The special guest speaker was the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, who was inaugurated her first term on 11 November 1997 and re-elected on 1 October 2004. Mary has a long standing interest in many issues concerned with justice, equality, social inclusion, anti sectarianism and reconciliation. I first met her in 1994 when she became the first female Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Queen’s University of Belfast, and she has been a friend ever since. The theme of her presidency has been “Building Bridges”. In this she has been ably assisted by her husband, Dr Martin McAleese, who originated from my own constituency of East Belfast. They will be attending our Feast of Columbanus on 23 November 2010.
The list of speakers was outstanding and I learned a lot from them. There was Jim Moulson, President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland; Rotary International President’s representative, John Hockin; Donna Wallbank, District Governor, District 1150 from Wales; District Governor, District 1230 Ian Mills and his wife Margaret from Scotland; Gary Mabbutt MBE, Sportsman and Football Ambassador; Gavin Bate, Director of Adventure Alternative; Peter Sheridan OBE, Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland, Tom Henderson OBE, founder and CEO of ShelterBox, which to date has raised approximately £50 million and delivered life-changing and often life-saving humanitarian equipment to overall one million people in over 70 countries, most particularly recently Haiti and Pakistan; and Olive Harvey District 16 President of the Inner Wheel Women’s Organisation affiliated to Rotary.
Apart from their excellent presentations I enjoyed conversations with the speakers. Ian and Margaret Mills were most interested in the Ulster-Scottish connection. Ian had been Deputy Head in a secondary school in Lanarkshire, where the Adamson family had originated before moving to Lancashire, England. He is currently Head of the Principal’s Executive Office in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. Margaret is Depute Head of a secondary school in Glasgow for pupils with severe and complex learning difficulties.
Donna, like myself, was of mixed parentage, having an English mother and a Garrison, Co Fermanagh born Irish Father who had been in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. She married Welshman Steve and moved to Brynmawr in Wales in 1983. We discussed Lesser Used Languages and the success of Welsh. Through the Ullans Academy, we are still trying to achieve similar results for Ulster Scots and Ulster Gaelic.
Gary, a former member of Bristol Rovers, became one of the best known defenders in English football. He signed for Tottenham Hotspur in 1982, and was Captain of Spurs in the 1987 and 1991 FA Cup Finals. He is presently a member of the FA’s Video Advisory Panel and now sits as an independent member of the FA’s Disciplinary Committee. My friend Sue Mallin's grandfather, Bill Bann, was Full Back for Spurs between 1926 and 1929 and my Uncle David Caldow's brother, Eric, from Cumnock in Ayrshire, was another great defender. He made a total of 407 appearances for Glasgow Rangers and won 40 caps for Scotland, for 14 of which he was Captain.
Gavin Bate celebrated the Millennium in 2000 by attempting to climb the seven summits of the world in one year and in the process raising money for Comic Relief. His numerous expeditions included Mount Everest (Nepal); Mount Cho Oyu (Tibet); Mount Elbrus (Russia); Mount Aconcagua (Argentina); Mount Vinson (Antarctica); Mount Denali (Alaska); Mount Ojos del Salado (Chile) and Mount Blanc (France), among others. Notable trekking peaks included Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania); Mount Toubkal (Morocco); Bombay to Kathmandu overland crossing the Lagonaki Plateau (Russia) and the Solar Eclipse Expedition to Mongolia. On the back of considerable time spent in the slums of Nairobi he set up his own charity called Moving Mountains in the early 90’s using funds raised for his mountain climbs to put children through school.
To be continued