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Through the Grapevine - Billy Dickson

By Rebecca Petticrew

While we're all getting used to the new look of the South Belfast Community Telegraph, one longstanding contributor Billy Dickson took some time to reflect on almost seven years spent as the man behind the Grapevine.

Born in Greencastle, north Belfast, Billy's family moved to Utility Street, just off the Donegall Road, when he was a child and he has lived in around the Village area of south Belfast ever since.

Billy (66) has served the Sandy Row and Donegall Road communities for approximately 40 years in many capacities and he has always been very much involved in church and youth work, along with his wife of 44 years Ann.

Billy's in-depth local knowledge and avid interest in history makes his contribution to the paper both interesting and informative – bringing to light many of the little known and sometimes forgotten stories of the Blackstaff and Windsor areas.

A founding member of the Ulster Museum's Art and Object Handling Association, Billy's love of history was cemented during his 30-year career at the museum. It's a passion he continues to impart, taking guided walking tours of his 'patch' of the city.

One-time DUP councillor and RUC reservist, Billy continues to act as an advocate for local people, and it was in this capacity his links to the Community Telegraph were forged: "I first sent information for the Grapevine in November 2007 after being asked to contribute community news, events and information," Billy explained.

"I have always given my full support to the Grapevine as I believe local community information is important."

The topics covered in Billy's first submission included the appointment of a new minister – the Rev Dr Robert James Greer – at Richview Church; notification of a mobile library on Tate's Avenue; a visit south Belfast MLA Jimmy Spratt made to the Olympia Drive area; and a meeting with Fold Housing Association over plans to build lifelong social housing in the Roden Street area.

In all of the years he has been writing the Grapevine, Billy has only missed sending copy once – the week his younger sister Agnes died.

Now ready to embrace a new era of the Community Telegraph, he says: "I am rather sad that the Grapevine has come to an end but the new look 'looks good', and my mother said that a change is better than a rest."

We at the Community Telegraph would like to take this opportunity to thank Billy for keeping our south Belfast readers so well informed.

You can keep up to date with Billy's Blackstaff and Windsor news in our Community Focus section on page eight..

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