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When the little people paved way for both sides to party

An Ulster Log

By Eddie McIlwaine

Squire John Hamilton (1800-1884), who lived on St Ernan’s Island off the Donegal coast, had one big problem.  When the weather turned nasty and a storm blew he was isolated on the isle and out of contact with his devoted tenants on the mainland.

So in 1860 the good folk, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, arrived in their hundreds  with spades, picks and barrows and built a causeway linking St Ernan’s with the shore.

But the heaving Atlantic didn’t allow the masonry and stonework to settle and washed all the hard work away.

So the folk returned in the dead of night and rebuilt the causeway in between the sweeping tides and stood guard until everything was set and the roadway was safe. It is there to this very day.

The tenants refused all recompense from Hamilton, who they adored because of the way he looked after them at a time of great hardship in the famine years.

So the squire decided to throw a party on the island for all the tenants who had carried out the arduous task.

However, the Catholics told him they would be in trouble if they were seen to be partying with the Prods and the Protestants came up with a similar reason about having a good time with the RCs and turned him down, too.

So John Hamilton had a bright idea — he put the story abroad that it was the leprechauns who built the causeway and the party went ahead with everyone of both religions drinking and eating their fill without feeling guilty.

Is the story true? I like to think it is and so does writer Paul Charles who has been on the island many times and has just based his latest novel St Ernan’s Blues there.

By the way, there is a commemorative plaque on a wall that records: “This causeway stands to commemorate the great mutual love between John Hamilton and the people of Donegal, both his own tenants and others. Through a time of bitter famine and pestilence, John Hamilton, not for the first time or the last time had stood between them and death.”

For the record, Ernan is part of the name of four Irish saints including Ernan of Hinba.

Lisa blazes a country trail of Wildfire...

Lisa McHugh (26), the young Queen of Country Music, will be the star of a weekend of dancing at the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny, on the weekend of November 4-6, singing tracks from her album Wildfire as well as those traditional hoedown ballads we all enjoy.

Lisa lives in Fermanagh where the locals look on her as one of their own, but she actually hails from Glasgow and only came here for the first time when she was booked at a couple of venues. She loved the place so much she decided to stay.

Her series, On The Road With Lisa, has returned to Irish TV.

After Louis' abrupt departure, Jose may need God on his side

In a banner headline new manager Jose Mourinho declares: "I will save Manchester United."

I thought only God could make such a claim. But then Mourinho appears to think he is all-powerful. Maybe he will get the team up where they think they belong next season.

Saving the club's reputation after the way United sacked Louis van Gaal, just as he guided his players to a dramatic victory in the FA Cup final, will be more difficult ...

Padua, the patron saint of lost property? The name rings a bell

Remember my story about Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) the patron saint of lost property? Well, Arnold Williamson, of Armoy, tells me a silent film was produced in 1933 to tell this saint's tale, with Italian Aldo Fiorelli in the title role.

Arnold believes that Saint Anthony had the gift of turning up things that had gone missing and says he would be a good subject for a modern-day movie. "I lost a valuable gold ring and it was missing for a year until prayers were said to this holy man and it was found in an old drawer," Arnold remembers.

That's all very well and good, but so far Padua, the anniversary of whose death on June 13, 1231, is about to be commemorated, hasn't found a ring I lost five years ago.

Roar of Leo the lion was my morning school alarm call

I notice that in the cull of animals at Belfast's Bellevue Zoo during the 1941 Blitz (to protect the public at large if the creatures  escaped) there is no mention of a lion.

Which leads me to believe there was no King of the Jungle in residence there in the war years.

I only mention this because I've been thinking about a Leo that took up residence in the zoo in June 1946 when the war was over and Bellevue was filling up its paddocks and cages once again. I've good reason to be aware that a Leo did arrive at Bellevue when peace returned.

You see, I used to hear that noisy lion roaring as I lay in bed across the valley from the zoo at Carnmoney where I grew up.

My address was three miles away from Leo's cage, but there was no mistaking that roar that was a signal every morning for me to get up for school.

Champ Brian's major challenge

You could say the bottom is about to fall out of champion drum major Brian Wilson's world. To put it another way, Brian is to leap into space in his first-ever bungee jump. A free fall of 160 feet, would you believe.

It will happen at Armagh Rugby Club on Saturday, June 18, promises the bachelor who, in his 30s, is reigning World Drum Major Champion for the third time. It's all in the cause of Cancer Research UK.

Brian, who has held all-Ireland, Ulster, European, Scottish and even titles down under in Oz, was a star of the recent Belfast Tattoo and is heading to the Glasgow event in 2017.

A former chef who dreamt up tasty spreads on the QE2 and the Tower Restaurant in Sydney, he now runs a drum majoring school in Armagh.

No task is left unfinished for Getty

Hymn writer Keith Getty has some unfinished business at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, come the autumn.

He and wife Kristyn are flying in from their adopted home in Nashville to launch their new album, coincidentally, called Facing A Task Unfinished.

They will be at the Waterfront for three nights in September. The Saturday, September 10, date will be special for folk who provide any kind of church music, including organists. The other concert dates are September 8 and 9.

Keith and Kristyn will be bringing their children - Liza (5), Charlotte (2) and baby Grace (10 months) - with them to Northern Ireland. The playroom for the brood is a miniature Grand Ole Opry in the basement of the Getty homestead.

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