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Annual General Meeting
Walsh's Hotel, Maghera 17 November 2018


The AGM was held in Walsh's Hotel, Maghera on Saturday 17th November. Nearly 50 people attended.

Listening to the launch
Attendance at the AGM

Before the proceedings started, Hanna Ferguson, an All-Ireland Scor Winner, entertained the company with a fine rendition of The Maid of Culmore. She was roundly applauded for starting the meeting on such a pleasing note.

James Armour, Chairman of the Maghera Historical Society, welcomed the delegates. Extolling the virtues of the town he suggested several tourist attractions and recommended a visit to the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in nearby Bellaghy. Chairman Johnny Dooher welcomed everyone to the AGM, in particular Padraig Laffan, Chairman of the Southern Federation with his wife Moira. He welcomed Cllr. Sean Keating, Chairman of the Mid-Ulster District Council and asked him to address the meeting.

Chairman McPeake said it was a great pleasure to welcome the Federation to Maghera. As historical, archaeological, architectural and folklore groups they had a great role in studying and promoting our local heritage. The Council was keen to help promote local history study through educational programmes and events at historical sites. He recommended a visit to the Seamus Heaney Homeplace. He thanked James Armour for the great work being done here including the Townlands Project in partnership with the Council. The minutes of the 2017 AGM, were approved

Hanna Ferguson James Armour Council Chairman
Hanna Ferguson James Armour Cllr. Sean McPeake

Secretary's Report

Pat DevlinPat Devlin presented his Secretary's report, taking the meeting through the Executive Committee's activities since the last meeting. It had concentrated on several major issues - a new and more effective sub-committee structure and working rules; a comprehensive review of corporate governance; and a full review of the Articles of Association

New sub-committees had been set up, a Management Committee, a Publications Committee and a Programme Committee. The review of good governance took account of the guidance issued by Companies House and the Charities. The claims at last year's AGM, that the Charity Commission had expressed concern about the management of the Federation, were wrong; the Commission had made no such statement. Following advice from NICVA the Executive Committee adopted a Trustee Code of Conduct.

In January 2018, Bridgeen Rutherford resigned as Secretary and was succeeded by Pat Devlin. Patrick Greer resigned as Vice-Chairman in April and Josie Herbison was appointed in his place. James Armour, Maghera Historical Society, was co-opted. Patrick McGuigan resigned in July. Dr Janice Holmes, who had been co-opted at the November 2017 resigned in August on moving abroad. The Committee thanked all those who resigned for their work for the Federation and wished them well for the future.

During the year three newsletters were issued; the Speaker's Register has had an extensive overhaul, thanks to John Hulme; the Hidden Gems Exhibitions continued, in Omagh Library, Letterkenny Library and Enniskillen. Another Exhibition was planned for Carrickfergus Museum from 10 November to 8 December 2018. An early Summer Seminar was held in Mossley Mill, Newtownabbey on 9 June 2018 with useful input from James Laverty of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Trevor Gordon on the many roles of the Northern Ireland's Publications Resource. The prime focus of the Seminar was the Suffragist movement in Britain and Ireland in the early 20th century. Great input from Josie Herbison and Pat McGuigan, taking in the development of the movement from its earliest beginnings in the early nineteenth century up to the present day, and a major contribution from Carol Walker, from the Somme Centre concentrated on the impact of WWI on voting rights and social change in Ulster. The Federation's website carried 15 updates of information since the last AGM.

The Executive Committee continued to develop working relationships with other groups including the Libraries NI in progressing the Hidden Gems and Forgotten People Exhibitions, and the Federation of Local History Societies in co-operating in joint events and programmes. A joint meeting in Belfast in February 2018 focused on restoring the good working relationship between the Federations after the disputed events of the previous year. The Executive Committee remains confident that these can be resolved and will continue to strive for success.

