Past Events

Volunteer Recognition Event

Our recent Volunteer Recognition evening in Friel’s Bar Swatragh.

The  Heritage Centre wished to show all it’s volunteers their appreciation for all the many hours contributed by its members and directors.

Teresa Murphy who has recently joined the staff at the Heritage Centre was our compere for the evening and during her introductory speech thanked all the members of the organisation and said that she was delighted to be part of such an organisation that felt the Heritage & History of the area was so important in being preserved for future generations to inherit. Teresa also thanked the key players in the organisation for their innovative ideas, forward thinking, dedication, enthusiasm and commitment ensuring that the MHS Heritage & Cultural Centre remains in place for many years to come.

As a token of appreciation each of the following received a certificate and an inscribed plaque recognising the individuals contribution.
John Marquess for his expertise in the IT world, Joseph McCoy for his invaluable local historical knowledge, Pat Rafferty for his ongoing support and contribution to the organisation, Annette Rafferty for her continued support to the organisation, Jean Dunne for her continued support at front of house, Raymond McNamee for his general overall ability in organising events, Bruce Clark for his continued support since the organisations formation. Maeve O’Neill for her continued work as Editor of the Maghera Times. James Armour for his vision, hard work and enthusiasm ensuring the organisation’s sustainability since being formed in 2015.

The organisation paid special thanks to the Hutchinson Brothers who have been part of the musical scene at all our events’.

Past Events

Maghera Roots Launch

L to R James Armour, Chair Heritage & Cultural Centre, Barclay Bell, President Ulster Farmers' Union, Mukesh Sharma, Committee Member Heritage Lottery Fund NI
L to R James Armour, Chair Heritage & Cultural Centre, Barclay Bell, President Ulster Farmers’ Union, Mukesh Sharma, Committee Member Heritage Lottery Fund NI

The launch of Maghera Roots, the vintage farming project initiated and run by Maghera Heritage & Cultural Centre, took place on the 30th June at the Presbyterian Hall Maghera. We were delighted to welcome Barclay Bell, President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union to formally open the exhibition and Mukesh Sharma, Committee Member of the Heritage Lottery Fund who came to support and acknowledge our work. The entire project was only made possible by the grant aid provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and for that we are very grateful.

Five farmers together with a team of volunteers from The Heritage and Cultural Centre worked on the project for over a year. This exhibition  and the book which accompanies it, is dedicated to Elizabeth Shiels, Raymond McNamee, Harry Armstrong, Charlie Convery and James Armour.

‘Dedication’ as defined in the English Oxford Dictionary means; ‘The willingness to give a lot of time and energy to something because it is important’.That meaning certainly applies to all five farmers involved in the project Maghera Roots. Each one of them generously, and without reservation, opened up their hearts and homes and allowed us into their lives for the duration of the project. They realised the importance of recording and documenting how life was for them, and others, in the mid-twentieth century and that this record would stand as a source of information and knowledge in the future.
Cllr. George Shiels, Cllr. Anne Forde, Cllr. Kim Ashton, Chair Mid-Ulster District Council and James Armour, Chair Maghera Heritage & Cultural Centre at the launch of Maghera Roots
Cllr. George Shiels, Cllr. Anne Forde, Cllr. Kim Ashton, Chair Mid-Ulster District Council and James Armour, Chair Maghera Heritage & Cultural Centre at the launch of Maghera Roots
The Open-Day was the opportunity for the people of the area to engage with the project, learn more about the strong farming heritage of the area and enjoy a good day out. Information on the project was set out on ten panels, dealing with farming activities and traditions as well as describing the five farms involved in the project. In addition Elizabeth, Raymond, Harry, Charlie and James had brought in a huge variety of equipment, machinery, artefacts and tools used at the time. Everything from churns to tractors were on view and many of the pieces had been carefully mended and restored as part of the project.
The event was a huge success and we look forward to repeating it in a suitable venue in the autumn.  For more pictures visit our Gallery Page
Lucy, Cora, Cllr. Martin Kerney and Charlie Convery
Lucy, Cora, Cllr. Martin Kerney and Charlie Convery
Farming equipment courtesy of harry Armstrong
Farming equipment courtesy of Harry Armstrong




Maghera Roots

James Armour


James Armour
James Armour

Born in the late 40s into a family of five boys to my father Samuel and mother Margaret Armour (nee Clarke). Samuel and Margaret were married in in 1939. Clarke was the eldest, Uel next then myself followed by Maurice and Freddie.

