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How many others like me recall night of Belfast Blitz?

An Ulster Log

By Eddie McIlwaine

For my sins, I remember the Second World War Blitz on Belfast, exactly 75 years ago, all too well. Even though I was a babe in the arms of my uncle Jim, I'll never forget staring, wide-eyed up into the night sky as searchlights pierced the dark, searching for the Luftwaffe bombers, raining terror and destruction down on Belfast.

It was hours before dawn on Monday May 5, 1941 and I was being carried to a dugout, makeshift air-raid shelter in a meadow on the outskirts of Carnmoney village six miles from the city under siege. More than 150 Belfast souls died that night as townsfolk ran for the hills or crouched in shelters which were totally inadequate for the attacks.

But the worst air raid was already over - on Easter Tuesday, April 15, 1941, when more than 900 civilians perished as 200 bombers unleashed their deathly cargoes.

Around 1,500 people were injured and many of the houses in Belfast were damaged and destroyed leaving families homeless. Outside of London, Belfast suffered the greatest loss of life in a night raid during the Blitz.

There are still a few old-timers like me around who remember the nightmare of the Blitz - the courage of our firemen, our ARP (Air Raid Prevention) teams and the Home Guard as they risked their own lives to try to keep us safe when our politicians let us down.

History researcher Dr Susan Kelly (she can be reached at 028 9032 0392) at the War Memorial offices in Talbot Street, wants to talk to survivors of the four air-raids on Belfast between April 7 and May 5 that awful year. She has already interviewed 16 witnesses but wants to speak to other survivors, too.

The real target of the Luftwaffe's bombs was the Harland & Wolff shipyard, where aircraft carriers like Formidable were being built for the Royal Navy and plane-makers Shorts building Churchill tanks for the front.

During those early blackout years the Northern Ireland Government, whose Prime Minister James Craig, Lord Craigavon, was ill and incapable of making responsible decisions, was accused of taking inadequate steps to protect its citizens from the air raids the politicians always knew were on the way.

Showbiz holds no horrors for Diana

If you think you've seen Diana Vickers before you could be right.

The 24-year-old actress was a finalist in The X Factor in 2008, then signed up with RCA Records and had a No 1 single and album to her credit - after which she was a major player in the West End production of The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice.

Now the young lady, who won a Theatregoers' Choice Award for that performance, makes her Belfast debut at the Grand Opera House as Janet in the Rocky Horror Show which opens on Monday for a week.

Diana has continued with acting (starring in the film The Perfect Wave), launched her own fashion line and dipped her toe in the modelling world. She's also been writing and honing her second album, Music To Make Boys Cry, a collection of Eighties-tinged electro-bangers and love songs.

Much-loved cleric Sam bows out for second time

Thursday is going to be the loneliest day of the week from now on in a certain corner of South Antrim as Canon Sam McComb retires (for a second time).

Every Thursday for years Sam has been visiting parishioners of the three churches of St Catherine's at Killead, Gartree on the Lough Neagh shore and St Jude's in Muckamore, and is a much-loved figure in the community.

But 83-year-old Sam, former rector of St Paul's in Lisburn, and afterwards senior cleric in St Catherine's, Gartree and Muckamore - the three parishes in whose pulpits he also preached on occasion - has decided it is time to call it a day. For good this time.

"He is going to be missed by the elderly, the sick and the low in spirit, who looked forward to him calling every week," says Arthur Molyneaux, glebe warden at St Catherine's. "He also had a good way with words at church services."

After his visitations, Canon McComb sometimes dropped in at our house for a cup of coffee before heading off home to his wife Madge who was preparing the dinner in Lisburn.

Parky gravely mistaken on legacy

Sir Michael Parkinson has been complaining that, never mind all those interviews he has done with celebs and superstars down the years, the only thing he will be remembered for is that attack by Rod Hull's emu on live television.

Rubbish. Parky will be remembered especially for all those boring commercials for funeral money on the box that have been going on longer than War And Peace and Downton Abbey put together.

Parky's long-running television talk show, Parkinson, ran from 1971 to 1982 and from 1998 to 2007.

He has been described by The Guardian as "the great British talkshow host".

But does he really need the fee he gets that badly?

Owen in tune with band champs

Celebrated tenor horn master Owen Farr, a Welshman from Pontypool, will be joining up with Northern Ireland champions Murley Silver Band from Fivemiletown at the final concert of the Spring Gatherin' in the Ramada Plaza next Saturday evening.

It will be the highlight of an event which is bringing bands of every pedigree together to herald in the new season of the year.

Owen is in many ways a musician's musician, combining amazing skill on the instrument of his choice with a passionate urge to know everything about his profession and develop his knowledge even further.

"He is in the front row of brass band musicians," says conductor of Murley, William Hill.

There will be workshops and music all day from noon on a great occasion. For tickets tel: 028 9031 9319.

Would May be a joke candidate?

If the DUP are serious about having a celebrity candidate in the forthcoming election - former Blue Peter presenter Zoe Salmon turned them down - why don't they ask May McFettridge to stand? Her friend John Lenihan should be able to tell them that May has always had an interest in politics.

In fact, I remember she once confided to me at the Grand Opera House that she would make a better Prime Minister than Margaret Thatcher. I can just see and hear her at the hustings in an apron and shawl making a point or two.

Miss Salmon (36) is soon to marry Co Down butcher William Corrie and hasn't time for politics right now. But McFettridge is a free agent and could pick up a lot of votes.

Belfast Telegraph


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