Anne Hailes: The late Hugh Dougal guided people with kindness and compassion

Hugh Dougal of O'Kanes funeral directors, who died recently Picture: Hugh Russell

LIKE so many people, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Hugh Dougal of O’Kane’s Funeral Directors in Belfast. He conducted so many family funerals from all backgrounds and had very tragic situations to deal with throughout our troubled times, yet to every one he gave his individual attention, overseeing every aspect.

The greatest compliment I can offer his memory is that, on their passing we entrusted both our mum and dad in to his care and at such a traumatic time he guided us with kindness and compassion. He was thoughtful and at all times dignified, as were his staff. It was a comfort to think that in the future he would be there but that’s not to be.

However, without doubt he has passed his standards of care and friendship on to his son and daughter and the rest of his company. I offer sincere sympathies to his wife Frances and his family. Thanks Hugh; may you rest in peace.


RECENTLY I heard about a couple in England who bought a farm and, because they had no time to spare, allowed a few acres to go wild. When they got round to having a look at how to manage it they discovered that they’d a very special wildlife area filled with flowers, insects, nesting birds and animals, (in Donegal last month I saw not one rabbit – never happened before).

Those few acres became so unique that people started coming to visit and spend time communing with nature.

Then, last week I met Sir Bob Salisbury, a retired professor from the world of academia in Nottingham who had lived in a 200-year-old cottage with a modest garden. In 2001 he and his wife Rosemary moved to Co Tyrone to a 15-acre site where they planned to build a house. But it was a ‘rural wasteland’.

However, both keen gardeners, even before the house was built they set-to to transform the area into a haven for wildlife. Now this is a thriving and renowned home for lapwings, hares, yellowhammers, otters, bats and a sweep of colourful wild flowers – a bee's delight and a place now filled with birdsong.

It reflected Rosemary’s childhood growing up on the same ground when it was owned by her father who sadly died due to a farming accident when she was only a child so obviously the project was special and important. They approached the project ‘room by room’ with enthusiasm and little cash – as Bob says, nature helps the optimist.

Nature's soap opera

“We had a room for woodland, for ponds, wild flower meadow, formal gardens, orchard, vegetables, self-sustaining and low maintenance where possible.”

He tried out the vegetable spot with a row of peas.

“The peas failed miserably; however the supporting willow sticks grew!” So he knew the land was sympathetic to his wider plan.

“Our garden has become a soap opera to be viewed every evening and morning, great story plots and amazing characters.”

Bob has written about his soap opera in Field of Dreams a fascinating and funny down-to-earth guide for anyone wishing to create a little piece of nature, the ups and downs of dreams and the responsibilities of preserving our countryside.

In 14 years the couple have shown by example just how we could turn the serious depletion of wildlife in all its forms into a positive future. They now have 64 different species of bird and 12 different mammals, umpteen trees and flowers from the most common to the rare.

Reader Houston Marshall reminds me of John Cushnie, our local celebrity gardener who often appeared on Radio 4 Gardner’s Question Time. Before he died in 2009, he told a story of a garden he’d been commissioned to design. Houston reports: “The European client wanted a traditional English cottage garden with roses around the door, herbaceous borders and trimmed lawn. When he’d finished she contacted John, saying she was very disappointed because she didn’t have the little white and yellow flowers that her neighbours had on their lawns.

"He discovered she was talking about daisies and buttercups, commenting that it was the first time he’d been asked to plant weeds.”

I certainly don’t consider the ‘day’s eye’ and the buttercup to be weeds; neither do Bob and Rosemary Salisbury.

Feed The Birds

Chris Packham, BBC Springwatch naturalist, believes we’re facing an ‘ecological apocalypse’ in our countryside. Apparently in England primroses have virtually disappeared from the hedgerows. Butterfly conversationalist agree that we have a disastrous situation.

Chris maintains we are being given statistics which we’re ignoring; “If we’re not careful and develop an interest in our own patch we’ll have to go to show gardens. Please don’t make it like visiting an art gallery or a museum – that’s not the way to live. We’re good at care but not at preventing disasters.”

They all agree it’s not beyond our grasp to do something about it. Plant flowers and bushes that give foodstuff for birds, bees and butterflies, leave part of your garden open to the elements without strimming and decking, allow ‘weeds’ to flower and grow, encourage the birds – who knows, you might even hear a cuckoo or see a live hedgehog one of these days.

But don’t plant too near the house – roots grow into drains, with disastrous results.

:: THE Field of Dreams IS published by The Black Staff Press. £9.99.

Christine Lampard


Congratulations of Jannine Waddell MD of Waddell Media, based in Holywood, and to much-loved chef, the BBC’s Paula McIntyre on their MBE honours – two young women who have brought Northern Ireland to the eyes of people around the world. And congratulations to Christine Bleakley Lampard on the news of her pregnancy so sadly overshadowed by the court case concerning the stalker who has made her life such a misery. Hopefully this will be resolved soon and allow the couple to enjoy their baby’s arrival early in the autumn.

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