Ballymoney U3A - what’s it all about?

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In the Third Age, as it is called, people often find that their life changes substantially.

Older people have more time on their hands, without full time work, or suddenly find themselves alone after bereavement or separation.

Children may not have only fled the nest, they may have settled in some other distant part of the country. The U3A can be a wonderful meeting place. It is also somewhere to learn a new interest or skill or take up again one that you have learned before. It is a good idea to keep the brain active with games and other learning. You can never learn enough about anything.

The Ballymoney U3A is run to the same principles as all other U3As across the country. Members are retired or semi retired people but membership is not age related. If you leave work at the age of 52, you can still join the U3A if you wish.

The aims of the U3A is that members have fun; that they ‘live, laugh and learn’. No qualifications are required and usually none are given. Activities take place in an informal setting where members may share a skill, hobby or interest with others.

There is a main meeting once a month where there is an interesting speaker, and also any news or updates are passed on. Activities meet at various times, sometimes once a month, sometimes more frequently. They are often led by members themselves. With no distinction between learners and teachers, they are all U3A members. The U3A method is cooperative in nature and self-directed. The

committee are always open to ideas for new activities.

An activities and speakers programme is available covering September 2017 to June 2018. There are presently fourteen activities in operation.

In December, members have a festive Christmas Lunch and in June a Members’ Lunch. In July so far there has been a day’s outing to places of interest followed by an optional meal together. For further information see www.ballymoneyu3a.com. For membership: email

sam.cochrane@btinternet.com. For activities: newsu3a@gmail.com.

The most recent new activity is Archery. The first group is completing their four sessions this month, and a new group will start in October. Archery is an activity suitable for all ages, and levels of disability. It is proving a very enjoyable sport with lots of fun while learning!

The next four sessions in 2017 are Mondays, October 9; October 23; November 6; November 20. The location is The Range, Archery

Centre, 13-17 Inshinagh Lane, Drumskea Road, Ballymoney. Cost is £10 per session to U3A members. Contact Trevor McCloskey: mobile – 0751424558; Group email: ballymoneyu3a.archery@gmail.com

Anne McCusker, group leader and facilitator of Book Group and Creative Writing Group, said: “I joined U3A because I was keen to facilitate a Creative Writing group and also to join a Book Group as I love reading. The Book Group provides an opportunity to not only read but to share that interest with like minded people and discuss the books chosen, thus enhancing enjoyment of the text and widening the individual’s range of reading material.

“It’s a great way of getting introduced to genres that you might not have chosen on your own. My other passion is writing and I enjoy facilitating this group as we all share a love of words and enjoy using the opportunity to express thoughts and feelings in a secure setting where encouragement is provided and advice given. We have great fun in both groups, which are noted for their laughter and enjoyment. I look forward to the U3A sessions and get a lot of personal satisfaction an enjoyment from both groups which are on the third Tuesday of every month.”

The Bridge Group is a very popular group and has 20 members currently meeting at the Buildin Communities Resource Centre on Monday afternoons (2.30pm to 4.30).

Kathleen Connolly said: “The Family History/Local History Group are having an exciting time so why not join us and be part of it? Our involvement with the Ballymoney Regeneration Scheme is a big development this year. After meeting with several organisations, we were invited to use our commercial property time-line project in the historical element of their scheme. It will prove a vehicle for us to get our data into the public domain. They will also finance a website to be operational within the coming year. We were invited to set up a pop up stand at the recent Heritage Show in the Old School House. It gave us to have a training session in their computer suite and another session should be on the agenda.

“Following a property is one way to research your family when early resources are scant. If you are wondering what I am talking about, why not come and join our group?”

Geoffrey Robinson talked about last year’s Gardening Group visits. They mostly make visits to gardens and so do not need to charge a membership fee for the group. New members are always welcome.

He said: “We normally meet on the fourth Thursday in the month, but that can vary. During the winter months we have watched DVDs on gardening. We also met at Marie Hegarty’s house to learn to make hardwood cuttings for roses. We visited a number of gardens including Dorothy Brown’s Alpine garden off Queen Street, Frances Bach’s new garden in the Dark Hedges area, Greta Hegarty’s garden for snowdrops and primulas, Benvarden walled gardens, the Glenarm Tulip Festival and the Ballyrobert Garden Centre.”

The Golf Group meets weekly on Thursday at the Manor House Golf Club in Kilrea. Normally there are ten to fourteen members. The group leader, Paul, said that “We visited various other golf clubs including the Brown Trout, Aghadowey, Ballyreagh, a links club on the coast, and an enjoyable overnight stay at Redcastle. Golf clubs can be provided and no qualifications are needed. Some members have made unbelievable progress since joining the U3A group.”

The Knit and Natter Group are joining up with the Crafts and Arts people this year as no group seems to be big enough on its own.

“We are not sure yet how it will work but there are various options,” says group leader, Jenny. “We can see what people want to do. Please come along and tell us!”

The Laptop Group meets on the first Tuesday in the Old Court House.

Also in the Courthouse is the popular Photography Group. They meet fortnightly on Tuesday afternoon. They also have outings in order to take photographs and see exhibitions.

The Moviegoers usually visit the Jet Centre in Coleraine on the second Tuesday but wish to travel further

afield this coming year. The Technology Group, Ask the Guru, takes advantage of the expertise of the O2 Gurus from Coleraine.

The group meets once a month and usually studies a different technological topic. Coffee Catch Up is a casual drop-in social event on the fourth Friday from 10.30 am in Ground Café, Ballymoney.

Out to Lunch is a lunch, another social event, held on the third Thursday of the month at a location chosen beforehand.

Membership of the U3A is £15 a year. Fees for the activities vary but are generally £5 for meetings once month and £10 if twice a month. Fees are intended to pay for the accommodation used by each group. New members are always welcome.