John McCullagh February 25, 2004

Each Saturday night throughout the eighties and nineties one happy, select little group of us haunted St Catherine’s Club on Merchant’s Quay – now the site of the Canal Court Hotel.  Nostalgia for those times reigns. 

The rear lounge could take up to twenty-five couples – we were mostly early middle-aged couples – and a variety of groups would entertain there.  One hour would be given over to our in-house singers.  All were equally welcome and applauded, regardless of their talent.   ‘One singer, one song!’ was Kevin Quinn’s catchphrase, and Jimmy Magee’s too when he became Master of Ceremonies.

By common consent one exception was allowed.  Everyone was charmed, if not a little in love with Alice McKay.  I can still see her now; in that ever-familiar stance, one hand on hip and head held high she rendered in quick succession the old favourites  -‘I’ll be your sweetheart’, ‘Heart of my Heart’ and ‘Too Young’.  Her husband Terry grinned broadly with pleasure, but bent his head to conceal his pride. 

Through all of those years of their ever-growing family this great young couple, with their loving, carefree and outgoing attitude, was an inspiration to us all. 

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So it is with no small pain that we remember the devastation and misery we felt, in common with every other soul in town, when we learned that this exceptional lady and mother had contracted a fatal illness.  When Alice went to her eternal reward it was difficult to accept that we would never again know that pretty face, that ready wit, that friendly greeting with its charming smile.  We couldn’t begin to guess at Terry’s utter desolation, with their seven beautiful children to rear now alone.

But he has done Alice proud.  Despite further family heartaches, Terry has proven himself an excellent father and friend and neighbour.  You’ll see Terry driving the Board’s School Bus any morning or afternoon.  Seems apt, somehow.  Give him a wave.  Why not?

On winning the Daily Mirror’s Father of the Year Award recently he reacted in typical self-effacing fashion, giving full credit to their children for working together to make their upbringing easier.

Father of the Year is indeed a worthy accolade.  Whatever else one achieves in life, one will be best remembered through one’s children.  Terry McKay, to me,  is a working class hero – an ideal role model.  Father of the Decade perhaps.  Alice would be rightly proud of him and of all their wonderful children.

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