During my earlier years when I attended the Beagh school when on coming home after having done my homework I would have been asked to do small tasks around the farm, maybe bringing in the cows for milking or collecting eggs from the deep litter house.

While walking home from school I would often stop and watch our neighbour Tommy Gordon school his horses over jumps. Later on on the same farm I would often visit Jakie Sufferin and watch him work on repairing machinery, sometimes I would be asked to help.

Traditional stone barn at the Beagh
Traditional stone barn at the Beagh

In 1959 my father bought another farm in Murmeal near Tobermore and we all moved there to live, that also meant a change of school to Kilcronaghan Primary whose head teacher was Mrs Evans, her teaching techniques were much softer and kinder and a little different from that of the Beagh school. In the mid 60s I moved to  live with my Uncle and Aunt in Garvagh  and from there  I attended secondary school in Coleraine after which I was commissioned by the Ministry of Defence to train in aeronautical engineering and later become a member of the Royal Air Force where I remained until my tour of duty ended and I settled in Scotland.

Description of the Beagh Farm:


The Beagh Farm, is situated two miles outside Maghera on the Maghera, Gulladuff Road. Our farm was approximately 25 acres in size with an additional 20 acres taken as con-acre each year to increase the cereal and potato crops. The land was of light soil with the exception of about five acres of meadow and boggy land. We were a mixed farm. Crops grown were corn, potatoes, turnips, carrots, cabbage (kale) and grasseed. Lint was grown in the 1940s and ‘50s, but discontinued in the late ‘50s because it was so labour- intensive. Scan0001We would normally have had twelve acres of corn, ten acres of potatoes, two acres of turnips, two acres of cabbage with the rest of the farm in grazing. My father kept a variety of livestock. He always maintained that if you kept a little bit of everything and not too much of anything you would always have something to sell. He had milking cows, calves, cattle, pigs, breeding sows, hens, turkeys and sometimes he would breed partridge. He usually kept four milking cows and about ten sucklers for producing the cattle for market. The number of pigs varied, but normally there would be about two-hundred in total. We always had had about 200
to 300 laying hens which were my mother’s responsibility.

My life as a child growing up on the farm was a healthy and happy one. As I look back, I would love to be able re-visit those days I remember so well – when everyone was there to help each other and when a bond of friendship was developed for life.



















View of the Back Field
View of the Back Field
Old Gates to the Beagh Farm
Old Gates to the Beagh Farm
Maghera Roots

Oral History Workshop

img_0115On Saturday 29th October, Dr Anna Bryson, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast (and the 2016 winner of the Vice-chancellor’s Research Impact Prize), held a day-long oral history workshop in the Heritage & Cultural Centre.

Dr Bryson, who is originally from Maghera, is acting as mentor for our Oral history project ‘Maghera Roots’. We are particularly fortunate to have her support and advice as she has considerable experience of conducting interviews for social and historical investigation and has advised both statutory and private organisations on the design and implementation of complex interview based projects.

Among a wide range of publications, Dr Bryson co-authored, with Professor Seán McConville, The Routledge Guide to Interviewing: Oral History, social enquiry and investigation –  a clear and practical guide for interviewers. She is also one of two Regional Networkers for Northern Ireland on behalf of the Oral History Society.

The workshop in the Heritage & Cultural Centre gave a comprehensive and thorough overview of the methodology and approaches involved in the collection and management of oral history. Anna discussed the structuring of a project – from scoping out the initial concept, aims and objectives, to selecting interviewees, addressing relevant legal, ethical and copyright issues, conducting an interview (including the use of equipment) and finally, the transcription, storage and archiving of the material gathered. img_0082As well as practical considerations she introduced some of the more challenging issues concerning privacy, respect, boundaries, tact and discretion – and explored potential strategies to mitigate against disaster striking!

img_0105The workshop was well attended with ten people taking part. All were agreed that, in a relatively short space of time, the guidelines for working in the field of oral history were very clearly, simply and succinctly explained. Perhaps most importantly Anna really inspired the participants with her own enthusiasm. Drawing on her own research experience she illustrated the powerful way in which the voice of ordinary people can bring history to life and produce a more rounded and inclusive account of the past.