Other activities included celebrating the Lecale & Downe Historical Society which celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding on 24 September. The Executive presented the Society with the gift of an inscribed gavel to mark their appreciation and best wishes for the next 70 years.

Trustees' Report and Statement of Accounts

The Secretary explained that this Report, for the Financial Year ended 31 March 2018, was a requirement of Companies House and the Charities Commission NI. It covered, Names and service periods of the Directors over the year; the structure, Governance and Management arrangements; the Federation's objectives and activities in the period and the strategies developed to achieve these; a record of the Trustees attendance; and performance and achievements, broken down into membership service and working with others.

Treasurer's Report

Bridie BradleyThe Treasurer, Bridie Bradley, dealing with the Statement of Accounts prepared by the Independent Examiner, explained the layout of the Report and the salient features of each category. Overall income was £15,615; Expenditure £10,625; Retained surplus £5,000. Total Assets (Bank balance) stood at £24,117

Bridie took the meeting through the details of income and expenditure, quantifying and explaining the increase or decrease of individual categories e.g. Membership fees, PL Insurance, Publications; travel costs, Office Expenses, meetings, events and excursions etc. She recorded her thanks to Roisin Shanks, the Independent Examiner, for her work on the Accounts, and for her unfailing courtesy.

The Report was agreed.

Chairman's Address

Johnny DooherThe Chairman thanked the Secretary and Treasurer for the detailed and well-presented reports and thanked all the members of the Executive committee for their work.

The Chairman welcomed Padraig Laffan, Chairman of the Federation of Local History Societies, Padraig Laffan and his wife Moira. He had memories of working with Padraig from the early 1990s, including the ongoing cooperation in the Hidden Gems and Forgotten People project. In this era of Commemorations and Centenaries it was important that the two Federations work together in examining the potentially difficult subject areas of Independence, Partition, and Civil War.

The Chairman reviewed a number of the Executive Committee's actions during the year, some of which had been outlined in the Secretary's report, including action to update the Articles of Association, rules of Corporate Governance, expanding co-operation with other groups, and improving communications including the website. He questioned too how well the Federation as a whole was addressing the original aims of the founders over 40 years ago. He thought too many societies seemed to exist in isolation and suggested they beceme more directly involved in the wider local studies scene, including publicising more widely the events and projects they were planning and implementing. Although The executive committee had sought to encourage the sense of connectedness, through regular newsletters, internet postings and email contact, it appeared to be very much a one-way communication with many society secretaries acting only as information receivers rather than as distributors to the other society members. The same applied to the production of journals and booklets which seemed to be targeted at local audiences exclusively. The same applied to the Federation's own journal which had reduced from two annual editions to one, mainly due to fewer contributors. A survey carried out three years ago into local society attitudes to Due North identifies limited awareness of the role of publications in the local history world.

The Chairman wondered if there were enough opportunities for the membership and the Executive Committee to meet throughout the year. The seminar in Mossley Mill in June had attendance of 30 people despite the low cost and the interesting and relevant topics. There must be ways of persuading people to come together periodically to share views, experiences and suggestions and make their membership of societies and Federations more meaningful and rewarding. Would it matter if there was no Federation or even no local society? Would members lose out? Would the study and dissemination of local history fade away from local society and become the preserve of the historians, journalists or writers

The Chairman paid tribute to two very active leaders in the local history scene who had passed away during the last year - Dr Eull Dunlop from Ballymena had been a very regular contributor to the Federation journals and to the lecture programmes of local societies; and Dr Brian Trainor, a vice president of the Federation and an innovator in developing contacts between the local societies and government bodies. In remembrance, the meeting stood in silence for a short period

