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Good Samaritan of Tiger's Bay keeps spirits up during coronavirus crisis

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Alex McGrugan making his goodwill calls to his neighbours

Alex McGrugan making his goodwill calls to his neighbours

Alex McGrugan making his goodwill calls to his neighbours

Alex McGrugan making his goodwill calls to his neighbours

Alex McGrugan making his goodwill calls to his neighbours

Alex McGrugan making his goodwill calls to his neighbours

Alex McGrugan making his goodwill calls to his neighbours

A retired resident of Tiger's Bay in north Belfast has been keeping neighbours' spirits up during the crisis with his entertaining door-to-door goodwill calls.

Alex McGrugan's lengthy morning walks have become the highlight of many residents' days, as he drops by each front gate to offer gifts and have some craic.

Since lockdown 62-year-old Alex has been posting selfies from his welfare and well-being calls, as well as footage of his most recent creation, his elegantly dressed alter ego 'Elsa'.

Alex said: "That was my wife's idea. After we went into lockdown she said: 'You have to do something for Easter Sunday'. So I got into my daughter-in-law's hen dress from a couple of years ago.

"It was a bit loose at the back, so I had to take it in a bit."

He laughed: "I'll tell her that."

Alex, a retired civil servant, and his wife were both "born and reared" in Tiger's Bay.

He said: "We know nearly everybody in the area. Before this lockdown started I walked every morning and joked with everybody. So since this I've just decided to call in now for welfare checks, especially those who are in isolation. My wife also makes wee gifts, handicrafts, and we give those out.

"I usually do eight or nine miles in the morning, but now I've cut it down to five or six. Now rather than walking further afield, I just go up and down the streets and talk to people from about seven o'clock in the morning.

"I know nearly every resident personally, I have a joke with them, take photos, post it on Facebook and share it with their friends, and ask them if they need anything.

"We also give a hand to Wilson Morrisson, who owns the Day Today grocery shop on North Queen Street in Tiger's Bay and one in Skegoniel. He's been doing a lot for the community, making parcels and delivering to the elderly and the vulnerable, and also for those on the 'broo' living on £40 a week. People overlook how hard that is sometimes, I think."

For his valuable service to the local community, Currie Primary School on the Limestone Road awarded him the head teacher's award for star pupils this week via a notification on Facebook. Alex said the gesture from his old school was "very special".

Alex defeated bowel cancer in 1993, and says all the communities in Belfast will defeat the virus in time. His morning travels also take him across north Belfast to the New Lodge and Ardoyne, where he gives gifts and makes well-being calls to friends and neighbours on the other side of the community.

He says that cross-community help and schemes have brought Belfast together in a way that it hasn't seen since before the Troubles. "Tiger's Bay is more cross-community than people would know. It's nice to be nice - it's all now about people joining together."

Belfast Telegraph