NI weekly papers: Cancer funds and seven degrees of clever

By Ciaran McCauley

image copyrightNewry Reporter
image copyrightStrabane Chronicle
image copyrightLurgan Mail
image copyrightBallymena Guardian

Vandalism, movement on a long-delayed health hub in County Down and separate "disgusting" robberies of pensioners are getting plenty of front page attention.

The newspaper reports a warning by NI Water that people who broke into a waste-water treatment station could have been killed.

NI Water said the "most serious part of this incident is the danger posed to those who entered the site" who could have fallen into an excavation pit for an underground tank or injured themselves and been unable to raise the alarm.

Two papers this week cover two separate incidents in which elderly people have been attacked or robbed.

"Elderly woman's home robbed while at Mass" is the headline in the Lurgan Mail, while the Londonderry Sentinel reports on a "disgusting attack" on 100-year-old Strabane man Pat Gillespie.

image captionPat Gillespie, 100, was pinned to a chair as three men ransacked his home

That story also features prominently in this week's Strabane Chronicle, in which Mr Gillespie says he feels like the world has given him "a big hug" in an outpouring of support following his ordeal.

The "much-loved" local figure said he was "beginning to brighten up a bit" and that a woman from Switzerland had even offered to give him £500 to replace the money stolen in the robbery - not that Pat would accept such an offer.

"People are so good but I really don't want to be taking money off people. It is so nice of them but I really don't want people collecting money for me," he said.

"I have as much money that will bury me. I have that left by and I don't need anything else. I am happy."

Wise words indeed.

Healthy move

Elsewhere in the Strabane Chronicle, there's a big focus on anti-social behaviour with weekend "drunken rampages" and vandalism incidents including the torching of a Halloween display.

The police have pledged to deploy extra patrols while the newspaper's editorial says that vandalism, and attacks such as those on Pat Gillespie, puts the spotlight on the town "for all the wrong reasons".

It has been confirmed that a planning decision would be made early next year.

image copyrightPacemaker
image captionPaul Quinn was murdered in 2007

The community treatment and care centre is planned to incorporate GP practices and a host of other health services.

Mr Quinn, who was 21, was lured to a farm shed in County Monaghan in 2007 where he was beaten to death by what is believed to have been a gang of about 10 men.

The Quinn family said the murder investigation had gathered new momentum and hoped the renewed appeal would bring fresh information.

"There are people who know who is responsible for the murder our son," said Mr Quinn's mother Breege, and added that she believed the IRA was responsible for his murder.

Another anniversary is given comprehensive coverage in County Fermanagh's Impartial Reporter - the 30-year anniversary of the Enniskillen bombing, in which 11 people were killed during a Remembrance Sunday commemoration.

image captionThe Remembrance Day bomb in Enniskillen killed 11 people

The newspaper interviews a number of people who were at the scene, including Selwyn Johnston who was there to lay a wreath and dropped it after the attack.

He recalled helping to rescue people trapped underneath rubble for more than an hour.

"Before I left the scene, I spotted the poppy wreath I had dropped. Like myself it was white with dust and had been trampled over in the commotion," he said.

He took the wreath home with him and has kept it ever since. Next week, the paper reports, he will return to the site for the first time since to lay a wreath in his role as High Sheriff for County Fermanagh.

Also on the Impartial Reporter's front page is a mother's heart-rending story of how she prayed beside her dead daughter following a fatal car crash.

'I fixed her hair'

Kiara McCoy, from Lisnaskea, died in a two-vehicle crash. Her mother Eileen told the paper that she went to the crash site after being told what had happened.

"Two female police liaison officers assisted me," she said.

"I got into the car beside Kiara. I sat with her; I fixed her hair; I kissed her and I started to pray with her. As I started, I heard the voice of one of the female officers praying along with me through the window of the car."

Back to the Londonderry Sentinel, which reports that the late vice-chancellor of Queen's University had secured £800,000 for cancer research before his death earlier this year.

image captionProf Patrick Johnston, 58, was appointed vice-chancellor in March 2014

Prof Patrick Johnston, a native of Derry and a world-renowned cancer expert, had secured the grant from Cancer Research UK to research treatments for bowel cancer.

Cancer Research UK said the money would help "build on Prof Johnston's phenomenal legacy in precision medicine".

Meanwhile, a host of local football stars have joined together to help raise funds for a 12-year-old being treated for a brain tumour.

The Lurgan Mail reports that Cameron Truesdale, from Waringstown, is undergoing treatment that will cost more than £300,000.

An Irish Leagues Legends side, managed by David Jeffrey, will take part in a charity match in Shamrock Park in Portadown to help raise funds for the youngster.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionNorman Wilson has graduated from university seven times - that's a lot of mortar board throwing

Norman Wilson left school at 14 without a single qualification but his graduation as a doctor of philosophy from Durham University over the summer was his seventh degree.

His stockpile includes three degrees from Queen's University Belfast, two from Durham, one from London and one from Oxford - making Dr Norman Wilson BA, BD, MA(Ed), M.Litt, LLB, BCL (Oxon) a man with more letters than a Royal Mail worker at Christmas.

And it doesn't stop there - Dr Wilson is already studying for his next degree at Queen's.

"Whether a person is young or old, there is every opportunity today to learn and gain new knowledge," he told the Ballymena Guardian.

"It's never too late to learn."