Summer break for Ballywillan Fellowship

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Another session ended for Ballywillan Men’s Fellowship with an enthralling look at the life and work of the author Dr. Alexander Irvine, and in particular his classic novel “My Lady of the Chimney Corner”.

The speaker was Alistair Smyth and his presentation revealed an extensive knowledge of his subject, who was born in Antrim in 1863 into a mixed marriage family of nine. Son of a shoemaker, he had never been to school and as youth worked initially as a miner in Ayrshire where he came under the influence of such people a Kier Hardy, founder of the Labour Party.

Joining the Royal Marines, he received one year’s basic education, which was enough to launch him on a literary career that eventually led to a degree from Oxford University and encounters with many of the era’s greatest academics, writers, scientists and philosophers.

The speaker not only gave a detailed account of Dr. Irvine’s career as a writer, but also spoke candidly on what he believed were the inspirations and motives behind the writing of “Chimney Corner”, a book which ran to 50 different editions.

Mr. Smyth, who answered a large number of questions put to him by his audience, was thanked by the Fellowship president Dr. Michael Gardiner for a most interesting address.

At the outset of the meeting Dr. Gardiner paid tribute to the Fellowships’s officebearers whose efforts over the past year had resulted in many excellent meetings.

He thanked the speakers’ panel consisting of John Johnston, Ian Moffett and Robin Semple, the “galley team” led by Sam Robinson who provided tea and coffee each week, Alex Mark who was responsible for the Fellowship’s finances, and Hugh McGrattan who supplied reports on Fellowship activities the local press.

During the year it had been possible to make a donation of £500 to two charities. Dr. Gardiner added a special thanks to Hal Stewart and Jim Frazer who had been responsible for the setting up of the Fellowship 20 years previously and to all those who over the years had ensured that it remained active.

The next meeting of the Fellowship will be on Thursday 17 September, when retired and semi-retired men of the district will be made most welcome.