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Tuesday, 30 October 2018

HOME THOUGHTS

In random moments
I become a little boy again,
Brave and adventurous
In my dishonest imagination,
Reinventing my structure,
Stretching the long ago
Into a widescreen distortion
That no one will bother to challenge.

I squirrel away lapses,
Wasted opportunities
Through timidity
And unnecessary nervousness.
It was not a broken home,
Chipped and fractured perhaps,
But never broken, never broken.
She saw to that.




Friday, 26 October 2018

FEATURE WRITING IDEAS NOVEMBER 2018

Hello.

Here are ideas for November 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.

joecushnan@aol.com

FREELANCE WRITING IDEAS FOR NOVEMBER 2018:

2 Lewis Hamilton became youngest ever F1 champion 10 years ago
4 Barack Obama was elected 44th US President 10 years ago
4 Poet/soldier Wilfred Owen died 100 years ago
5 Richard Nixon was elected 37th US President 50 years ago
7 Evangelist Billy Graham born 100 years ago
11 Cookstown-born Typhoid Mary Mallon died 80 years ago
13 Larne-born Valerie Hobson (Mrs John Profumo) died 20 years ago
14 Prince Charles will be 70
17 Singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot will be 80
18 Steamboat Willie, Mickey Mouse's screen debut released 90 years ago
22 The Beatle's White Album released 50 years ago





*********************************************************************************

OPEN FOR WRITING COMMISSIONS 2018/2019

Open for Writing Commissions 2018/2019
JOE CUSHNAN

FREELANCE WRITER/MEDIA CONTRIBUTOR

        joecushnan@aol.com          @JoeCushnan


SELECTED PUBLISHED FEATURES (SAMPLES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST)
Most of my published pieces have appeared as two-page features in the Belfast Telegraph.

On the death of my brother;
On a 1928/29 Belfast tourism guide;
On my mother;
On the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC);
On homelessness and begging;
On my education;
On my runaway father;
On family history;
On the closure of retailer BHS;
On my father;
On actor James Ellis’s short stories;
On the golden age of television;
On singer/songwriter David McWilliams;
On leaving Belfast in 1976
On the actor Sam Kydd
On the singer/songwriter David McWilliams
On the film star Stephen Boyd
On collecting autographs
On the history of the Ulster Hall
On junk mail

SELECTED BOOKS

Retail Confidential (2010) – career retrospective
Much Calamity & The Redundance Kid (2011) – coping with job loss
Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood (2013) – the star of Ben-Hur, etc.

MOST RECENT RADIO APPEARANCE

BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live (2018)

BLOG

Link to Dropped The Moon blog: https://droppedthemoon.blogspot.com

I can write seriously or with humour on shops, shoppers and shopping; nostalgia; old Hollywood and television; personal experiences, general lifestyle, and about my hometown, Belfast. I write reviews of non-fiction books.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

COLLECTING AUTOGRAPHS

Ian Richardson (sent from Playhouse Theatre, London, 
where he was appearing in The Creeper, 2006)

Henry Winkler (sent from his publisher's office, 2008)

Mickey Rooney (sent from Bristol Hippodrome 
where he was appearing in panto, 2009.)

Bernard MacLaverty (I didn't actually meet him. 
I bought this signed copy in No Alibis, Botanic Avenue, Belfast, 2017.)

Moira Lister (sent following a request to her agent in the 1980s
 during my Stephen Boyd research. They appeared together in Seven Waves Away (1957)

Ray Davies (sent via his agent's office around 
the 2006 release of his Other People's Lives album.)

Warren Mitchell (sent from Apollo Theatre, London, 
where he was appearing in The Price, October 2003.)

James Nesbitt (sent by him from Trafalgar Studios, London 
where he was appearing in Shoot the Crow, November 2005)

Tommy Steele (sent by him from Liverpool 
where he was appearing as Scrooge, 2004)

Richard Harris (sent following a speculative request via his agent. 
On Concorde notepaper, probably late 1990s)

Dame Maggie Smith (I have not kept a record of 
when I requested this or which London theatre it was sent from. At a guess, 2006/2007)

Jay Leno (sent following a request via The Tonight Show, May 2006.)

