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Friday, 31 August 2018


What a Carry On! Carry On Sergeant launched the series 60 years ago in 1958. In their day, most of these films were well-scripted, very funny and beautifully performed by a brilliant troupe of actors. These days of instant insult, offence and apoplexy, some will find them appalling while those, like me, still find them funny. Not all of them, mind you, and certainly not the abomination that was Carry On Columbus in 1992.

So, today, I salute a pretty successful British film franchise, producer Peter Rogers, director Gerald Thomas, writers Norman Hudis and Talbot Rothwell, Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Connor, Peter Butterworth, Hattie Jacques, Terry Scott, Bernard Bresslaw, Jack Douglas and, of course, Barbara Windsor.

1958 Sergeant
1959 Nurse
1959 Teacher

1960 Constable
1961 Regardless
1962 Cruising
1963 Cabby
1963 Jack

1964 Spying
1964 Cleo
1965 Cowboy
1966 Screaming
1966 Don't Lose Your Head
1967 Follow That Camel

1967 Doctor
1968 Up The Khyber
1969 Camping
1969 Again Doctor
1970 Up The Jungle
1971 Henry
1971 At Your Convenience
1972 Matron
1972 Abroad
1973 Girls

1974 Dick
1975 Behind
1976 England
1978 Emmanuelle
1992 Columbus

Thursday, 30 August 2018



Here are ideas for September features. Some of them may be in your diary already. Some of them may be added to your diary after reading this. Some features may be written by in-house journalists. But maybe, just maybe, I can write something for you.

Let me know what you want, word count, deadline and fee and I will get to work. 

Here are some ideas and, if I can help, I look forward to hearing from you. If anything else comes up, I'll add to the list.


4 Search engine Google founded 20 years ago

4 UK Number One - I Just Gotta Get A Message To You by The Bee Gees 50 years ago

11 UK Number One - Hey Jude by The Beatles 50 years ago

10 Rin Tin Tin born 100 years ago (d. 1932)

15 Muhammad Ali became world heavyweight boxing champion for the third time 40 years ago

25 UK Number One - Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkin 50 years ago

27 The hippy musical Hair opened in London 50 years ago.

28 Alexander Fleming discovered 'mould juice' renamed penicillin 100 years ago.

29 Gustav Holst's The Planets suite premiered in London 100 years ago.

30 Little Women (volume 1) by Louisa May Alcott published 150 years ago

Wednesday, 29 August 2018


In 1974 I was twenty years old and one of my very favourite haunts in Belfast was Smithfield Market. The musty smell was wonderful, stale, damp and sour, drawing me in to browse and to absorb some sense of the olden days. It had been standing in its unique untidy fashion for over 200 years displaying and selling all manner of stuff from livestock way back to furniture, antiques, books, bric-a-brac, everything queer and quaint you could think of and much more that had never crossed your mind. "I Buy Anything" said Kavanagh, McQuillan's "Records To Buy & Sell", Hugh Greer "Bookseller" for well-thumbed tomes on every subject known to man, key cutters, scissor sharpeners, clothes in heaps and old knackered tools that still had a few jobs in them. It was a gloriously evocative quadrangle of merchants and moochers.

Then came the fire in May 1974. What a blaze, what sadness in the ash. The fire was started deliberately and in a matter of hours Smithfield was gone. The new buildings hadn't a hope of recapturing what had been there before. I remember feeling very emotional about it all.

I was born and raised in Belfast. I worked in British Home Stores. I know the city well. I have pounded the streets many times. I have loved the architecture and the good history, the brilliant writers who have written great words in praise of the place. Recently, I read extracts from Cathal O'Byrne's As I Roved Out which has a sweet gloss to it but nonetheless underlines the character and characters of old Belfast.

So, it was with similar dismay and emotion that I watched the Bank Buildings engulfed in flames and smoke. It was and is heartbreaking to see (soppiness alert) another old friend facing total destruction. 
The building carried its own fair amount of history, transforming from a bank in 1785, to a bishop's house, to retail stores, most recently Primark. Like a lot of city centre buildings, it was a target for bombers and arsonists during the so-called Troubles. But repaired and refurbished, it was restored and opened for business once again. This time things look too far gone for restoration.

