The beginning of the Women’s Institute
On the 19th February 1897 the first Women’s Institute in the world was formed in the province of Ontario, Canada. Celebrating its Centenary, the first W.I. meeting in the United Kingdom took place on 16th September 1915 at Llanfair PG in North Wales. It had two clear aims: to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. The W.I. was then later established in Northern Ireland in 1932 as The Federation of Women’s Institutes when Miss Dorothea Macausland opened the first institute in Garvagh.
While the outbreak of the Second World War slowed the formation of new institutes, those already in existence had a ready-made structure to help with the war effort, so much so that the Ministry of Food put its scheme for the Preservation of Fruit into the hands of the Women’s Institute. The WI helped the war effort in many ways such as collecting waste paper, bottle tops, knitting and mending or the troops. Since then the organisation aims have broadened and it is now the largest women’s voluntary organisation in the UK.
The Federation Formation
To ensure that individual institutes would form part of a single body The Federation of Women’s Institutes was formed in Northern Ireland on 24 April 1932. In 1978 a headquarters was purchased, known as Federation house. Prior to 1955 The Federation of Women’s Institutes had been run on a county basis but in 1985 the Federation was reorganised into more manageable sections, 22 areas instead of 6 counties. Previously Limavady was part of the Co. Londonderry area under the
responsibility of two Executive members, Eileen Glover of Moneymore and Helen
Livingston, Garvagh. At the AGM in 1985 a new team of 22 executive members was elected and Doreen Nicholl represented Roe Valley and served for 3 years. Since then Aileen Gault has served for 6 years (1988-1994), Lindy Scott, Terrydremond served 6 years (1994-2000), Emily Blair, Ballykelly served 6 years (2000-2006), Lindy Scott served another 6 years (2006-2012) and currently Roberta Bradley elected in 2012 to serve 6 years.
Myroe Women’s Institute
On Tuesday 8th November 1955 with 47 members present, the formation of Myroe Women’s Institute took place. Mrs. Mercer, Organising Secretary, Federation of Women’s Institutes of Northern Ireland, explained to those present what was looked for in a committee and how it would be elected and an agreement to elect 12 members was made. The 12 elected committee members were:
Mrs. R. Blackburn Miss. H. Lyons
Mrs. R. Brolly Mrs. S. McCunn
Miss. E. Cherry Mrs. G. McCurry
Mrs. M. Drennan Mrs. S.Mark
Mrs. J. D. Gibson Mrs.W.G.Nelson
Mrs G. Haslett Mrs. J. Shannon (elected President)
At this meeting the rules governing all institutes were read and explained and the decision was made to meet on the second Tuesday of each month at 8 o’clock in the Myroe War Memorial Hall. The First meeting took place on 13th December 1955 and was a party organised by the Committee members.
Aghanloo Women’s Institute
On Tuesday 6th August 1946 at Ballymaglin, Mrs Moody called a meeting in which the formation of a Women’s Institute in Aghanloo was agreed by 22 members. Mrs Mercer, Organising Secretary, Federation of Women’s Institutes of Northern Ireland, spoke on the aims, methods and rules of the Women’s Institute Movement, and of the terms governing the election of President and Committee.
It was decided to elect a committee of 8 members. The 8 elected committee members were:
Mrs J R Love Mrs F McCloy
Mrs Moody Miss R McCloy
Mrs Moon Mrs Thompson
Mrs Young Miss E McCloy (elected President)
It was agreed to hold the first monthly meeting on September 16th at Tullyarmon, and after that to hold the monthly meetings on the 1st Thursday of the month at 7.30pm. Mrs McCloy, Mrs Moody and Mrs Young offered to house the meetings in turn.
