Causeway U3A treated to memories of an old hack

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AT the Causeway U3A’s February monthly meeting held in the Portstewart Golf Club Maurice McAleese the author, artist and former local newspaper editor was the guest speaker.

To open the meeting, chairperson Cliodhna Rae, made an important presentation. The committee of the Causeway U3A awarded its first Honorary Life Membership to Rae Morrison, the founder of the Causeway U3A, in July 1996.

Rae told the meeting of her motivation to start a U3A group in this area only the second in Northern Ireland after the founding U3A group in Derry/Londonderry.

She watched as the three people who turned up for the first meeting, grew to eight and 20 at the next two meetings and eventually 100 at the end of the first year.

Dermot McNally of Discrete Hearing gave a short presentation on hearing impairment its effects and what can be done about it.

Maurice McAleese then introduced himself as ‘a gentleman of the press’ a term he preferred to that in the title of ‘an old hack’.

He recalled an interesting story in his early days in journalism when a lonely farmer in Canada, having originally come from the Ballymoney area, wrote to the Ballymoney Urban Council asking if they could help him find a wife.

A lady from Belfast subsequently wrote to the council having seen the request of this farmer as reported by Maurice in the local press. She promoted herself for the role of the farmer’s wife commenting that she ‘still had all of her own teeth and had no vices never having been married’.

Maurice went on to become editor of the Northern Constitution. He vividly told the story of the birth of the paper on 3 of December 1875 how in New Row, Coleraine ragged school boys who were to sell the paper, watched through the windows as the steam driven printing press produced its first papers. This was the first penny paper and went on to become the most widely circulated such newspaper outside Belfast.

Unfortunately The Constitution circulation declined over the years. Maurice told of the new electronic print equipment with the loss of the mystique of the old presses and how putting ‘the paper to bed’ and all its resultant camaraderie of late night doughnuts and fish suppers was never the same again.

The next monthly meeting of Causeway U3A is on March 1 at 11am in the Portstewart Golf Club. The topic is C. S. Lewis by Sandy Smith.

Causeway U3A is a self-help organisation for retired or semi-retired men and women, it has over 800 members and is open to all. Further information about its wide range of activities is available on its website: www.causewayu3a.co.uk or from the Secretary, Mrs Grace Bowers (Tel 028 7083 5708).