72,897 days

On Wednesday 1st January 1817, George III is king of Great Britain and Ireland, although by now he is pronounced insane. His eldest son, George Prince of Wales is ruling as Prince Regent. James Madison is coming near the end of being the 4th President of the United States of America, hailed as the “Father of the Constitution”. In Ulster, after a very cold and wet 1816, there is little food to eat or fuel for the fire. In near-famine conditions, typhus was rampant, affecting all classes but mostly the poor. In mid Tyrone, William Kyle (20) born in the town-land of Brackey, is packing his belongings to sail to the United State. Like so many of his neighbours, he is leaving his family and country forever, in the hope that he will carve out a better future in a far away land. On this cold dark wintry morning, Mr Robin Armstrong unlocks the front door of his business premises to the public and begins his new position of Sub-Post master in the village of Sixmilecross.

With his wife Mary acting as his assistant, the first sub-post office to be opened between the towns of Omagh and Dungannon comes into service. Their salary is £2 per annum, later to be increased to £3. Under the terms of  Act 23, 24 George III in 1784 “sub-offices throughout this kingdom from whence all letter and packets whatsoever to or from places within this kingdom, or beyond the seas, may be with speed and expedition sent“, they have been appointed to carry out.

In the village there is still some lingering tension between those loyal to the British crown and those of Irish nationalism. The plane stone Celtic cross from whence the village takes its name, was destroyed nineteen years earlier by Royalist yeomanry during the United Irishmen rebellion 1798.

This is the social and political environment of that day, when a Scottish plantation family began a post office business, that stayed within their family for the next two hundred years or 72,897 days to be precise or did it?

I shall tell you what happened the next time I write.



My tribute to Eamon McClean

Green-Party-McClean-460x298                   A week has passed by from when I heard the terrible news, about the sudden death of Eamon. The reality of his passing away is still as hard to take in now, as it was then.

Eamon was about as good a husband, father, son, brother, neighbour and friend that you could possibly wish for and he will be sorely missed.

C.S.Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” that was Eamon. He was rightly proud of his family, of his community and his country. Of course with a name like McClean, his ancestral roots are the same as mine (both our fathers teased each other about that fact and the direction that both families took). Eamon used that pride to fuel his desire to bring children, families and communities together so that they would have a better understanding of each other. He was selfless though his charity work, fundraising by way of cycle rides and running.

We his friends and family have a responsibility to carry on that work, to find a better way to serve each other, to not accept something that is broken and not try to fix it. His heart will beat on as long as we fullfill our duty and follow his example.

My faith hope is, that I will walk again shoulder to shoulder with Eamon in a better land where there is no more sorrow or pain, where everything is perfect and we are bathed in the Glory of our Creator.

I close with these final lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”, I think it sums up the life of my friend..

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!





Follow your guts and keep it simple

I have found a new place to eat in Omagh. It is called The Kitchen and you will find it near the bottom of Castle Street. I was first in it last week for breakfast and was back this morning again.

As soon as I stepped into it last week I was won over to what they are trying to achieve. The space is roomy and light, with a configuration of different types of seating to suit any size of group. There is a sample counter of oils and vinegars, of which you can buy one of your choice using refillable corked bottles. I have bought the Fig and Date Balsamic vinegar and the Pomegranate Balsamic vinegar, both delicious used as salad dressings.

The menus are well thought out using local ingredients. All types of diet requirements seem to be catered for with a good choice for all. The tray bakes and breads look fantastic with a lot of thought gone into how to make them healthier for you.

What makes this place is the service you receive. I do not know the owner or any of the staff but you can tell that they have a passion for what they do and that is great food served with a smile. I spoke with the owner this morning about a project I had in my mind and she told me to “follow my guts and keep it simple”.

If only everyone you meet in life was as positive and encouraging as those in The Kitchen. look them up on Facebook to find out more

The Kitchen – Omagh. – Facebook

This the sort of local business that is worth supporting and choosing first for your coffee fix.

I wish The Kitchen success and hope I enjoy for many years to come my visits there.

It feels like going home

Today I am sailing to Scotland, to visit my son in Edinburgh.  I wrote this poem on the ferry crossing as I saw Scotland’s shore come into view.  I hope you enjoy it.

A land not unlike my own,
Is appearing though the sea mist,
With high hills of rock and stone,
Where my forefathers past exist.

This Scotland from whenst they sailed,
To Ireland to make their fortune,
Where the Irish Earls had fled,
For most, not a moment to soon.

As they sailed, what were their thoughts?
What was the substance of their dreams?
What was the life that they sought?
A life that was yet unseen.

The Christian faith that they carried,
That brave Reformers had died for,
Uplifted hands that had tarried,
To Christ, their only Councillor.

On Scotlands hills now I stand,
This place where my ancestor’s lived,
For this is my families homeland,
Today in their footsteps I tread.

Think local first

One of the most satisfying things about my life is the ability to shop local. The ability to walk into my local shops or business and have conversations with the owners, I can’t do in Tesco. To be able to put in a request for a certain product to be stocked for me, I can’t do that in Asda either.

It is well documented the benefits that are brought to the community by supporting your local independent shop or business. There are of course some things that it may not be possible to buy from an independent retailer but think local first.

More of the money that we spend locally stays local and sustains the local economy. This gives the local business the platform to build and improve the service that they  want to provide us. They can only do that if we give them our support.

By shopping local we build up a relationship with the traders and quite often they can provide a service that a large chain store can’t. We also become involved with the community and get to meet those that live around us, how well do we know our neighbours?

