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VE Day: A 'virtual' birthday party for gran born day Nazis defeated


Noeni Bryars and her daughter Kerry

Noeni Bryars and her daughter Kerry

Noeni and John Bryars with daughter Kerry and son-in-law Ian

Noeni and John Bryars with daughter Kerry and son-in-law Ian

Twins Khloe and Keira baking a cake for a NHS competition

Twins Khloe and Keira baking a cake for a NHS competition

Mark’s wedding to Julia, the latest family group picture

Mark’s wedding to Julia, the latest family group picture

Noeni Bryars and her daughter Kerry

Noeni Bryars' birthday is unforgettable. It is not hard to work out her age either, not when you learn she was born on VE Day.

It is therefore a big milestone for the Co Antrim woman, who turns 75 today.

But, just like the Victory in Europe anniversary commemorations, which had to be shelved due to coronavirus, this will be a rather understated celebration for the mother-of-three.

Instead of having her two sons, daughter and two grandchildren joining her for the big day, Noeni is confined to a virtual family gathering.

It will be quite a contrast to 75 years ago today when hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Britain to celebrate Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender.

Noeni's daughter Kerry Gardner (43), who lives in London, said she wanted to wish her mum many happy returns from herself and her brothers Neil (48), a Wiltshire-based sales manager, and Mark (35), who works for Google in Switzerland.

"None of us can get over to celebrate mum's birthday," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I don't know when I'll get to see her again in person, but I wanted to tell her to have a brilliant day.

"I also wanted to get her back for putting my picture in the paper all the time as a child."

Cost manager Kerry, who shares a home with her husband Ian (38), a development manager, and their twin daughters Keira and Khloe, aged two-and-a-half, also told how she had been planning a trip home to Northern Ireland when the lockdown came into force.

"I'd planned to visit them in Lambeg in March because I spent Christmas with my husband's family this year and the last time I saw them was November 5, when they came over to England," she said.

But the coronavirus scuppered her travel plans and means her mum and 74-year-old dad John, who are both retired doctors, "can't really do anything" to mark her birthday, unlike 25 years ago when they went to France.

"My dad took her to Paris for her 50th and everyone was celebrating 50 years since VE Day and she kind of pretended it all was all about her," Kerry said.

"We won't be there this year, but hopefully there will be people out celebrating in the street and it'll feel like there's a bit of a party for her."

Kerry told this newspaper her parents met at medical school at Queen's University Belfast, with her dad becoming an eye surgeon. Her mum, who's originally from Bangor, initially went into paediatrics before coming a school doctor.

"Mum gave up full-time paediatrics to care for us then became a school doctor, going all over Northern Ireland," Kerry said.

"The role involved checking in to make sure children got their injections and also finding out why some kids couldn't go to school. She was personally responsible for helping several families work through their differences."

Kerry also revealed how her mother only decided to become a doctor after a brush with death when she was in her teens.

"She had issues with her stomach and had to go into hospital and while in hospital that's what made her want to become a doctor," she said.

"She has been a lady captain for Lisburn Tennis Club and Lisburn Golf Club and does a lot for charity, in particular Chest, Heart and Stroke, and she also volunteers at RSPB wildlife centres.

"She's also a keen member of the local church and she helps out with flower arranging and coffee mornings."

Belfast Telegraph