Proposed amendment to the Articles of Association

The Secretary, outlining the background to the review, said that the aims were to verify that the Articles remained fit for purpose; to eliminate redundant terms and identify any matters that needed updating; ensure that the voluntary nature of the Federation's management structure was fully reflected in the articles, and to make the text gender neutral. The articles, in the main, had stood the test of time. The proposed changes are therefore the distillation of that detailed process of analysis, discussion and debate. There were only three major issues identified for change - amendments to provide for matters relating to the AGM and the nomination for Officers and the Executive Committee to be sent to the 'Federation' rather than the 'Secretary'; making the text 'gender neutral' and a new article 49, requiring the Executive Committee to draw up a Code of Conduct for its members reflecting the modern focus on good governance advocated by Companies House and the Charities Commission NI. After a short discussion the proposed amendments were agreed

The Management Committee spent many hours, going through the articles in detail. In the end, despite the amount of detail in the proposed amendments, the articles, in the main, had stood the test of time. The proposed changes are therefore the distillation of that detailed process of analysis, discussion and debate. Most of the proposals were minor 'tidying up' issues; to ensure consistency, add minor clarifications etc. There were only three major issues identified for change, amendments to provide for matters relating to the AGM and the nomination for Officers and the Executive Committee to be sent to the 'Federation' rather than the 'Secretary'; making the text 'gender neutral', in 36 of the articles, changing the terms 'he', 'him', and 'his' to 'he and she', 'him and her', and 'his and hers', and a new article 49, requiring the Executive Committee to draw up a Code of Conduct for its members reflecting the modern focus on good governance advocated by Companies House and the Charities Commission NI. After a short discussion the proposed amendments were agreed

Election of Officers and Committee

The Officers and Executive, elected at the meeting were

  • Chairman - John Dooher, Strabane History Society
  • Vice-Chairman - Josephine Herbison, Antrim & District Historical Society
  • Secretary - Patrick Devlin, Lecale & Downe Historical Society
  • Treasurer - Bridie Bradley, West Belfast Historical Society
  • Executive Committee
  • James Armour, Maghera Historical Society
  • Patrick Bonner, County Donegal Historical Society
  • John Hulme, Carrickfergus and District Historical Society
  • Joseph McCoy, Maghera Historical Society
  • Katie Orme, Antrim and District Historical Society

Appointment of Auditor

The appointment of Roisin Shanks was agreed.

Election of vice-President

The Chairman then moved the appointment of Angelique Day as Vice-President. He recalled her work on the Ordnance Survey Memoirs project. She had also been involved in other local study organisations. The resolution was agreed, and Angelique thanked the meeting for the appointment and looked forward to the role.

Welcome to Chair of the Federation of Local History Societies

The Chairman invited Padraig Laffan, Chairman of the Federation of Local History Societies, to address the meeting.

Padraig LaffanPadraig said how pleased he and his wife were for the great welcome they had received this morning. He recalled that through all the troubles of the 1980s and 90s and afterwards, the two Federations had managed to undertake several joint projects and kept the integration going. Occasionally things could get a bit fraught, but each had given the other space, to continue the relationship. In October a meeting in Dublin with Johnny and Pat was very positive and he thought they were back on course to resuming the mutually beneficial cooperation.

Padraig went on to talk about the need to preserve local historical society records and research material. One of the members, Liam Clare, a great historian, had arranged with one of the repositories in Dublin to accept them when he was ready to hand them over. When he later went to arrange the handover, they said that because of the recession their staffing had been reduced, they were now busy digitizing what they already had, and could no longer accept great bundles of paper from amateurs, and suddenly there was no place to deposit them. As a result of this the Federation had arranged a Seminar in Dún Laoghaire dedicated to the topic of archives and how people should prepare their personal archives. It was a great session and it was now planned to bring the Seminar around the country.

Speaker on the Seamus Heaney Centre

Maria McCann-RussellMaria McCann-Russell gave a short resume of Seamus Heaney's life and poetical career, from his humble beginning in Bellaghy to the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and his world-wide reputation. His poetry is known throughout the world. He wrote about the ordinary people; his parents and family, where he came from, but he made them extraordinary. He was an educator, teaching in some of the most prestigious Universities throughout the world, including Oxford, Berkley and Harvard. He remained loved and cherished throughout Ireland.

