Alex Massie

And her hair hung over her shoulder tied up in an Orange velvet band...

Text settings

A splendid Daily Telegraph obituary of Sammy Duddy, a, er, colourful figure in Loyalist paramilitary circles:

Sammy Duddy, who died on October 17 aged 62, had a rather unusual curriculum vitae for a member of the Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association in having been a drag artiste who went by the stage name of Samantha.

During the 1970s the self-styled "Dolly Parton of Belfast" became well known on Belfast's cabaret circuit, presenting a risqué act in Loyalist pubs and clubs, dressed in fishnet tights, wig and heavy make-up. Once he even performed for British troops on tour.

"I wore a miniskirt many a time," Duddy remembered, "but it was usually a long dress, a straight black wig, a pair of falsies I bought in Blackpool and loads of make-up to cover my freckles. The darker the mascara the better, and scarlet lipstick, because I was a scarlet woman."...

Duddy was never seen as a leading figure in the UDA, but he was regarded as useful in a group not noted for its literary or artistic pretensions. In 1983 he published a volume of poetry, Concrete Whirlpools of the Mind. None the less, his acceptance within the organisation was probably helped by his fund of adult jokes and his reputation for being handy with his fists.

As anyone who has spent any time in Belfast or Ballymena or Portadown can attest, there is an awful lot packed in to that brilliant "not noted"...

[Hat-tip, Mr Eugenides, whose headline "The Lashes My Father Wore" is also quite splendid.]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleArts Reviewsobituaries