Ballywillan Men’s Fellowship speaker has audience ‘spellbound’

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Everybody has an interesting story to tell from their lifetime experiences, declared the speaker at last Thursday’s meeting of Ballywillan Men’s Fellowship - and Vernon Gilmour certainly proved the point.

His recollections of a busy and varied life held members spellbound.

Indeed, he could have talked long after the noon deadline, so numerous were the questions put to him by his audience!

Born on 21 May 1935, the 81-year old Belfast man told how he had been christened in his mother’s church near Garvagh by the Rev. Vernon Corkey, after whom he had been named. Rev. Corkey was a member of a remarkable family of nine Presbyterian ministers.

Today, Mr. Gilmore is a member of the congregational committee of Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church in East Belfast, a building which has suffered severely recently at the hands of arsonists and which is now in the process of being restored.

Mr. Gilmore’s earliest memories were of the wartime blitz in Belfast in 1941. He twice escaped death, first when the air raid shelter into which he and his family had been unable to gain admittance received a direct hit, and subsequently when his home was also destroyed by bombs. He thus spent two and half years as an evacuee in Dungiven.

The speaker went on to recall a varied and interesting career which began as an engineering apprentice but led on to positions with Belfast City Council, where he was Director of Leisure and Recreation, to Castlereaigh, Lagan and Campbell Colleges, where he was a lecturer.

In retirement he has been involved with the Stroke Association and enjoys skiing, a sport which has taken him to 78 different resorts throughout France, Italy, Austria, the United States and Canada. He is also a former officer in the Boys’ Brigade, in which he served for 38 years and was a member of the Folk Weavers singing group for many years, an activity which involved a television appearance and also an evening as support group to the singer Engelbert Humperdinck.

Thanks to Mr. Gilmore for a fascinating insight into a full and useful life was voiced by the Fellowship president, Dr. Michael Gardiner.

Membership of the Fellowship is open to all retired and semi-retired men, no church connection of any sort being necessary. In addition to the membership fee there is a small fee for attendance at the weekly talks and visitors are always welcome. Tea or coffee and biscuits are enjoyed from 10.30 to 11am in the Link area of Ballywillan Presbyterian Church, Portrush. Talks take place in the adjoining Octagon.