Dame Mary Peters, patron of the Gibraltar Institute of Sports, recently met with Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna and Alderman William McCaughey before her visit to Gibraltar to discuss MEA’s close links to the area and accept a special gift from MEA to bring along on her journey.
Dame Mary is working closely with Gibraltar to boost local sporting culture and her visit provided the opportunity for the Mayor – on behalf of the Borough – to present a framed ‘twinning’ charter as a gift from Mid and East Antrim.
Ballymena officially ‘twinned’ with Gibraltar back in 2006, due to its strong links dating back to the Second World War.
Ballymena was one of a number of locations across Northern Ireland which provided refuge to men, women and children who were evacuated from their homes after Gibraltar became a key target in the hostilities.
Those who ended up in London were forced to endure constant bombing attacks on the city, so by 1944 they were relocated to more rural areas, with 6600 arriving in Northern Ireland and 500 in Scotland.
Eight camps were based in Co Antrim, in fields around the Ballymena and Broughshane area, at Tawnybrack, Moorfields, Castlegore, Dunaird, Drummuck, Aghacully, Breckagh Bridge and Corby Bridge.
Facilities were basic and consisted of a few brick buildings which housed canteens and washrooms, with water pumped from nearby rivers, but soon the evacuees actively participated in the local community, working on farms and businesses and joining in social events and sporting activities.
Ballymena’s links to the people of Gibraltar have been fostered over many years; the former Ballymena Borough Council officially twinned with the City of Gibraltar in May 2006, while a similar collaboration took place between Ballymena Lions Club and The Lions Club of Gibraltar in May 2013.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, said: said: “The people of Ballymena and Gibraltar have enjoyed a strong friendship since the arrival of 42 evacuees to this part of Northern Ireland in 1944. Despite the geographical distance which exists between our two countries, the stories of the men, women and children who arrived here to a place of safety amid the horrors of war will forever be remembered by our community.
“It was a privilege to meet with Dame Mary and chat about the fantastic work she is doing for sport in Gibraltar. I am delighted to gift this official charter on behalf of the Borough and I would like to thank Dame Mary Peters for presenting it on behalf of Mid and East Antrim.”
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