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Why Winnie had to go through hoops to speak at Celtic Park

By Eddie McIlwaine

As the film Churchill opens at cinemas around the country, with actor Brian Cox as the Second World War hero, I'm reminded of how Winston found himself in Paradise here in Belfast way back in 1912. Or, to put it another way, why a much younger Winston had a less-than-heavenly experience in the city.

Winnie - as family and friends knew him - was actually in the old Celtic Park, home of Belfast Celtic FC and nicknamed 'Paradise' by fans. He was First Lord of the Admiralty and was speaking in favour of Home Rule for Ireland.

Churchill was no hero to unionists in those far-off days; they locked him out of the Ulster Hall, so Celtic Park became the alternative venue for his speech. He was also jostled and jeered in Royal Avenue, where his car was pelted with nuts and bolts.

However, by the time the Second World War arrived, Winnie had softened his political feelings on the Irish question and was soon to be singing the praises of Ulster's contribution to victory over Germany.

He also had a unique connection with Carnlough, where he once owned the Londonderry Arms Hotel, which he planned to turn into a holiday home for himself and wife, Clementine, before changing his mind and selling the hostelry along with a row of houses nearby.

The Londonderry Arms, built in 1848, is now owned by the O'Neill family and flourishes as a family hotel in the seaside village.

I remember how a valuable picture of old Winston used to hang in the foyer and then mysteriously disappeared. I like to think that, one day, it will be retrieved.

Churchill the film, directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, is all about the actions and plans of Winston in the hours leading up to D-Day at the height of the Second World War.

What with the voice, the cigar and the V-for-Victory sign, Winston is an easy character for an accomplished actor like Brian Cox (above) to play. Gary Oldman takes on the Churchill role in another film, The Darkest Hour, soon to be released.

What I can never understand is why Sir Winston - to give him his full title - after serving as the premier who led the UK to a famous victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, was discarded by the public at the next election.

He did return to power in 1951, when they caught themselves on.

Georgina's really got the Krypton factor

Actress Georgina Campbell will be flying high in Belfast this summer after she landed the role of girl soldier Lyta Zod in the Superman prequel Krypton, which is being filmed for TV at the new Belfast Harbour Studios by Warner Leisure.

Georgina (24), who made a big impression in Broadchurch and was in the BBC3 drama Murdered By My Boyfriend, is delighted to have won this starring role, for, as a schoolgirl, she was a big fan of Superman comics.

The plot is set years before the emergence of the Man of Steel (and Lois Lane), and the storyline has Superman's grandfather, Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), fighting to save his House of El in the world of Krypton and restore his family's honour.

Lyta, the daughter of General Alura Zod, is secretly in love with Seg-El, but their affair is forbidden by old-timers like Seg-El's grandfather, played by Belfast actor Ian McElhinney.

Shooting is due to start down at the harbour in the next few weeks. It will be the first production to be filmed at the ultra-modern studio.

Who holds key to piano puzzle?

How did a grand piano owned by Clara Schumann, the 19th-century German pianist and composer, wind up in a Co Donegal stately home?

Piano teacher Elisabeth Goell sets out to solve the mystery in her self-published book, Tales of a Travelled Piano.

The story begins when sisters Mary Elizabeth and Frances Judith Montgomery fall in love with the piano and its history on a visit to Dresden, where the Schumanns live, and persuade the family to sell it.

"That was way back in 1862," explains Goell, "and the sisters were overjoyed to install Clara's piano in their drawing-room in Raphoe, where it played a role in the cultural life of Donegal for years."

The piano is now in the Birmingham Conservatory.

Goell will be giving talks around the province about the much-travelled instrument this summer.

Hopefully, she will explain why Clara, aged only 43 and at the peak of her popularity, was persuaded to part with the cherished piano.

She was married to the celebrated composer Robert Schumann, and died in 1896, aged 77.

Dame Mary's postie is gold standard

It's 45 years since Mary Peters won gold and set a new world record in the pentathlon at the Munich Olympics of 1972.

But if this sporting legend had any doubts about still being one of the province's best-loved characters, then the address on a letter which slipped into her letterbox the other day should reassure her. It read:

Dame Mary Peters,

Olympic gold medallist,

Two-bedroom cottage near Belfast,

Northern Ireland.

Those are the words that were scrawled on the envelope, which the postman had no trouble delivering.

I haven't a clue what was inside the envelope - it was a private epistle to the lady who did, indeed, become a Dame in recognition of her sporting accomplishments and dedication to her adopted homeland, as well as her charity work.

Mary was born in Liverpool, but moved across the channel at the age of 11 to live in Ballymena.

I've always looked on her as a friend and respected the way she thrilled us all with her exploits in an international career across two decades.

Since retiring, Mary has continued to serve Northern Ireland and British athletics.

Sad reminders of those who stood and lost at the polls

There's no lonelier (or sadder) sight right now than the forgotten election posters of defeated candidates littering constituencies everywhere.

It would appear that the supporters of those who failed to win seats have deserted them and are not even bothering to take down those sagging posters they erected with so much enthusiasm weeks ago in the hope of wooing voters to their cause.

I note that the posters of the new MPs are long gone. Obviously, they are content at a job well done.

And, of course, they have a well-paid job to look forward to, unlike those they beat.

If the defeated had any pride, they would go out themselves and remove those untidy reminders of how they lost the election. That might win them a few extra votes next time.

How preaching politician was silenced by this racy home truth

The story goes that a minor politician was addressing a public meeting on the subject of moral conduct of which the Almighty would approve.

"For example," he told the assembled gathering, "I've never seen my wife naked."

Immediately, a man in the back row stood up and declared: "Well, I've seen your wife without her clothes on, and I can tell you that you're not missing much."

It was a retort that left the politician, for once, lost for words and not just a little red-faced.

Is the story true?

I'm assured that it is.

If it is gospel, I'm waiting with great patience for the divorce.

Even if it is not, it's just the sort of comeuppance you would love to deliver to those who deem it their duty to tell us how to live our lives.

Thoughtful words on how to deal with the grief of death

Here's a thoughtful poem that I heard read the other day at a funeral.

Wonder who wrote it?

When I come to the end of the road

And the sun has set for me,

I want no tears in a gloom-filled room,

Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little - But not for long

And not with your head bowed low,

Remember the love that we once shared,

Miss me - But let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take,

And each must go alone,

It's all a part of the Master's plan

A step on the road to home,

When you are lonely and sick of heart

Go to your friends that we know,

And bury your sorrows in doing good works,

Miss me - But let me go.

Belfast Telegraph


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