Armagh I Podcast
Night at the museum with the Paravent crew…and ‘friends’!

Night at the museum with the Paravent crew…and ‘friends’!

June 10, 2021

It’s probably fair to say that ghost hunting isn’t usually high on the agenda for most people on a Friday night.

And I’d count myself amongst that number.

Last weekend however - after declaring on our recent podcast with Sharon Moen, that I’d join Paravent for their next excursion - I put my money where my mouth was and headed down the motorway towards the Irish Military War Museum in Collon.

There I met up with the Paravent crew – Sharon, Elaine, Eddie, Anthony, Fra and Harry, who were getting their ghost hunting equipment ready ahead of our night in the museum.

London calling for Armagh man Niall McCart who made scooters his business

London calling for Armagh man Niall McCart who made scooters his business

June 2, 2021

From going halfsies on his very first scooter to breathing new life into vintage models by developing electric conversion kits.

The metropolis of London is far from Niall McCart's upbringing in Armagh but that is where he has called home for over 30 years.

For this episode of Armagh I’s podcast, we caught up with Niall ,who could have been seen ‘raking about’ on scooters in his home city during the 80s and has  now developed a kits which convert vintage Vespas and Lambrettas to electric.

A self-confessed home-bird who flew the nest back in 1989 to work in construction, initially believing he would be out for a year or two and then return, however, 30 years on and Niall is still in the English capital.

His love of scooters dates back to the mod culture of the 80s, although he commented that he would later consider himself a scooterist.

Niall recalls his first ever scooter, which he part owned, this was mainly used to get too and from the Blackwatertown underage disco.

"One weekend he would drive out and I would be the passenger, I would have a bottle of Old English Cider...then it was 50p into the disco and it was 50p in petrol there and back".

Niall admitted that he never thought he would leave Armagh, but he found a new home in London.

Shortly after getting tired of the construction trade, he picked up a job as a dispatch courier on a scooter.

Through this, Niall learned to look after his scooter which led him to work in working in a garage before going out on his own and setting up Retrospective scooters around the turn of the millennium.

The Armagh man also took on many scooter tours throughout the UK and abroad, but nothing prepared him for "rough" rule-less roads of India.

In September 2017, Niall teamed up with John Chubb, retired Royal Navy commander with degrees in electrical engineering and rocket science, to work on the electric conversion of vintage scooters.

They would then go on to unveil their creation at the Vespa World Days the following year, which was to be held in Belfast.

However, Niall did take the opportunity to ride his electrified machine around the Mall and the town whilst he was back.

There has been some negative views from what Niall describes as "motor heads" but he believes he has saved many of these older models from the scrap heap.

According to Niall, the kits could be fitted by anyone which a "basic" grasp of mechanics and sales in particular in America have rose through the last year.

Erosion of hope and services leaves Armagh mum with autistic adult sons at wits’ end

Erosion of hope and services leaves Armagh mum with autistic adult sons at wits’ end

May 27, 2021

As lockdown restrictions lift, most of us have emerged from our homes to mingle, shop, eat out and enjoy the everyday freedoms of life.

Not so for some however, as the past year has had a devastating effect on people with learning disabilities, whose services have been decimated.

Kathryn Taylor never intended to be a spokesperson for such families, but the situation has become so difficult for her family, that she’s been left with little choice.

While the rest of us are out and about, not much has changed for Kathryn, who is still walking the roads with her sons.

Kathryn and her husband Tommy have four children - Sophie, Nathan, Levi and Sam.

Nathan (25) and Levi (20) have autism with severe learning disabilities.

It’s been a constant battle to obtain the help that they need over the years, and Kathryn says it’s getting worse rather than better – as Southern Trust services continue to shut down, with little thought for children moving to adult services.

She believes the pandemic only served to speed up the erosion of services that was already happening.

Day opportunities stopped with the pandemic, and because of the two-metre rule, the Trust has not reopened them and Kathryn can’t envision a time that they will.

As Kathryn spoke to Armagh I for this week’s podcast, she emotionally recalled the wonderful day opportunity Nathan enjoyed at St Luke’s Rec Room, pre-pandemic.

Since lockdown began Levi, whose schooling ended abruptly last year, has been at home, joined at the hip with his mother.

Print It on the Mall has been the only support Kathyrn has had. They are not run by the Trust. She’s enormously grateful to Print It, who checked in with the family regularly during lockdown, and both boys get to spend some time there now.

