The last time that I visited Northern Ireland 20 years ago I took the train from Dublin to Belfast and armed police patrolled the train with sniffer dogs, and the carriage doors were locked throughout the trip. My latest journey was by ULSTERBUS and there was no border sign, just road signs in miles instead of kilometers. The first field of sheep on the roadside in the North had a black lamb and a white lamb frolicking together next to their mummy. Up in Belfast the day before, Peace Broke Out, as Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley and Catholic Gerry Adams sat down together to sign the 'Devolution' agreement, although they neither frolicked together nor shook hands.
Coming into town from 'Seaview House' guest house in Larne after a hearty breakfast this morning I passed 'Harland & Wolff' the shipyard where the TITANTIC was built, before becoming the world's most famous shipping disaster and a famous Hollywood epic. For me though, the most memorable shipping tragedy was commemorated by a memorial that I visited last night 200 yards from my guest house near Larne Harbour. As a little boy I had travelled by sea for the first time, from Stranraer in S. W. Scotland, to Larne in Northern Ireland in the fall of 1952. Three months later on the night of 31st January 1953 the same ship, SS Princess Victoria sank in a storm in the Irish Sea, an hour outside Larne ,with the loss of over 130 lives, although there were some survivors. I vividly remember my crossing in gigantic and rough seas, and I was very sea sick and treated by the kind nice nurses and stewards, many of them to drown in that disaster.
Off the field George Best was a bit of a disaster, with his drinking bouts, but on the field in an all too short career he was The Fifth Beatle,and the first superstar. He played 446 times for Manchester United and scored 178 goals and was capped 37 times in the green of Northern Ireland. They have a commemorative £20 bank note and Belfast City Airport is now George Best Airport. Hundreds of thousands lined the streets on the way to the graveyard where he was laid to rest next to his mother and at the moment a subscription is underway to pay for a statue of the great Bestie. Simply the Best !! He also played for such diverse clubs as the LA Aztecs, San Jose Earthquakes, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Fulham, Hibernian of Scotland, Cork Celtic, Brisbane Lions and the Jewish Club of Johannesburg. I visited the photo exhibition on The Life of George at the tourist office opposite Belfast City Hall. "They say that I slept with 7 Miss World's, but thats not true. There were only 4, because I never showed up for the other 3" He also commentated that " I never played golf because it interfered with my sex life". Legand indeed !!!