Belfast Telegraph

Back Then: Five hacks in a row so very long ago

Saints preserve us... long-lost photo found in old Bible after small prayer

By Eddie McIlwaine

Every picture tells a story is a proverb I've paid scant attention to, but there is a remarkable tale behind this photograph today, which I had almost given up searching for down half-a-century.

Then a family friend called Anita suggested half-jokingly that I should turn to Anthony the Saint of Lost Property for help in finding it.

So I closed my eyes and said a little prayer – and less than 48 hours later I was slipping the shot into the place in an album which had been reserved for it since that summer afternoon Belfast Telegraph photographer, the late Jimmy Truesdale, lined up the shot at a tennis tournament in Bangor back in 1961 when we were young, ambitious journalists and supposed to be hard at work.

Let me tell you first of all who is in this cherished picture. On the left is Paddy Toner, who apart from being employed by The People Sunday paper was a record breaking athlete who competed at the Commonwealth Games in his heyday.

Next to Paddy is Syd Maguire, a respected sports writer with the Daily Mail and a frequent broadcaster.

Then next to Syd is Paddy Toner's brother Alex, another respected sports writer with the Daily Mirror and a seasoned traveller with the Northern Ireland football team and friend of goalkeeping great Pat Jennings.

I had to get into the picture somehow and, yes, that's me with pen in hand, busy writing a tennis story for Ireland's Saturday Night and soon to go begging the use of a phone to send my golden words down the line to a copytaker. Don't forget the mobile phone was still light years ahead in 1961.

Finally at the far right is a young and talented Robin Walsh with whom I shared happy times in the Larne Times and the Belfast Telegraph before he moved to Ulster Television then BBC NI and the BBC in London, before returning to Belfast as a respected controller down at Broadcasting House.

I moved to the Daily Mirror at the same time as Robin was heading for London and we kind of lost touch, but we have remained firm friends and he will be delighted to receive a copy of the photo.

Alas, the Toner brothers and Syd Maguire have passed on.

So, did St Anthony rediscover my vanished picture? My wife Irene found it inside a tattered family Bible when she was rummaging in our barn. The Bible, which has seen better days and is waiting to be restored, was well wrapped. Irene can't explain why she unwrapped that Holy Book. I know that it could have been the influence of St Anthony upon her.

Twelfth visit to Boyne didn't inspire Sir Walter to write about battle

I'm surprised that acclaimed author Sir Walter Scott, who was born in this month in 1771, didn't mention the Battle of the Boyne in one of his novels (perhaps he did, and I've missed the reference).

Anyway, it is a fact that Sir Walter, author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy among other bestsellers, visited the site of the 1690 conflict. He was on a tour of Ireland in the summer of 1825 and a friend who was an Army officer escorted Sir Walter and his party to the Boyne.

The date? It was July 12, of course. Sir Walter was intrigued by the story of the events leading up to the battle and promised his friend to give the history of the Boyne a mention in his writings.

It didn't happen so far as I'm aware. Perhaps this famous Edinburgh son was put off by the smelly shambles of a steam boat on which he had to travel to Belfast from Glasgow at the start of the tour.

Tell you this, though: Sir Walter never returned to these parts. One visit was quite enough. He died in September 1832.

Belfast Telegraph

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