We came away with a renewed sense of both the immediate value of the work we are carrying out and also a belief that what we are creating is, as Dr Bryson suggested, ‘a gift to the future.’

Past Events

Society Launch

The MHS began as an informal group of members, drawn together by a shared interest in the history and heritage of the town. Local historian Joseph McCoy led the group, which had a large and enthusiastic number of followers on Facebook. Inspired by the obvious support in the area for the Society it was decided that the time had come to place it on a more formal footing, elect a chairman and committee and adopt a constitution setting out the aims, objectives and structure of the Society.


The first step was to call an open meeting in the Link, on the 10th November 2014, which was attended by about 40 people from the district. James Armour, who had recently returned to the town after a long absence,  was the  organiser of this development. On the night the purpose of the Society was discussed in depth. This included its role in  researching and  promoting  local history and heritage as well as documenting and preserving it. A core value of the Society was seen to be its openness and inclusivity.

Office bearers and a committee were elected on the evening to help move the new society forward. In alphabetical order these were James Armour, Denver Boyd, Izchel Boyd, Bruce Clark, Brendan Convery, Fergal Cudden, Peter Etherson, Kate Lagan, John Marquess, Joseph McCoy, Pat Rafferty and William Sufferin. Joseph McCoy was elected Chairperson, Denver Boyd Vice-Chairperson, James Armour Honorary Secretary and John Marquess Treasurer.

The next few months were a busy time for the MHS with a constitution being drawn up and adopted to give the organisation a legal foundation. A comprehensive programme of events was put in place to run throughout the year and a fund-raising plan was put into action which turned out to be very effective in establishing a financial basis for the Society to operate from.

On the 31st March 2015 the MHS was formally launched by Dr. Bill Macafee, the distinguished historian and author, at a gala event in Walsh’s Hotel, Maghera in front of an audience of over 150 people.



James Armour, the Honorary Secretary, acted as Master of Ceremonies and began by explaining the aims of the organisation  and pledging that the Society would straight away start looking for suitable premises in the town to set up a Cultural and Heritage Centre which will serve many functions. He said that he saw the Centre as a focal point for all those interested in Maghera, both its past heritage  and its present-day culture. The Centre would act as a safe archive for artefacts, memorabilia, photographs etc. relating to the local area, it would be open to the public and reach out to all communities and cultures in the town, seeking to include as many people as possible in its work.  ‘The Society is for everybody, it has an open door policy and all the people of Maghera are welcome to join’

James then referred movingly to a book he is writing based on his childhood memories growing up in the Beagh with his four brothers on his father’s farm. He dedicated the work he has done on behalf of the Society to the memory of his parents and his brother Uel, a well- known figure in the town who sadly passed away in his early years.

Joseph McCoy, the Chairperson of the MHS gave a very inspiring talk on the foundation of the organisation. Drawing on his deep knowledge based on many years of research he spoke of the history of the town. He was followed by the Guest Speaker, Dr. Bill Macafee. He congratulated the Society on the Launch which he likened to the launch of a ship setting out on a voyage of discovery. He emphasised the importance of all historical societies and spoke with passion of the need to document and record the history and lives of people from the 1950s onwards, an era that is now part of history and must be documented before it is too late.


Cllr. Jim Campbell, marked the launch as one of his last official engagements as Vice-chair of Magherafelt District Council and a representative of the people of the local area – an historic occasion itself. He wished the society well and pledged to give what help he could going forward. Denver Boyd, the genealogist on the team, and Vice-Chairperson of the society, spoke of the fragility of memory and how soon information could be forgotten if an effort was not made to document it. He emphasised that the Historical Society had a vital role to play in recording the past to preserve it for our descendants. As part of the ceremony Brendan Convery, through old cine film footage of the town, and Pat Rafferty through a display of old postcards, reminded us how Maghera looked in days gone by. Bruce Clark (who set up a display of artefacts from his family’s Linen Industry) gave a summary of all that had been said and thanked the speakers. He then went on to give a fascinating personal and philosophical slant on the role history can play in a person’s life.



Past Events

Time Capsule


30th December 2015 – 30th December 2115

One of the first projects to take place in the Heritage & Culture Centre was the preparation and sealing of a Time Capsule. We thought that this was a good way to represent the aims of the Maghera Historical Society. The Capsule is not only a way to communicate with the generations to come, but also symbolises the whole town coming together to work towards a positive and peaceful future for our descendants.


