Co Antrim man's poetry tribute to friend raises funds for Marie Curie

A Co Antrim man is using poetry to help him and others over the loss of a dear friend who died from cancer.
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Jim Brown from Newtownabbey is also asking anyone who has appreciated his poetry on his new website to donate money to Marie Curie who provided end of life care to his friend Elaine McBride.

He has already raised more than £300 and hopes that by posting new poems regularly he will continue to raise more money for Marie Curie and other charities close to his heart.

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Elaine, a mother of one from Gilnahirk in Belfast, was 62 when she died at the Marie Curie Belfast Hospice in July 2019.

Jim Brown from Newtownabbey. His poem in tribute to a dear friend who died from cancer has helped the Marie Curie charity.Jim Brown from Newtownabbey. His poem in tribute to a dear friend who died from cancer has helped the Marie Curie charity.
Jim Brown from Newtownabbey. His poem in tribute to a dear friend who died from cancer has helped the Marie Curie charity.

Jim and his wife Helen had been close friends with Elaine and her husband John for over two decades; their families spending time on trips to the Crom Estate in Fermanagh every July with a group of other families to camp, canoe, swim, and explore the beautiful surroundings with a mob of kids ranging from toddlers to boisterous teenagers.

He said: “I actually knew Elaine before I knew her husband, probably from our twenties when we were both members of the Spartan Red Sox Walking club. She was a really close friend and we had watched her as she bravely lived with cancer for the last 15 years before she died.

“Most of her working life was as an English teacher at Carrickfergus Grammar, and as a young woman she would set off every summer on her motorbike to explore Europe. Later she expanded her range and over a lifetime explored some of the globes most remote corners. Even when the cancer curtailed her abilities she still determinedly did what she could manage, always with a positive outlook.”

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It was a shock for Elaine’s family and friends when this vital woman eventually was treated at the Marie Curie hospice.

Elaine McBride from BelfastElaine McBride from Belfast
Elaine McBride from Belfast

“We had visited her at the hospice for the last few weeks of her life and were touched by the care she received. Marie Curie has been caring for local people in this way for more than 50 years. Every single day at the hospice is an extraordinary day,” said Jim.

“They listen, support and give high-quality care during what can be a difficult, challenging and distressing time. And they get to know people as individuals, find out what makes them happy, and help to make those things happen.

“That might mean sitting with them in the hospice garden, or arranging for their pet to visit them at the hospice. They focus on the special things that bring people joy.”

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Jim, who works in the building contractors’ sector, started off writing humorous rhyming verse for social events. Writing was something that he has done off and on for most of his adult life and his poetry developed into evocative rhyming poems about times and places of the past. He had stashed quite a few poems in an old shoebox and during the covid lockdown he began to revisit them.

Jim Brown from NewtownabbeyJim Brown from Newtownabbey
Jim Brown from Newtownabbey

“For me, dyslexia has been a lifelong hindrance; a crusher of confidence, but conversely it has also acted as a challenge to prove to myself that I can write in an interesting way and that readers can derive enjoyment or insight from my efforts,” explained Jim.

“So when I delved into that shoe box and began messing around with the ideas there, I rediscovered the pleasure of being creative. I even went so far as to try out some of the poems on my good friend and published poet and writer Philip Orr and was more than pleasantly surprised by his favourable reaction and encouragement.”

Poetry website set up

While being encouraged to think about publishing a booklet of his poems, Jim admitted that felt too ambitious but realised that a website would be more achievable and set about creating www.poems-from-a-shoebox.com.

Jim Brown from NewtownabbeyJim Brown from Newtownabbey
Jim Brown from Newtownabbey
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Jim added: “It got me to thinking about how I could best use the poems to raise some money for charity. The notion of releasing a poem every month or so came to mind, with a different charity supported by each poem.

“I spoke to my friend Ian Gibson and he agreed to film me reciting the poems and so the project got under way. Another friend Kerry Hall put the website together and advised me how to get the poems out to a wider audience. Once each poem has been released, its text will be added to the website along with some notes about how it came about plus any other interesting facts.”

His poem, Five Finger Strand, was chosen first to go on the website as it reminded him of the happy times he had spent in Donegal, an area also well-known and loved by Elaine’s family.

Jim’s poetry is just one of the many ways that supporters of Marie Curie are raising money to aid the leading end of life charity’s work as part of its Great Daffodil Appeal which runs throughout March.

To enjoy some of Jim’s poems go to www.poems-from-a-shoebox.com.or donate to Marie Curie at Jim Brown is fundraising for Marie Curie (justgiving.com)

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