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Why there'll be a captive audience at former jail

An Ulster Log

By Eddie McIlwaine

Singer/songwriter Dean Friedman devotes his words and music to many topics when he picks up his pen. So I wonder if there will be a ballad or a poem from this talented New Yorker when he appears in Belfast on Friday, September 16?

You see, Dean's venue is Crumlin Road jail, a conference centre since 1996. It has, however, the sort of dark history that might inspire a wordsmith to put pen to paper. It is where the last man hanged in Northern Ireland met his end in the execution chamber. He was Robert McGladdery, who was found guilty of the murder of 19-year-old shop assistant Pearl Gamble in 1961. I covered McGladdery's trial in Downpatrick that autumn and took him a copy of the Belfast Telegraph every day so he could read about himself.

I was also at the Belfast jail the morning in December when he was hanged. One of the unforgettable experiences of my life was watching the judge, Lord Justice Lancelot Curran, whose own daughter Patricia, aged 19, had been murdered back in 1952, donning the black cap to sentence McGladdery to death. A book and a radio drama were inspired by the killing of Miss Gamble, but I doubt very much if Friedman will find words and melody in her brutal strangling for a song. He is aware 17 men were executed in Crumlin Road Gaol since it opened in 1845.

I first encountered Dean and his songs a few weeks ago when I was driving home in a thunderstorm when his sensitive Under the Weather came on the radio and gave me a little bit of comfort. Now he has sent me his album Words and Music (Real Life Records) from New York and I hope to meet an artist who reminds me of the late Rod McKuen.

From Ramsay Street to jungle for Margot

I first encountered Tarzan the Ape Man in the Rover comic (it ceased to be in 1973) and then he became more human when he met his true love Jane and swung through the trees with her in several ­movies.

Irish star Maureen O'Sullivan who played Jane in the first movie, Tarzan the Ape Man, alongside Johnny Weissmuller, and then also in a few sequels, made a personal appearance in the Hippodrome, Belfast, in 1949.

I was explaining weeks ago that Tarzan and his Jane are making a comeback on the silver screen thanks to Alexander Skarsgard and Australian girl Margot Robbie (26) who used to be in Neighbours, where there wasn't a tree to swing in.

I admitted that I couldn't wait to see my boyhood hero (and the gorgeous Jane) in The Legend of Tarzan and now the blockbuster has arrived at cinemas everywhere including Movie House in Belfast where my host Michael McAdam sees this as a sentimental screening. Simply because he used to read the Rover, too.

I can tell you that Miss Robbie looks a wee bit different in the movie than she did as Donna Freedman in Neighbours.

Science master Jackie in plea to reunite Parkhall's teachers

If you ever taught in Parkhall Secondary, Parkhall High, Parkhall College or Parkhall Integrated College, then former head of science Jackie Davis wants to hear from you.

Jackie is organising a reunion of staff, including admin and youth workers. He reckons that since Parkhall Secondary opened in 1971 around 300 teachers have worked at all four school titles. Here's the rub though - four names, only one school. Every now and again the education authorities changed it for some reason. Jackie Davis taught in all of them until 2010 and the name above the door today is Parkhall Integrated.

The reunion will be in the Dunsilly Hotel near Antrim on October 15 and if you qualify to be there ring Jackie on tel: 07703 34 3700 or contact the email address

Comedy may be the way to go if politics doesn't work for Danny

There's no truth in the rumour that Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan, who reduced the Commons to laughter with his jokes about former Prime Minister David Cameron's next job, is to be invited to appear on the new series of Sunday Night at the London Palladium now being planned. As a comedian.

Nor will Danny be offered a role in the Christmas pantomime at the Grand Opera House in Belfast.

Most of his fellow MPs enjoyed Kinahan's fun time with Cameron, but there were a few who thought the episode was in bad taste on such a solemn occasion as the former PM said goodbye.

But could this mean that a whole new career is beckoning for Danny if he loses his seat at the next general election?

Never in the field of conflict has one man known so little

You're not going to believe this - a contestant in a UK Lottery quiz on TV had never heard of the Battle of Britain.

He was in his early 30s, but that's no excuse at a time when historic wartime occasions, including the Somme in the First World War and the Battle of Britain in the Second World War, are being remembered.

He fumbled around and then guessed that the date of the Battle of Britain was 1945. It cost him a few thousand pounds and I hope he went away to catch up on his history.

What was it PM Winston Churchill said so famously about those young, heroic pilots who saved Britain in 1940? Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

Fair is a far cry from its heyday

I received the following letter from Andrew Magill, who writes: "Dear Eddie, What has happened to the tradition that was Ballyclare May Fair? It was a disaster this year with a near empty square and the amusements confined to the football ground and a park, and with not a single horse to be seen on trading day Tuesday in the Main Street. I doubt if there will be a fair next year. Antrim and Newtownabbey Council has a lot to answer for."

I am sorry to hear that the fair I used to go to as a small boy with my grandfather Ned Boyd of Carnmoney in his pony and trap has fallen on bad times. We always came home with a new pony and sometimes he bought a couple of horses, too. A few years ago I was invited to open the fair and it was an honour to do so.

Rory's Rio absence is below par

Golfer Rory McIlroy is giving the Olympic Games a miss. A decision he is perfectly entitled to make even if it is a mighty disappointment to his adoring fans that he won't be in Rio.

However, I'd like to remind Rory that this year sees the 80th anniversary of the 1936 Games in Berlin when war clouds were gathering and Hitler was proclaiming the supremacy of the Aryan race.

And because of the menace he could expect in Berlin, another great sportsman had a decision to make about whether to go to the Olympics.

In the end black athlete Jesse Owens not only had no qualms about going to Berlin, but won four gold medals in the 100 metres, 200 metres, the long jump and the 4x100 metre relay. He was the most successful athlete at the Games crushing Hitler's myth and embarrassing the Fuhrer.

Jesse died in 1980 at 66 and he is still revered today not only as a great athlete, but also as an ambassador for the Olympics.

Whether Rory accepts it or not, the Olympic Games has a more important role to play in a free world than any Open golf championship.

Belfast Telegraph


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