Memories of Ballymacash YFC

Stockjudgint at Wadsworths farm, Lisburn 1967 (left to right) Peggy Wright, Rosemary Smith, Dessie Mackay, Gwen Liggitt and Johnny Wright
Stockjudgint at Wadsworths farm, Lisburn 1967 (left to right) Peggy Wright, Rosemary Smith, Dessie Mackay, Gwen Liggitt and Johnny Wright

A YFC was formed in Ballymacash in 1965 located west of Lisburn on the Glenavy Road with the Brown, Creighton, Drayne, McKinstry, Wadsworth and Wright families involved.

Ballymacash is noted for Draynes Farm complex producing milk products and dairy ice cream.

Meeting places included Ballymacash Old School, Temperance Institute, Dr Smilies’ loft and Magheragall O.H.

As with all clubs the motto was ‘better farmers, better citizens and better countrymen’ and early successes included Jenny McCauley representing the YFCU in a television quiz programme and Mary Drayne becoming Co Antrim Dairy Princess.

As is traditional the season opened in the Autumn with fortnightly meetings covering topical subjects from square dancing to a Belfast City Hall visit hosted by Lord Mayor Sammy Wilson.

Ballymacash had many gifted speakers including the Creighton family Lynn, Gail, Dawn and Niall. Throughout the country some of many proficient speakers included the Carlisle family (Lylehill), the McBride family (The Glens) and Alan and Wesley Acheson (Kesh) whom I accompanied to Wales on an exchange weekend 40 years ago!

Of course speaking to an audience often in a classroom had its moments, such as when one of our senior members, who in the middle of her speech, remembered the remainder was in her handbag outside the room! Marks for presentation? At a craft competition a member created a paper mache dog with the judge commenting that the underside was wet. The reply - ‘She’s about to have pups!’ A young female member was asked by a judge the reason for a dip in the cow’s topline and she replied the milkers were on too long!!!

One of the many club outings in the early seventies was to see James Young in the Ulster Hall who reminded everyone that Ballymacash had arrived late - army checkpoints. At a YFC dance in Moneyrea a couple returned to Lisburn in a P6 Rover. Due to a petrol shortage the car was exchanged for the farm pickup to continue the journey to the girl’s home, and while suitable as a farm vehicle it was not suitable for romance!! YFC events often center around matchmaking and the first verse of the club song to the tune of The Hillbillies, is:

“Come listen to a story about the YFC

A matrimonial agency it’s said to be

The nightclub of the country as everybody knows

Education in all fields it definitely shows.....”

On the subject of marriage a member was receiving a present on parents night and was asked by the club leader to come up for his prize!!!

The annual dinner dance was held in such venues as the White Gables, Hillsborough, Stoneyford Inn and Woodlands Hotel, Lisburn.

Throughout the club’s history dairy farmer Crawford Wadsworth was president attending club meetings and functions and promoting stock judging. As patron Henry Phillips, the former VP of St. Aidans, Glenavy, who is still active in community life, was credited with much of the club’s speaking success including in 1977 with a junior and senior team both taking 1st place in the NI Group Debating finals.

One of the many meetings featured Thompson–Reid Tractors, Belfast showing slides on MF machinery all below 80hp and £3000. The year was 1974.

Another memorable night was Andy McClean from the Dept of Agric showing methods of encouraging wildlife and habitat.

With the onset of spring the annual parents nights were compered by Wilson Knipe, Ian Coulter, Terence McKeague or Tom McDevitt (The McCooeys). Young member Adrian Leslie in Barry McGuigan lookalike pose gave a professional rendition of ‘thank you very much Mr Eastmood’.

Some of the favourites were the Sam Cree plays - ‘Don’t tell the wife’ and ‘Widows paradise’. In the sketch dressing the chicken, when unaware the radio programme on dressing the chicken has been changed to dressing the baby the lady of the house is left putting talc on the chicken, fitting a nappy as well as cleaning its wee ears - finding them was a problem!!

Brother Rodney brought his unique brand of humour to the show with impressions of Jimmy Cricket and the Rev Ian Paisley and gave advice at the end of the parents night that an official’s wife had decided to walk the short distance home and single file traffic would be in force!!!

The annual conference was held on a spring weekend usually in the Northern Counties, Portrush or the Slieve Donard, Newcastle. Of course all functions were only possible with the dedication of the admin team Gen.Sen.Arthur McAllister, Asst.Sec.Pam Robinson, Ian Harvey and Stephen Dowie.

The summer season was dedicated in those days to stock judging. At a practice for pig judging at Wrights farm progress was delayed when a sow got jammed under the rota spreader and a welcome distraction in sheep judging occurred when the host’s wife decided to wear a mini-skirt—not suitable for handling livestock but fashionable for the seventies.

The mode of transport for the competitions was usually Creightons 1600E Cortina or Wrights Riley Elf — both with walnut dashboard!!

A member reminisced about returning from the Flamingo Ballroom in Ballymena after a YFC dance and taking the Dundrod circuit home and as he approached the Deers Leap he watched the sun rise above Belfast Lough!! In another organisation he would lament about being the only one properly dressed with a bowler hat in a protest rally of hundreds!!

Sadly many clubs witnessed 40 years of the Troubles and in 1983 we were having a public speaking rehearsal in the hall when a tremendous bang resulted in the hall lights fusing. A helicopter was heard in the area and we feared the worst. The search party led by Henry Phillips located the army helicopter which had hit a pylon, leaving two pilots dead. Their revolvers were removed by the police and the area sealed off.

Over the years I met many good friends such as Margaret Torrens, Greenmount, Mrs Crommie, Aghalee who still dresses elegantly, Ernest O’Hara, Glarryford and Sam Howie, Gleno.

I called with Trevor Woods, Annaclone and Magherally, recently and he continues to support YFC crafts and events as well as marketing his pottery, part of the reason for my visit.

With the computer and social media era the club found it difficult to attract new members and in 1995, although the club relaunched under Magheragall, we took the players off the pitch, as Sean Coyle would say. Had the club continued I would have no doubt that Niall Creighton, Henry Phillips and Crawford Wadsworth would continue as leaders such is their enthusiasm for cross community rural youth.

I have noticed in recent times that the competitive age groups have been extended to 30 years - perhaps the YFC executive would consider an age group of 50 years open!!!

If past members have similar recollections of bygone clubs perhaps they would forward them to the farming press.