Will and Kate captivated by 91-year-old Bob’s stories

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Hillsborough Castle Garden Party. 14/06/16
The Duchess of Cambridge chats with some of the crowd attending.
Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Hillsborough Castle Garden Party. 14/06/16 The Duchess of Cambridge chats with some of the crowd attending. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography

Bob McAllister, aged 91, stole the show at the recent royal garden party held in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle.

Despite there being a gathering of 2,500 people the Duchess of Cambridge was so intrigued by Bob’s stories that she brought her husband away from his line of guests to chat to Bob who lives in Markethill.

Bob McAllister

Bob McAllister

Bob and his late wife, Alma, set up home in the Democratic Republic of Congo as missionaries in 1952 where they went on to have two sons and a daughter.

In 1964, the Simbas rebel group mercilessly ravaged the country and when they reached the McAllisters’ village, they opened fire killing Bob’s friend and colleague before shooting Bob himself. The bullet grazed his forehead and, due to childhood interest in ‘Cowboys and Indians’, Bob fell to the floor and pretended to be dead.

“It was an exciting experience to meet royalty and I told William that,” said Bob. “They are a lovely couple. I talked to Kate about the Congo and told her about how my wife was a midwife there and how we were 800 miles from the nearest mission doctor and she had to do surgery herself at times. She was very interested in that and the work I did in the jungle.

“She then broke rank and went to get William and brought him away from the people he was talking to so he could also talk to me.”

Bob with his sons Bill and David during their visit to Congo in 2014

Bob with his sons Bill and David during their visit to Congo in 2014

Last year the BBC made a documentary about the McAllisters’ life and Bob presented the royal couple with two copies of ‘A Deadly Mission: Belfast to Congo’.

“I gave a copy to Kate and then I gave her a second copy and said would you kindly pass it on to Her Majesty the Queen,” added Bob. “She said she would do it and we talked a bit about the documentary.

“I told her that I was out twice in the Congo in 2014 and that unfortunately the situation isn’t an awful lot different now compared to when we lived and worked there. Politics is so changeable and problems can arise at any moment.”

Despite being shot, Bob still has a great love for the Congo and its people.

“In our missionary work we enjoyed it, even though we were in the dense jungle. My wife was a midwife and I was a builder and an evangelist and I helped build churches, houses and schools - they were a very loveable people. Much like at home here, there are a few bad apples but they are mainly a lovely, friendly people.”

As Bob fascinated Kate and Wills with his stories of life as a missionary he also shared another snippet of information which pleased the future king.

“I told William that I shared my birthday with his grandmother the Queen on April 21, although I am a year older,” continued Bob.

“I said when the 21st April comes Her Majesty gets a gun salute in London but I’m in Ireland so I just take a bow. That seemed to please William no end. It was a lovely experience and I got to shake hands with Kate twice and I also had good handshake with William which I was very pleased about.”

The network Bob and Alma helped to build is the foundation of what their son David McAllister now does in the Congo as part of Tearfund, a global relief and development charity.

Bob McAllister will be at several events this summer, including New Horizon in Coleraine on August 9 and at Bangor Worldwide on August 27.