TRIP NOT A ‘JOLLY’

Former Mayors John Finlay and Ian Stevenson pictured with Development Chair Alderman Bill Kennedy in South Africa.
Former Mayors John Finlay and Ian Stevenson pictured with Development Chair Alderman Bill Kennedy in South Africa.

THE BALLYMONEY delegation who recently returned from a controversial trip to South Africa have hit back at criticism stating the weekend has ‘raised the possibility of a continued working relationship’.

Last week, the Times reported how Ballymoney Borough Council had come under fire after agreeing to spend £4,500 of ratepayers’ money to send five representatives to Potchefstroom to take part in Olympic Hero Kennedy Kane McArthur’s 100th anniversary.

The visit provoked a furious response from the public with some claiming it was a ‘disgrace’ and ‘having no economic benefit’ to the local area. Disgruntled locals voiced their opposition on Facebook and Twitter hitting out that the council spent nothing on Halloween and couldn’t even agree to grit footpaths during winter snow. Some council members also slammed the proposal as being ‘rushed through’ during a meeting with Independent councillor Roma McAfee labelling it a ‘jolly’.

However despite the backlash former mayors John Finlay and Ian Stevenson, Development Chair Alderman Bill Kennedy, Head of Corporate and Development Services, Elizabeth Johnston and David Halliday still flew out earlier this month. The aim of the three day trip was to allow the borough to be represented in their KK McArthur celebration dinner and marathon and ‘explore links between the two communities to promote economic and social development’.

On their return, a Council official confirmed the trip was ‘beneficial’ and outlined their “hectic schedule” which included attending Tlokwe City Council’s centenary celebrations and memorial marathon, laying a wealth on behalf of the citizens of the borough at the municipal cemetery where McArthur was laid to rest and visiting the home which McArthur bought in Potchestroom with a donation he received on winning the marathon in 1912.

In a statement to the Times, it was explained: ‘Local civic leaders paid homage to Olympic Hero Kennedy K McArthur in his adopted home of Potchefstroom, South Africa while attending Tlokwe City Council’s centenary celebrations and memorial marathon for Kennedy K McArthur on 9th and 10th November, as guests of the Executive Mayor and the City Council.

‘The delegation was accompanied by a council officer responsible for international links activity and former school principal from Dervock, David Halliday who instigated the relationship with Potchefstroom in advance of the 1984 marathon.

‘Alderman Kennedy, who chairs Council Development Committee laid a wealth on behalf of the Mayor, members and citizens of the borough at the municipal cemetery where McArthur was laid to rest. He was accompanied by his colleagues, former Mayors John Finlay and Ian Stevenson who were invited by the City Council to join them for the centenary event. Wreaths were also laid on behalf of Tlokwe City Council. A short service was conducted by Paster Ronnie Matras.

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‘During the visit the Council delegation also participated in the memorial marathon and road races promoted by Tlokwe City Council and North West University, with sponsorship from Traumeel (Inflammation Regulatory Therapy) and visited the home which McArthur bought in Potchestroom with a donation he received on winning the marathon in 1912.

‘The home is currently for sale and in poor state of repair. Tlokwe City Council plan to purchase the property, restore it and provide a memorial room and guesthouse accommodation.’

Speaking after the visit Alderman Kennedy said: “In 1912 against all the odds Dervock born McArthur won the gold medal in the marathon at the Olympic marathon in Stockholm, Sweden. 2012 marks the centenary of this magnificent feat. It was fitting that his home village was included in the London 2012 Olympic relay in June. He was catapulted into immediate stardom and so were the two areas he hails from. Potchefstroom and Ballymoney (Dervock) are synonymous with the name of KK McArthur.

“The common factor between Ballymoney Borough and Tlokwe City is the person of KK McArthur, born in Dervock and later permanently settled in Potchefstroom. Between Ballymoney and Potchefstroom there is no fight to claim KK exclusively.

“The legacy continues to grow and the centenary festivities in this 2012 anniversary year in Stockholm, Dervock/Ballymoney and Potchefstroom raise the possibility of a continued working relationship.”

* The Potchefstroom marathon and road races was the third in a series of commemorative events, the first in Stockholm, Sweden, where McArthur won gold in 1912, the second in Dervock, Ballymoney in July, with the final marathon setting off from the McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom. Chris Hattingh, President of the K K McArthur Club, leader of the Democratic Alliance in North West Province and member of the provincial legislature, who ran the first Dervock marathon in 1984, completed all three marathons in 2012.

The invitation for a five person delegation from Ballymoney to attend the celebrations followed from the initial visit of the Potchefstroom delegation in June 2008 to explore linkages with McArthur’s home town. They travelled again to Ballymoney for the 2012 anniversary centenary events which included a torch procession in Dervock, specially commissioned McArthur play and participated in the marathon led by Mayor Maphetle. McArthur’s medals, Olympic blazer, running shirt number and other memorabilia, on loan from Potchefstroom Museum, were on display in Ballymoney Museum. This and other events in Ballymoney were generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.