It is good news that no one was hurt. The cause of the fire will be revealed eventually. But (as I write I am unsure about the shell of the building's chances of survival) when I come home to Belfast on my next visit, if it is gone, then I might just shed a tear.

Sunday, 26 August 2018




I am researching and writing a memoir. At its core is my father's disappearing act. In 1960, he left our Belfast home, his wife and seven young children and vanished. The next we heard of him was when we were informed he had died at 57 in Clapham, London, in 1982.

This is a mystery of 22 'missing' years.

The memoir, by default, has expanded into a family history story but my father is the main character.

I have discovered a lot of information about him from 1960 to 1982. I have communicated with people who knew him forty years ago. I know where he lived, where he worked, the pub he frequented, the church he may have attended and his burial plot.

But, a couple of photographs intrigue and frustrate me. In his possessions there was a picture of a woman and a picture of a young boy (below). I am estimating they were taken in the mid-1970s.

The woman may be called Mary English.

The boy might be her son.

My father may have had a relationship with the woman.

The boy might be my father's son.

The boy might be my half-brother.

The boy, when older, may have joined the Navy.


1960s/1970s/early 1980s

Clapham, London

John Cushnan aka John Kelly, my father

Orlando Road, Clapham, his bedsit address

Rose & Crown pub, The Polygon, Clapham, his local, landlord back then, Jim Nicholson

'Scottish' George, my father's friend

But...... who are the two people pictured.

If anyone has any information, please contact me via


Six writers and me reflect on Belfast:

Sean O’Faolain in An Irish Journey (1940) wrote: ‘Walk up Donegall Place any night about seven, passing the strolling poor, factory hands, clerks, mill-workers, shipyard workers, domestics, and go into the big hotel a few hundred yards up, where you find the higher executives and employers enjoying themselves in the best eat-and-swill manner of an English industrial town. You have before you an outline of Belfast’s social structure. There is no aristocracy – no culture – no grace – no leisure worthy of the name. It all boils down to mixed grills, double whiskeys, dividends, movies, and these strolling, homeless, hate-filled poor. It is brutal.’

In 1983’s The Kingdom of the Sea, travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux wrote: ‘I knew at once that Belfast was an awful city. It had a bad face – mouldering buildings, tough-looking people, a visible smell, too many fences.’

The writer and critic V. S. Pritchett in Midnight Oil (1971) wrote: ‘Belfast was detestable. The only decent hotel at that time was grubby. The city is the most dreadful in Ireland. The Ulster accent, a bastard lowland Scots, is harsh and is given a sort of comic bluster by the glottal stop imported from Glasgow. The humour is boisterous, the fanaticism is brutal and relations between Ulster employers and workers is rough.’

The dramatist and poet, Frank Frankfort Moore wrote in 1914: ‘Belfast is really a wonder. It has been growing within the past seventy years as few towns in the world have been, but it has not outgrown its strength. It has been well looked after, morally as well as physically, and the result is that today it can do what few other cities can do. It can launch the largest ships that the world has ever seen; it can spend nearly a quarter of a million making a dock that will enable the biggest ships in the world to be repaired; it has the largest rope works in existence; and the largest spinning mill. There is no city in the kingdom that can compete with Belfast.’

Denis O’D. Hanna offered this from an architect’s point of view (slightly paraphrased by me) in The Face of Ulster (1952): ‘What shall I say of Belfast? First of all it is a beautifully set city, the best in the British Isles. Belfast is alert, efficient and dependable. What it sets its hand to it will ultimately do well.’

In 1843, writer William Makepeace Thackeray found ‘the town of Belfast to be really as neat, prosperous and handsome a city as need be seen.’

And this is what I wrote in an exile piece for the Belfast Telegraph in 2015: 'It is a city to shake a fist at and to embrace seconds later. It is stuffed full of creative people and more than a smattering of political slabber. Belfast is in my blood. It is where I began.'

