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What's the rail story about this remarkable old Crumlin bridge?

By Eddie McIlwaine

Forget the upcoming Assembly election, Brexit and President Trump - the only subject up for debate in Crumlin, Co Antrim, today is the village's unique and splendid bridge.

You see, this mighty iron structure carries a mothballed railway line and towers over Mill Road, with the picturesque Camlin River meandering lazily beneath.

One avenue of thought is that this is the only bridge of its kind in all of Ireland. But there are folk out there who will tell you there is another three-line bridge elsewhere on this island - the only trouble is, they haven't a clue where it could be situated.

Perhaps there's a reader out there who will be able to tell me and settle the argument once and for all.

What puts Crumlin's special bridge back in people's minds is the fact that it is currently being given a facelift, its screws tightened and the ironwork checked, plus a coat of paint.

The bridge was built in 1915 and the rail line carried passenger trains between Belfast and Antrim through Lisburn and Crumlin stations for years until the station was closed in the 1980s and that bridge was mothballed - never mind its standing as a feat of engineering.

Talk of the Belfast-Lisburn-Antrim-Belfast circular route being re-opened is premature, but watch this space.

It was the engineering company of James Finlay, of Motherwell in Scotland, which built the bridge in the first year of the Great War. A lot of supplies essential to the war effort were carried on the line.

The building work took several months and provided jobs for more than 200 men at a time when work was scarce in this corner of the county.

Apparently, there used to be an earlier bridge over the Camlin and Mill Road.

It was made of wood and, when it was taken down, it was re-erected at Windsor Park in Belfast, straddling the rail line to Dublin, to allow football fans access across the track to the stadium.

KT to share Belfast spotlight with her heroes

KT Tunstall, a singer who has turned a couple of curious song titles into hits, has been to Belfast a few times. But the visit she is planning for Tuesday, June 6, at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast is a concert she is looking forward to more than any other in the next few months.

You see, KT - some fans wrongly call her Katie, which doesn't bother her - is a loyal fan of Simple Minds and on that summer night, KT will be sharing a stage with her heroes as their special guest.

From Edinburgh, but now based in LA, KT emerged with her 2004 debut, Eye to the Telescope, and soon after won a Brit Award, an Ivor Novello Award and earned Grammy and Mercury Prize nominations.

Since then, her music has figured prominently in film and on television.

KT's critically-acclaimed new album, Kin, is out now. And one of her earliest tracks is called The Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.

See what I mean about oddball titles?

Here's one I rustled up earlier...

Cattle farmer Fergal McBrien, in Co Sligo, has been telling me why he always treats his cows with respect.

You see, Fergal grew up listening to wise men in the county telling him the legend of why cows have a sweet breath.

If you believe this ancient, folksy tale - and there is no reason why you shouldn't - it's because, when Jesus was born in the stable at Bethlehem, a cow, seeing him shivering with the cold, warmed him with her breath and drew the hay over him with her lips.

As a reward for her kindness, she was promised that her breath and that of her descendants would for ever more be sweet.

Fergal says he has travelled all over Ireland buying and selling cattle, and on other farm business, but has never heard the legend of the cow's sweet breath anywhere else except in his home county.

I was able to tell him, after a bit of research, that the legend is a familiar story in France, too. Did you know that the scent of the little cowslip flower resembles the smell of a cow's breath?

Why I'll never get board with Ludo

I hope there is a game of Ludo available at the creative workshop going on in Castle Mall shopping centre, Antrim, until Saturday, February 25 - courtesy of Big Telly Theatre Company.

Lots of things will be happening, including poetry slams, theatre exhibitions, music and dance shows, as well as art installations.

But what appeals to me most of all is the promise of all our favourite board games.

"So don't forget to tell us what your favourite games are," says PR lady Jeanette McIntyre. "There may even be a game you used to play that isn't popular anymore that you would like to be revived."

I'd love to shake the dice and have a game of Ludo for the first time in years.

You see, way back in the 1950s, nothing made me happier on a winter evening than to snuggle up by a roaring log fire in the kitchen of the McIlwaine house in Carnmoney and play Ludo.

Sometimes I even played it by candlelight with a girl called May and a couple of neighbouring brothers called Harold and Bertie.

It was smashing to enjoy the excitement of moving the counters around the board while listening to the wind howling at the window.

A statue fit for a princess who left us too young and too soon

Once upon a time, on a summer's afternoon at a Hillsborough garden party, I came face to face with Princess Diana and was so impressed by her looks and charm that I told her that, one day, a right Royal statue would be raised to her.

Now, sons William and Harry are planning to erect an edifice in memory of their mother, who died in that horror car crash in Paris.

I'm sorry it isn't going up for the reason I suggested that June day years ago, at a time when the Princess was about to be divorced from Charles.

She died too soon and too young.

A little bird tells me Wordsworth and I have something in common

I was wondering if there were any poems out there about my favourite little bird, the wren.

And, lo and behold, a lady called Miriam Magill, from Fivemiletown, has come up with one by William Wordsworth called A Wren's Nest.

Apparently, he liked wrens, too. Here are a couple of verses:

Among the dwellings framed by birds

In field or forest with nice care, Is none that with the little wren's

In snugness may compare.

No door the tenement requires,

And seldom needs a laboured roof;

Yet is it to the fiercest sun

Impervious, and storm-proof.

Is our clock haunted by the ghost of old Father Time?

Can a clock be haunted? I only ask because of the peculiar habits of a wall clock that hangs in our kitchen. After ticking away soundly for weeks, it suddenly stopped and, yes, it had plenty of wind left. And even after a bit of rewinding, it still obstinately refused to tell the time.

The clock - of the type that used to hang in railway stations - gave us a shock one afternoon as we sipped our coffee when it suddenly started to tick again of its own accord.

The hands, of course, were pointed in the wrong directions, but we didn't dare move them to the proper time in case we caused an upset.

So what is going on? Somebody suggested that the problem lies in the fact the wall is not truly straight.

I prefer to believe my clock has got a spirit all of its own.

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