Kerr's Corner

Kerr's Corner is a regular feature in East Antrim and Newtownabbey editions of The Wizard. David Kerr would like to hear your memories of life in your own area. Maybe you'll trigger some thoughts for a future column.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Conflict - The Irish at War

THANKS to all those kind folk who expressed interest in my article in the last Kerr’s Corner – Ireland at the Somme. I’d like to direct you up to the Ulster Museum in Stranmillis to see the terrific Conflict – the Irish at War exhibition. Mind you, you’ll have to be quick as the museum is due to close at the end of August for a refurbishment programme that will last for the next two years.

Warfare has been a part of our history from the arrival of the first settlers here some ten thousand years ago right up to the present day. For many it has been the cause of pain and tragedy, but it has also had a huge influence in making our society – for good or ill – what it is today. The Conflict exhibition looks at the history of warfare in Ireland and Irish soldiers abroad from Mesolithic era (7000-4500 BC) to the present day.

Some of the historical snapshots show the military impact of the Vikings and the later Norman invaders, of whom the adventurer, John DeCourcy was typical. Carrickfergus Castle began life as a twelfth century Norman fortification. Later conflicts arose after the plantation of Ulster and the Flight of the Earls in 1607. The 1641 massacres of Protestants and Cromwell’s revenge of 1649, not to mention the great battles of Derry, Aughrim and the Boyne and the abortive United Irishmen’s rebellion of 1798 all receive ample coverage. One prize exhibit is a green uniform coat worn by the hanged rebel leader, Henry Joy McCracken.

Coming into the bloodiest century in history other exhibits chronicle the Home Rule crisis of 1912, the Easter Rising, the Great War, the early troubles and the Irish Civil War. Then comes the Second World War and the presence here of many American GIs, before coming to our own more recent Troubles and the paramilitary armies and peace movements that sprung out of the conflict.

There’s also a fascinating exhibit on the role of Irish soldiers and mercenaries in conflicts all over the globe. Over one third of Wellington’s army at the Battle of Waterloo were said to have been Irish. As late as 2001, RUC officers helped to keep the peace in Nato-occupied Kosovo as part of a UN mission and the RIR and Irish Guards are still serving abroad today in far-flung outposts of Tony Blair’s new empire.

Be sure to get a talking wand when you walk into the exhibition area – it’s like a massive mobile phone. Clamp it to your ear and it’ll talk you through the exhibition and bring you the real life voices of actual participants in the twentieth century conflicts. Just hurry because there’s not much time left to see it. Ring the Ulster Museum at 028 9038 3000 for more

Thursday, July 20, 2006

New Ulster-Scots Badge for 2006

DID ANYONE see a recent BBC2 TV programme called A Dander with Drennan? In it, well-known Ulster-Scots storyteller and musician Willie Drennan looked at the links between Ulster and Scotland. His travels took him to parts of South East Antrim, an area rich in Ulster-Scots history, heritage and culture.

To celebrate these links between Ulster and Scotland, an excellent 18mm full colour enamel badge has been produced.

This beautiful badge features the well-known Ulster-Scots imagery - consisting of the Red Hand of Ulster and green Scottish Thistle. This is set against a brilliant white background. An outer black band reads Ulster-Scots around the top and 2006 around the bottom. This is a very striking badge indeed.

This fantastic badge costs only £2.50 (including p&p). To get your Ulster-Scots 2006 badge, simply send a cheque/Postal Order (made payable to Glenwood Publications) to: Glenwood Publications, First Floor, 316 Shankill Road, Belfast, BT13 3AB.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Elvis Spectacular - Ballyearl, Newtownabbey, 25th June

FIRST of all, I have a confession to make - until now I’ve never really been fantastically ‘into’ Elvis. Whilst I’ve always had a passing interest in the man and his music, when I was younger I was into punk, oi and heavy metal. Bands like the Sex Pistols, Skrewdriver and Motorhead formed the backbone of my musical interests. However, since I’ve turned 21 (which wasn’t yesterday!) I’ve found that my musical tastes have both widened and mellowed.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to catch the Elvis Spectacular held in the Clarion Hotel at Carrickfergus. This featured Jim Brown as The King, the TCB Band and the Sweet Sensations (plus a support act and DJ). I was totally blown away by the experience. Jim Brown had the Elvis ‘sound’ off to a tee. The Carrick gig attracted over 300 Elvis fans – and I was interested in how the Elvis Spectacular would translate in the smaller, more intimate setting of the Ballyearl Courtyard Theatre in Newtownabbey.

The evening started with a couple of songs from the TCB Band and Diane, Kelly and Sam who make up the Sweet Sensations. They performed a very tight and explosive version of All of me loves all of you. This was originally a hit for the Bay City Rollers. Diane – from the Sweet Sensations – then launched into the Tina Turner classic, River Deep Mountain High. Diane’s powerful delivery soon got the crowd clapping along.

