'The Boys of Ballykelly'

FORMER RAF engine fitter Gordon Blair has been stationed across the world, from Gibraltar to Singapore, but the 65-year-old author says one place tops them all-Ballykelly.

The Aberdeen based writer has written a hilarious and bawdy "expose" on the life and times of the County Derry camp where he was stationed during the 1960's. 'The Boys of Ballykelly', due to be released next month by Book Guild Publishing, reveals a lighter and more comical side to the RAF base, as well as the ball of varied characters that came with it. Stationed at Shackleton for three years, Gordon describes this period as the best of his life.

Gordon tells the Sentinel: "Every base has its own feel and characters; and it's those characters that make the story. The book is all about Ballykelly itself; the life and times of the camp and the infusion of both Irish and Scottish humour."

He continued: "It's what I call faction, fiction mixed with fact. My three years at Ballykelly were the best of my life and I really hope that comes across in the book."

Gordon was just 15 when he joined the RAF and travelled around the world for almost 10 years before being stationed in Ballykelly when he was 24. A lot less exotic than many of his postings before, a young Blair did not expect much in terms of the small County Derry village. 'The Boys of Ballykelly' touches on the lives of madcap characters who viewed life mainly through the bottom of a Guinness glass. Gordon decided to write the book a few years ago after decades of retelling his hilarious tales to friends and family.

"A friend suggested to me that I should consider putting it all in a book and I never thought I had enough. Then when I sat down before I knew it I had 120,000 words written. It all came so easily to my mind."

Gordon continued: "It was exciting and actually quite cathartic. When I had one chapter down, it was like opening a door to another hilarious and enjoyable experience there."

Now based in his Scottish home town, Gordon says he still comes to visit the area.

"We still have an affiliation with Northern Ireland, and the Londonderry area especially, as we have friends in Castlerock who we visit regularly. In fact we sailed from Oban across to Coleraine last summer and then up to Derry where we tied up at the quayside for a few days and renewed our acquaintance with the old town." Gordon says.

"As I said before, the three years that we spent at Ballykelly were definitely the highlight of our time in the RAF and we still have very fond memories of those days. The book reflects those memories about the mainly Irish and Scottish mix of humour which prevailed among the people that were on the base at that particular time and their interactions with the kindly folk, mainly in pubs, around the area."

The author says it is unknown yet if the book will be immediately released into bookshops in the area by April but pre-orders and copies of the book can be obtained by logging onto the publisher's website: www.bookguild.co.uk

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