North Antrim lit up by Olympic Torch

THE world famous north Antrim coast provided the ideal backdrop for the visit of the Olympic Torch on Sunday.

The flame arrived in Ballycastle from the Glens just before 5pm where people had lined the streets in the picturesque seaside town for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch a glimpse.

A party atmosphere had descended locally from early morning with the seafront staging a country market as well as a range of entertainment for all ages throughout the day.

Many children clutched homemade replicas of the torch to line the route up through the town centre.

Chair of Moyle District Council, Padraig McShane, said there was a real since of pride among locals at getting to showcase their area.

“From its inception at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936, the torch relay has had to wait along time before it has had a chance to pass through the villages and towns of Moyle,” he said.

“The people here have worked extremely hard and to welcome it and the iconic symbolism that it represents.

“Large crowds are gathering in Waterfoot, Cushendall, Bushmills and Ballycastle now as the community unites to put its best foot forward and showcase the area to the world.

“Enormous work has went into this event from a wide variety of statutory and community groups and everyone is looking forward to today’s events were we all get a chance to marvel at their efforts.”

It was carried along Mary Street, Quay Road, Ann Street, Castle Street and finally Moyarget Road.

Chris Bell, who works at the Central Bar in Ballycastle, said the town had been buzzing in anticipation of the flame’s arrival.

“There is a real since of what an historic occasion this is and I think it’s absolutely fabulous,” he said.

“The atmosphere is great and it’s brilliant to see so many tourists about. It has really brought everyone in the town together.”

One of those carrying the torch was Army medic Kylie Watson from Ballymena, County Antrim, who received the Military Cross last year for her bravery in Afghanistan.

Kevin Bartlett, Jon Devlin and Paul Gray made up the Ballycastle relay team.

Despite the sun having subsided by late afternoon, locals were determined nothing would overshadow the occasion.

The flame then moved inland to the village of Dervock which boasts a historic bond with the games.

Gareth McGee and Adrian McEIvanna were on-hand to carry the flame through the packed village from which hailed 1912 Olympic Gold winning marathon runner Kennedy Kane McArthur.

A number of locals got fully into the swing of things by donning Edwardian clothing after taking inspiration from the style of those featured in pictures of McArthur’s triumphant return to north Antrim after his heroics.

Dervock and District Community Association member Steven Phillips said it was a very special day for everyone in the village.

“It’s been a long hard slog just to get the torch here in the village but we thought it would always come eventually,” he said.

“This means everything to the people of Dervock, at last recognition that one of our village sons achieved a great result in the Olympic Games and a place in history for himself and Dervock.”

Having been carried down the Carncullagh and Castlecatt Roads it made its way from the village.

From Dervock the flame then made its way to Bushmills, the golden gateway to the Giants Causeway and the majestic north coast.

The much-anticipated arrival of the flame was greeted with raptorous applause by the crowd of all ages as it made its way through the centre of the town.

It would have been a tall order for Finn McCool himself to overshadow the since of occasion.

Niall Finnegan was first to carry the torch before passing it on to Michael Henry and Victoria Walsh.

A crowd of all ages lined the route as it made its way through the centre of Bushmills, which was awash with red, white and blue flags and bunting as residents celebrated what was a long weekend for many with parties to toast the Queen’s Jubilee taking place.

From Bushmills it was onto the Dunluce Road and Portrush.