The Home Place is situated in Bellaghy. Opened in 2016, it is run by the Mid Ulster District Council Although he spent most of his life in Dublin, Bellaghy is where he called home. The Exhibition itself is a very emotional experience. To date visitors had come from 46 countries, with many countries delivering media events.

Maria then gave an illustrated tour of the Exhibition Centre, taking the audience through each of the areas. The Exhibition was permanent event; with an all-year-round Events Programme involving world-renowned poets, writers, book launches, actors and week-end theatre. Thousands of people had attended the Exhibition. The talk was well received by the audience.

Society Reports

There were several contributions from Societies, as follows -

  • Matt Herbison: Antrim & District Historical Society: a project to record reminiscences since the society's formation was being collected in time for the 40th Anniversary; the compilation of a book 'Antrim in the Trenches' about people from the greater Antrim area who served in WW1; a number of society visits to a variety of historical locations, and the voice recording of the memoirs of their oldest member, since deceased.
  • Patrick Boner: County Donegal Historical Society; operational for 70 years; it published an annual journal; there was a schools programme, currently being revamped; a project was underway to digitize and republish all the early annuals.
  • Graham Mawhinney, Ballinascreen Historical Society; Society in existence almost 40 years; doesn't publish a journal but produces at least one publication each year, currently on No 43; in last year has been concentrating on townlands, starting with own parish with 38 townlands; then publishing one for the neighbouring Parish of Kilcronaghan with 22 townlands, and a longer-term series of Parishes right around Slieve Gallon.
  • Pat McGuigan, Strabane History Society; the Society had been focusing for several years now on researching the economic, social and community impact of the events of WW1 on the town and surrounding area, the main sources being the two local newspapers. Two Booklets had already been published and the third would be out in a month. Local response had been enthusiastic. There was a need to identify a suitable archive for the voluminous material collected.
  • Maud Hamill, Abbey Historical Society, 25 years established; in last year undertook a 20 strong historical trip to Scotland, a trip to Collon House and Monasterboice and the Cooley Peninsula. Not produced any publications. Involved in the restoration of the Old Bawn of 1680 through the White House Preservation Trust and had a Museum these until it had to be dismantled; most of the exhibits being widely gifted to other societies and institutions.
  • Jane Woods, Donaghadee Historical Society; two projects in year, both now written up in Due North. Firstly, to remember the 90 men from the area who died in WW1, developed a field of poppies, one for each man, with name attached, prepared by the membership, displayed at the commemoration, with family members attending and being given the poppy. A booklet prepared by Barry Niblock, a historian of both world wars, remembered each man and said something about him; where he grew up, his parents, siblings, children. Also planted a memorial oak tree that could live for 400 years. The second event was a 'Tell us your story' aimed at people who had lived Donaghadee all their lives and others had come later; age range 60-90; great turn-out at event in June; questions about their childhood, games they played, what was school like, what Christmas was like and what did they get for Christmas.
  • Rosemary Bunting, Lisburn Historical Society; visit to Seamus Heaney Centre, great experience; 80 members, meet monthly; on 22 November celebrated 50th Anniversary, meet in Lisburn Museum. In April visited Paris to celebrate the bi-centenary of Sir Richard Wallace's birth. Had an interesting talk from Johnny McNee who had been involved in digging up the Spitfire from the Inishowen peninsula.
  • Roddy Hegarty, O'Fiaich Library and Archive, regarding the comments on archiving materials, said that Monica Devlin, widow of the late Liam Devlin, former Federation Secretary, had contacted him for advice. Liam had been researching the Irish College in Paris for many years and had amassed a great amount of material. This was now in the O'Fiaich Library & Archive and was being cataloged and should be available next year for consultation.
  • James Armour, Maghera Society; Society formed in 2014 - it had three branches and 92 members. Currently undertaking a townland project involving six or eight townlands around Maghera; identifying residents ad recording their stories, field names and land use in the 1900s. Also, a Famine Trail taking in a Famine Graveyard and Walsh's Hotel that had distributed food and retained some records and artefacts of the Famine. Three thousand people attended the Agricultural show this year raising funds for the Society. Will publish a short book, written by Sean Henry form the Mid-Ulster District Council. Have published four magazines and six other books.

