Monthly Archives: January 2016

That 2016 feeling!!!

I know.  It is 2016.  We had better start commemorating.  I am buying The Revolution Papers.  I have no idea why?  I guess that I don’t want to miss out.  I could go to several lectures on this and that.  Bobby Hamilton and the ‘gaffer,’ Alan Marsh, took us all on tour in 1991-92.  I have touched the bullet holes a few times since then.  Of course, I have been to the Somme and have noted the unbelievable sacrifice of our fallen ancestors, very movingly denoted by the protestant and catholic students who found their relatives on the Thiepval Memorial.

2016.  What does it really mean?  Everyday, I am amazed by the technology that now exists.  Laser printed kidney blueprints, MS defeating chemotherapy and apps that allow you to listen to personal testimony as you walk by monuments of historical significance.  We live in an unbelievable world, a world that we didn’t imagine in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s; a fitter world, where everyone is engaging in personal fitness challenges.

Is 2016 the year when we start to look forward as a society?  A big election looms.  Can we respect our respective commemorations and move on?  2016 is worlds apart from the society that existed in 1966, universes away from 1916.  We should celebrate our society’s progression between 1998 and 2016.  We should reflect on what we have learned.  We should imagine what we can achieve.  We can’t revisit 1916, 1926, 1966, 1976, 1986 or 1996.  It is time to start planning for 2026 and 2036.  That is what 2016 means to me.  I want to respectfully commemorate all that was and move on.

2016 is also my brother’s 50th Birthday.


The amazing journey through time.

We are all time travellers.

Once upon a time, I visited 1970’s world.  There were boys with prams and buildings going up.  One young lad had to shout through the vent in the pantry to invite the builders to tea.  That vent was out into the new utility room.  The new utility room has vanished into the midst of time.

Once upon a time, I visited 1980’s world.  Books and pamphlets stood above my mother and father’s bed.  Sickness.  I had a wee look at the pamphlets.  Ice Ages combined with the occasional asthmatic panic.  A panic brought on by the Wizard Merlin.

Inevitably, there were spuds on the go and everyone fought about who had to turn on the dinner.  In my mind, Gareth never turned on the spuds.  He was always busy?  However, all of us combined to create the perfect Vesta Curry.  For dessert?  Gareth ate the jellies from the packet.  He also came up with the Custard Challenge.  It all revolved around the idea that waiting for custard to heat is boring.  Why don’t we put some custard powder in our mouth and swill it with a wee bit of cold milk.  Perfect.  I had so much fun doing the Custard Challenge in the Old School.  I will never do it again.

All of the certainties and uncertainties of 1980’s world now seems like a distant planet to me.  Several caveats.  Every step I took through school and the friendships that were forged there.  I remember every inch of that school.  The shop where I worked.  I can click my fingers and transport myself back to many formative moments, like buying T-Rex records in Portstewart.  An extremely important memory.  The dark and dismal elements of that decade, with Paul Clark delivering the news on this and that attack, with soldiers landing in the car park and helicopters hovering, definitely feels like a distant world to me.  Thank goodness.  There was, of course, the lighter moments, like the time that the soldiers knocked at the window and asked for a cup of tea.  Gareth was busy.  I was over the back wall as fast as possible to see what the ever dependable May would recommend.  She said, ‘Send them around to me.’  She had trays and teacups waiting.

And if time itself would reach into the furnace of future possibilities and point to a direction, I imagine that it would indicate the following; ensure that that the young enjoy their formative years.

I had the most amazing class today.  The Year 8’s were sooooo happy.  I have no idea why?

I have one answer.  They are all time travellers.  Their journey has just begun.

The baggage they hold is a lot lighter.

Tomorrow awaits.

They have every chance of success.

And if time allows you to conquer and hold one second, try and remember the journey that has propelled you through time.




Once upon a time, there was a man from Cork who visited Cookstown.

Methodism being Methodism, like the Irish Rugby team, a whole lot of soul searching wasn’t needed to welcome our Reverend from the south.  John Wesley lived a life without borders.  The boundaries of the soul are impossible to quantify or imagine.  The border of life to death is impossible to predict.

The Reverend Brooks, his wife Helen and his son, Kenton, entered our Cookstownian world like a breath of fresh air.  I do confess that we had a lot of fun with the Cork accent.  Trees versus threes.  I apologise.

Aside from the accent, the Reverend Brooks had a massive impact on the Cookstown congregation.  He took my brother for Confirmation classes and he said the following words, ‘Young people focus on the end of the world and the apocalypse and the second coming.  I say. Well.  We live our life and then we die.  The implication is this.  Whatever happens, we live and we die.  We will all meet our maker.’   The vagaries of life may determine the path, but in the end, we all have to measure up.

The Reverend Brooks took my brother, Darryl, out on the Sermon trail with John Dunlop, former MP for Mid-Ulster.  John Dunlop was an amazing wee man.  He used to preach from his Bible with the words of Jesus printed in red.  He used to say that he always liked to have the important words emphasised in his sermons.  I am going to pause here to add a bit of nostalgia.  Jim Burns gave my mother Wesley’s commentaries as she headed out on her local preacher trials.  Mrs McMaster played the organ masterfully.  Anna Hutchinson used to lead the CE, back when talent shows were all the rage.  Stanley and Sam Hutchinson were really friendly as everyone made it out to church.  My Uncle Kenny met us at the door and took the Sunday School.  We said hello to Mrs Sandford, Betty Hutchinson and all the rest.  I was sent to Germany with the young Methodist gang and I am so thankful that I was.  I met one of my best friends there.  I think that the first trip was still under the Rev. Brooks.

However, I know for a fact that my brother benefited amazingly.  He was lucky enough to be one of the gang who went to Norway.  The Rev. Brooks encouraged him to go.  They travelled by plane, train and automobile towards the Arctic Circle, where they met Methodists from everywhere, including a bunch of folks from behind the Iron Curtain, as it was, in 1984.  The year that Orwell foresaw.  He was involved in a radio broadcast.  The trip had a massive impact on his life and had a huge influence on why he chose to teach.  The Rev. Brooks impacted all of our lives.  I should add that I was the boy in the Mid-Ulster Mail that took the Rooster to Church!!!  A legendary moment.  I think that I made the highlights of the year; twice in the Mid-Ulster Mail in one year.  Just saying …

John Brooks enjoyed people and companionship.  He summed up Methodism because he lived by the assumption that all people are equal.  He didn’t criticise anyone.  He was the embodiment and model of what a Methodist Minister should be.  We loved his Cork accent and mimicked it occasionally.  Sorry.  When myself and my family were invited to venture to Cork to stay in his house, it was a fantastic adventure.  I talked to the fella at the petrol pump and asked for ten pounds of diesel.  I think he said something about the weather?  Not sure.  I made the signal ten with my hands and he nodded.  A successful transaction.  I then went out on the roads and found that in Cork, it is acceptable to drive through a red light?  Cork was very different than Cookstown.

Kenton was my brother’s best friend.  For whatever reason, they both liked Linfield?  John and Helen have been a part of our family ever since the wee man from Cork was sent to Cookstown.   They have been great friends.

I want to celebrate the impact that John had in Cookstown by instigating a formal, ‘vote of thanks,’ from us all.

I also want to share our deepest condolences to Helen and Kenton and all the family, on the death of the man from Cork who ventured to Cookstown.