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Amid all the Covid gloom, 40 heartwarming stories from NI this year

Despite the stresses 2021 and living through a global pandemic has brought, many ‘good news’ stories have still brought a smile to our faces.

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Cara Mailey from Carryduff

Cara Mailey from Carryduff

PSNI Chief Inspector Graham Dodds underwent surgery to give one of his kidneys to Fermanagh boy Joshua Dolan

PSNI Chief Inspector Graham Dodds underwent surgery to give one of his kidneys to Fermanagh boy Joshua Dolan

Aoife and Dazzle

Aoife and Dazzle

Firefighters Chloe and Phil Wilson

Firefighters Chloe and Phil Wilson

Ezinne Nwosu, (9) a pupil at Holy Family Primary School becomes Belfast Lord Mayor for the day, pictured getting the Mayors chain from Belfast mayor Kate Nicholl

Ezinne Nwosu, (9) a pupil at Holy Family Primary School becomes Belfast Lord Mayor for the day, pictured getting the Mayors chain from Belfast mayor Kate Nicholl

Cushendall woman Enya McGlinchey (25) was celebrating after a pub she had owned for just a few days won a major UK-wide hospitality award in London

Cushendall woman Enya McGlinchey (25) was celebrating after a pub she had owned for just a few days won a major UK-wide hospitality award in London

Daithi during the Feile Carnival Parade in west Belfast. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Daithi during the Feile Carnival Parade in west Belfast. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Skateboarders Katie Ellis (26) [Red Hat] , Olivia Lillie (21) [wearing Blue] and Grace Mandry (21) [black hoodie]. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

Skateboarders Katie Ellis (26) [Red Hat] , Olivia Lillie (21) [wearing Blue] and Grace Mandry (21) [black hoodie]. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

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Cara Mailey from Carryduff

Amy Cochrane lists the top 40 most uplifting, inspiring and kind-hearted stories that have hit the headlines over the past year.

1.

Turner Prize success

A Belfast art collective became the first group from Northern Ireland to be awarded the Turner Prize this year. Array Collective described their winning work as a homage to Belfast, as they also issued a rallying call for Stormont to deliver on a wide range of social issues.

2.

Wall of Kindness

Mascott Construction erected a ‘Wall of Kindness’ in their Cornmarket site in Belfast’s city centre, encouraging people to take a coat if they are cold or leave one if is isn’t being used anymore on pegs attached to their site hoarding.

3.

Seal rescued

A young seal, which sparked public concern after being spotted in Belfast Lough with a drinks can stuck to its mouth for over a week, was rescued in Scotland after the juvenile marine mammal swam across the North Channel.

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A seal with a can in its mouth.

A seal with a can in its mouth.

A seal with a can in its mouth.

4.

Police officer donates a kidney

PSNI chief inspector Graham Dodds donated one of his kidneys to nine-year-old Co Fermanagh boy Joshua Dolan. Mr Dodds acted after seeing an appeal by Joshua’s mum, Mary, for a live donor for her son.

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PSNI chief inspector Graham Dodds underwent surgery to give one of his kidneys to Fermanagh boy Joshua Dolan (9).

PSNI chief inspector Graham Dodds underwent surgery to give one of his kidneys to Fermanagh boy Joshua Dolan (9).

PSNI chief inspector Graham Dodds underwent surgery to give one of his kidneys to Fermanagh boy Joshua Dolan (9).

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5.

Londonderry roller skater doesn’t spill a drop

Professional skateboarder Joe Hill hit the headlines after he was filmed on Halloween sporting a Saturday Night Fever-inspired costume speeding down Waterloo Street in Derry holding a pint. After not spilling a drop, he was invited to a meet and greet with Mayor Graham Warke.

6.

Community Fridges

The Community Fridge initiative took off in 2021 right across Northern Ireland, with four now established right across the region. On a monthly basis, the scheme helps to divert up to a tonne of food from landfill, by giving away free food which would normally have been wasted.

7.