Guest Speaker

Angelique DayAngelique Day paid tribute to the late Brian Trainor, a pioneer in publishing the Ordnance Survey Memoirs. He had helped many local societies to transcribe their local memoirs and had published the Parish Register of Antrim Town with a useful introduction showing the different sections of the OS archive in Dublin, where most of the papers of the OS, produced during the mapping of Ireland in the mid-19th century, were stored. They were inaccessible to NI historians, until a major initiative involving the Institute of Irish Studies in Queens, PRONI, the Royal Irish Academy and the National Library, together with Phoenix Park, which contained most of the records, came to a working arrangement to provide access.

The accounts of the parishes, written to go with the maps, preceded the Valuation of the whole country. The maps went from Barony to Parish and townland levels. The Duke of Wellington approved the survey in 1824. The time period was between 1830, when the Royal Engineers started writing statistical reports, and 1840. Civilians were employed on some aspects from 1826. As the survey was planned to start in the north, Counties Antrim and Londonderry had the most material. In 1837 the memoir on The City and Liberties of Co Derry which was the parish of Templemore was published, an enormous volume of material. It was too big to be repeated with the result the general memoir scheme was halted in July 1840, leaving many parishes such as the Cathedral of Armagh, incomplete, without a memoir. For those that were lucky enough to have a memoir they provide a remarkable view of the country at that period, just before the Famine.

The main objective of Thomas Larcom, who had devised the structure of the Memoirs, was to collect as much information as possible for the benefit of every class in society. When the Memoirs stopped Larcom went on to a distinguished career as Secretary of State for Ireland. He knew how valuable the Memoirs were, so he made sure that the records remained there, and all his correspondence was left to the National Library of Ireland.

There were 22,000 papers describing parishes in the north that had not been published. The project began under prof. Ronnie Buchanan and continued under the direction of Prof. Brian Walker. Unused material from other authors was also available, including the great scholar John O'Donovan researching place names. George Petrie was a great artist who contributed to the Memoir and wrote some of the material. There were over 1,600 drawings in the Memoirs.

Angelique went on the mention other contributors to the Memoirs including 'informers', local people who contributed information about monuments in the landscape.

The meeting enthusiastically applauded the presentation and the Chairman thanked Angelique for her excellent address.

Launch of Due North

Prof Brian WalkerVice President Prof. Brian Walker launched the 2018 edition of Due North, which he said was a credit to Johnny Dooher and an acknowledgement of the hard discipline of producing an annual journal. It looked well and read well. Irish Historical Studies, which has the most demanding level of scholarship in the world of Irish Studies would be proud of this journal. He commented on some of the articles including one from Keith Haynes about the Irish Fishing Fleet that was not about Ardglass or Portavogie, but Madras and Delhi. It referred to Irish girls who went to India in the nineteenth century in search of husbands in the Colonial Service and the Army!

Conclusion

The Chairman thanked all who had come along today and participated in the discussions, Dr Brian Turner, President, Vice-President Brian Walker for launching Due North and our new Vice-President, Angelique Day and Padraig Laffan for his address.

Attendees then made their way to lunch before visiting Gortead Cottage, the ancestral home of Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress 1774 to 1789.




Visit to Gortead Cottage
Gortead Cottage Graham Mawhinney with painting of the Continental Congress Patrick Boner, Bridie and Pat McGuigan
Gortead Cottage Graham Mawhinney, Ballinascreen Society with painting of the Continental Congress Patrick Boner, Donegal, Bridie Bradley, West Belfast and Pat McGuigan, Strabane