Nostalgic trip as Carrick man returns to Ulster for first time in 51 years

Roger Bracey and Rosemary Hamilton
Roger Bracey and Rosemary Hamilton

The Giro has attracted all manner of tourists to Northern Ireland this weekend, but for Carrickfergus-born Roger Bracey it has been a truly nostalgic trip.

The 51-year-old is in the province for the first time since leaving with his family for New Zealand when he was aged just one month old.

Now settled near Oxford in England with his Scottishs partner Rosemary Hamilton, the couple felt the Giro’s big start in Belfast was too good an opportunity to miss and booked a trip to his birthplace.

Both cycling fans, the pair enjoyed the time trials along Great Victoria Street yesterday and plan to visit Armagh on Sunday before the riders head to Dublin.

Asked why he hadn’t returned to Northern Ireland before this weekend Roger said stories of violence and political difficulties “probably had something to do with why I didn’t come back to visit when I was younger”.

The Royal Mail worker’s mother Ethel Martin is a native of Fivemiletown but now lives in Devon.

Having joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War she went on to be part of both the Canadian and New Zealand Air Forces.

Roger and Rosemary said they feel Northern Ireland has lots to offer visitors.

“Our first impressions are very good, we’ve seen some lovely countryside, and had reasonable weather,” said Roger. “I’ve enjoyed it so far.”

Later Roger will visit his ancestral home, before the couple travel to Enniskillen and “do some more exploring of the Antrim coast”.