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The Belfast Chinese waiter who helped a penniless Gabriel Byrne

By Eddie McIlwaine

Film star Gabriel Byrne, who will be presenting an award at the Prince's Trust 30th anniversary Celebrate Success gala in City Hall tonight will be wondering once again if the Chinese waiter who fed him left overs from his kitchen one night in Belfast is still around.

"I'll never forget him," recalls Byrne, who will soon be appearing in a Second World War movie called Leningrad. "I was 16, penniless and hungry, gazing into his restaurant and all that food.

"He came outside and handed me a piled plate of rice and vegetables. A meal has never tasted better before or since. It was my kind of manna from heaven. And I didn't thank him properly as I gulped the food down. I've thought a lot about that waiter down the years. People aren't usually as thoughtful as that."

Young folk at the dinner, which is in recognition of young people who have achieved success against incredible odds, will be regaled by Byrne with stories from his teen years.

Now 55, he will explain to the gathering that he had just completed a marathon hike from Donegal through Londonderry to Belfast on the night of the unexpected tuck-in.

And he had spent his last few shillings going to the pictures to get out of the cold.

Gabriel ended up being befriended by the police and spending the night in a police cell at Donegall Pass and drinking tea and eating currant buns.

"I had walked and walked - that's the way to find yourself and think about life when you're just 16," he says.

The event will also have Northern Ireland football manager Lawrie Sanchez as a guest and will be hosted by actor Joe McGann and Christine Bleakley.

The awards celebrate the achievements of disadvantaged young people who have changed their lives and had a positive impact on the community.

The new Byrne film Leningrad has him playing a journalist in an emotional love drama at the height of the fighting in the war.

Belfast Telegraph


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