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The day the Brown Bomber dropped into Glengormley

By Eddie McIlwaine

Present-day boxing fans scoff when I claim that the Brown Bomber Joe Louis licked an ice-cream slider in Glengormley once upon a time.

It happened in wartime 1943 according to my late uncle Jim Boyd who told me several times that he saw the legendary heavyweight champion of the world "with my own eyes" in the garden of Sadie Lee's cafe in the village, enjoying one of her famous ices.

I've no reason to doubt uncle Jim's word for Louis, champ for 12 years, was indeed in Northern Ireland in '43 entertaining American troops at Langford Lodge on the Lough Neagh shore and at the old Plaza Ballroom in Belfast which was a Red Cross Services Club in the blackout years.

He could have called at Sadie's ramshackle cafe on his way to Langford.

I only mention Louis and Sadie Lee today because she died 30 years ago this week in 1987.

And Thomas McKay, a retired fireman of Carol Hill Road in Glengormley, who has been researching her life and times can't find out where she is buried and is asking for help in tracing the cemetery where she was laid to rest. There are many stories out there about Sadie and the personalities who were said to have called at her cafe to sample her ice-cream, most of them fabricated by herself.

She also claimed to be the first woman to ride a motorbike and sidecar in Ireland.

The obvious question being how would she have known.

Louis, who died in 1981 at 67, became world heavyweight champion with his defeat of James J Braddock in 1937, but it was his first-round knockout of Germany's Max Schmeling in 1938 as the Second World War loomed that made him a national hero. Schmeling had inflicted Joe's only defeat two years before in 1936 so that victory was sweet revenge indeed. The boxer was born Joe Louis Barrow, the son of an Alabama cotton-picker who later moved to Detroit where the young Joe learned his boxing craft. He held the world heavyweight crown for an astonishing 12 years.

He retired undefeated but was forced back into the ring by money problems - his career earnings were $5m but at the age of 37 he hadn't a cent to his name. Two damaging defeats later he retired for good and turned to being a Las Vegas casino host.

Sheelagh is on a charity mission tonight

Mezzo-soprano Sheelagh Greer will be guesting with the King's Chorale at a spring concert in Fisherwick Presbyterian church tonight. And conductor Mark Spratt is delighted she is able to fit the date in.

"There aren't many days - or evenings - when I'm not involved with music somewhere," explains the single lady who teaches music in Ballyclare High School where I was once a star pupil.

But there is much more to the career of this extraordinary musician - both as an accompanist, a conductor and a singer.

She conducts the Clare Chorale which she formed, is accompanist to the Lindsay Chorale and Ballyclare Male Choir and sings with the Cappella Caeciliana chamber choir. And on Sundays Sheelagh plays the organ in the Methodist church in Ballynure where she lives.

"Music is my life," she says. "I don't have time for anything else." Sheelagh began singing at 16, a pupil of the renowned Irene Sandford and since then has been in demand across the UK and in Italy and on tours of India.

Her two bestselling albums are my Soul Shall Sing and Just You and I. The song she enjoys performing best of all is The Holy City - "a timeless, reflective piece of music."

Tonight's King's Chorale concert with Gillian Pitt as accompanist will benefit East African Missionary Society and Mercy Ships Field Service.

Take a turn on the potter's wheel

There are still a few places available today at the Flowerfield Arts Centre's Hey Clay bash at which with the help of professionals you can try your hand at throwing clay on the potter's wheel.

It's a free do but wear old clothes.

I might even turn up myself - I enjoy tossing clay around and getting in a mess.

Apparently there has been a surge of interest in craft making.

No experience is required so if you want to get creative contact Portstewart's Flowerfield on 028 7083 1400. The clay is waiting.

Meanwhile a new exhibition exploring the complex issue of identity through the use of painting, drawing, glass and photography opens at Flowerfield this month. 'Faultlines and Fractures' features the work of artists Rosie McClelland and Pamela Greene.

Both artists are drawn to imperfections in the human body and nature, and through their work, they try to communicate that it is through these 'faultlines' that we find our own 'DNA'.

Dylan's lyrics make you think twice

Legendary Bob Dylan, who will be on stage in Dublin's 3Arena on Thursday May 11, is promising that he will be laying a song called Don't Think Twice - It's Alright on his packed audience. It's from the soundtrack of the film The Gambler.

"A lot of people think it's a love song," I remember Bob explaining to me on a previous visit to Dublin years ago. "Yes it is slow and easygoing, but this is not a love song. I wrote it in the 60s as a statement that maybe you can say something to make yourself feel better. It's as if you were talking to yourself."

Apparently Dylan (75) was inspired to write Don't Think Twice when his girlfriend at the time Suze Rotolo went off to Italy to study at the University of Perugia and left him in New York. He re-imagined their separation in Don't Think Twice as him leaving her. An artist and civil rights activist, Rotolo died in 2011 at 67.

Here's a little of the lyrics of a song which has always appealed to me:

I'm walkin' down that long, lonesome road, babe/Where I'm bound, I can't tell/But goodbye's too good a word, gal/So I'll just say fare thee well.

The lovely Roxanne will have them rocking in the aisles

You'll recognise Roxanne Pallett immediately when she appears on the Opera House stage as Holly in the hit musical The Wedding Singer.

Roxanne (34) played Jo Sugden in Emmerdale for four years and was a favourite in the television soap.

Since then she has starred in several horror movies including Lake Placid 3 and Devil's Tower. And I remember her taking on the role of a teenager in the BBC drama Waterloo Road. She was 29 at the time. Roxanne is a good-looking girl so I wasn't surprised when she had a rose named after her at Southport Flower Show.

The girl who in 2005 won Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes impersonating Gloria Estefan will be in good voice in The Wedding Singer which opens at the Opera House for a week this Tuesday.

There's no such thing as a lucky rabbit's foot to seafarer Barney

Next time you are on a ship be sure not to mention a rabbit, warns old seadog Barney Magill who has just retired from a career on the ocean wave and is settling on the Isle of Man. Apparently, according to Barney, rabbits (or hares) mustn't be talked about on any gathering afloat.

"In fact," writes Sailor Magill, "it is an ill-omen for a fisherman to meet a rabbit on his way to his boat." Never mind the superstition about the sea and rabbits - I'm told by Barney that it is unwise to shoot a black rabbit.

He claims they can be ancestral spirits returning in animal form. But he goes a wee bit far I think when he confides that white rabbits can be the spirits of witches. He also tells me that the old custom of carrying a rabbit's foot for luck has died away.

One of Bob's famous pills will pep up your pets in no time

Bob Martin vitamin pills and powders for dogs perked up many a canine pet including my Cocker Spaniel Nancy in her heyday. But was this chap Martin for real or just a name on the packets?

Well, my research turns up the fact that a Robert (Bob) Martin did indeed create these same pills and powders in his home town of Southport way back in 1892 when he recognised the need to supplement the diets of his four-legged pets which included three greyhounds.

Bob formed a company which became popular with pet owners everywhere, looking to keep their dogs healthy.

Today, the company is still owned and managed by the Martin family in the South West of England, manufacturing and selling a wide range of products for pet owners.

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