Award winning television journalist Bill Neely popped in to visit his old school with his youngest daughter Emma on Thursday. The NBC foreign correspondent took a well -earned break from assignments in some of the world’s most troubled countries to visit Belfast and talk to some 6th Form History and English students.
Looking fresh after competing in the London marathon, Bill was happy to acknowledge his influential teachers at St. Malachy’s particularly Geraldine Pettigrew, Gerry McKeown and the late Bill Lowry. College Principal Mr McBride reminded him that his early musical debut as the drummer in a punk rock band perhaps indicated an alternative career path.
He shared his experiences of interviewing Bill Clinton and Syrian President Bashar al Assad among others, talked of visits to North Korea and Afghanistan and of coming under fire in the Balkan conflict. Asked by students for his outstanding memory he had no hesitation in choosing the sight of the Berlin Wall being hacked down – he has his own piece of it!
Bill emphasised the importance of a thorough knowledge of History and good accurate use of the English language as a ‘sine qua non’ not only for his profession but for anyone who aspires to a career in public life.
There was much discussion of Donald Trump and his attitude to the media – it was Bill Neely who first underlined to disbelieving NBC viewers within a few minutes the recent appalling mistake of Trump’s Press Secretary when he opined that Hitler had not used lethal gas. Any Year 8 History student in this College making such a blunder would find himself in detention!