Raising a glass to success

Cushendall woman Enya McGlinchey (25) was celebrating after a pub she had owned for just a few days won a major UK-wide hospitality award in London. The Steamboat Inn’s success was a wonderful and unexpected start in business.


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Cushendall woman Enya McGlinchey (25) was celebrating after a pub she had owned for just a few days won a major UK-wide hospitality award in London

Cushendall woman Enya McGlinchey (25) was celebrating after a pub she had owned for just a few days won a major UK-wide hospitality award in London

Cushendall woman Enya McGlinchey (25) was celebrating after a pub she had owned for just a few days won a major UK-wide hospitality award in London

8.

Kind-hearted couple spread festive cheer

Co Antrim couple Marty and Mervyn Ross lit up their Aghalee home with countless fairy lights and decorations to raise money for Air Ambulance NI and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital. They also installed a special post box at the front of their home where children can post their letters to Santa.

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Marty Ross and Mervyn Ross at their Christmas house in Aghalee. Picture: Colm O'Reilly

Marty Ross and Mervyn Ross at their Christmas house in Aghalee. Picture: Colm O'Reilly

Marty Ross and Mervyn Ross at their Christmas house in Aghalee. Picture: Colm O'Reilly

9.

Wreaths for mental health

Kelly Graham, from Lisburn, decided to use her love of gardening for the greater good earlier this year and began donating the money made from creating her ‘blooms’ and Christmas wreaths to the Lisburn Common, a community initiative providing mental health support.

10.

Comedy down to a tee

Former Northern Ireland golf star David Feherty is getting rather serious about the latest chapter of his career – as a stand-up comedian. The Bangor native’s one-man show has been playing to top reviews and packed audiences in America.

11.

Nigella Lawson endorses our crisps

TV cook and food writer Nigella Lawson revealed on Twitter that Northern Ireland’s Tayto was the only cheese and onion crisp she eats after posting a photograph of her “crisp cauldron”. She said that they were “divine” and expressed her disappointment at not being able to get them where she lives.

12.

Grammy nomination for Co Antrim man

Raymond Walsh said he was left speechless after being told by TV funnyman Matt Lucas that he had been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album for his performance in Les Miserables alongside the likes of Alfie Boe, Michael Ball and Carrie Hope Fletcher.

13.

NI fashion designer makes Met Gala debut

Jonathan Anderson made headlines when Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy sported one of his pieces at the Met Gala. He is set to show his men’s fall 2022 and women’s pre-collection as part of the Camera Nazionale della Moda’s official calendar next year in Milan.

14.

Inky the cat makes the purrfect pin-up

A very lucky black cat — who was given a new lease of life after his broken leg was amputated and the tips of his ears badly singed — was selected to be one of the stars of Cats Protection’s 2022 calendar. Inky was just a kitten when he was rescued back in 2019 after being injured from sheltering in a hot car engine.

15.

Belfast - in Belfast

Sir Kenneth Branagh premiered his upcoming Oscar-tipped semi-autobiographical film Belfast in the city itself. The black-and-white period film follows a working-class family and their young son during the Troubles. It is due to be released in the new year.

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Lewis McAskie, Caitríona Balfe, Jude Hill, Kenneth Branagh, Jamie Dornan and Cíaran Hinds arrive for the film premiere of Belfast at the Waterfront Hall on November 4, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Lewis McAskie, Caitríona Balfe, Jude Hill, Kenneth Branagh, Jamie Dornan and Cíaran Hinds arrive for the film premiere of Belfast at the Waterfront Hall on November 4, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Lewis McAskie, Caitríona Balfe, Jude Hill, Kenneth Branagh, Jamie Dornan and Cíaran Hinds arrive for the film premiere of Belfast at the Waterfront Hall on November 4, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

16.

Female skaters paving the way

Less than 10 years ago, only a handful of female skateboarders were part of the Belfast skate scene. Now, these talented women and girls account for almost a third of the skaters seen through the city’s streets and across Northern Ireland. This year, they were given a global platform after skateboarding entered the Olympics for the first time ever.

