Marathon Mac’s centenary exhibition

One of Ballymoney Museum’s most eagerly awaited exhibitions ever opens on Friday 6 April. “Marathon Mac & other centenary stories” tells the story of Kennedy Kane McArthur, the marathon runner from Dervock who won the Olympic gold medal on 14 July 1912 at the Stockholm Games.

McArthur emigrated to South Africa in 1901 and ran in the Olympics for his adopted country. Immediately after his triumph, he came home to his birthplace to celebrate with family and friends before returning to South Africa. In later life, he settled in Dervock for several years when he retired but spent his last days in Potchefstroom, Transvaal, where he is buried.

Following McArthur’s death, a collection of his medals and trophies was presented to Potchefstroom Museum by his widow and this exhibition includes some of those artefacts, brought across the world to Northern Ireland on loan from South Africa. The staff in Ballymoney have been working closely with their Potchefstroom colleagues for several years to organise the exhibition and it was made possible thanks to valuable support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The display will include McArthur’s 1912 Olympic ‘Springbok’ blazer, the running number he wore in the race and other amazing artefacts associated with his illustrious athletic career. Unfortunately, the gold medal has not been on public display for many years and it is unknown who now owns McArthur’s most valuable Olympic treasure.

In addition to the exhibition, Ballymoney Museum has also commissioned a playwright to write a play on McArthur’s life. The play will be performed in Ballymoney and Dervock to mark McArthur’s centenary in July. Other events to celebrate the centenary include re-enactments of McArthur’s return after the Olympics and a marathon, half-marathon and 10km race in Dervock as part of the McArthur Festival of Running. Information on all the events is available at the new website from 6 April.

In recognition of the importance of the commemoration, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games has awarded the centenary events an Inspire mark.

Mayor of Ballymoney, Councillor Ian Stevenson, thanked everyone who had contributed to the exciting exhibition: “On behalf of Ballymoney Borough Council, I would like to say how grateful I am to Potchefstroom Museum for the loan of the McArthur collection and also to the Heritage Lottery Fund who have provided valuable funding. In this year of the London Olympics, it is wonderful to have these important links to one of our famous sons back in Ballymoney, most importantly as we celebrate the centenary of his amazing sporting achievement.”

Martin McDonald, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Committee member offered his congratulations, “HLF are delighted to see this exhibition open to the public and we commend Ballymoney Borough Council on their project celebrating the life of local hero K.K. McArthur”

Other 1912 stories told in the exhibition include Ulster Day and Wilfred Seward, a crew member who survived the sinking of the Titanic and is buried in the Ballymoney town cemetery.

The exhibition runs from 6 April – 22 September in Ballymoney Museum, Ballymoney Town Hall, Townhead Street, Ballymoney, BT53 6BE, Tel: 028 2766 0230. Opening hours are Monday-Thursday & Saturday 9am-5pm and Friday 9am-4.30pm. Admission is free.

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