An Historical Exhibition -the first of its kind in this locality - was held in The McVeigh Hall, Ballyeasboro, Ballyhalbert, Co. Down, from Thursday 19th - Saturday 21st October last. Since coming to this parish some nine years ago, I have been deeply interested in local history - in the circumstances and social background of parishioners whom I seek to serve as their clergyman. Over the years I have collected a mass of material of local historical interest and I was anxious to put it on display and arouse interest in the subject amongst the people of this area and in particular to challenge the parishioners of the Ballyhalbert and Ardkeen to come alive to their heritage. I find that most people are fascinated by the subject and are eager to help by giving valuable information about their family trees and to loan articles of interest for display.
I soon found that organising an historical exhibition in a country parish is not an easy task. It takes time and patience. A few of us met last March and for a number of weeks discussed the problems and plan for the exhibition. This is easier said than done. It was slow and tedious work. However, we decided when to hold the exhibition and to look around for others to give a hand.
We contacted the Ards Historical Society who were very eager to help. Members of the Society supplied photographs, maps and display boards and the exhibition itself was opened by a leading authority on local history in the Ards, E. M. Griffith, D.F.C., B.A., LL.B. Mr. Griffith also gave an illustrated talk on the parish of Ballyhalbert. Mr. Eddie Regan and his wife from Greyabbey produced a fine collection of flints, arrow heads and fossils. The Public Record Office in Belfast very, generously supplied photostat copies of portions of Registers and old Vestry minutes of the churches and loaned us three large show cases. These were useful for displaying some of the more valuable and rare items on show.
The Ulster Folk Museum came to our assistance by loaning articles associated with rural industries, i.e. a Mourne pattern spade, hardening stand, rushlight candleholder, flag rippler, churn and dash, carding comb and knapping hammer. The Marine Biology Research Station at Portaferry in charge of Dr. Boden put on display many of the instruments used in experiments carried out on Strangford Lough. The local fishermen supplied old compasses, lamps, sea charts, mending needles, etc., and the Portaferry/Cloughey Lifeboat Committee loaned service record boards.
Glastry secondary school mounted for exhibition a large map of the ancient parishes of the Ards which was made by Canon R. E. Turner of St. George's Church, Belfast. Every village from Portaferry to Newtownards had sent something for display.
The country folk all over the Peninsula loaned some of their valuable and sentimental personal possessions-old photographs, pictures, paintings, newspaper cuttings, old wedding dresses, sampler work, quilts, linen embroidery for which this area is famous, candle stands, candle moulds, hymn and prayer books, family Bibles, history books (one dating from 1688), a town crier's bell dated 1567, a small china jug dated 1630, old coins, clocks, kitchen utensils, willow pattern plates, bellows, snuffers, pewter ware, lace and trimmings, etc.
Publicity consisted in displaying a printed notice in shops, schools, and churches and an advertisement in the local newspapers. The B.B.C. very kindly mentioned the exhibition each morning on "Today's Diary". A ladies' committee were responsible for making tea and selling minerals each evening. In all upwards of 350 persons attended the four sessions.