Maurice Roeves (sent at the request of my friend and his, 
Nigel Usher, circa 2007)

Richard Wilson (sent from New Ambassador's Theatre, London, 
where he was appearing in Whipping It Up, March 2007.)

Clint Eastwood (sent in response to a request via his Los Angeles office
in early 2016. Received May 2017.)

Johnny Carson (sent in response to a request 
to NBC's Tonight Show, mid-1980s.)
Lee Van Cleef (sent in response to a request 
via his Los Angeles agent, circa mid-1980s)
Timothy Dalton (sent from National Theatre, London, 
where he was appearing in His Dark Materials, January 2004
Rex Harrison (sent from Theatre Royal, Haymarket 
where he was appearing in J. M. Barrie's The Admirable Crichton, November 1988.)
Bill Bailey (sent from somewhere on his 2003 comedy tour.)
Jack Lemmon (sent from Los Angeles, circa 1999)
 Francesca Annis (sent from Comedy Theatre, London, 
where she was appearing in Harold Pinter's Epitaph for George Dillon, November 2005)
 Brian Dennehy (sent from Lyric Theatre, London, 
where he was playing Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, August 2005)

Gordon Jackson (sent in response to a question I asked him about Stephen Boyd, in the mid-1980s. It was accompanied by a very informative letter.)

Dame Judi Dench (sent from Haymarket Theatre, London, 
where she was appearing in Noel Coward's Hay Fever, April 2006.)

Roger Lloyd Pack (sent from Royal Court Theatre, London, 
when he was appearing in Jez Butterworth's The Winterling, April 2006.)


Humphrey Lyttelton (sent during his time hosting Radio 2's 
The Best of Jazz, circa 2001)


Dick Van Dyke (sent in response to a request 
I made via his agent, circa 2005.)

I collect autographs.  It is almost but not quite as nerdy as train spotting and stamp collecting, but an odd thing in it’s own way.  I try not to analyse the collecting thing but if I did, I might find some psychological deficiency in my make-up, something that forces me to make emotional connections to the rich and famous via their photographs and signatures.  But enough of the deep thinking, collecting autographs is fun.  Like many things in life, however, it is becoming a tougher challenge to get responses because a growing number of celebrities assume that a request for an autograph is just one step away from an online auction.  I am sure their fears are justified, but I can put my hand on my heart and say, that apart from one, I have never sold any item from my precious collection.  For the record, it was a Kenny Everett signed photo and it fetched £10 about twenty years ago – all in the best possible taste, of course.

Whilst some celebrities do not trust the motives of some autograph hunters, it is true to say that some autograph hunters are sceptical about autograph providers.  I will offer a true story.  In the 1980s, I was working for a prestigious company that decided to sponsor a premium golf tournament.  The face of the tournament was a very, very famous golfer – let’s call him Al Batross.  One day, as I walked along one of the office corridors, I stuck my head round the door of the guy who was coordinating the event on behalf of the company.  We chatted about the exciting launch and he even allowed me to hold the very first trophy.  On his desk, I noticed a pile of photographs of Al Batross and I asked about them.  The guy said that he expected quite a few letters from the public requesting signed pictures and he wanted to be ready for the onslaught.  I commented that Al would be busy signing the photographs on top of his other commitments and the guy laughed saying that Mr Batross would not be signing the pictures.  “He’s far too busy for us to bother him with a job like that.  Someone from the office will sign them as ‘Best wishes, Al Batross’.  Who’s going to know?”  I was flabbergasted and to this day I wonder how many people have treasured signed photographs of Al Batross (wink, wink) not signed by him but probably by Doris in accounts or Colin in goods inward.  The top golfer, no doubt, was oblivious to all of this but it stands as an example of how easy it is for autograph hunters to be duped.