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Skateboarders Katie Ellis (26) [Red Hat] , Olivia Lillie (21) [wearing Blue] and Grace Mandry (21) [black hoodie]. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

Skateboarders Katie Ellis (26) [Red Hat] , Olivia Lillie (21) [wearing Blue] and Grace Mandry (21) [black hoodie]. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Skateboarders Katie Ellis (26) [Red Hat] , Olivia Lillie (21) [wearing Blue] and Grace Mandry (21) [black hoodie]. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

17.

Belfast awarded UNESCO City of Music status

Belfast was awarded the coveted City of Music status by UNESCO – celebrating the city’s rich musical heritage and recognising the importance of music to its future. It is the first city on the island of Ireland to receive this status.

18.

Charitable clerics

Two Belfast clerics who set out to raise £1,000 for charity on their 60th birthdays ended up with over nine times that amount. Father Martin Magill and Rev Steve Stockman had asked for contributions in lieu of gifts, raising over £9,000.

19.

Daniel lifts spirits

Daniel O’Donnell caused a few headlines with his video for his latest single Down at The Lah De Dah. The video for the cover of Jimmy Buffet’s classic single sees the 59-year-old firstly in striped pyjamas before he begins to dance in a Hawaiian hula skirt.

20.

Daniel McKee’s moment of history

Daniel McKee (27), from the north coast, walked down the aisle in the reality show Married at First Sight (MAFS) UK earlier this year ready to say ‘I do’ to 39-year-old West Yorkshire charity worker, Matt. He was one half of the first ever same-sex couple to get married on a reality show.

21.

NI woman receives top scientific prize

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell was awarded the Copley Medal, the Royal Society’s highest prize and the world’s oldest scientific prize, for her work on the discovery of pulsars in the 1960s. She is the only second woman to be awarded the prize, after Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin.

22.

Belfast girl helps create clothing range for children with dwarfism

12-year-old Cara Mailey, who has height-restricting condition achondroplasia, teamed up with two top London designers, Amanda Rabor and Tara TJ Hanif, to create the UK’s first clothing range for children who, like her, have dwarfism.

23.

Shoe Dr design makes appearance at Tour de France

A Co Londonderry man, who set up The Shoe Dr in his hometown of Maghera two years ago, saw one of his unique designs on tour around France on the feet of one of the top cyclists in the Tour de France. Shea Gribbon makes handcrafted custom design shoes which are popular in cycling circles.

24.

Lord Mayor for a day

Nigerian-born primary school girl Ezinne Nwosu (9) took over from Kate Nicholl to become Mayor of Belfast for a day. The initiative is organised by Africa House and is aimed at encouraging members of the black and ethnic minority communities to become involved in politics.

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Ezinne Nwosu (9) becomes Belfast Lord Mayor for the day, pictured getting the Mayor's chain from Councillor Kate Nicholl. Picture by Peter Morrison

Ezinne Nwosu (9) becomes Belfast Lord Mayor for the day, pictured getting the Mayor's chain from Councillor Kate Nicholl. Picture by Peter Morrison

Ezinne Nwosu (9) becomes Belfast Lord Mayor for the day, pictured getting the Mayor's chain from Councillor Kate Nicholl. Picture by Peter Morrison

25.

Rory Best’s charity walk

Former Ulster and Ireland rugby captain Rory Best walked 180 miles across Ireland to raise funds for a new therapeutic facility for children battling cancer. He started his 10-day trek in Newcastle in Co Down before walking through over 30 towns and villages and finishing in Co Mayo. He raised over £370,000.

26.

Dog dazzles audience

Dazzle the dog rose to internet stardom earlier this year when she ran onto a cricket field where her owner was batting, and then scampered away with the ball, all while being pursued by players from both teams during the semi-final of the women’s Clear Currency All Ireland T20 Cup.

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Aoife and Dazzle

Aoife and Dazzle

Aoife and Dazzle

27.

Co Antrim boy voices Channel 5 animation

Eight-year-old Randalstown boy Shea Brady was selected to voice Odo the owl in a new Channel 5 animation which was broadcast to children across the world, with the programme to aired in Germany, the USA and Latin America, Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, Norway, Poland and Wales.

