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Why royals and celebrities love Belfast poet Mavis Rodgers

Great-gran's verse a hit with the great and good

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Poetry writing  North Belfast pensioner Mavis Rodgers first began sending her poetry to celebrities around the world, she could never have imagined what the response to her writing would be.

Poetry writing North Belfast pensioner Mavis Rodgers first began sending her poetry to celebrities around the world, she could never have imagined what the response to her writing would be.

Poetry writing  North Belfast pensioner Mavis Rodgers first began sending her poetry to celebrities around the world, she could never have imagined what the response to her writing would be.

Poetry writing North Belfast pensioner Mavis Rodgers first began sending her poetry to celebrities around the world, she could never have imagined what the response to her writing would be.

Poetry writing North Belfast pensioner Mavis Rodgers first began sending her poetry to celebrities around the world, she could never have imagined what the response to her writing would be.

When north Belfast pensioner Mavis Rodgers first began sending her poetry to celebrities around the world, she could never have imagined what the response to her writing would be.

The former mill worker from the Ballysillan area, who turned 89 last month, was amazed when royalty, sporting legends, prime ministers and presidents all took the time to respond to her.

Mavis, who only took up writing poetry in her mid 60s, now has a huge collection of letters from famous fans.

Among those who contacted her to say thanks for her poetry are the Queen, Prince Charles, Harry and Meghan, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Sir Alex Ferguson and the late Princess Diana.

The great-grandmum has written thousands of poems in the Belfast vernacular, mostly recalling her childhood in the city, her wartime evacuation to the North Coast and her memories of her family. Other poems are about the dignitaries she's writing to or important events that have happened across the globe.

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Poetry writing  North Belfast pensioner Mavis Rodgers first began sending her poetry to celebrities around the world, she could never have imagined what the response to her writing would be.

Poetry writing North Belfast pensioner Mavis Rodgers first began sending her poetry to celebrities around the world, she could never have imagined what the response to her writing would be.

Poetry writing North Belfast pensioner Mavis Rodgers first began sending her poetry to celebrities around the world, she could never have imagined what the response to her writing would be.

Mavis explains: "I started writing poetry one night when my eldest son Jackie, who has since sadly passed away, was home with me.

"I wrote a poem about what it was like to be a child evacuee in the war and how we were taken away in what we stood up in and brought to Portstewart. Once I started writing, I couldn't stop.

"I was never interested in poetry at school. I remember one of my teachers telling me I was stupid. I was away in Portstewart for a few years and I learned nothing there because I was distracted all the time.

"Mum had stayed in Belfast to watch the house and my dad was in the army and away in Dunkirk. My granny was looking after me, my twin brother and my sister, but she was very feeble and I was worried all the time.

"Looking back, I'm not surprised I learned nothing. I think I was traumatised by it all. So once I started writing, it just kept coming and when I read the poem out to my son, he told me it was very good."

Then she came up with the idea to send her poems to well known public figures, not expecting to hear back. "To be honest, half the time I sent them I wasn't even sure the poems would get there," says Mavis. "Sometimes I wrote poems about the people themselves. I got a nice letter back from the Queen Mother, saying what lovely things I'd said about her.

"I got letters from Mo Mowlam, Kofi Annan and Michael D Higgins, who still sends me a Christmas card every year."

Many of Mavis' poems are inspired by the mill workers and pawn shops of the past, while others are Troubles related. She writes as she speaks, with no airs and graces, and she says all her poems are straight from the heart. Several collections of her work have been published, with proceeds from the sales going to charity. And she's been called upon to give readings at events, including last year's Belfast Alternative Fashion Week.

"I read one at the fashion show called 'Nice To Be Nice'. It's about how great it could be if the whole world could agree; if we could all sing from the same hymn sheet," she says. "It seemed to go down well.

"I don't know where it all comes from. I think I just have a lot of memories and thoughts in my head that I need to get out. "

There are only a couple of dignitaries who didn't reply to Mavis: Ian Paisley and, more recently, President Trump.

"I don't mind that I didn't get letters from them because, honestly, I never expected to hear from anyone," she says.

"It's just lovely to think my wee poems about Belfast have been read and enjoyed by so many people around the world."

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