Levi also has behavioural problems, so finding day opportunities for him was tough enough as it was, but now he has settled into a routine at home and has regressed over the past year - He hides his mothers shoes to keep her in the house with him.

Kathryn isn’t looking for respite - although she worries for those that do. She just wants an outlet for her children to socialise, grow and develop to the best of their abilities, in a like-minded community where they are understood and their needs can be met.

Kathryn also desperately needs some space of her own – just like anyone does – for her own mental health and that of the other family members.

Long Meadow Cider blossoming with Amazon deal

Long Meadow Cider blossoming with Amazon deal

May 20, 2021

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and that’s certainly the case with Long Meadow Cider.

The McKeever family has run their farm for over 50 years - spanning three generations. But innovation is key in any business and Pat, Catherine and their son Peter have been hugely successful at that, since diversifying to produce naturally crafted cider in 2014.

Pat’s father, Peter, used traditional methods growing the Bramley apples that Long Meadow Cider still use for their products in the main, but over the years the family has introduced different apple varieties and methods of growing, as farming has evolved.

While nobody could predict the pandemic, the McKeever family has adapted superbly.

Restaurants and pubs are a huge part of their sales and when they shut down the business took a big hit.

That forced Long Meadow Cider to move a lot of their sales online and they recently secured a massive shot in the arm with Amazon advertising their products. This opens the Portadown business up to a much wider market.

The McKeevers run every aspect of the business from pruning, right through to harvesting, pressing, fermenting storing and bottling their all-natural, ciders, juices and apple cider vinegar.

Names like Berry Blast, Blossom Burst and Rhubarb and Honey make the mouth water – not to mention the limited edition Oak Aged cider - and the beautiful packaging is the finishing touch.

The proof is mostly in the taste though. Long Meadow Cider has receives a resounding vote of confidence from both critics and customers alike.

They have won numerous awards and their products are flying off the shelves, reflecting the appetite out there for quality craft cider.

Covid -19 had other setbacks, with both Pat and Catherine hospitalised with the virus.

Thankfully they are fully recovered now and the three family members spoke to Armagh I for this week’s podcast.

We took a stroll through the orchard and had an interesting chat about the growing process and the popularity of craft and locally produced products. Nature plays a big part in the yearly crop and Peter explains how some frosty nights may prove costly.

They told me how it all began and the hard work it takes to run the farm.

But they all agree that it’s a labour of love and it certainly seems like they wouldn’t have it any other

Oisín McConville on post-pandemic rise in gambling and Armagh GAA predictions

Oisín McConville on post-pandemic rise in gambling and Armagh GAA predictions

May 12, 2021

The pandemic as taken its toll on everyone in one way or another but some of the problems caused have yet to materialise.

The statistics for gambling addiction are frightening, with a 60% increase since the pandemic began, and Oisín McConville says the lockdown has exasperated the issue and kept it hidden behind closed doors more than ever before.

If anyone can give advice on problem gambling it’s the former Armagh County star.

He doesn’t flinch when he talks about his own well-documented gambling addiction, which began at the tender age of 14, until he sought help 16 years ago when he was 30. And while he urges anyone with a problem to speak to someone, be it a friend, family member, or a professional, he stresses that he chose to speak out, but gamblers anonymous also works for a lot of people.

Oisín says it’s not just an issue associated with men anymore – with the prevalence of mobile phones and every source of social media, making it easier than ever to gamble anywhere and everywhere. And it’s often children, seemingly younger and younger, finding themselves sucked into a spiralling addiction that ruins lives.

LGBTQ+ champion Councillor Pete Byrne on wearing a mask he was unable to take off for 10 years

LGBTQ+ champion Councillor Pete Byrne on wearing a mask he was unable to take off for 10 years

May 5, 2021

Most of us have got used to wearing a mask over the past year, but imagine not being able to take it off for 10 years.

That’s what Pete Byrne says his life felt like until he finally told just four people that he was gay – at the age of 24.

Since then the well-known and highly-respected SDLP Crossmaglen Councillor has become a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, including championing the annual Pride festival. He also married his husband Trevor in 2012, after struggling for years with worries and fears about acceptance in his small rural village.

The pain of inequalities, injustices, and having to mask his sexuality, runs deep however, and Pete, who is quiet by nature, feels compelled to help others and try to prevent them from suffering as he has.

His wounds have been opened many times throughout his life – most recently when having to debate the merits of banning conversion therapy in Northern Ireland. And when Pete spoke to Armagh I for this podcast he implored politicians and the church to look at the damage that abhorrent practice, along with archaic attitudes and hurtful language, causes to the LGBTQ+ community.

