Northern Ireland

Ahoghill Young Farmers' Club tries to round up the 'herds' to reclaim former glory

Girls siting on a gate
Image caption You don't have to be from a farming background to join a young farmers' club

There are 50 young farmers clubs in Northern Ireland, with over 2,000 members. But one county Antrim village has been missing out on all the fun for five years.

Ahoghill Young Farmers' Club was set up in 1931. At its peak it had a 60-strong membership, with trophies for public speaking, debating, tractor handling and sheep judging galore.

Now past members like Fiona Speers are coming together to put the group back on the map.

"Now there's an awful lot of young ones round Ahoghill who are at the age to go to Young Famers and they're starting to go to other clubs and we'd like to see Ahoghill up and running again," she said.

"My mum and dad were both in Ahoghill Young Farmers and I came up through it and I would like to think my children would be in Ahoghill Young Farmers."

Don't think you're barred from going if you don't have a herd of cows or acres of land, you don't have to be from a farming background to join a young farmers' club. In fact, almost half the rural population don't farm.

I met up with some young people who are keen to get involved with the new and improved club in Ahoghill … and they all have very different reasons for their interest.

Kirsty Speers expects "loads of different opportunities like travelling and new experiences like silage making and everything you don't get to do at home".

"I think it would be a good chance to meet loads of new people and then hang out with your friends who are going as well," she said.

However, Jonathan Watson has romance in mind: "I hope to gain friendships and I hear there is plenty of talent about the young farmers. So it should be good craic and I hope to gain plenty of good memories and experiences."

'Love matches'

Image caption Ahoghill Young Farmers' Club was set up in 1931

And he may well find his Cinderella - his mum and dad both met and fell in love at Ahoghill Young Farmers' Club.

These enthusiastic youngsters have it all to look forward to as the club begins to rise from the ashes. But past members have plenty of tales to tell.

Heather Gillespie said the skills she learned at the club were invaluable.

"I did stock judging, public speaking, group debating and I found it gave me a great grounding in my youth for roles I played in later life," she said.

Linda Petticrew said many "love matches" were made via the Young Farmers.

"I met my husband at a young farmers New Year's Eve disco in the County Hall in Ballymena many years ago," she said.

The president of the Ulster Farmers' Union, John Thompson, was also a member of the young farmers.

He is a big supporter of the clubs and said being part of the organisation helped him unearth a hidden talent.

"One of my interests outside the agricultural side was amateur dramatics and I was involved with that for over 20 years both in front of the stage and behind the stage and produced one and three-act plays for quite a number of years," he said.

"I really enjoyed that social side of it and yes, I think it's a great organisation and would fully support Ahoghill getting their club going again."

Meanwhile, Ian Small was keen to tell me about the highlight of his time in Ahoghill Young Farmers' Club: Singing "I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts" at Ballymena Arts Festival. He sang me a couple of lines and I'm amazed he hasn't got a record contract!

If you want to find out more about Ahoghill Young Farmers' Club, follow them on Facebook.

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