Jim Brown – The King – then appeared as the ‘young Elvis’ in a gold lame jacket suit. He belted out That’s Alright Moma) and then went seamlessly into Blue Moon of Kentucky. He then launched in Heartbreak Hotel - and pulled off some classic Elvis moves that would put the rest of us in A&E at Whiteabbey Hospital!

By the time he launched into Don’t Be Cruel, the crowd at Ballyearl were really moving. Indeed the seats were starting to bounce by the time he blasted into Jailhouse Rock. These tracks were then followed by a perfect rendition of Teddy Bear and – as a tribute to the late Freddie Mercury - A Crazy Thing Called Love.

A slight technical hitch caused the keyboards to start making a crackling noise – but The King laughed it off: “it sounds like fireworks going off on the 11th night!” As the sound technicians sorted out the problem, he kept up with a stream of jokes and some great banter. At one point The King asked (in a broad Belfast accent) for someone to put 50p into the meter!

I really admired the way the track listing was altered to take account of the problem with the keyboards. The place was soon rocking again with It’s Now or Never, and a powerful rendition of the Chuck Berry classic, Johnny b Goode.

The keyboards were now up and running – and it was full steam ahead into One Night With You and Blue Suede Shoes.

The interval was unusually eventful – vandals had smashed a fire alarm, which meant that the audience had started to evacuate the building!

Nevertheless, the second part of the show soon swung into action. There was a collective gasp of awe as the curtains opened – all of the TCB Band were dressed in gleaming white jumpsuits. This heralded the ‘Las Vegas’ half of the Elvis Spectacular.

ZZ Rider was followed by Burning Love (I’m not too sure if this was on the original set-list but it went down well after he fire alarm incident!). The King then slowed things down a bit “as I’m 71 years old!” with a fantastic version of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. I’ve heard a couple of versions of this Righteous Brother classic, but none as powerful as this one.

Later on, My Way and the Wonder of You had the crowd swaying. We were then treated to a fantastic medley of about a dozen Elvis classics like Hound Dog, Teddy Bear and Don’t Be Cruel. These were all delivered without a pause and complete with Elvis ‘moves’.

I didn’t think this could be bettered – but I was wrong. The encore included Suspicious Minds, American Trilogy – which incorporates the fantastic Dixie – and I Cant Help Falling in Love with You.

The gig ended with a well deserved standing ovation for Jim Brown, the TCB Band and the Sweet Sensations. The audience left on a real high and were still buzzing for days afterwards. I’d highly recommend this Elvis Spectacular to anyone – even if they’re not a real die-hard Elvis fan. One can only admire the hard work and sheer professionalism of all involved. Keep an eye out for the next gig – you’ll not be disappointed with what you see and hear.

- John Field

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Twenty Five Movies You Need To See

FILM BUFFS will be delighted to see that Film Four, Channel 4’s digital movie channel is now available on the Freeview platform and it’s now free to view on cable and satellite television too. Happy news indeed! I’m quite a fan of Freeview. A set-top box costs around £30.00, so it’s a good option to follow given that the existing television signal is due to be switched off in 2012.
To mark this, the Radio Times has listed the twenty-five movies you need to see to make you a film buff. The list includes undoubted classics such as Casablanca, Blade Runner, High Noon and Pulp Fiction plus a few less well known films.

I do agree with quite a few on the Radio Times list, but differ on some of the others. Below are both the Radio Times list and the Kerr’s Corner list. This list will prefigure a new feature in coming issues of The Wizard – classic film and DVD reviews alongside today’s latest blockbusters. Our panel of movie lovers will bring to you our recommendations for the best in cinema and home DVD viewing.

Radio Times list

1. Casablanca (1942).Great love story and wartime thriller.
2. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (919). Silent daddy of all horror films.
3. Blade Runner (1982) Science fiction film-noir. It’s always raining.
4. A Matter of Life and Death (1946) Dead RAF pilot David Niven gets a heavenly reprieve.
5. Build my Gallows High (1947) Robert Mitchum’s shady past catches up with him.
6. La Dolce Vita (1960) Anita Ekberg dances in the Trevi Fountain.
7. High Noon (1952) Gary Cooper has to do what a man’s gotta do and stands alone against the bad guys.
8. Rear Window (1954) Housebound photographer thinks he witnesses a murder.
9. The Hidden Fortress (1958) A warrior escorts a princess across a perilous country side/
10. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Violent road movie about two ruthless depression-era gangsters.
11. Bringing up Baby (1938) Comedy of a ill-matched couple who have to look after a leopard.
12. The Hills Have Eyes. (1977) Cannibalistic horrors await a family who take a wrong turn.
13. Un Chein Andalou (1928) God only knows what this surreal short film is about.
14. Armageddon (1998) Jerry Bruckheimer’s ultimate blockbuster. Bruce Willis saves the world.
15. Heaven’s Gate (1980). This epice Western was the biggest flop in movie history.
16. Annie Hall (1977) Woodie Allen love story set in New York.
17. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Wonderful musical set when silent movies were replaced by the ‘talkies’.
18. Paths of Glory (1957) Strong antiwar courtroom classic set during the Great War.
19. Performance (1970) The ultimate British swinging sixties gangster tale.
20. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Boris Karloff speaks in this gothic horror sequel.
21. Blackboards (2000) Itinerant teachers in Iranian Kurdistan dodge enemy fire in search of pupils.
22. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Terrific UFO film.. Alien Klaatu come to warn humanity that our number is up if we don’t shape up soon.
23. Pulp Fiction (1994) Energetic inter-related series of short films about gangsters, lowlife scum and drug abuse.
24. Shoah (1985) 554 minutes documentary based on the memories of WWII survivors, witnesses and perpetrators of actrocities/
25. Winter Light (1962) Swedish film about a priest who loses his faith.