Co Armagh’s very own Paranormal Investigator of things that go bump in the night

Co Armagh’s very own Paranormal Investigator of things that go bump in the night

April 28, 2021

I never imagined I’d be jumping at shadows following a trip to Keady in broad daylight, but a visit to Sharon Moen’s house left me slightly ruffled.

Not that Sharon was anything but lovely company, but it was our conversation that made be glad I wasn’t driving home through the countryside in the dark Sharon is a Paranormal Investigator – or as some might say – Ghosthunter.

She set up a group called Paravent who believe that the dead are very much in tune with the living, and the group actively seeks these spirits out - or indeed find it to be the other way around at times.

Sharon says she has seen, heard and been visited by spirits since her adolescence, and she is out to prove to the world that they are all around us if we choose to believe in the signs.

With other like-minded individuals, Sharon has been to some of the most haunted places in Ireland and they have certainly lived up to their reputations. Evidence of paranormal activity is crucial to her investigations however, whether that be through photography or EVP (electronic voice phenomena).

For this week’s podcast, Sharon talks about one such ghostly photograph taken at Leap Castle which was scrutinised intensely by experts before being considered genuine enough to publish in the National Media.

Seán Treanor and bringing stories to life through Newpoint Players

Seán Treanor and bringing stories to life through Newpoint Players

April 19, 2021

For this week’s podcast we had a wide-ranging chat with Seán Treanor about his life, from his idyllic schooldays at the Abbey; channelling Donn Byrne through a strange coincidence; the plays he’s written, directed and acted in and people who he’s worked with; marking Martin O’Neill in a football match; his use of music in his work, from Gregorian chant to Philip Glass to Sean-nós, and much, much more including a poem about a childhood teacher Miss Sands.

People of the Year: Gary McCoo, Leeanne Gillespie and Philip Johnston

People of the Year: Gary McCoo, Leeanne Gillespie and Philip Johnston

April 11, 2021

The inaugural Armagh I People of the Year awards celebrates extraordinary individuals for the extraordinary impact they’ve had on their communities over the past year.

In the previous podcast we spoke to two of the five winners and for this episode, proudly sponsored by Blackhill Energy, Armagh I caught up with the other three winners – Gary McCoo, Leeanne Gillespie and Philip Johnston

Bernie O’Connor talks autism and daughter Jodie as Stephen Fields champions community

Bernie O’Connor talks autism and daughter Jodie as Stephen Fields champions community

April 6, 2021

After a year like no other, positivity and selflessness has never held more meaning.

The inaugural Armagh I People of the Year Awards epitomises just what community spirit is all about and the nominees and winners that you voted for are prime examples of that.

In this and the next week's podcast, we speak to the winners in each of the five categories.

For this episode, proudly sponsored by Blackhill Energy, Armagh I caught up with Bernie O’Connor, mother of Jodie O’Connor who won the Inspirational Young Talent Award.

It’s been a challenging year for Jodie who has autism, with the closure of the community facility her mother set up three years ago, due to Covid-19, and also familiar places such as the library and leisure centre where Jodie frequented.

Rather than sit it out however, Jodie took the first step that led her on a path that will no doubt continue long after the lockdown ends.

She took up walking and gradually challenged herself more and more, resulting in walking over 400 miles while raising money for a number of charities.

Jodie completed a marathon in 13 days, following her slogan ‘Doing it My Way’ and raised over £1,700 for the Southern Area Hospice. She walked 100,000 steps in aid of the Special Olympics and raised further funds for PIPs and numerous other charities.

Bernie tells us all about Jodie’s life, her joy on receiving the award and the challenges she and others with autism face through lack of funding.

We also speak to Stephen Fields, winner of the Community Impact Award.

Stephen is Community Development Manager for the West Armagh Consortium and also Chair of the Covid-19 Response Team.

While he has long been involved in community groups, Stephen really showed his mettle in this trying year.

From sourcing and organising PPE deployment to those in need at the start of the pandemic to setting up a cottage industry of over 35 seamstresses to make much-needed scrubs, Stephen pulled it all together.

He says the consortium was the core hub of activity, for the initiatives taken on, but it takes a special kind of person to come up with ways to make a difference, including liaising with vegetable producers to take unusable perishable produce and redistribute it to those in need.

Stephen modestly acknowledges that it’s a community effort that keeps things running, with classes and events continuing over zoom and outdoors where possible, but he is at the heart of it all and his and Jodie’s contributions to society have been acknowledges by you, the voters.

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