Big thank you from


Gloria and Caron together. US46-730SP

THE year was 1964 and the place was a new housing development off Belsize Road on the outskirts of Lisburn called Marnabrae.

One of the smart new open plan bungalows had just been bought by a TV cameraman and his young wife who was well known in Belfast as a nightclub singer.

The couple already had a baby girl and another child was on the way.

When the little boy arrived, the young mother wheeled him in a large Silver Cross pram to the baby clinic - a four mile round trip - with her toddler daughter sitting on the end.

At that time Gloria Keating, better known by her maiden name of Hunniford, had no idea both she and her little girl Caron would go on to become house-hold names across the UK and beyond.

Nor, thankfully, did she realise that one day she would have to endure the agony of watching her precious daughter succumb slowly to breast cancer over a seven year period.

In a new book entitled 'Next to You - Caron's courage remembered by her mother' Gloria recalls those days with other young mothers in Marnabrae as 'innocent times' and expresses regret that she did not realise how 'fantastic and carefree' things were.

"Instead we spent all oar time talking about when we could afford a car so we wouldn't have to walk the roads with those big prams. You spend a lot of your life wishing it away. Then we were living for the future" she says in the book.

"My daughter spent a long time living in the past, searching for reasons that would explain why she had got ill.

"In time she and I learnt to live in the present, make the most of the moment, live for the now.

"It is a hard thing to do. But it is still the only way that I can survive this (the loss of Caron)."

The book includes some of Caron's own memories of her childhood in Lisburn which she wrote about in later life.

In one of these extracts she recalled setting traps for 'the Marnabrae Boys' - at one time a favourite pastime.

"The Marnabrae Boys were the children who lived in the road that ran parallel to ours in Lisburn which of course automatically relegated them to the enemy.

"There was a piece of waste-land in between our roads, a patch of scabby grass that became the battleground for the local kids.

"We spent hours planning how to get them - digging holes and painstakingly covering them with sticks and twigs and grass on the top.

"Then we'd lie in wait, hoping that the boys from the next road would fall in.

"I don't think we were after mass injuries but a twisted ankle would have been very satisfying."

Caron also recalled singing while travelling by bus to her mother's native Portadown with her grandfather Charles Hunniford - a former Advertising Manager with the Ulster Star.

"Mum was still working as a nightclub singer when we were small and used to rehearse around the house all day.

"As a result by the age of three I was word perfect and had a repertoire Debbie Reynolds would have been proud of.

"Who knows what is simply an outpouring of genes or gently cultivated and moulded by interested parties around?

"All I do know is it's not every small girl who's encouraged by her doting grandfather to stand on her seat at the front of an Ulsterbus belting out 'Bye Bye Blackbird', 'Won't you come home Bill Bailey' and 'Queen of the Road' for the benefit of the entire bus."

In 'Next to You' Gloria describes in detail Caron's childhood in Lisburn and her teenage years in Hillsborough.

She talks of Caron's relation-ship with her father Don Keating and the devastation which she experienced when he passed away.

She also outlines what happened after Caron discovered the lump in her breast was cancerous. Gloria's description of the way in which Caron passed away at her home in Kent is extremely moving and she writes frankly about the intense grief which has been part of her life since her daughter lost the battle she fought so bravely.

She also explains how she resolved to write 'Next to You' and set up the Caron Keating Foundation which has already helped so many other cancer patients.

The book is a fitting tribute to the late TV star who touched so many lives in the Lisburn area during her formative years whether as a toddler singing at the front of a bus or as a teenager serving in a Hillsborough bar.

Many local people remember Caron with fondness and will find Gloria's book moving but also inspirational.

It is published by Penguin Michael Joseph.

Wee Charlie's daughter went on to become a star


QUITE a few decades ago when I was commuting on the Portadown railway line I got to know a fellow traveller, a man from Portadown.

He was small of stature but quite a big noise in his home town as a magician who was much in demand for stage appearances.

He belonged to a Magic Circle and never divulged how he did his tricks like producing an array of articles from the ears of anyone who volunteered to let him use them to demonstrate.

I discovered he worked as an advertising man with a Lisburn newspaper (never foreseeing that I would one day become a columnist with the same one).

One morning the little man whose name I discovered was Charlie Hunniford ('wee Charlie' to most people) produced an English daily paper which featured a fine looking young lady whom he identified as his daughter.

Her name was Gloria and she had received media attention for some kind of talented performance or appointment.

Charlie was over the moon and sang her praises. It may have been as a vocalist that she had hit a high note but he did mention a mid Ulster variety group. Seemingly she and Charlie had been much in demand far outside Portadown as stage acts for years. Readers will recall Gloria married Don Keating and that they lived around Culcavy and had a talented daughter Caron.

Tragically Caron succumbed to cancer after a heart breaking struggle.

Caron learnt a lot during her incredible struggle and having witnessed all this, her mum resolved to set up a Foundation in Caron's name to fund a centre for cancer patients to provide counselling etc.

She has received generous support for this through fund raising and her latest venture has been to publish a book 'Next to You' which is to be sold to augment the various other fund raising measures.

I got to know Gloria through her father many years ago and when I got involved through the local mid Ulster Spina Bifida Association of which I was a co�founder with my wife, in staging an exhibition of aids for the disabled to mark the first 'Year of the Disabled' event Gloria graciously accepted my request to open the Exhibition which was staged at Craigavon Area hospital with the backing of the local health authorities.

Gloria's arrival attracted a record crowd including half the patients of the hospital who managed to make their way down to the vestibule which was sea of faces.

In a sense Gloria emptied a record number of hospital beds temporarily.

Sadly wee Charlie died just a week or so before the opening but happily in true star tradition Gloria carried on with the engagement.

Gloria has continued to shine in stardom in the TV world in the intervening years and as readers are well aware she is now truly world famous. Her book is bound to be a best seller.

Ulster Star