Full reviews of these films can be found on

Kerr’s Corner List
1. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
2. Casablanca
3. Brief Encounter
4. To Have and Have Not (Bogart and Bacall sizzle in this wartime Caribbean romance.
5. Triumph of the Will Impressive documentary of 1936 Nuremberg Rally by Leni Riefenstahl
6. High Noon
7. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
8. The Usual Suspects
9. Run, Lola Run
10. Elvis, That’s the Way it is
11. Planet of the Apes
12. The Day of the Jackal
13. White Heat
14. High Noon
15. They Died with their Boots on
16. The Birds
17. Twelve Angry Men
18. The House of Flying Daggers
19. All Quiet on the Western Front
20. The King and I
21. Evita
22. Forbidden Planet
23. The Man in the White Suit
24. The Quiet Man
25. Spartacus

Friday, July 07, 2006

Disneyland Park & Walt Disney Studios Park

John Field visits Disneyland Paris

TOWARDS the end of last year, four of us – two adults and two children – visited Disneyland Paris. We stayed at the three star My Travel’s Explorers Hotel. We travelled in the late afternoon from Aldergrove to Charles de Gaulle airport on the outskirts of Paris. This only took ninety minutes. From CdG airport we jumped onto the modern air-conditioned coach to Disneyland – a 45 minute journey.

After checking in at the Explorers Hotel we spent the evening mostly relaxing in the restaurant/bar area. On the first full day of our holiday we decided to visit the main Disneyland Park. It was absolutely amazing. We had just never come across anything like this before - there’s almost too much to see and do. In the evening we visited the Disney Village. This is a vast area situated in the heart of the Disney resort. It’s full of shops, themed restaurants, bars, a nightclub and a multiscreen cinema. Like all of Disney, there was a fantastic family atmosphere.

The next day we travelled into central Paris itself. Here we spent most of the day visiting the Eiffel Tower and travelling up and down the River Seinne on a tour boat.

We’d decided to set aside the fourth day – Wednesday – to visit he Walt Disney Studios Park. The main idea of the Walt Disney Studios Park is to give a ‘behind the scenes’ account of how films are produced. Sadly our brief five-day trip to Disneyland Paris was now over. Like most great holidays it’d flown in. We were absolutely gutted to be leaving so soon.

We spent our last morning with another visit to the Disney Village as there were some last minute presents to get. We were also interested in how the village would look during the day time – the last time we were there was during the evening Halloween celebrations. As expected it was much quieter and less frantic during the day. Actually this come as a bit of a relief as we were able to take our time and browse through the shops at our leisure.

So what were our overall impressions of Disney? On the plus side we thought that everything went very smoothly. Travelling from Charles de Gaulle airport to our hotel was easy. The Disney pick-up point at the airport is well marked. Checking-in at the Explorers Hotel was also painless. The staff there were very friendly and efficient. They all spoke English very well. At the hotel, everything seemed to run like clockwork - from breakfast time to transport (to and from Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studios Park and the Disney Village) everything was well catered for. Our only criticism of the hotel was when we visited its swimming pool for an early morning dip. The pool was a bit cooler than we were expecting and we were disappointed in that half of the showers weren’t working – but luckily we were coming out whilst most people were coming in. We also thought that a few mirrors in the changing rooms wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The rides and exhibits in the various Disney parks couldn’t be faulted. However, you’ll need to watch your spending – food and drink tended to be a bit on the expensive side. You’ll need to budget for at least £100 a day. The Disney Park itself could have done with more sign posting and toilets, but apart from that there were no major complaints. Despite the costs incurred at Disney, we found that bargains could be had if you checked out all the shops in the Disney Village. (Those interested in any form of merchandising would do well to study Disney’s methods – about the only thing they don’t sell is a shroud!!)

All in all, it was a fantastic holiday – and we’d like to get back some time in the very near future. For more information check out: