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Review of the year, 2007/8

The Lecale Historical Society has had another successful year. Membership of the Society continued to expand and there was a varied and well-supported programme of events.

The year's programme began with a September meeting in Strangford, where local historian Eamon McMullan spoke on the topic Strangford - a historic village - people and places down the years. Eamon was born in Strangford and his deep knowledge of the village was evident in his lecture. This was one of the best attended meetings of the year with over eighty people present. The meeting was the fourth 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 October lecture on the theme of The Flight of the Earls was given by Eamon O'Huallahain, well known folklorist and radio presenter, who had just completed a tour of the main centres of the Flight. The large audience, who participated in a lively discussion afterwards, was treated to a scholarly and entertaining exposition of the events leading up to the Flight, the Flight itself with all its delays, detours and misfortunes and of its ultimately tragic end, that heralded the end of Gaelic Ulster.

The launch of the Lecale Review 2007 took place in November with Councillor Margaret Ritchie, MLA, Minister for Social Development, and a member of the Lecale Historical Society, as guest speaker. She spoke eloquently about the role of local history societies in the Community. The 100-page Lecale Review was produced by an editorial committee and is the fifth edition of the new-look journal. The 'Pluckin' Squeezers' led by Society member Laura Plummer provided musical entertainment and the evening also included a short story reading and supper. The Society is grateful to Down District Council for its continuing financial support of the journal.

In December the Iddlesleigh Players presented The Ingenious Innings of Inspiration -Amanda McKittrick Ros revisited. This was a real treat as Peter Cavan told the story of the famous Ulster writer and Irene Maxwell acted the part of Amanda McKittrick Ros. We were transported back to the early part of the last century to hear wonderful extracts of alliteration and malapropisms from her writing.

The artist Richard Croft was the guest speaker in January on the subject Painting Lecale. The Dundrum artist spoke about his life in painting and produced examples of his work as well as the illustrations used during his lecture. These were greatly appreciated by the audience. He is particularly noted for some of his very large paintings of the coast around Dundrum.

In February, Rhonda Robinson of the Environment and Heritage Service spoke of its work in Valuing the Past and Protecting our Historic Monuments. This was a most interesting and illuminating account of the Department's work in caring for our ancient monuments and among the interesting items that the speaker brought was a rare map of County Down from the Eighteenth Century.

The St. Patrick's Festival Lecture in March was held in partnership with the Down Gaelic Society. Christopher Napier gave the lecture on Aodh MacAingil-Scholar, Poet and Bishop. The distinguished scholar of the Irish language gave a fascinating insight into the life of one of Downpatrick's most famous sons and it was much appreciated by the large audience

In April, Monasteries of the North, was the subject of a memorable talk by Tony Fleck. With only a handout as an aid, he was able to give a vivid verbal description of the monasteries from Norman to Tudor times, including the everyday life of the monks who occupied them. The Cistercian abbeys at Inch and Greyabbey were of particular interest.

At the Annual General Meeting in May, members of the outgoing Committee were re-elected with the addition of Dr Brian Gaffney and Patrick Clarke. Following the formal business of the meeting members of the Society produced items of interest. The number of unexpected and interesting items continues to make this a most enjoyable occasion. This AGM produced an exceptional collection ranging from Maundy Money to a lost painting by Raymond Piper.

Following the success of the September meeting, around forty members of the Society returned to Strangford on a dry June evening for the Annual Outing. Eamon McMullan assembled his tour at the Square before proceeding along Castle Street. His account of the history of the village was both interesting and entertaining. There was the rare opportunity to gain admittance to both Strangford Castle and Strangford House before close encounters in the Squeeze Gut. The evening ended with welcome tea and shortbread in the Cuan.

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 of the Society.

Berkley Farr

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