Belfast Telegraph

Why I can't wait to shake my pal Sir Cliff's hand again in Belfast

By Eddie McIlwaine

Every picture tells a story - and this one showing off a handshake between me and Cliff Richard is the illustration of a promise he made to me a long time ago when we met up one afternoon in Killarney.

The Young One as he is still known, never mind that he's well into his 70s, gave me his word that he would be back singing in Belfast on his next tour. And now that all the troubles that overtook him are well behind him the promise is going to come true, later rather than sooner, I have to admit.

Sir Cliff, to give him his full title, will be on stage at the SSE Arena on September 30 next year. And I will be there to greet him and shake his hand again.

One of my happy journalistic memories is the night I took a two-year-old girl (and her mum) to meet Cliff backstage at the King's Hall.

It came about like this. Wendy, the child's mother, a loyal Cliff fan, always put a video of her pop hero on while she was ironing and the two-year-old watched too and became an even more devoted fan than mum.

So we took her to see Cliff in the King's Hall dressing room just before his concert. And what a reaction. The little girl recognised him right away and held out her arms for him to give her a nurse.

Where is that young baby fan today? Perhaps that grown up child will get in touch. Wouldn't it be lovely if she and her mum turned up at the gig.

Cliff and I have something in common. He launched his singing career in 1957 at 17 on a £27 guitar his father bought for him. And I launched my own career in journalism that year too as a trainee reporter on the Belfast Telegraph.

The young one and I have met up many times since 1957 and I remember joining him at a rehearsal in Birmingham back in the summer of 1988.

It was a hot summer afternoon in July with the festive season far distant. But Cliff was singing Mistletoe and Wine and told me (several times) it would be that year's Christmas number one. Was he right? Of course he was right.

That time when I spent a few days with Cliff (and the Shadows too) in Killarney I was actually allowed to join in a couple of songs during rehearsals.

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