The New Season Approaches!

The programme for Randalstown Historical Society’s forthcoming season is now winging its way to our members and promises a varied menu of interesting topics.

The season kicks off on Thursday 7 September with a talk from George Busby on The Secret Listeners of Gilnahirk, the story of the wireless station that has been described as Northern Ireland’s best kept secret of World War II and which linked to the work of the Code Breakers at Bletchley Park.

October’s talk, taking place on the 5th, will be presented jointly by The Hon. Fionn O’Neill Morgan, formerly of Shanes Castle, and James Kane from the O’Neill Country Historical Society. They will talk about O’Neill places and personalities, including French John, the wool trader who inherited Shanes Castle.

The November talk will be given by Valerie Adams from the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland. She will talk about what the Society’s library can offer to family history researchers.

The subjects for other talks for the remainder of the season include Mapping in Northern Ireland, a talk on St Nicholas’s Church in Carrickfergus, Belfast in the nineteenth century and the Ulster Weaver Poets.

All talks take place in Arches Community Hall on the first Thursday of the month at 8.00 pm. New and returning members will be made very welcome.


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A Taste of Family History

As part of Randalstown Arches Community Festival, Randalstown Historical Society is offering family history taster sessions in Randalstown Library on Tuesday 20 June. Members of the Historical Society will be on hand to provide some tips on how to get started in tracing your ancestry using the wealth of information freely available via the Internet. Sessions can be pre-booked between 2.00 and 4.30 and from 5.30 to 7.30 or just drop in any time during those hours.

To book in advance contact Linda Houston on 94472874 or

A Local History Open Day will also be going on all day in the library and will include old photographs and other materials provided by Randalstown Historical Society.

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End of season

The Historical Society is coming to the end of what has been a very successful season, with talks on a wide variety of themes including Protestants and the Irish language, the Ballymena Music Festival, and migration in Irish history. Bishop Donal McKeown visited us in February and shared his memories on what made it special to grow up in Randalstown and in March Dr Brian Ford reminisced about a trip he made to the Taj Mahal by car in the 1970s. We also found out about Richard Kane, born in Duneane, who had a distinguished military career and became Governor of Menorca in the early 1700s. He is still honoured as a hero on Menorca on account of the reforms he introduced to improve the life of the islanders. A fine memorial to his life can be seen in Westminster Abbey.

Our last meeting of the season takes place on Thursday 6 April at 8.00 pm in Arches House. Our speaker will be Dr Ann McVeigh, formerly of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. The title of Ann’s talk is ‘Vere Foster: the Man who Paid Women to Go Away’. Vere Foster is remembered for his contribution to education in Ireland but Ann’s talk will cover other intriguing aspects of his life.

Our annual outing takes place on Saturday 13 May and this year we will be going to Ballyscullion Park near Bellaghy for a tour of the house and garden followed by lunch. We will also visit the Home Place, the Seamus Heaney centre in Bellaghy.

We will soon be making plans for the 2017-18 season, which will start in September. New members will be made very welcome.

The memorial to Richard Kane in Westminster Abbey

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The New Season’s Programme is Out!

Randalstown Historical Society opens its 2016-17 season on Thursday 1 September with a talk by Linda Ervine on “The Hidden History of Protestants and the Irish Language”. Linda is Irish Language Development Officer and Turas Project Leader with the East Belfast Mission.

New members will be made very welcome so come along to Arches Community Hall at 8.00 pm.

Full details of our talks for the coming season can be found on our Programme page

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Our Outing to the Ulster Aviation Society and Brookhall Historical Farm


Twenty-four members enjoyed an excellent day out on 21 May when we went by coach to the Lisburn area. Our first stop was at the Ulster Aviation Society’s Collection where we enjoyed a picnic in the sunshine before being split into groups for a guided tour of the impressive collection of aircraft and other exhibits.

We then proceeded to Brookhall Historical Farm which boasts a chapel with roots as far back as the 12th Century as well as an interesting collection of farm implements, a beautiful garden and a lake.

We rounded off the day with a delicious evening meal in the Templeton Hotel.

Look through the pictures to get a flavour of the day

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Coming up next…

The theme for the next meeting of Randalstown Historical Society is Forebears Rediscovered – a Family History Night. Some of the committee members will be sharing information they have discovered on forgotten Randalstown families and members are also invited to bring along their own family history anecdotes, artefacts or photographs.

As the Society’s new Chairman, Dr Selbert Rainey observed, “it’s the stories that bring family history to life more than just a list of names and dates. It would be great if this evening could uncover some new information”. Tips and pointers for members wanting to undertake their own genealogical research will also be available.

This is the final meeting of the current season and it takes place on Thursday 7 April at 8.00pm in Arches House.

Plans are also in hand for the Society’s annual outing, taking place on Saturday 21 May. The destination will be the Lisburn area to visit the Ulster Aviation Society’s collection and Brookhall Historical Farm. Further information can be obtained from the Secretary, Linda Houston, on 944782874

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Old Bleach – ‘Distinct by Design’


The February meeting of Randalstown Historical Society will take place on Thursday 4th at 8.00pm in Arches House. The speaker is Catherine O’Hara, a lecturer in design history at Ulster University who is currently researching the Old Bleach and how it contributed to trends in fabric design in the 20th Century. Catherine has made several visits to Randalstown to examine the company archives and is very enthusiastic about Old Bleach designs from the inter-war years and the 1950s. Her talk should be of great interest to local people and anyone interested in Northern Ireland’s textile history and heritage.

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