Friday, 23 April 2010

Womens Institute

I enjoy Womens Institute events.

On Wednesday evening I did a talk and slide presentation to Hillsborough WI on the subject of Life on an Uninhabited Island, and as usual everyone was so friendly and hospitable. The president, Myra Williamson - betweeeded, immaculate, charming - introduced me and I ran the video of George the Grey Seal before going on to the slides; then gave some background and read a couple of chapters from Still On The Sound.

There were 88 members present and I sold out of both books, which is typical of WI events, of which I've done quite a few now.

One of the most rewarding things is that because the average age would be somewhat over sixty, there are always people who come forward afterwards with stories about my father Brian Faulkner - often rather touching, personal stories, like where they were on the day he was killed in 1977, what he managed to put right, or facilitate, for them or their families, as a constituency MP; or - most important of course - what his tragically ill-fated efforts at cross-community cooperation, during his premiership and later, meant for them, as rational, open-minded human beings who desperately wanted a better future for their children in the Northern Ireland of the early 1970s.

At an earlier event, a quiet-spoken, grey-haired man in his eighties approached me with a proposition. He told me that he was, as they say here, 'The other sort'; that in 1975 his shop in Belfast had been bombed; that the compensation process had moved along at a somewhat slower pace than his own journey to personal ruin; and that he had needed funds to tide him over. He went to see my father in his constituency office in Belfast, and my father listened to his story and said, 'How much to get you out of this hole?' My friend put a figure on it and my father said, 'Wait here, I'll see what I can do.' He left for half an hour and came back with a cheque - and thirty-three years later, this same man noticed that I was to be signing books in a certain place at a certain time, and made a point of coming along.

'I have always been grateful', he told me, 'for what your father did, and it would give me great pleasure to do something in return.'

It turned out that he owned a slide projector, table and screen for which he no longer had much use, and he said he would like me to have them. I was more than touched by his gesture - I was humbled. I told him that my mother had boxes of 35mm slides in the attic, and no working projector, and that this would be the ideal excuse to show them. We shook hands, and I left the event with a glow of pride that my father had inspired such an act of generosity at thirty-three years removed.

By way of footnote to the WI event:-
Eddie would like to thank Myra Williamson's dog Bart for having forgone - knowingly or not - a paper napkin-full of cocktail sausages and sausage rolls which might otherwise have come Bart's way, but which Eddie thoroughly enjoyed for breakfast yesterday morning.
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