The Society has had another successful year with a continuing increase in membership and a varied and well-supported programme of events. The inclusion of the Lecale Review as part of the membership subscription has proved to be a great success, benefiting both the Society and its members.
The eminent environmental broadcaster Brian Black, who is one of our members, began the year's programme in September with a lecture entitled A Film Maker's View. Supported by a video presentation 'Between the Tides' Brian ranged over the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages, through the early and late mediaeval periods and described how they impacted on Lecale.
The October meeting was held in Dundrum where Brownlow McClean gave an illustrated history of the village entitled Down in Dundrum. This was one of the largest attendances in the history of the Society with well over a hundred people present. Brownlow McClean's encyclopaedic knowledge of Dundrum and his use of his extensive photographic collection made this a memorable evening. The meeting was the second of the initiative by the Committee to broaden the appeal of the Society throughout Lecale, by holding meetings in other parts of the barony outside the regular Downpatrick venue.
The launch of the Lecale Review 2005 took place in November with the President of the Society, Dr James Hawthorne, as guest speaker. This was the third edition of the new-look journal and it contained 84 pages. Kathleen Gill's reading of a short story by Michael McLaverty, the music of Eamon McMullan's quartet and the supper all contributed to the success of the occasion. The Society is grateful to Down District Council for its continuing financial support of the journal.
The festive season was reflected in Questions and Answers, as the December meeting took the form of a Lecale Table Quiz ably run by local quiz enthusiast John McGrath. This gave members and guests the opportunity to demonstrate their collective knowledge and win a selection of prizes. The recovery from mental exhaustion was assisted by the provision of mince pies.
The January meeting was entitled Artists of County Down and Sean Nolan spoke on The Life and Works of James Warwick, silversmith. This provided a most enlightening insight into the skill and artistry of the former County Down resident. Warwick was Head of the Belfast College of Art and worked as a designer for Mappin and Webb before the Second World War.
In February, Jonathan Bell of the Ulster Folk Museum gave an illustrated talk: County Down Farming Families: Stories of change between 1930 and 1960. This was a most interesting talk and its relevance to rural Lecale attracted an additional attendance from the farming community.
At the St. Patrick's Festival Lecture in March, Richard Warner, the Keeper of the Department of Archaeology & Ethnography at the Ulster Museum, spoke on the topic of Saint Patrick and the Fall of Ulster. As a noted expert on the Iron Age and the Early Medieval period he was able to give a distinctive view of the character of St. Patrick which often varied from the idealised myth of popular folklore. The support of Down District Council for this lecture is greatly appreciated.
April - Jackie Boyce Songs of the County Down: an evening of Words and Music. Jackie gave us a wonderful insight into what he calls his 'love affair' with traditional music. By sharing stories of his journey to collect songs and ballads he was able to show how the words make an important contribution to our understanding of social history. We were informed by his knowledge and entertained by his singing and the participation of other musicians in the audience.
At the Annual General Meeting in May, Dr Brian Turner and Patrick Corkey stood down from the Committee. As Chairman of the Society and Editor of the Lecale Review, Brian has made a considerable contribution to the Society while Patrick was a very helpful member of the Committee. Following the formal business of the meeting about a dozen members of the Society produced items of interest. The number of unexpected and interesting items continues to make this a most enjoyable occasion.
Following the success of the October meeting, over forty members of the Society returned to Dundrum on a fine June evening for the Annual Outing. Brownlow McClean began his tour at Murlough House that was built in 1859 as a marine villa for the Marquis of Downshire and his family. Much of Dundrum was built in the 19th Century by the Downshires, including the Church of Ireland church that was the next stop on the tour. The walk along the Main Street revealed many buildings of architectural and historic interest.
The regular meetings of the Society are held at Down County Museum and the Society would like to thank the Curator and staff of the Museum for their help and assistance in the smooth organisation of the events. Thanks are also due to the volunteers who help throughout the year with the many and various tasks involved in the running the Society.