28.

An unusual way to find love

A message in a bottle, which was shipped off by Rostrevor native Stephen Caulfield hoping to find love, washed up 23 years later in Dundrum, only 18 miles away from where it was launched. The now-married father-of-three confirmed that he did not meet his wife via any correspondence in a drinks container.

29.

Body Coach Joe Wicks visits Belfast

The Body Coach, also known as Joe Wicks, made a visit to three Belfast schools earlier this year as part of a national tour to showcase his new children’s book, The Burpee Bears. A YouTube sensation, PE with Joe became something parents and children could rely on for 18 weeks of lockdown in 2020.

30.

Designer’s knits grace cover of GQ

Portstewart fashion designer Hope Macaulay’s trademark colourful, chunky knits graced the cover of GQ magazine earlier this year as her creations won over celebrity fans Gigi Hadid and tennis star Naomi Osaka.

31.

Donate4Dáithí promotes organ donor consent

Five-year-old Dáithí MacGabhann and his parents played a key part i n the campaign to introduce presumed organ donor consent in Northern Ireland with their Donate4Dáithí initiative. The west Belfast boy was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome in 2016 and has been on the donation list for a new heart ever since.

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Daithi during the Feile Carnival Parade

Daithi during the Feile Carnival Parade

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Daithi during the Feile Carnival Parade

32.

NI Tokyo gymnast still wins hearts

22-year-old gymnast Rhys McClenaghan has been a shining example of perseverance and resilience after making a slip-up during his routing on the pommel horse in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. The Newtownards athlete said he wanted to use the opportunity to show younger gymnasts “that no matter how wrong it goes, you always hold your head high”.

33.

Belfast buskers raise funds

A busking event held in Belfast’s Cornmarket helped raise funds for homeless charity The People’s Kitchen with performances from singer-songwriters such as Amanda St John, Stephen Rafferty and Joe Rocks. The event was organised as part of Homeless Awareness Week by actress and comedienne Nuala McKeever.

34.

Reformed prisoner creates artwork

Rosie Bradley has been paying tribute to renowned artist Terry Bradley through her own artwork, which she said along with Building Bridges Community Boxing Club, has been her “therapy” since being released from Hydebank women’s prison in 2020.

35.

GAA star creates 100 paintings

Derry GAA star Ruairi Mooney has created 100 paintings for mental health awareness, with 10% of the proceeds being donated directly to AWARE NI, the only charity working exclusively for people with depression and bipolar disorder in Northern Ireland.

36.

Belfast girl’s challenge in aid of future Olympians

Twelve-year-old Zoe Rainey completed a hand cycle challenge in aid of future Olympic champions. This was part of the Mary Peters Trust summer challenge, called #PassTheTorch, raising much-needed cash for the sporting charity.

37.

‘Frostbit boy’ rescued from sea

Ruairi McSorley hit the headlines once again after being identified as t he swimmer who got into difficulty off the Co Kerry coast. He was discovered far at sea, alone, and surrounded by dolphins. He was later identified as Frostbit Boy, who previously went viral after giving an interview to UTV.

38.

Comic book creating

Ezra Gault, a P3 pupil at Waringstown Primary School, took on the task of writing his own books when lockdown first kicked in before branching out into creating his own comic books earlier this year.

39.

Firefighters become TikTok hit

A video of father and daughter firefighters, Phil and Chloe Wilson, racked up almost two million views on TikTok. The video was taken from their doorbell video system from their Co Armagh home, helping to show what it takes to be in the emergency service.

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Firefighters Chloe and Phil Wilson

Firefighters Chloe and Phil Wilson

Firefighters Chloe and Phil Wilson

40.

A romantic proposal in the Mournes… in an igloo

The new year brought a romantic proposal in the heart of the Mourne mountains that will never be forgotten, when a Co Down man popped the question inside an igloo. It comes after Kilkeel artist Stephen Rooney went viral for building the snow structure on Slieve Muck during the heavy snowfall.


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