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16 October 2014
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James Young

"We have no rates in Cherry Valley. No rates ..only mice" - at least that's according to the Cherry Valley lady.

The Arts

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James Young

Cherry Valley lady, along with Derek the Window Cleaner and Orange Lil, were as well known to a generation of Ulster people as the man who created them.

For the best part of three decades, comic actor James Young made people laugh, even at their own bigotry and intolerance, during some of the most turbulent days in Northern Ireland's history. One of his favourite catch-phrases was "Do us a favour, will yez - stop yer fightin' !"

a clip from one of his many TV programmes, here's that well-known militant union man... the "Strike-Starter".

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In this clip Mrs O'Condriac and Orange Lil take the train to Dublin ........

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Plaque at the house where James Young was born in 1918Born in Union Street in Ballymoney in 1918, just before his family moved to Belfast, his talent for humour was obvious from an early age. "For Heaven's sake", Mrs Young repeatedly told her small son, "stop impersonating the visitors. Because after you do, I find it impossible to take them seriously."

Character actor, comedian and master of the moralistic monologue - he was always topical with his jokes. Like the time there was a bit of controversy over Sunday swings. "If you had to bale out of a plane over Belfast on a Sunday, sure they wouldn't let you open your parachute", he quipped.

At the start of his career James worked as a serious actor with various repertory theatres in both Ireland and mainland Britain. However his skills as a comic entertainer came to the fore when he played Derek the window cleaner in the BBC radio series "The McCooeys". This series was compulsive Saturday night listening during the 1950s. He then moved to the Group Theatre in Bedford Street, Belfast to become an acting regular in plays and comedy revues. These packed in the crowds Monday to Saturday for years. Aside from this successful Group Theatre residency, he also toured the towns and villages of Northern Ireland with a variety show.

According to Jimmy Young, people recognised themselves, or people they knew, in the characters he played. Such were his acting and writing skills however, people from across the divide were never offended by the characters nor the situations that he portrayed so well.

Which was your favourite James Young character? Were you ever lucky enough to see one of his shows in the Group Theatre in Belfast? Send Your Place and Mine your stories and memories of James Young.

Your Responses...

Diane - Dec '07
Where would I get the DVD which is showing on TV?

John Hamilton - Dec '07
I moved from Belfast to Manchester some six years ago, and bought the James Young DVD when I was feeling home sick!! It well cheered me up!! Well done and thanks James xx

John Mortimer - May '07
Its sad to know that apart from the dvd on current release, the BBC in their wisdom wiped all the programmes that they had so to release storage space for news and current events. Dont be expecting any more as all they have is the two St Patrick day specials currently (for the last 10yrs ) available.

Conor - Apr '07
I am so glad to see some clips of jimmy on the bbc site.... at last.
now to release thier archives.

Bobby Keenan - Apr '07
James Young was a master comedian i have has DVD, it brings back memories when i saw his show in the group theatre in thw 60s

JB Terrins - Feb '07
Jimmy Young was more than a comic genius. He was stickin' out.

D Maerin - Feb '07
James Youngs talent comes from being able to get so close to whichever people he is impersonating and adapt his characters to encompass such a wide range of Norn Iron people.
Modern day "middle class" belfast comedy gangs wouldnt stand a chance if "Our Jimmy" was still around.

Des Bennett - Feb '07
James Young was one of the greatest ever comedy genuises of not only his generation, but of all time, he brought smiles and happy times in an era when things were so dark in the province, he made people laugh uncontrollably, he made people cry with sadness, he made people cry with happiness and he made us all sit and take a good look at ourselves and our attitudes towards life in NI...From being kids me and my brother were introduced by our parents to the genius and innovator that was Our Jimmy, and i was lucky that the friends i made in adult life shared the same affection for this brillant man...even today, i live in England and i watch his DVD to remind me of the province, the family, the friends and the people of NI that i love and miss so much. James Young is up there with Bestie, Blanchflower, Lewis, Van Morrisson, Heaney and Lynott, as the great talents and characters that our wee land has produced.

Bill Heard - Feb '07
Eileen - Clubsound sang "Belfast, Belfast, wonderful town."

Eileen Wilson - Oct '06
James Young was an amazing comedian who could cross the divides in Northern Ireland and had everyone laughing in the aisles no matter what their political or religious persuasion. Can anyone tell me was he the person who performed the song Belfast Belfast Wonderful Town?

Mickey O'Neill - Feb '06
This biography extract is very interesting as there is very little information on the web about Our Jimmy. It would be even better if you included pictures of his characters and possibly some more quotes. The videos are a nice touch.

Derek Neill - Feb '06
I work as a global engineer, and carry James Youngs DVD with me always. The material is timeless, and I will never get bored of watching a comic genius portray my wee country.

Mr D Niblock - Dec '05
James Young will always be rembered. Yes, I was one of the lucky young lads who saw his shows in the group theatre. One thing I will always remember was that if you arrived late and he saw you come in you could be sure of some sort of remark before you sat down. James Young made everyone unite in a evening of humour that was unique to this island.


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