Saturday, 25 August 2018


When I was a boy growing up in sixties Belfast,
I learned a few choice things. One, a popular swear word
Used by women and that word was frig, sometimes extended
To friggin', not the bigger, badder f-word, no, no,
"For frig sake" and "I'm fed up with this friggin' weather" -
Enough of a word to make whatever the point was,
Enough emphasis not to tangle with her or her.

Thursday, 23 August 2018


Richard Greene was born 100 years ago, 25 August 1918, in Plymouth. He cut his teeth in repertory companies which led to his lucky break into films via 20th Century Fox in 1938. He was a big success in Hollywood working with directors like John Ford. In 1939, he starred in The Hound of the Baskervilles as Sir Henry with top billing over Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson.

In 1938, he starred in Kentucky with Loretta Young and Walter Brennan. Henry King directed him in Stanley and Livingstone, starring Spencer Tracy in 1939. In the same year he appeared alongside Shirley Temple in The Little Princess. 

His co-stars in films included Fred McMurray, Alice Faye, Ann Todd, Peter Graves, George Sanders, Myrna Loy, Edward G. Robinson and so many more.

But, for me anyway, his greatest role was on television in The Adventures of Robin Hood which ran for 144 episodes from 1955 to 1960, with regular repeats for some years after.

You can keep Errol Flynn (although he was great too), Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Jason Connery, Michael Praed, Douglas Fairbanks, Jonas Armstrong, Patrick Bergin, Sean Connery and any others. For me, no one can compete with the Robin Hood of my younger days.

A big salute from me to Richard Greene!

I'm off to dig out the box set and sing along with Dick James: "Robin Hood, Robin Hood riding through the glen........."

Richard Greene died in 1985 at 66.

Sunday, 12 August 2018


As sure as death and taxes, whenever a current James Bond actor packs it in, the world and its cat digs into the debate about who will be next. I am at the stage where I couldn't care less how this spreadsheet/tick-all-the-boxes world decides on the next person to become 007. The important thing for me is that Bond movies should be bigger than Bond in terms of plot, action and entertainment, and as much attention should be paid to casting the villain.

But, here's a gallery of the actors who have played Bond in the past.

Barry Nelson in a TV version of Casino Royale (1954).

Bob Holness in a radio production of Moonraker (1955).

Sean Connery in films, Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Never Say Never Again (1983).

David Niven in the film Casino Royale (1967).

George Lazenby in the film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

Roger Moore in films Live And Let Die (1973), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View To A Kill (1985).

Timothy Dalton in films The Living Daylights (1987), Licence To Kill (1989).

Pierce Brosnan in films Goldeneye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002)

Daniel Craig in films Casino Royale (2006), Quantum Of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012), Spectre (2015), Bond 25 (2019)

And then ????????? But please, don't make a big deal out of it!

Tuesday, 7 August 2018


I missed completely the death of one of my TV western heroes - Clint Walker who starred as Cheyenne Bodie. He died at 90 on 21 May, 2018.

He made 108 episodes of Cheyenne from 1955 to 1962 in that golden age of television - alongside Maverick, Bronco, Sugarfoot, Laramie, Wagon Train, and several more. I loved them all. They were (and still are) a big part of my life.

Apart from this big TV hit, he impressed on the big screen in Yellowstone Kelly, None But The Brave and The Dirty Dozen, to name three.


 Farewell, old friend.


Robert Redford has said he is retiring from acting. He turns 82 later this month. How lucky are we to have lived in his time and been blown away by his movies, performances and directing triumphs? He made his screen debut in a 1960 episode of TV's Maverick. His proposed last outing as an actor will be in The Old Man & The Gun in September. His screen CV via IMDB is here. Click and marvel at this great man of the cinema.

Here's a random gallery.

Thursday, 2 August 2018


Northern Ireland has never been short of creative and successful actors and directors. All of us from that part of the world can name at least a handful. But there are a few actors/directors who have achieved much but who are forgotten, and that is a great shame. So, in this post, I want to flag up an actor who doesn't automatically spring to mind when considering Ulster talent.

