classical violinist and started the Ballymena Chamber Orchestra.

We're both quite adventurous and eccentric. We're like chalk and cheese, but what keeps us together is that neither one of us can be filed into any one particular box.

My children

It took me a couple of years to really grasp what being a dad is all about. Cameron and Caoilin are at the perfect age now and I'm quite technologically-minded, so I can keep up with their technical minds.

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While my wife and I came back to Northern Ireland to settle down, the kids have inherited our adventurous sides and love to travel.

My best friend

I lost contact with a lot of my friends when I left Northern Ireland for university and for China. I now have a close group of friends that I know through my church work.

John Carson is one of these guys who I met on a train and through church, and he's a person I would turn to if there was something I needed to talk about.

My parents

My mum Jean passed away about two years ago, but my dad Townsley is still with us. My parents were quite adventurous, too. They were from Londonderry, but in the 1970s they bought a farm miles away in Co Antrim.

I have an older brother, Jim, and a younger brother, Ian. We are a close family, although Jim is 15 years older. My parents were very supportive. Jim was into mechanics and Ian was into farming but, from an early age, I was into languages. I made up my own language when I was 10, which is apparently quite common for those who end up as linguists.

The person I go to for advice

Apart from my wife, I would go to my best friend John. We've only known each other for a couple of years, but he's someone who I could talk to about a problem and he would give me straight answers. I appreciate that kind of honesty.

My mentors

At university, I had to spend a year in China as part of my degree and I went over with the help of a charity group in Dorchester, which is where I met Fred and Margaret Henry.

Fred had retired and decided to go out to China and help people. We were both from Ballymena and struck up an instant friendship. Fred died in 2003, but Margaret is still alive and still lives about a mile away from us. They were both like mentors and grandparents to Rebekah and I, particularly when we moved back to Ballymena. I still go to Margaret when I want someone to tell me honestly what they think.

Celebrity crush: Sara Martins

I'm not really one for crushes, but there has been a programme on the BBC recently called Murder In Paradise. It stars this young French actress and she seems lovely.

Fantasy dinner party

My first guest would be Genghis Khan. He was a ruthless warlord, but he did a lot to unite the tribes of Mongolia and created the now ancient country.

Next, I would have to ask Jesus. I've had many crises of faith, but I would like to meet him as he's full of opposites.

Finally, I would love to invite Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness. Paisley was a big character where I was growing up and it would be great to have the two of them together at the dinner party.

  • The Chinese Welfare Association (NI) will be organising events to celebrate Chinese New Year on Saturday, February 22, at T13 in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. For tickets and information go to www.cwa-ni.org

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