John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Saturday 29th May 1971


To Belfast and Bangor
Chris and I travelled by ship from Liverpool to Belfast on Friday 28th May 1971, and arrived by ship from Belfast back in mainland Britain at Heysham on Sunday 30th May 1971. As for the events of the day in Northern Ireland, The Cooper Diaries only give the sketchiest outline:
Disembarked B’fast
Plastic Lady
Train → Bangor
Train → Belfast
Walk → Exhibition
Walk → city centre
Meal in café
Walk → terminal
[5] → Heysham
 [1] Plastic Lady: a woman serving behind the counter of a café that Chris and I went to shortly after disembarking, the skin of whose face seemed tautly stretched and smooth, and rather like the plastic skin of a doll. We imagined that she might have been burned or scarred in the “Troubles” and received plastic surgery. She was not horribly disfigured, but nevertheless aroused our repeated fascinated glances. Chris recalled that she said to us, with her heavy Northern Ireland accent, “That’s graand!”, and later he added:
I believe we gave her a large note which she had difficulty in changing. We then managed to scrape together the right amount in loose change, I think, to which she commented, “That’s graand!”
 [2] Train [to] Bangor: We travelled to the seaside resort Bangor by diesel multiple unit, similar to ones we might have travelled on in mainland Britain. It escaped my notice, though, that the rail gauge was the broader Irish 5ft 3in (1600mm), not the British 4ft 8½in (1435mm).
 [3] Exhibition: “Ulster 71”, an exhibition partly in a connected series of tents and domes, in Belfast, celebrating Northern Ireland’s achievements. It opened on 14 May 1971 and ran till September 1971. My chief recollection is of the public address system blaring out over and over again a strident theme, heavy with syncopated percussion at the start and climaxing with big-band brasses, punctuated with repeated announcements of the imminent appearance at the exhibition of “James Young”. I wondered at first whether this was British singer and disc jockey Jimmy Young (b. 21 Sep. 1921), but it wasn’t; it was (as I know now, but not then) Northern Ireland actor and comedian James Young (b. 23 June 1918, d. 5 July 1974).
 [4] Pub: I seem to remember feeling uncomfortable at what seemed to be suspicious and hostile glances from the locals drinking there.
 [5] Terminal — ship: I seem to remember, as the ship hove away from the dock, there was a group of rather rowdy bystanders there, who broke into a ragged and raucous rendition of “Danny Boy”. When I reminded Chris about “Ulster 71”, but not about this last incident, he wrote back:
Ahh, Ulster 71! That brings back memories— Do you remember the group on Donegall Quay that evening singing “O Danny Boy” as our ship, the “Duke of Lancaster”, set sail for Heysham?
Pages from my “blue album”

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