Special teddy bear among artefacts going on display at new Ballycarry exhibition

A teddy bear, which serves as a lasting reminder of the kindness of Ballycarry folk, is set to feature in a local history exhibition in the village this weekend.

The Ballycarry 100 exhibition is part of the Northern Ireland 100 centenary commemorations and will feature 100 artefacts from the village past, as well as static exhibitions produced by the community group over the years.

The event is part of a wider project which had support through the Northern Ireland Office’s Shared History Fund, administered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Included will be exhibitions on James Orr the Weaver poet and other village heritage. And while most locals will have heard of James Orr, Edward the Teddy Bear is likely to be a new addition to the village story.

Edward the teddy bear, a reminder of the kindness of Ballycarry people for local woman Valerie Beattie.

The bear is of significant sentimental value for Valerie Beattie, who is a past chairperson of the community group and a well-known local businesswomen.

Valerie was six years old when she contacted polio, one of seven children from Ballycarry to do so at that time during the polio epidemic. At that stage of her young life she had to spend time in isolation in Purdysburn Fever Hospital and was there for nine months. Valerie had attended the Sunday School in the Old Presbyterian Church and one day the Rev John Begg, the minister, was allowed in to visit and brought the bear.

“Rev Begg told the children at the Sunday School about me being in hospital and they brought their pennies in and wanted to buy me a toy. I can remember it like yesterday. Rev Begg came up with the teddy bear. ‘Your friends are all thinking about you and this teddy is your friend until you get home,’ he said.

“The next year a vaccine was developed, but too late for me and others. However, I am glad to have survived. My mum told me that there were death notices in the Belfast Telegraph every night for children who did not make it.”

An old poster from a concert a century ago which will be on display at the exhibition.

The teddy bear still gets pride of place in the house and has a special chair of his own.

He is one of the wide variety of artefacts which will be on display at the exhibition, including milk bottles from the BB Farm in the village, books, children’s shoes from the 1960s, old shop items, photographs, and even an old poster from a concert held a century ago, in February 1922.

The exhibition opens on Friday (February 18) at 8pm for the public, and is open on Saturday from 10am, with last entrance at 4pm. Admission is £3.00.

Ahead of the main opening on Friday evening, a modern chapter in the history of the community centre will take place with the unveiling of two plaques and naming of two rooms in the centre in memory of past members Hessie Haveron and Ennis Gilbert who were both caretakers of the centre.

Family and guests will join community association members for the short ceremony at 7.30pm before the doors open to the public at 8pm.

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