My birth, on February 19th 1942, was a bit of an anti-climax. While celebrated by my parents, as their fourth child and third son, my arrival went completely unnoticed by the outside world. Mind you, in fairness, there were a few distractions at the time, most notably the Second World War, which was packing them in throughout Europe.
I grew up in Derry, Northern Ireland, in an era of air raid shelters and ration books. Everything had to be bought with coupons - from essentials like clothes, tea and sugar, to luxuries like cakes and chocolate. The latter category was no great hardship in our family. We could never have afforded them anyway! I had two older brothers, an older sister and a younger one, with a year or so between each of us.
My father was a cop on the beat, one of the few Catholic Constables in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and we lived in a simple two up, two down terrace house.
The most valuable and valued piece of furniture was the Challen upright piano. Our house was always full of music.
My father was from Strangford in County Down. He played the fiddle. And my mother, who was from Belfast, from the Markets, played the piano. Now they weren’t particularly good, but that didn’t matter. They enjoyed every note. And from them I learned that love of just playing and the pure joy of music.
And it seemed that if there was any excuse for a party in the neighbourhood, it would be at Coulters.