Big thank you from

The quiet man of local politics celebrates his 90th birthday

Lord Molyneaux surrounded with birthday cards as he celebrated his 90th Birthday last Friday. Picture by Brian LittleTHE former MP for Lagan Valley, Lord Molyneaux has celebrated his 90th birthday.

The former James Molyneaux marked the occasion last Friday at his home not far from the World War 2 RAF base at Langford Lodge, surrounded by birthday cards from all over the world.

He still sings with the church choir at St Catherine's Parish Church in Aldergrove and the church holds a lifetime of memories for him.

Lord Molyneaux recalled an incident as a child when he took the repeated line "Come onto me" in a sermon literally and slid off his seat to scramble up to the minister.

"But they caught me by the back and swung me back on to the seat," he said. "I sometimes think of that when I pass the pew in the church."

Now decades later, the once inquisitive little boy has his own special oak chair from the parish in recognition of his long political career and his service to St Catherine's.

The church is inside the gates of the old RAF Aldergrove base which is now known as Joint Helicopter Flying Station and Lord Molyneaux, who was baptised there, is the longest serving member of the vestry.

Aldergrove, as well as the old base at Langford, are also nearby reminders of his earlier service in the Second World War.

Born in 1920, the old airplanes soaring across the skies of his boyhood were a fascination to Lord Molyneaux and at the age of 21 joined the RAE

During his service between 1941 and 1946 he witnessed some of history's most horrific sights as he helped liberate the infamous Belsen concentration camp, where the famous novelist Anne Frank died.

In a rare interview about this in 2004, Lord Molyneaux recalled seeing the dead bodies of inmates on an electric fence where they had thrown themselves to end their unimaginable suffering.

He was shocked by the behaviour of some of the former guards who continued to abuse and torment prisoners nearing death when they thought the British liberators were looking the other way.

Lord Molyneaux recalled new orders to tell them to "stop acting like savages".

After the war he served his political apprenticeship at Antrim council before going on to be an MP for South Antrim from 1970 to 1983 when he became the MP for the newly formed seat of Lagan Valley.

The future MP for the constituency Jeffrey Donaldson was one of many he took under his wing as he led unionism through the years of the Anglo-Irish Agreement He stood down as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in 1995.

He was knighted in 1996 and then created a life peer as Baron Molyneaux of Killead.

Now, he no longer attends the upper house at Westminster but when asked if he missed the hot and heavy political world, he simply smiled, perhaps instead enjoying the quiet of the Co Antrim countryside.

Last week he was celebrating his birthday with a family dinner, including his widowed sister-in-law Agnes whose husband Billy Molyneaux, Lord Molyneaux's brother, died at 52.

Ulster Star