Membership taken from the first available roll book- 1949/1950
Mrs G Allen Mrs H Gault Miss T McClarey Miss K Mullan
Mrs S Archibald Mrs Grant Mrs J McCloy Miss M Mullan
Mrs Blair Mrs Harbinson Miss McCloy Mrs Nutt
Miss Boyle Mrs Haslett Miss R McCloy Miss Robertson
Mrs Campbell Mrs Hinchcliff Mrs McCully Mrs Shannon
Mrs Canning Mrs Houston Mrs R McCunn Mrs Stewart
Mrs J Carmichael Mrs Hynds Mrs McGregor Mrs W Thompson
Mrs Connor Mrs H Johnston Miss Madden Mrs Thompson
Miss Cunningham Miss B Johnston Mrs Martin Mrs White
Mrs I Douglas Mrs Kennedy Mrs Moody Mrs Wilson
Mrs Jas Douglas Mrs Lane Mrs Moon Mrs Young
Mrs Jos Douglas Mrs J B Love Mrs Moore Miss Young
Mrs J Drennan Mrs R Love Mrs J Moore Mrs Young
Miss Drennan Miss R Lyndsay Mrs Morrison
Mrs M Drennan Mrs McAlister Miss Morrison
Mrs Fisher Miss M McClarey Miss A Morrison
Ballykelly Women’s Institute
On Friday 22nd November 1946 in the Public Elementary School, Ballykelly a preliminary meeting was held, where Mrs McCloy, chaired the meeting at which 20 people were present. Mrs Mercer, Organising Secretary, Federation of Women’s Institutes of Northern Ireland, spoke on the aims and methods on Women’s Institutes and Miss Robertson shared on her experience in the recently formed institute at Aghanloo. It was then agreed that an institute at Ballykelly would be formed and that an official formation meeting for that purpose would take place.The formation meeting took place on Wednesday 11th December in Ballykelly Primary School.Mrs Mercer read and explained the institute rules and spoke of what to look for in a committee and the members decided to elect a committee of 11 members. The 11 elected committee members were:
Mrs Creswell Mrs Conn
Mrs Gault Mrs Henderson
Mrs McCloy (elected President) Mrs O’Doherty
Miss Reid Mrs Shields
Mrs Quinn Miss Mc Nicholl
It was decided to hold the regular meetings on the first Monday of the month at 7.30pm beginning on Monday 6th January. The membership fee was to be 2/= per year and 1d per meeting to cover the cost of tea and sugar.
Terrydremond Women’s Institute
In 1948 Miss Shearmon saw the need for a centre for the women of the district to meet for special and
educational activities and soon after a Women’s Institute came into being. The Formation meeting was
held in the school on November 11th 1948. From a committee of 10, the office leaders were as
follows: President Miss R. S. Shearmon, Vice President Miss Mooney. The Secretary was Miss Morrison and the Treasurer was Mrs M. McCaughey. Membership for the first few years numbered at 20 but over the years almost doubled. The activities of the institute have been many with varied craft work being the most popular of pursuits. The institute like others has been a great help and benefit to the local community.
Limavady Women’s Institute
On November 19th, 1946 a preliminary meeting called by Mrs. Hunter, was held at the Technical School, Limavady where the unanimous decision amongst the 47 present was made to form a Women’s Institute in Limavady. The Formation meeting of Limavady Women’s Institute was held in the Technical School at 7.30pm on December 10th 1946. After a few words on Committees by Mrs Mercer, Organising Secretary, Federation of Women’s Institutes of Northern Ireland, the 53 members present decided to elect a committee of 12. The 12 elected committee members were:
Mrs. G. Brolly Mrs. Moffatt
Mrs. Gough Mrs. Mullan
Mrs. Hunter Miss McConnell
Miss Hunter Mrs. Macrory (elected President)
Mrs. Irwin Mrs. O’Hanlon
Mrs. Kyle Miss Rea
Dungiven Women’s Institute
On February 21st, 1949 at 7.30pm with 46 members present the Formation meeting of the Dungiven
Women’s Institute was held in the Court House. Mrs. Mercer, Organising Secretary, Federation of Women’s Institutes of Northern Ireland, spoke of what to look for in the committee to be formed, and the members decided to elect 10.
The 10 elected committee members were:
Mrs. Buchanan Mrs. Bunn
Mrs. R. Fallows (Treasurer) Miss M. Friel (Press-Correspondent)
Mrs. S. Milikin Mrs. A. MacLurg
Mrs. J. W. Semple (elected President) Miss B. B. Stevenson
Mrs. J. Stewart (Vice President) Mrs. M.M. Young (Secretary)
The women’s Institute rules were read and explained, and then the members formed groups to make suggestions for the programme. It was decided to hold the monthly meetings on the third Tuesday of every month, in the Court House at 7.30pm, the first meeting to be on March 15th, 1949. In the early 1950’s meetings moved to the Guildhall and in 1965 to the Intermediate School, before moving to the sports pavilion in 1985 and, finally in the 1990’s to what is now known as Glenshane House.
After starting the year celebrating their 60th anniversary, it was with great sadness that their Christmas
Party at the end of the same year was to be the final meeting for the 14 members of Dungiven W.I., some of which had been members for over 50 years.