By investing at home, you create more jobs locally. You create a better economy by keeping more of the money that you spend within your community. You create a better tax revenue that pays for our health service, education and transport. As we have seen on the news, Starbucks, Google and Amazon, do not invest their profits back into the country that they trade in avoiding paying the correct tax that is due from them.

The local retailers are not without their responsibilities either. Although in this blog I am strongly advocating to shop local, our loyalty should not be taken as a given by the retailers. They need to be responsible and above reproach, doing business in a proper manner.

A good rule of thumb for shopping might be, if you can’t buy it local maybe you don’t need it.




Thank you for the laughs Terry

pudsey bearSir Terry Wogan was a genuine broadcasting legend. For many decades he brightened up the mornings with his gentle wit and charm. The media has been awash these last two days with tributes to one of the greats and rightly so.

What you may have missed on the news yesterday though, were these stories.

More than 10,000 migrant children may have disappeared after arriving in Europe over the past two years. Europol said thousands of vulnerable minors had vanished after registering with state authorities.It warned of children and young people being forced into sexual exploitation and slavery by criminal gangs.

At least 71 people have died in blasts near the Shia shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, south of Syria’s capital Damascus.

At least 50 people are reported to have been killed in north-eastern Nigeria in a gun and bomb attack by suspected Boko Haram militants.

A blond-haired Frenchman has appeared in the latest Islamic state video threatening new terrorist attacks in the west.The man, whose eyes are uncovered but whose features and hair can be seen through a pale balaclava, is then shown shooting in the head a man accused of being a spy. Four other Isis jihadis each shoot another prisoner.

Also, the following happens every day.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day.

5000 people die every day as a result of drinking unclean water. The amount of money invested in nuclear test could be used to finance 8,000 hand pumps, giving villages across third world access to clean water.

Yes we have lost a friend on the airwaves that made us smile but lets keep things in perspective please.


Your numbers up!!!!

From the end of last year I have been on call as a first responder in the village of Sixmilecross. Over a year ago I was asked if I would be a part of the Termon Community Responders team. Over the past 12 months I have been trained on how to use a defibrillator, give CPR and how to deal with choking.

The Termon Community Responders covers the parish of Termonmaguirk , but may also on occasion be capable of responding to calls close to Mountfield, and  Pomeroy.

There are five such responder units in N Ireland. Their aim is to be able to respond to 999 calls to the ambulance service and start CPR until the ambulance arrives. This could increase a patients survival chances by 50%. All community responders are volunteers and give up of their time to train and be on call.

An issue that lies heavily with the group is the lack of house numbers on road side dwellings or at the end of lanes leading to a dwelling house.

When a responder receives a call out message from the ambulance service, they do not get a name but only the address and condition of the patient. For the local responder this can become difficult finding the house quickly if house numbers are not displayed or easily seen.

We would urge therefore, that your house number is clearly displayed from the road to assist ambulance service and community responders to get to your house quickly.

It would be ironic if “your number was up” because your did not put up your number.


To day I felt like a Carrie Bradshaw type figure.

I met up with some of my friends for lunch in our village. We ate our food, setting the world to right while being continually interrupted by one of the toddlers. We talked of life with the kids (the football marks on the windows, when apparently no one was playing in that part of the house). We talked about the diets that we are on (as we munch on a biscuit, saying we will be good for the rest of the day). We talked of fresh starts, a new business perhaps (do you sell door to door or on-line?). We promise ourselves that this is the year, we are not going to sit back any longer!

This year we will be thinner, heather, fitter and mentally stronger than we have ever been before (we shall see!).

It’s great to have friends that you can share the highs and lows of life with. Friends who are there when you are in need and care for you. Friends who don’t necessarily share your faith or politics but love you all the same.

So as I looked at my friends today, I thought how blessed I am and how would Carrie write about it.

It’s easy to  love friends. loving your enemy takes a bit more effort.



What’s in a name

I am pleased with the title of my blog page. I have been able to combine my name with the sentiment of what I wish to do and that is to make a difference.

I am guilty of being proud of my given names, William Joseph. I am named after the first recorded Anderson’s of my family line.

William Anderson was a burger in the city of Perth, Scotland. In 1543 along with five others, William was martyred for his new-found faith. As I have recently discovered, William was a fairly wealthy man in the city and had the chance to leave (as others did) to avoid being put to death. But he stayed and stood for what he believed in, what ever the consequences. William along with his friends made a difference, for not long after John Knox preached from the pulpit in Perth and ushered in the Scottish Reformation.

William’s son Joseph, was a merchant man. He travelled to and forth between Scotland and continental Europe, bringing materials from one land to another. We know He also met with the Protestant reformers in Europe and helped to spread the new reformed faith in his native Scotland. Joseph is buried in Paisley Abbey, as a person of some high status because he made a difference.

If I can make a difference though the use of these blogs in Peoples lives. To have the boldness of William and the sustainability of Joseph, it will be worth the effort and maybe one day, compare notes with my forefathers when we meet.


A new beginning

I have decided to start a blog.

About what? you may ask.

About my thoughts about faith and politics, I say.

Ah no, not another “holy Joe” out to save the world, you sigh.

Well! you are right and wrong in that. My middle name is Joseph but I am far from being holy, nor am I able to make myself holy. I say.

OK, you may say, but why start a blog? why should we take time to read it? what do you think you know that you think we don’t know? Are you some sort of expert on life all of a sudden?

I am no expert! I say defencelessly, I don’t think I know everything and there is absolutely no reason that I can give you why you should waste your time on my blogs, but here’s the thing!

John Donne wrote these words many years ago,

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Whither we like it or not, we are all interconnected, all belong to each other, all need each other, all responsible for each other and all respond to each other.

My blogs will be about me needing you more than you needing me.