Now a successful motoring correspondent, who has travelled the world meeting many famous people, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ian has had time to reflect on his dreams.
He revealed: “In this time of lockdown I have had, like many others, hours of time to reflect and to look back on the people and events as I reported on motoring related topics.
“I have met with Grand Prix drivers, movie stars, space men and even let down by Celene Dion, but that is a story for another day,” said Ian, who claims to be on the wrong side of 65.
In his youth, he was enthralled by venturing into space and, like many in his generation, watched in awe as the first men travelled and walked on the moon.
Ian, who specialises in writing on motoring issues, said: “I savaged comics etc to catch up with the likes of Dan Dare always thinking that no one would ever venture into space.
“Little did I know that I would catch up with my real spaceman Fred Haise,” said Ian.
“He was a NASA astronaut, fighter pilot with the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force and test pilot. One of only 24 people to have flown to the moon, having flown as Lunar Module Pilot on the fated Apollo 13.
“Fred was to have been the sixth person to land and walk on the moon, but the Apollo 13 mission was aborted before a lunar landing; stranded in space.
“He went on to fly Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests in 1977 and retired from NASA in 1979,” explained Ian.
“So how did I meet up with Fred? Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, I was on a new vehicle launch in Alabama and, included in the event, was an outing to the US Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville. My guide was non other than one Fred Haise.
“Of course I asked him if he was frightened when marooned in space. There was a pause, then came his answer. ‘No I knew the guys back on earth would get us back’.
“They certainly did to the greater relief of the world and he did admit that after leaving the space programme he came close to losing his life.
“He was preparing an aircraft to be featured in the war movie Tora Tora Tora and it crashed, thankfully he recovered from that incident,” said Ian.
“Yes after all those years I did meet my spaceman and it did bring back many thoughts of my boyhood. I wanted to be a spaceman, also on my list was a racing driver and a pilot; however my granny was having none of that and, you know, she was wiser than I ever imagined.”
Ian has led a fascinating life so far. Having started out as a teacher for the mentally handicapped, he became Vice Principal of Manor House School near Milford, Co Armagh.
“My own school days started with the Cope Primary School in Loughgall, Clounagh Junior High School and finally Portadown Tech,” said Ian..
“I have had a passion for cars since I was seven when my late father took me to a car rally and that was that,” said Ian.
“While teaching I did a little writing on cars.
“What set me in gear was when I followed the exploits of local driver and garage owner Ronnie White as he never seemed to obtain any local coverage.
“So I arranged to meet William Greer who was the editor of the Ulster Gazette in Armagh. I put my case to him and he responded by saying I was the man for the job and I was eventually paid one guinea per story.
“As time rolled by more and more people wanted me to write stories and decision time came – teaching or journalism.
“I covered motor sport for News Letter, Portadown Times, Lurgan Mail, UTV, Motoring News, Motorsport News, Auto Ireland – a very long list.
“I took the plunge in 1987 and went freelance. Then it was a bold move and my passion for space and flying never died as with my motoring I got to meet the likes of Fred Haise.
“I flew a glider and very often on charter flights to new car launches I would always try and grab a chat with the pilots.”
Asked if he would like to travel further – and into space, he said: “Yes, I certainly would have the icing on the cake if I could take a trip in space, second best would be a flight in a Spitfire.
“Motoring has been great. I have visited the USA several times, South Africa, South Korea and virtually every country in Europe.
“And, I have met the famous and infamous, people such as Omar Sharif, Sir Jackie Stewart and even one of The Great Train Robbers, Roy James.
“I have interviewed many on the motoring scene including the late Ayrton Senna who presented me with a beautiful chronograph watch which I greatly treasure.
“On car launches I have driven with Sir Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss and many of the top rally drivers,” said Ian.
“Perhaps some day I just might be a space passenger, as part of a new car launch – that is if things ever get back to normal.”
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