This was a very busy year for the Society with a well-attended programme of lectures and the launch of a new publication in addition to the annual journal. The year's programme began with the return of Terence Reeves-Smyth to give an in-depth lecture on the Annesleys and the development of Newcastle, Castlewellan and Mount Panther. Those attending the lecture were given a fascinating overview of a well-known and influential family. In October, Professor Brian Walker provided a valuable insight into elections in Co Down over a period of some 120 years. The trends, the people and the political issues of an important century were fully explored. November saw the launch of the Lecale Review and this year Martyn Todd, Chairman of the Saintfield Heritage Society, took us through the journal highlighting the articles and providing a tantalising overview of the Society's annual publication. We were entertained by the Quoile Area Women's Institute Choir.
In December and January we had two back to back lectures provided by Madeleine McAllister from Down County Museum. Both very different and very enjoyable highlighting the knowledge of the Museum staff and the wealth of the collection. In December we had a suitably seasonal theme looking at Christmas Past and the items and mementos from both the Museum collection and our own Society members; an evening that was both entertaining and informative. In January we were shown a sample of wedding dresses from the Museum collection and heard about their history and how they came into the possession of the Museum. February saw the Society pick up the theme of World War One when one of our members, Jim Fitzsimons, gave a talk on 'a forgotten soldier'. Field Marshall Sir Henry Wilson was an Irish Unionist politician and one of the most senior British Army staff officers of the First World War.
March was an interesting and busy month. Firstly we had a record attendance at the St Patrick's Festival lecture. The support of Down District Council enabled us to have the renowned historian Dr Eamon Phoenix and over 90 people heard a fascinating lecture on the decade of centenaries 1912-22. Dr Phoenix's relaxed style and amazing depth of knowledge resulted in all attending going home more informed after a very enjoyable evening. Towards the end of March the Society undertook a new venture holding its first ever fundraising table quiz. This was a great success with member feedback indicating that we should do it again! In April our final lecture of the season in Down Museum was given by our President, Walter Love, as he took us through some memorable BBC recordings from Co. Down. Walter's broadcasting experience added a much-appreciated insider's view as we delved into the BBC archives.
The Annual General Meeting of the Society was in May and the business meeting was followed by our now traditional member's items of interest. The following individuals were elected to serve on the Committee, Berkley Farr, Philip Blair, Wendv Osborne OBE, Kathleen Gill, Una Fitzsimons, Anne Liggett, Alastair Killen and Patrick Cross; the President is Walter Love MBE. The month of May also saw the launch of a new Society monograph written by one of our members, Dr Brian Turner. The publication was published by the Society in association with the Friends of Down County Museum and the Ulster Local History Trust. The publication is entitled Aspects of Audleystoum: a townland in Lecale and the launch event was held, very appropriately, at Audley's Castle. The event was well attended and afterwards guests were shown round the Castle and historic site by a member of staff from the Environment & Heritage Agency.
The Society's annual programme ended in June with an interesting Titanic Harbour Boat Tour which highlighted the ever changing story of Belfast's rich maritime history, industry and port development. It was a lovely warm June evening; perfect weather and setting for our annual outing.
During the year the deaths occurred of Dr John Press, Rev Niall Bayley, former MP Eddie McGrady, Ronnie Newell, Robin Gill, Solveig Moore, Rita Rice and Lloyd McKee. They will be missed by the Society.
The regular meetings of the Society are held in Down County Museum and the Society would wish to thank the Curator and staff of the Museum for their help and assistance in the smooth organisation of our events.
This was another full and successful year for the Lecale & Downe Historical Society and we would wish to acknowledge all those who contributed to making our activities and events so informative and enjoyable. The Society is also indebted to the volunteers who help out throughout the year in a variety of roles, their time and support is greatly appreciated.