But as I rummage through my box, I have to rely on my gut and believe that what I have in my possession are genuine signatures.  My passion for collecting started thirty years ago when I began gathering biographical information about actor Stephen Boyd.  Treasures here include signed correspondence from actors Alec Guinness, Charlton Heston, Honor Blackman, Gordon Jackson Leo McKern and George Baker , as well as major directors John Huston, Ronald Neame and Guy Hamilton.  As I got a taste for it, I would keep an eye out for big name actors and actresses making appearances in London’s West End and try to illicit responses.  I have to say that I have experienced more non-responses than responses, but it is a thrill when a photo turns up “to Joe” or, indeed, when a photo shows up at all.  I had success with Brian Dennehy, Kathleen Turner, James Nesbitt, Jeremy Irons, Martin Shaw, Warren Mitchell, Peter Bowles, Timothy West, Ian McKellen, Lynda “Wonder Woman” Carter, Felicity Kendal, Edward Fox and his brother James. 

US stars tend to drift to the UK for the pantomime season or for short runs and it is a good chance to try your luck by writing to them via the theatre that will be their home for a couple months.  In past years, I have scooped the legendary Mickey Rooney, Stefanie (Hart to Hart) Powers, Steve (Police Academy) Guttenberg, Henry (The Fonz) Winkler and Bea (Golden Girls) Arthur.  Then there are the ones that are just worth a flyer. Most times it’s zilch but occasionally the postman delivers a nice surprise - US chat show king, Jay Leno, cult movie director Robert Altman, Richard Harris, Michael Caine, Terence Stamp, Laurence Olivier, Joan Collins.  The only James Bond that replied was Timothy Dalton.

Writers are good at responding because they like writing, I suppose. Jilly Cooper, James Herbert, Wilbur Smith, Seamus Heaney, John Le Carre, Jeffrey Archer and Maeve Binchy all took the time to compose a little note as well as providing an autograph.  Politicians Edward Heath and the Reverend Ian Paisley are amongst the non-showbiz names in my collection.  I remember writing to Paisley, in the 1980s, and asking if he had any ambitions. He responded with an emphatic “No”.  Of all my autographs, my favourites are the three theatrical Dames – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Diana Rigg, and three of my favourite actors, Jack Lemmon, Dick Van Dyke and, western baddie, Lee Van Cleef.  Lemmon and Van Dyke’s signed photos were personalized, adding to the thrill.  Van Cleef just looked deliciously mean and moody.

My biggest disappointment was Robert Vaughn, hero from The Man From UNCLE days. I wrote to him during filming of TV’s Hustle.  Some months later, I received back my original letter, clumsily folded and upon it was his scrawl.  At least he replied, but I had higher hopes for Napoleon Solo.

As I said, autograph hunting is fun and here are a few tips if you want to get involved.  Once you’ve found the address of an agent, a theatre, a TV or radio location or even the home address of the celebrity, write a nice, polite request, with a compliment thrown in.  Keep your letter short and sweet, and always include a stamped, self-addressed envelope.  Be prepared to wait for months or, in a lot of cases, forever.  But once you get two or three hits, the whole effort will be worthwhile.  Remember, first and foremost, do it for fun, be sincere and enjoy whatever comes.  You might get duped or conned occasionally (Al Batrossed?), but mostly what you get will be the genuine article.  It’s up to you what you do with your collection, but mine is staying as a little box of nice memories of the great and good that bothered to get in touch.

There, I’ve name-dropped like crazy, although I’ve only just scratched the surface.  Time for me to, er, sign off.

Monday, 22 October 2018

BOOK REVIEW: THE ST PATRICK'S TREASURY BY JOHN KILLEN





















The Saint Patrick's Treasury
Celebrating the myths, legends and traditions of Ireland's patron saint
by John Killen

The Blackstaff Press
2018


If I was suddenly confronted with the question: Tell me everything you know about St Patrick, I reckon I would stutter and stammer, hum and haw stuff like patron saint of Ireland, something about Downpatrick and Armagh, a French connection, something about Wales, a nod towards Glasgow, snake expeller and a sort of emblem for an annual booze-up on 17 March every year when shamrock, green suits and hats and black stout define Oirishness. In other words, I could not stretch my thin knowledge to more than three sentences. Shameful, for a Belfast boy.

But now, there is no excuse, thanks to John Killen who has compiled The St Patrick’s Treasury, celebrating the myths, legends and traditions of Ireland’s patron saint. This is a brilliant and comprehensive collection that is both informative and entertaining. It covers St Patrick’s life, his writings, his travels and all manner of things that make him three-dimensional compared to my miserable two-dimensional thin sketch.

