East Antrim Battalion

The Inauguration of the East Antrim Battalion

The East Antrim Battalion was officially inaugurated on Friday, 8th September, 1967 when 79 Officers representing 16 companies met in the Abbeylands Hotel, Newtownabbey.

After photographs, the Inaugural Dinner was held with the Mayor of Carrickfergus, Alderman T.J. Patterson and the Mayor of Larne, Alderman H.A. McKay in attendance along with invited guests from the Northern Ireland District.

The President of East Antrim Battalion, Mr. J. Wesley Sandford M.B.E. J.P. M.P.S. welcomed everyone and was pleased to announce that he and Mr. Tom Dorman (President of 2nd Larne Company) would present colours to the new battalion, ready in time for the first Battalion Church Parade to be held in 1968.

In bringing greetings to the East Antrim Battalion, Alderman McKay referred to the high reputation of the Boys’ Brigade in East Antrim. He said that he was pleased to note how successful the movement was. In concluding, he remarked that it was rare for boys trained in the organization to appear before him when he was acting in his capacity as a magistrate!

In proposing the toast to the Boys’ Brigade, Alderman Patterson said that he counted it to be an honour to perform this function as he regarded the B.B. as the “most outstanding of all the uniformed youth organizations.” The Rev. C.E. Brennen (the new Battalion Chaplain) in reply to the toast, said that “there was no greater call to service in the brotherhood of Christ than through the Boys’ Brigade.” Mr. W.G. Gordon of the Northern Ireland District Executive proposed a toast to “the East Antrim Battalion” and in his reply the Rev. R.V.A. Lynas (2nd Larne Company) paid tribute to those who had served in the past and added that he was confident that “the BB flag would continue to fly to the glory of God in the District.”

On the Saturday evening, 9th September, 76 Officers registered for a Training Conference and Service of Dedication in Rathmore House, Larne. After high tea, the officers were divided into groups for training. Chaplains, Company Captains and Leaders-in-Charge of Junior Sections heard a talk by Rev. A.L. Maloney (1st Randalstown Company) on “Christian Education” while the other Lieutenants and Warrant Officers received a talk on “Responsibilities of Officership” by William Gordon of the Northern Ireland District. Following these sessions, all received a talk on “Our Object and Ourselves” given by Rev. John Girvan (Chaplain, 75th Belfast Company). After supper, all attended a Service of Dedication conducted by Rev. C.E. Brennen at which the speaker was Rev. Girvan. As the Battalion minutes record – “a wonderful service bringing to an end an inspiring weekend.”

The sixteen companies forming the inaugural East Antrim Battalion were:

1st Ballycarry 1st Ballyclare 1st Ballyeaston 1st Ballynure 1st Cairncastle 1st Carrickfergus 2nd Carrickfergus 3rd Carrickfergus 4th Carrickfergus 1st Greenisland 2nd Greenisland 1st Islandmagee 1st Larne 2nd Larne 3rd Larne 1st Whitehead

The new East Antrim Battalion was the second largest in the Northern Ireland District (Belfast Battalion being the largest).The first East Antrim Battalion Executive Office-Bearers were:

President: J.W. Sandford MBE, JP, MPS (1st Larne Company)

Vice-Presidents: Jonathan Simms (3rd Carrickfergus Company) Trevor Robinson ( 2nd Larne Company)

Chaplain: Rev. C.E. Brennen (Whitehead Presbyterian)

Secretary: Brian Smyth (former Captain, 1st Greenisland)

Treasurer: Alex McBride (1st Carrickfergus Company)

N.I.D. Rep: Nigel Boal (2nd Carrickfergus Company)

C.S. Reps: Jack Crooks (1st Whitehead Company) J. McCulloch

J.S. Reps: Elizabeth Crooks (1st Whitehead Company

The nineteen companies within the Battalion continue weekly doing BB using different methods but with the same object.

The battalion runs training events and competitions and holds an annual church parade in October each year.

In 2019 the Battalion launched the Heritage Society, which is now a separate organisation looking after the Heritage of the Battalion. It was set up to document and digitise all records and to preserve and exhibition them along with other memorabilia. We display the items in a museum setting in shopping centres, libraries and church halls.

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