Slim Whitman, legacy battles and Catholic blood

Music legend Slim Whitman who died last week.
Music legend Slim Whitman who died last week.
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China Dolls everywhere broke up at the news of Slim Whitman’s death.

“Evening Extra” referred to Slim as “a yodeler” - then played a snatch of Frank Ifield singing “I’ll Remember You.” Which might have been forgivable if they’d corrected themselves. But seemingly nobody noticed. No marks at all, Seamus McKee.

My own first thought was of Jimmy Liddy in the Rocking Chair on a Friday night, cowboy hat at a jaunty tilt and a packed house bringing the night to a close with, “I’d rather have a doll of clay/That I could call my own/Than someone else just like you/With a heart of stone/She’ll never leave me/She’ll not deceive me/And never grieve me/My china doll”. Lovely.

The style was down to Slim Whitman, with his country-cry tenor, singing guitar and pencil-line moustache. There are people more celebrated who made less of an impact on daily, or nightly, life in Derry. I must make a list sometime.

Appreciation of art is a personal thing. What I think magnificent another might reckon mediocre. But I dare say that anybody unmoved by Andrei Molodkin’s “Catholic Blood” at the Void is a soulless sort of being. Its run ends this coming weekend.

You don’t have to know what “Catholic Blood” means. I’m not sure it has meaning in any literal sense. I managed to discuss it with the artist at the opening and came away suspicious that he was winding me up. But he’s the artist, and therefore entitled to mischievousness.

In each of the two galleries, a pump sends spurts of crimson into perspex replicas of the Rose Window at the Palace of Westminster, where it seeps and surges in beads and bubbles, globules of gore cascading, the whole projected onto the walls as images of blood-stained glass. It is intriguing, unsettling and, I thought, both funny ha-ha and funny very peculiar indeed.

You won’t regret half an hour’s contemplation in its company.

Caption: Music legend Slim Whitman who died last week.

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All friends again at Magee

A letter in last Friday’s edition of the ‘Journal’ took me to task for a comment on Sinn Fein’s record in relation to Magee. The writer neglected to mention what exactly s/he objected to. So, a reminder.

The party has recently been urging support for a petition demanding expansion of the college. But during the last election campaign, SF erected a bill-board outside the college claiming credit for already having won a “guarantee” of the college’s expansion, and pushed this claim on its canvass. Others who brought Magee up were repeatedly told that the issue had been “sorted” and that there was no need to “bang on” about it.

The obvious effect will have been to encourage complacency.

Now SF is advertising itself as the party most committed to winning a guarantee of Magee’s expansion. Readers can decide for themselves what to make of thispart11.

Still on Magee - I was chatting the other night to Pro-Vice Chancellor Deirdre Heenan who assured me that, contrary to a suggestion made here, she did NOT travel to China as part of a University of Ulster delegation. Happy, as always, to put the record straight.

OK Deirdre. Friends again?

Caption: Professor Deirdre Heenan, Provost of Magee did not travel to China as part of a University of Ulster delegation.

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Palestine art and Bloody Sunday

There’ll be 15 young people from the Lajee Centre of the Aida Camp, refugees from massacre in their Palestinian homeland, performing at the Playhouse tonight, showcasing traditional Dabka dancing, award-winning photography and films and speaking about all aspects of the Palestinian experience.

The Centre is a grass-roots cultural organisation providing young refugees with cultural, educational and social opportunities to counter the oppression and exile that characterises their lives.

The event is free - although they won’t say no to a donation - and runs from 7pm to nine.

From one massacre to another…

Kate Nash did a significant service when she forced/persuaded the City Council to close the Guildhall memorial to Bloody Sunday. General Sir Michael Jackson is a wholly inappropriate person to be shown explaining that Bloody Sunday didn’t reflect badly on the British Army as a whole.

Jackson was in Rossville Street as second-in-command of the paras on the day and wrote the “shot-list” used for quarter of a century as a cover-story for the killings.

Liam Wray had a point, too, in objecting to the reference to “The Saville Inquiry”. The tribunal was established as “The Bloody Sunday Inquiry”. As Liam says, the misnaming subtly shifted focus away from murder in Rossville Street and towards the Guildhall operation designed to salve the anger that the killings gave rise to.

I have occasionally encountered negative reaction to my suggestion that jailing the squaddies who pulled the triggers - who only did what they rightly believed was expected of them - is far less important than identifying the political and military higher-ups who contrived the killings and then covered them up. I am much confirmed in my view by this latest development.

Caption: Bloody Sunday campaigner, Kate Nash who has convinced the City Council to close the Guildhall Bloody Sunday memorial.