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Why George picked the wrong day for his love match

By Eddie McIlwaine

After all this time, George Lindsay (72) still reckons he couldn't have picked a worse day than October 22, 1966 to marry his sweetheart, Norma Weston, in Duncairn Presbyterian Church, Belfast.

You see, it was the busiest Saturday of the year in the city all those 50 years ago, as the England football team, managed by Alf Ramsey, arrived here to play their first match since winning the World Cup earlier in the summer.

More than 48,000 fans were walking to, or being transported to, Windsor Park by bus and car for the game against manager Bertie Peacock's Northern Ireland - an added attraction being the presence of George Best in a green jersey.

When groom George and his bride emerged from their nuptials, performed by the Rev Hugh McMoran, the streets were jam-packed and they were late getting to the reception in the Lansdowne Court Hotel on the Antrim Road.

And they had to beat the clock again later, as they made their way to Aldergrove airport to catch a flight taking them on honeymoon to Blackpool, just as the game ended and spectators poured back on to the streets.

And there was drama in the air, too, when their plane developed engine trouble and had to turn back, to be replaced by another aircraft. "We didn't arrive at our hotel until after midnight," recalls Norma.

In the event, England, who did a lap of honour with the World Cup, won the match 2-0, with goals from Roger Hunt and Martin Peters, but the result didn't matter to George and Norma, whose marriage was upset just a little bit by a great sporting occasion.

Happily, the couple, who have a son, David, and a daughter, Karen, and grandchildren Katie and Alfie, have survived together down the years and on Saturday, October 22 just passed celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

The golden anniversary party in the Masonic Hall in the south Antrim village of Crumlin where they live, was a real fish and chip affair. George, a retired BA supervisor at Aldergrove, now helps David run his Moira bakery (one of whose specialities is the Belfast bap) and chippie man Gareth, of Gourmet Grill in Waringstown, rolled up in his van to dish out fish and chips to George and Norma and their 80 guests in traditional style.

"It was a golden occasion - and the chips were golden, too," says George.

"And unforgettable."

Alexandra gets into the musical habit

Singer-songwriter Alexandra Burke (28), whose big hit is Hallelujah, will be starring in the musical comedy Sister Act at the Opera House from Monday, November 2 until Saturday, November 7.

Directed by Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood, it is the story of disco diva Deloris, whose life is turned upside down when she witnesses a murder.

Under protective custody, she is hidden in the one place she won't be found - a convent, disguised as a nun.

Alexandra's mum, Melissa Bell, was the lead singer in Soul II Soul. Alexandra won the fifth series of The X Factor and released the winning Hallelujah, which became the European record-holder for singles sales, selling 105,000 in one day.

Until, that is, it was overtaken by her The X Factor mentor, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, with her debut solo single, Fight For This Love.

Her song was also the UK No 1 at Christmas 2008.

Who composed these fine lines?

The Real Friend (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling).

'If you can trust the person by your side,

Can laugh with him, or show your solemn mood,

Can be quite curt, or let your manners slide,

And know that he will wish you naught but good.

If you can speak to him of your true mind,

And know that he will not deny your trust,

Can see him smile, although you've been unkind,

Know he'll forgive you when you've been unjust.

If you can show the selfish side of you,

And know that he respects you just the same.

If he will take your part in all you do, Instead of sometimes sending you to shame.

Then heartfelt thanks to Heaven you should send.

Rejoice, you've found yourself a friend'.

Actually, I'd say you'll have found yourself a super friend.

But who wrote these stirring lines? They are nearly as good as Kipling's original.

Yew couldn't make this stuff up

If you've lost your watch, a ring, or anything at all, pluck a branch of yew and in your hand it will lead you straight to the missing object, claims an old legend.

Mind you, the yew hasn't worked for me, as I try to find a gold ring my granny bought me for a birthday years ago.

In defence of the legend, I have to admit that Bill Magowan, a gardener friend, who claims to know about the story of the evergreen yew, says it doesn't find things for everybody.

Apparently, the yew, which lives to an immense age, is a symbol of eternal life.

It used to be, in some areas, that mourners tossed sprigs of yew into the grave of the departed.

That man Magowan warns me that it is unlucky to cut down a yew tree growing in a churchyard.

And he tells me, too, that you should never carry yew branches into the house.

He also says they should never be used as Christmas decorations.

Belfast council big-wigs are wrong on name of Bellevue

So far as I'm concerned the zoo on the slopes of Cavehill, looking down on Whitewell is called Bellevue, and that has been its name since 1934.

So why are big-wigs at Belfast City Council insisting in referring to it as Belfast Zoo? Especially as Bellevue is situated in Newtownabbey?

The zoo, which once upon a time could be reached by climbing up a marathon set of steps from Antrim Road, was one of my favourite places to ramble when I was a boy and I used to frequent the Floral Hall next door on dance and concert nights.

Now sadly those steps are crumbled and decayed and no longer used. However, the zoo I'll always know as Bellevue is flourishing and I call in occasionally to see the animals.

I know I'm nitpicking, but let us give the old place its proper name.

Not sure we’re seeing double when it comes to our man in Ben-Hur

The remake of the classic historical movie Ben-Hur starring Glengormley's Stephen Boyd and Charlton Heston prompted retired stuntman Joe Canutt (79) ­- who doubled for Charlton in the  1959 original's epic chariot race - to say he was Ben-Hur.

"What about Heston?" he was asked.

"He did my dialogue," Joe replied.

What I'd like to know is who doubled for Boyd (real name William Millar)?

Perhaps he didn't need one. William, born to be an actor and one of the most famous thespians to be born here, learned to handle horses on McCormack's farm at Ballyclare Road on the outskirts of Glengormley.

However, as far as I remember the McCormacks didn't have a chariot.

How the stinging nettle is not the root of all problems

When I was a lad and occasionally got stung by nettles there was always a remedy near at hand.

A caress with a dock leaf soothed the pain.

So isn't it handy that in the field or garden there is usually a dock root growing not too far away from the stinging nettles?

I've known good folk who use nettle leaves to make soup and a horse-breeding friend tells me he feeds nettles to his animals to give them a smooth coat.

And butterflies, including Red Admirals and Painted Ladies, are particularly fond of nettles.

So with butterflies on the decline everywhere the plants provide an important food source for these insects.

So think twice before removing nettles from the flowerbed.

Belfast Telegraph


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