‘He was the son of a Roman official, Calpurnius, living probably in Wales. As a boy, Patrick was captured by raiders and sold to an Irish chieftain, Milchu. He spent years in slavery, herding sheep on Slemish Mountain in County Antrim.’ But he escaped, boarded a ship and headed for France. In a dream, ‘he heard voices calling him back to Ireland’and back he came on a mission to get rid of paganism and convert the Irish to the Christian faith ‘until Judgement Day’. His years and journeys are recorded in fine detail, even though the story contains things that might have happened, perhaps happened and probably happened, such is the vagueness of his life. In one section of the book there is ‘A Possible Chronology for Saint Patrick’ but, and this is the fascinating thing, it doesn’t matter about the details because John Killen maintains our interest throughout. We have a sort of a timeline and that will do.

Patrick’s writings are explored in The Confessions and Epistle to Coroticus, both humble yet forceful and encouraging essays/sermons setting out his beliefs, failings and unbending faith. His geography and journeys are explored in Places of Pilgrimage; several County Down locations, Leinster, Munster, Lough Derg, amongst others, and ‘across the water’ in Auxerre, Tours and Rome to name three. His last resting place was Dundalethglass (Downpatrick).

Americans go nuts for Patrick from Boston to New York to Philadelphia to Baltimore to Charleston to Savannah to Washington. At least one day in the year, much of the world smiles through Irish eyes. Not only is St Patrick a saint, he is also a brand, no matter how much of a shiver that provokes.

A look at Relics and Representations of items linked to St Patrick (check out the jawbone story) and an analysis of the man, the myth, the legend concludes a mesmerising book that is written superbly, blending facts and assumptions on this fascinating man of mystery. Hail, glorious Saint Patrick!

The St Patrick’s Treasury is beautifully produced and illustrated and I and many others will have no excuse whatsoever for stuttering and stammering when asked about St Patrick. I know a lot more now and if ever I get stuck in conversation, I’ll just reach for my ‘John Killen’, a masterwork, to be sure, to be sure.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

UPDATED - KEEP THE CUSTOMER SATISFIED? A RETAIL STORY - CASE CLOSED

On 25 November, 2016, I purchased a MacBook Air 13 inch from John Lewis online. After research, the reason I chose John Lewis was because of their 2-year guarantee.

Since the purchase, I have been the sole user.

Around the beginning of September, 2018, the MacBook's track pad (the in-built mouse) stopped working.

I took the MacBook to John Lewis, Sheffield and reported the problem to the technical support department. They recorded the problem, gave me a receipt and said they would send the MacBook to their repair centre.

At the end of September, I received a phone call from someone at the repair centre who said they had investigated the problem and they had found liquid damage inside the MacBook which they classed as accidental damage and therefore not covered by the 2-year guarantee. I said that I was the sole owner and nothing has ever been spilt on or near the MacBook whilst it has been in my possession. I said I have no idea what might have happened to it whilst in John Lewis's possession. The repair person stuck to his script and said there was nothing he could do. He said it could be repaired but at a charge. Very annoyed, I told him to send the MacBook back to John Lewis, Sheffield.

On 2 October, I collected the MacBook from a rather lacklustre assistant and returned home to consider my options. At the time I felt seriously let down by a company I had been pretty loyal to for a long, long time and where I spent thousands of pounds over the years. The supposed 2-year guarantee clanged like a big con.

After a few trips away, and on the advice of my son, I took the MacBook to the Apple store in Meadowhall shopping centre, near Sheffield. They couldn't have been more welcoming and helpful. Nothing lacklustre here.

A technician took my MacBook to a repair room to have a look inside. He returned and said that the inside was "immaculate" and, as he noted on his report, "no signs of liquid on internals of device" and "no signs of customer misuse". At this news, I felt misled or even lied to by the John Lewis repair centre.

The technician recommended that I return to the Sheffield store with the MacBook, which is still within the John Lewis 2-year guarantee, along with his Apple report and present them with another chance to resolve this matter satisfactorily and free of charge, with some "inconvenience" compensation for time and travel.

