Ballywillan Men’s Fellowship enjoy rare TV show

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Ballywillan Men’s Fellowship is fortunate to have in its ranks the former radio and television producer/presenter John Johnson.

As a result, last Thursday members were able to enjoy a video of an outstanding television programme which has not been aired for some 30 years.

It had been planned that John would screen a film he had made on Saudi Arabia, to complement the talk on that country given by Brian Hunter the previous week.

But in a last-minute change of programme members were privileged to view a film produced and directed by John concerning the remarkable story of a farming enterprise created by Co. Down family.

Several generations of the Shaw family have farmed successfully near Saintfield but in 1979 took the bold step of expanding their agricultural activities by buying a dairy farm in New South Wales.

The half-hour film, which was originally shown on Ulster Television, went on to tell the amazing story of the family’s ownership and conduct of the huge Australian farmland, while still maintaining their home in Northern Ireland.

It was an operation that entailed considerable travel each year between Northern Ireland and Australia, a journey that culminated with a two hour flight from Sydney in the company’s own aircraft.

Collymongle Farm was run by an Australian administrative team who were all shareholders in a scheme operated by the company.

Realising the farmstead’s potential for cotton production, the family created Colly Cotton, a huge operation which eventually involved the entire processing and marketing of what became known as Colly Cotton.

The farmstead was situated on two rivers - a vital aspect of the enterprise which had a daily intake of water double that of the city of Sydney’s four million inhabitants – or a total of 17 billion gallons each year!

Colly Cotton continues today as a highly successful enterprise, although the Shaw family who created it has now sold its interests in the company.

Thanks to John Johnston for a most interesting morning was expressed by the Fellowship president Dr. Michael Gardiner.

This Thursday (1 December) the Fellowship is privileged to have as guest speaker Mervyn White, well known in his role as clerk of course for the North West 200 international motor cycle races. The following Thursday (8 December) members and friends will meet at the Royal Court Hotel, Portrush, for Christmas lunch.

The Ballywillan Fellowship meets weekly in Ballywillan Presbyterian Church Hall and is open to retired and semi-retired men of all faiths and none. There is annual membership fee but visitors are always welcome. Informal preliminaries include tea or coffee, biscuits and chat and start at 10.30am, with the talk at 11am and a prompt finish at noon.