Dame Mary Peters made tracks for Dervock on Saturday where she performed special duties at this years village festival.
The popular Olympian unveiled a Ulster History Circle commemorative plaque as a lasting legacy to Kennedy Kane McArthur, the villages famous son who won a gold medal in the marathon at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. She also start the 2011 McArthur half marathon, and officially start the countdown process for the year leading up to July 2012 and the special events planned for Dervock.
Speaking to the Times, Frankie Cunningham, Chairperson described the euphoria that swept the small rural village of Dervock on the day.
He said: “The London Olympics are being billed as the ‘Greatest Show on the Planet’ – well for a day that title belonged to Dervock.
“This year’s Civic Festival was granted Open Weekend status by the London Olympic Committee (LOCOG) so there was Olympic branding this year. The excitement generated by the initial acceptance of Dame Mary Peters to officiate at this years festival was self evident by the crowds of people who thronged to catch a glimpse – to listen intently like a child as another great Olympian spoke so poignantly of our own Olympic hero.
“This is a story of inspiration - a natural story of an Irish man from a humble background who achieved what fairytales often try to capture. I was humbled by the experience – for myself, but more so as I watched this woman take time to pose for photographs, sign autographs and genuinely engage with the people.
“Dame Mary Peters performed three tasks on the day: Unveiled an Ulster History Circle plaque commemorating KKMcArthur’s sporting achievement in Stockholm in 1912 when he won the Gold Medal in the marathon, started the 2011 KK McArthur race and launched the countdown to the 2012 centenary celebration event. Special thanks goes to her and everyone involved in such a great day.”
During the next year in the build up to the London event Dervock & District Community Association will maintain its momentum to ensure at:
* The Olympic torch passes through the village.
* The centenary McArthur race next year will have an even larger appeal to potential competitors from over the UK & Ireland. That race is set for Saturday 21 July 2012 – 6 days before the London Olympics opening ceremony. Already there has been interest expressed from as far away as Sri Lanka & Malawi for their Olympic distance runners to consider the Dervock race as a training event.
* Achieve the LOCOG Inspire mark for the village events on 21 July 2012.
The next month will see the completion and launch of another three projects that will promote the village of Dervock – 1. (HLF) Core Funding £35,900 - Culture & Heritage Audit, a book, DVD and a heritage trail brochure. We are exploring the establishment of historical horse fairs (identified in culture audit/book). Themed festivals representing McKinley day, McArthur day and McCartney day (all historically linked to the village of Dervock). 2. The NIHE – Cohesion Unit provided auxiliary funding (£5000) towards the restoration of the ‘Community Mural’ in the village and the launch of the new Dervock village plan (DARD, Ballymoney Borough Council and DADCA). We are moving forward - we as a community are on a journey that will promote learning; and the promotion of tourism within the geographical area identified in the application. As Chairperson of the ‘Association’ on behalf of the entire community of Dervock, I would like to thank you Dame Mary Peters for celebrating with us the achievement of our own Olympian – and the legacy of your visit, that might inspire someone from the village to go on and emulate KK McArthurs achievements. They will rise highest who strive for the highest place. (Altius ibunt qui as summa nituntur. Latin Proverb
North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey also welcomed the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the historic Olympic achievements of Kennedy Kane McArthur.
Speaking after the unveiling ceremony in Dervock Mervyn Storey said: “I have long campaigned for proper recognition in this year of the London Olympics of Kennedy Kane McArthur’s achievement at the very summit of sporting endeavour and prowess. I am delighted that in this the centenary year of Kennedy Kane McArthur’s gold medal performance at the Olympics and with the Olympic Games returning to the UK, that this plague has now been unveiled.
“Kennedy Kane McArthur was one of Northern Ireland’s select band of athletes who made it to the highest summit of athletic achievement and became Olympic Champion. The fact that 100 years on from that memorable victory, the Olympic games are to be held in the UK is a great opportunity to give a fitting recognition to his historic success.”