I will return to John Lewis, Sheffield, next week.

Update 1

21 October 2018

Nick, from John Lewis, picked up my blog post above on Twitter and responded:

"We're concerned to see this, Joe. Please send us a DM confirming your billing address and any reference numbers you have linked to the MacBook so we can look into this further for you."

I replied with the requested information and as at 13.15 on 22 October 2018, no response yet.

Update 2

22 October 2018

I travelled to John Lewis technical support in Sheffield and explained the story from the beginning and highlighted the very different reports from John Lewis's repair centre and Apple's diagnostic check.

In brief, the technical support people in Sheffield said they would send the MacBook back to the repair centre with a clear instruction to fix the problem as per the John Lewis 2-year guarantee. No quibble. No fuss.

Sometime, within the next 28 days, I will get a call to collect my repaired laptop.

So far, I have accumulated 3 x 40-mile round trips to Sheffield re this problem and 1 x 35 mile round trip to Apple at Meadowhall, plus car parking and time wasted.

Update 3

24 October 2018

I got a call from John Lewis customer relations, KMcC, who introduced himself as my personal contact until this matter is resolved. He had the whole story in front of him and said he would monitor the MacBook repair until its conclusion. He gave me his direct contact number should I need to get in touch. This is a good step.

Update 4

26 October 2018


Email from John Lewis & Partners Tech Support

Dear MR J CUSHNAN

This is to confirm that our workshop has received your APPLE Laptop Computer. 
Our technicians will assess and diagnose the fault with it, and will then carry out the
necessary repair.
If we need to discuss your repair at any point, a member of the Tech Support team will be in
touch.
Thank you.
Kind regards
John Lewis & Partners Tech Support

Update 5

1 November 2018

Customer relations contact KMcC phoned to update me. He said (and I paraphrase) that after a second check, the John Lewis repair people stand by their original 'liquid damage' diagnosis. Confusing as this is coupled with Apple's exact opposite analysis, KMcC said the MacBook would be repaired under the guarantee at no charge to me. 

Update 6

12 November 2018

After an email at the weekend, I travelled to the John Lewis store in Sheffield to collect my repaired MacBook at no charge. All fine and dandy.

Now, I ponder 5 x 40-mile round trips during the course of this after-sales palaver and a considerable amount of inconvenience to my freelance writing.

In addition, I am very nervous about trusting the 2-year John Lewis guarantee and I may well avoid buying any big price items ever again. I trusted John Lewis for many years but that trust has been dented severely.

Don't get me wrong, I am pleased to have my repaired MacBook back. But I have serious concerns about JL's after sales service.

Final update

13 November 2018

KMcC called today to ensure the matter was resolved to my satisfaction. In addition, he offered a satisfactory goodwill gesture. 

I have my MacBook back. I have a welcome goodwill gesture. I thanked KMcC for seeing the matter through to the end.

Case closed.

Friday, 19 October 2018

NO URGE TO BE A COMANCHERO

Keira Knightley says she has banned her three-year-old daughter from watching Disney films whose portrayal of women she disagrees with.

(Fair enough. But a few wider thoughts.)

So went a "news" headline recently and it got me thinking about all the films and television I watched, nay absorbed, as a child. Did what I watched influence my route to adulthood? Did I succumb to personality or character flaws because of what I was drinking in through my eyeballs? I don't know for sure but here's my thinking. By the way, this is me about me. There may well be academic studies out there linking screen images to major crimes and societal issues, et al, but that's for others to analyse. 

As a child of four, five, six and beyond, I was a sponge soaking up westerns. I am sure I have watched thousands. Several decades on, I can put my hand on my heart and say that I have never had the urge to be a gunslinger, bank robber, cattle rustler, bar brawler or Comanchero. Hell, I have never had any enthusiasm to ride a horse. I loved the action, the stories, the humour. I did not have the intellectual capacity as a youngster to identify "real world" problems. Yes, the majority of my western stars were men but, so what? In a lot of westerns, women were mothers, ranch wives, saloon keepers or good time gals. Men, generally, were the tough guys, providing and protecting. Maybe, that's the way it was way back in the real West.