Over the year everybody was invited to contribute messages, memorabilia, photographs, newspapers, information and messages to be sealed within the Capsule. The local schools all became involved with many pupils giving photographs and messages which will not be seen again until the Capsule is opened in 100 years-time.

The official sealing took place on the 30th December 2015 in the Centre. James Armour acted as Master of Ceremonies for the evening, and in this role explained that the idea behind the Capsule was to bring the town together and act as an expression of faith in the future of Maghera. He said that he believed that the way to understand the hearts and minds of a generation was through an appreciation of the memories, stories and songs of everyday life rather than the major political issues of the time. Through the personal information preserved in the Capsule people in Maghera, a hundred years into the future would get a real insight into life in the town in 2015.

Joseph McCoy, Chairperson of the MHS then spoke and drew an interesting comparison between the modern day capsule and the way in which an historical structure, such as St.Lurach’s, can function as a time capsule itself.  As Joseph said, ‘Walking around the old church you are aware of the changes in the masonry and stone work from the early Christian beginnings of the site through to the 10th century walls, the magnificent, carved lintel dating from the medieval period and the tower added in the 17th century.  The church stands as a built record of over a thousand years of history’.

Fergal Cudden, the youngest committee member of the MHS, represented the younger people of the town at the ceremony. He spoke of growing up in Maghera and how he enjoyed the peaceful friendly pace of life there. He referred to his deep connection with the town and how he saw this sense of belonging continuing down the years to future generations. He also spoke of his hope that the Maghera Historical Society would, ‘Shine a new light on the history of Maghera and make it something that the newer generation will be both interested in and proud of.’


Mrs.Elizabeth (Lizzie) Shiels, now in her ninety-first year, was next invited to speak. Lizzie shared memories of her life growing up in the area. She spoke of a different age, now gone forever and evoked images of a simpler, and perhaps happier, way of life. Remembrances of Christmases long ago were brought to life in a poem written by Lizzie. The verses highlighted the contrast between today’s consumerism and the values of earlier times, leading the audience to wonder what sort of life, hopes and aspirations our descendants would experience so many years into the future. Lizzie herself acted as an inspiration to everyone gathered at the ceremony as she brought such energy, goodwill and optimism to the idea of forging a link between ourselves and the unknown future inhabitants of the town.

James then invited contributions from the floor. The first to make a contribution was Cllr. Martin Kearney. He reminisced movingly about his childhood and the importance of memory and history for everybody. He dwelt on the importance of personal and local history in the life of a community. In this context he felt that the Time Capsule gave the people of Maghera a wonderful opportunity to come together, and by sharing their experiences give those in the 22nd century a picture of the town today.

Kevin Daly, a Committee member of the MHS, then spoke about well-known characters in the town in the past. In particular, he acknowledged the role played by Mr. Roy Shiels, Lizzie’s husband, who had devoted many years to helping the young people of the town and ran a football team known as ‘Roy’s Chicks’. Kevin’s emphasised how important it was for the identity and spirit of the town that the full time-line of its history be carried on, unbroken, into the future.

Cllr. Anne Forde gave us her memories of growing up outside the town on a farm in the Carrick. This gave us another perspective on a past way of life when Freddie Cauldwell and his threshing machine travelled from farm to farm and neighbours all worked together to bring the harvest in. Again Cllr. Forde dwelt on the importance of ensuring that a record of who we are and what we stand for is passed on to our descendants and she complimented the Society on the idea of the Time Capsule.

Tommy Collins agreed that the Society had given the people of Maghera a significant opportunity to keep history alive through the generations and Cllr. George Shiels made the final contribution of the evening with his usual wit and wisdom. Cllr Shiels also referred to his father, Roy Shiels, who, he said, had inspired him to make a contribution to society throughout his life.


The Time capsule itself was then locked by Lizzie and Fergal to begin its journey one hundred years into the future to be opened again on the 30th December 2115.

Putting together the capsule was a daunting task in itself, as a special container had to be constructed which could be filled with nitrogen before being hermetically sealed to preserve the contents intact. Within the Capsule special paper, ink and packaging had to be sourced and used to protect against deterioration over the next hundred years. Pat Rafferty and John Marquess, both members of the MHS committee worked behind the scenes to make it all happen.

The celebrations continued in the Centre until late at night with everybody enjoying the music provided by Alan Hutchinson and Friends with vocalist Alice McMurray.