The first meeting of the 2008-2009 season was addressed by Mr. Harry Hume whose subject was “The Glens of Antrim – a Place and People Apart.” A Glensman himself from the tenth glen, Glenravel, Mr.Hume had an intimate knowledge of their history and the characters both past and present who inhabited them. He spoke of the Scottish influence because of their proximity to Kintyre and the Western Isles and traced the influence in the area of the McDonnells of the Isles from the marriage in 1399 of John Mor McDonnell of Kintyre to Margery Bissett right up to the present day. He told of Sorley Boy’s victory over the McQuillans at the battle of Orra which gave the McDonnells possession of the Route and the three baronies of Dunluce, Carey and Kilconway and of his engagement with Shane O’neill in 1565. Many famous people have come from the Glens and Mr. Hume named Dr. James McDonnell who founded the Belfast Fever Hospital (fore-runner of the Royal Victoria Hospital) and whose great love of harp music led to his organizing the first Belfast Harp Festival. James Hamilton Delargy, the famous Irish folklorist also came from the Glens as did George Benn, (a son of the Benns of Glenravel), who wrote a History of Belfast and was benefactor of the once famous Benn Hospital, Belfast. A Hodge of Glenravel was associated with the establishment of the Faculty of Agriculture at Queen’s University and Mr. Hume also dealt with the association of Roger Casement with the Glens. Reference was also made to the famous McNeill, Turnley and Higginson families with readings from the poems of Moira O’Neill ( born Agnes Shakespeare Higginson). The talk also referred to the great seafaring tradition of many families of the area and ended with the portrayal of some interesting Glens “characters”, including the well known fiddler and poteen maker, the late Mickey McIlhatton, “KING OF THE GLENS”. Mrs Mary Breslin, Chairperson, thanking Mr. Hume for his fascinating talk and many amusing anecdotes which had been greatly appreciated by his large audience, reminded members that next month’s speaker would be Mr. Ronnie Hanna from Portadown, whose subject would be “Crossing the Atlantic – the Ulster Emigration Experience of the 18th Century”.
For the first meeting of their seventh season members of the Bellaghy Historical Society enjoyed a video recording of “Us Boys”,which was filmed and shown on Television some years ago. This had been recorded and kindly lent by Mrs Margaret McErlean.
It followed the lives of two elderly farmer brothers, Stewart and Ernie Morrow who lived in the Glens of Antrim and whose local dialect was so strong that the film producers had wisely added sub-titles to their conversation. Their primitive way of life without electricity or modern amenities as it would have been in the first half of the twentieth century, was portrayed against a background of beautiful scenery and the film followed their activities throughout the changing seasons.
Snow lay on their farm yard high above the Glens when they worked with a ewe at lambing and other scenes showed the whin in glorious colour with the young lambs sporting in the fields. Shopping was done when a grocery van came on its rounds and their needs were simple. Visitors were fairly rare but their immediate family members, a brother and nephew and their wives who lived further down the Glen in modern houses, were regular callers and gave them what assistance they would accept. As the film unfolded and one of the brothers died leaving the other to a lonely existence, new hope was found for the future with the birth of a baby boy to the nephew and his wife.
The pace of the action was very sensitively handled by the producers and some scenes in the film were set to well chosen music all of which was greatly enhanced for the audience by the definition and sound quality of the magnificent 42 inch plasma television supplied by Kearneys, Castle Sreet, Bellaghy.
The November meeting will be addressed by Mr Jim Davidson, Lisburn who will speak on “Our Daily Bread” – a history of Bakeries in Northern Ireland and will take place at 8 p.m. as usual on the second Tuesday of the month in the Old School Centre, Castle Street, Bellaghy.