In the movies, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Russell and, especially, Maureen O'Hara were not to be messed with. There are others, of course, but modern day issues are not on my mind when I'm watching.

Even now, in this strange, complaining world, I don't watch westerns with a spreadsheet in front of me to see if it ticks all the boxes to satisfy all those who might be offended genuinely or who may be offended because they like stirring controversy for the hell of it. I watch westerns because I enjoy the genre, even the ropey ones. It's my thing. And I can't see anything negative in my mature years that I can attribute to westerns. 

And away from westerns, I thrilled at watching Tom & Jerry cartoons but I have never chased anyone around the house with the intention of hitting them in the face with a skillet!

Today there are more campaign bandwagons than there were wagons on Wagon Train and I am very selective about which ones I will climb aboard. 

Adios, pardners!


Wednesday, 10 October 2018

SALUTING DON COLLIER







Coming up next week, great western supporting actor Don Collier will be 90. He was part of that cowboy world I lived in as a kid, especially in 60+ episodes of The High Chaparral in which he played foreman Sam Butler.

Pre-Chaparral, he starred in 50 episodes of Outlaws (1960-62) as Marshall Will Forman and guest-starred in various TV shows including Perry Mason, The Virginian, Branded, Death Valley Days, Bonanza, Wagon Train, The Waltons, and many more.

He appeared in movies with John Wayne; The War Wagon (1967), El Dorado (1967) and The Undefeated (1969). He was in Five Card Stud with Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum. He featured in the 1973 Stephen Boyd film Key West.

He was a jobbing actor but I liked his Sam Butler role best of all, and especially his deep drawl, not quite Sam Elliott but very distinctive and effective.



A few years ago, I sent him a fan letter and he replied with a signed photograph of the core Chaparral cast. "To Joe, best wishes, Don Collier" and as if he had to clarify, he noted that he was Sam!

He last appeared on screen 10 years ago but thanks to the CBS Action channel, The High Chaparral is oft-repeated, a great show with a wonderful ensemble cast.

In the photograph, only four actors are still with us; Don Collier (89); Henry Darrow (85); Linda Cristal (84); Mark Slade (79).

I salute Don Collier.





Wednesday, 3 October 2018

BOOK REVIEW - REPORTING THE TROUBLES


Reporting the Troubles
Journalists tell their stories of the Northern Ireland conflict

Compiled by Deric Henderson and Ivan Little

The Blackstaff Press 2018


In the foreword to this powerful and emotional book, US Special envoy for Northern Ireland (1995 – 2001), Senator George Mitchell quotes Thomas Jefferson: “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left for me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Mitchell says: “This book will make a lasting impression on readers. It contains accounts of death and life, of loss and survival, of heroism and cowardice, all of which in the aggregate convey the swirl of emotions experienced by those who lived through the Troubles.”

In their introduction, compilers Deric Henderson and Ivan Little say that the book is “a series of deeply personal and engaged accounts of some of the key moments and personalities that defined and shaped the conflict. More than that, they are the testimony to the huge responsibility the journalists felt, to their commitment to putting things on the record, and to remembering.”

Gail Walker, editor of the Belfast Telegraph notes: “We could do worse than to remind ourselves that journalism is at heart about telling stories.”

Even before I read the first chapter, I was struck by the fact that this history happened in my lifetime. I was born and raised in Belfast. In 1968, I was fourteen-years-old, living in Andersonstown. A substantial number of the atrocities highlighted here resonate with me. In those days and onward, we all watched the news. As the sixties morphed into the seventies and on and on, we watched daily atrocities in Belfast and beyond. We lived through brutal and horrific times and, in my view, we took for granted the risks taken by on-the-spot journalists, camera and sound crews to explain to us what was going on. It is not practical in a review to comment on every chapter but I can say with certainty that each contribution to the book is compelling, and as a collective project, Reporting the Troubles sets the highest standards for recording history. Here are selected comments:

Martin Cowley, formerly of the Irish Times and Reuters Ireland, recalls the 5 October, 1968 when the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association marched in Derry against police warnings not to, resulting in baton charges and severe beatings by the police. The incidents on that day triggered the start of what has become known as the Troubles. The difference with this day’s events was that, unlike previous street violence in Northern Ireland, this was “caught on tape, up close and very personal in daylight, and screened worldwide.”The accompanying Trevor McBride photograph of three policemen, one with gritted teeth and raised baton, restraining an eighteen-year-old student was a brutal example of what was to come across Northern Ireland.

