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Swine flu survivor Colin Millar writes book in tribute to late wife Claire

Former school head tells of couple's battles with illness in fundraising memoir

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Much missed: Colin Millar (right) with his late wife Claire and their sons, Conor and Ryan

Much missed: Colin Millar (right) with his late wife Claire and their sons, Conor and Ryan

Much missed: Colin Millar (right) with his late wife Claire and their sons, Conor and Ryan

A former principal who survived swine flu and lost his wife to cancer has written a book about his experiences in order to raise money for charity.

Colin Millar, who recently retired from Killard House School in Donaghadee, said he hopes it is a fitting legacy to Claire, a teacher, who died following a battle with breast cancer in 2017, aged 48.

The father-of-two told the Belfast Telegraph that he wrote Apple Cores and Mandarins during lockdown, when he was alone and shielding, "in order to give some focus to those long, long days".

"It's a personal journey addressing the swine flu that nearly killed me in 2014, the coma, and the effects it's had on me as well as the things I did to get me through those dark, low times," he said.

"I wanted to write a tribute to Claire and raise some money for charity and also leave a record for our grandchildren to know who their granny was.

"One of the things on my bucket list was to write a book... so the idea was to do that and also to raise money for a charity that Claire held dear."

Having self-published the 22,500-word tome, 56-year-old Mr Millar, who had a 32-year career in education, ordered 20 copies and set up a JustGiving page with the aim of raising £200.

He also wanted to do something to make sons Conor (25) and 23-year-old Ryan proud.

"Suddenly, more and more donations were coming in and I've had to order another 45 copies to meet demand," he said.

Mr Millar, who has won awards for his work in the special education sector, met the Queen at Hillsborough and was one of the Northern Ireland people at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018, revealed that book got its name as a result of one of his bad habits.

"It's called Apple Cores and Mandarins because I love eating apples and I used to leave the cores lying round the house which used to drive my late wife Claire crazy," he said.

"Claire's answer to every illness was a mandarin orange - to get vitamin C in you - so I chose that name for the book because it establishes a wee link for the two of us."

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Colin’s book Apple Cores and Mandarins, which he self-published to raise funds for Action Cancer

Colin’s book Apple Cores and Mandarins, which he self-published to raise funds for Action Cancer

Colin’s book Apple Cores and Mandarins, which he self-published to raise funds for Action Cancer

Mr Millar told how the idea came from a counselling exercise where he was required "to write down my life story".

"I had to transcribe the traumas of the swine flu, the coma, Claire's cancer journey, the trauma of that and her death," he said.

"A friend of mine read what I'd documented and said it would make a good book so I decided to do it for the boys so they'd know who their mother was.

"There's also a section in it about how I dealt with trauma and what got me through it.

"I'm also hoping it will be helpful for people who've got long Covid now because that's very like what I went through after my coma.

"The muscle wastage, the extreme fatigue, the anxiety - they're all things I suffered from following the coma."

The Newtownards man found that writing the book was "very therapeutic".

"It took a couple of months and helped me deal with my feelings around Claire fighting her illness and not winning in the end," he said.

"I feel like I can move on now because I've put it all down on paper."

Mr Millar said: "My eldest son Conor was very chuffed with the book and very proud of me for writing it, and Ryan is in the process of reading it now.

"I just hope Claire would be proud of me."

Although his ambition was to write one book, he revealed that there's already another in the pipeline, which should hit the shelves next year.

"I've also written a children's story book which is currently with a publisher in London," he said.

"It's a fairytale about leprechauns.

"At the moment they're doing the graphics for it."

If you'd like to help raise money for Action Cancer, visit his JustGiving page Colin Millar is fundraising for Action Cancer (justgiving.com)

Leave your name, then email applecores2020@gmail.com so that he can post a copy of the book to you.

The book costs £5.

Belfast Telegraph


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