Noel Willman was born in Derry on 4 August, 1918. He was the son of a gentleman's hairdresser. He was educated at Foyle College and made his acting debut at 16 in a local production of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, followed by a role in Journey's End.

He left Derry to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, graduated and entered the world of repertory theatre in London, Liverpool and Stratford. He grew in stature and received high praise as Hamlet, his big break in 1939, directed by John Gielgud, as Judge Brack in Hedda Gabler, as Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing, as Antonio in The Merchant of Venice and as Pandarus in The Taming of the Shrew. He played an interrogator opposite Alec Guinness in The Prisoner. In 1951, he appeared on Broadway in Legend of Lovers along with Richard Burton.

Sir Tyrone Guthrie encouraged him to consider directing for the stage. He dipped his toe in the water as actor/director in a 1955 Stratford production of All's Well That Ends Well. But the biggest prize of his career came in 1962 on Broadway. He won a Tony Award for directing A Man For All Seasons, written by Robert Bolt and starring Paul Scofield. The play opened in 1961 and chalked up 620 performances. In 1966, Willman was nominated for an Emmy for directing a TV adaptation of A Lion In Winter featuring a young Christopher Walken.

With his theatre hat on, acting or directing, he worked with Tyrone Power, Robert Preston, Flora Robson, Nigel Stock, Michael Denison, Anthony Quayle, Claire Bloom, Ian Bannen, Geraldine McEwan, Peggy Ashcroft, Ralph Richardson, Stanley Baker, Leo McKern and Katherine Hepburn.

His screen career began in 1952 and included film and television roles such as The Pickwick Papers (1952), Beau Brummell (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Carve Her Name With Pride (1958), Armchair Theatre (1958), Danger Man (1960), The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Paul Temple (1970), The Persuaders! (1971) and The Odessa File (1974).

He attracted a reputation as a rather sinister screen character in several horror films including one that is considered by fans as a classic Hammer production, The Reptile (1966). Here's a link to the trailer

Noel Willman's acting and directing CV is very impressive and his Tony Award is a glittering prize. He was a gifted man of many skills, a Northern Ireland man to be precise and a Derry man to  be even moreso. 

He suffered a heart attack and died at 70 in New York in 1988.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018



Here are ideas for August features. Some of them may be in your diary already. Some of them may be added to your diary after reading this. Some features may be written by in-house journalists. But maybe, just maybe, I can write something for you.

Let me know what you want, word count, deadline and fee and I will get to work. 

Here are some ideas and, if I can help, I look forward to hearing from you.


3 August - Terry Wogan was born 80 years ago (BBC TV & radio, and The Floral Dance) - Died 2016

4 August – Derry actor/director Noel Willman born 100 years ago (Theatre, film, TV) - Died 1988

6 August – Andy Warhol would have been 90 (Campbell's Soup art) - Died 1987

9 August - Robert Aldrich was born 100 years ago (The Dirty Dozen) - Died 1983

12 August - Guy 'Dambusters' Gibson was born 100 years ago (617 Squadron) - Died 1944

15 August - The horrific car bombing atrocity in Omagh 20 years ago (Multiple deaths and injuries)

16 August – Madonna will be 60 (Material Girl)

17 August - Mae West was born 125 years ago ("I used to be Snow White but I drifted!") - Died 1980

25 August – Richard Greene born 100 years ago. (The ONLY Robin Hood) - Died 1985

25 August - Leonard Bernstein was born 100 years ago (West Side Story) - Died 1990

26 August - Hey Jude by The Beatles was released 50 years ago (B-side Revolution)

26 August - Pope John Paul 1 died 40 years ago after only 33 days as Pope (Albino Luciani) - Died 1978

29 August – Michael Jackson would have been 60 (Thriller) - Died 2009

29 August - Cliff Richard's single Move It was released 60 years ago (UK number two)

31 August – The first Carry On film, Carry on Sergeant, was released 60 years ago. (William Hartnell, Bob Monkhouse and Kenneth Connor.)

31 August - James Coburn was born 90 years ago (The Magnificent Seven) - Died 2002

31 August - Alan Jay Lerner was born 100 years ago (My Fair Lady) - Died 1986