Ray Managh, a freelance reporter and former B Special policeman, recalls a terrifying experience, when he accidentally found himself seeking sanctuary with others in an IRA safe house. “It was a little middle-aged woman in an apron, obviously the lady of the house, who turned out to be my saviour and liberator from what I saw as a doomed situation.” Thanks to the woman’s kindly instructions, Managh was escorted safely out of the area.

Martin Bell, the famed BBC correspondent and veteran of assignments in Vietnam, Nigeria, the Middle East and elsewhere – the man in the white suit – remembers the Reverend Ian Paisley, at an Armagh prayer meeting, calling him an employee of the Papist Broadcasting Corporation. “There is one man here,’preached Paisley, “who is no friend of the Protestant and loyalist people. Bell was jostled and made to feel very uncomfortable. Paisley was no Chuckle brother back then.

Peter Taylor, reporter and writer, describes his time covering Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972, interviewing amongst others, a young Martin McGuinness. (“….. impressive, with a natural charm that belied the steel that lay behind it.”)

Gloria Hunniford, television presenter, remembers the horror of the Abercorn restaurant bombing in 1972 and the death threats she received during her broadcasting career in England. “Get that Irish bitch off the air or someone else will.”

Deric Henderson, one of this book’s compilers, tells the story of his Uncle Ted who was shot dead by a sniper. He doesn’t remember who told him his uncle had died “but I do recall the distress and the heartache, and a grieving process that seemed to go on forever. There was bitterness as well.”

Alf McCreary, veteran (and in my view legendary) journalist, reflects on some of the atrocities and heart-breaking stories he has covered over the years. “As I get older I become very saddened when I think of these things, and I wonder what all the suffering really achieved in the end. I can only hope and pray that it will never happen again.”

Denis Murray, former BBC Ireland correspondent, writes about the time he interviewed a ten-year-old boy – “a wee boy every bit as brave as his daddy”- soon after his father’s murder. Murray emphasised that “we in the media, and in Northern Ireland generally, are great at remembering the “big” tragedies, events in which there were multiple deaths. But the “little” individual tragedies are no less tragic.” Both “big” and “little” stories feature throughout the book.

John Irvine, senior international correspondent for ITN, writes about the ten funerals he attended in one week, describing his personal distress. “My tears came as a complete surprise.” He goes on to make this point: ”Covering Nelson Mandela’s passing a few years ago, I learned that those South Africans who entered this world after the end of apartheid are known as “Born Frees”. Perhaps people in Northern Ireland after the military ceasefires should be known as “Trouble Frees”. I worry they don’t know how lucky they are.”

There are many recollection of murders, injuries and destruction, the plague of tit-for-tat revenge killings of innocent people going about their daily lives, of bombs going off in busy cities and towns, of mouthy politicians stirring the cauldron, of quieter politicians trying to calm situations, of politicians and journalists from “the mainland” (I detest that term), clueless about Northern Ireland, its people and its history. The emotional descriptions of funerals and everlasting grief are powerful, as they should be.

The book’s final chapter by Gail Walker summarises superbly the book’s raison d’etre and reflects thus: “Some will say we should forget the past. Ignore it. Let it go. That it would be – ironically – the price of peace: a self-inflicted, self-imposed cultural amnesia that renders us, in the end, speechless. That’s a recipe for mass neurosis, delusion and moral hypocrisy – that, to keep the “peace”, we must inflict another kind of violence on survivors, censoring their stories, blue-pencilling the raw heart and hurt mind.”

Reporting the Troubles could well be the most important book ever written about Northern Ireland’s Troubles, and I don’t say that lightly. It is a potent collection of memories by people whose only axe to grind was finding and reporting the facts in the aftermath of atrocities. Sometimes it is a tough read, but that is surely the whole point.

Oh, and one last thing, please read it slowly. Let the words sink in. The victims and survivors deserve your time. The journalists herein have all earned great respect.