Celebrations at The Ballance House

Thursday 20 June 2019 was an evening of celebration when the Ulster New Zealand Trust (UNZT) received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service from Her Majesty’s representative, Mrs Joan Christie, CVO OBE, Lord Lieutenant for Co Antrim.

To start the celebration, the Dilworth School students from Auckland performed a very lively Haka to our guests and volunteers.  After a drinks reception, Mrs Christie, LCCC Mayor Cllr Alan Givan and VIPs were piped into the Ceremony.  

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The programme included conversations with volunteers Mrs Hilary Bracefield and Mr David Twigg about their time as volunteers.  The Crystal award and Citation were presented to Miss Betty Wilson, long-serving volunteer and Ballance relative, and to Mr Freddie Hall.   Mrs Margaret Lee, former NZ Consul, spoke on behalf of Sir Jerry Mataparae, NZ High Commissioner in the UK, who had sent a very kind congratulatory message.  Mrs Helen McClenaghan  also gave  a most entertaining account of her time as a volunteer.

A multi-media presentation then focussed on the work and achievements of the volunteers over the past 30 years and the restoration of the Ballance House in the late 1980s.   The evening concluded with a meal and Mrs Pat Elliott, a long serving volunteer, cut a cake to celebrate the past 30 years and the future of UNZT.  Each volunteer was given a QAVS scroll and pin badge to remember this achievement.

Our photo gallery can be found at www.theballancehouse.com/queens-award

UNZT receives a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

The Ulster New Zealand Trust volunteers will be presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Co Antrim at a Presentation Ceremony to be held at The Ballance House, Glenavy, on Thursday 20 June 2019.   This is the highest form of civic recognition granted by the Queen in appreciation of the outstanding work of volunteers and is a great cause for celebration as it also recognises the achievements of John Ballance and links between Ulster and New Zealand.  

“Having gone through a testing assessment to demonstrate that UNZT provides a worthy service in the local community, is supported, recognised and respected by our community and is run by local volunteers, it is a great honour to have been selected for this 2019 Queen’s Award. Although 12,000 miles apart, the work of UNZT to maintain and foster what brings our two countries together is incredibly important for this and future generations. The Red Hand of Ulster rightly embraces the Silver Fern of New Zealand in many historic, cultural and sporting ways, of which both lands can be very proud” said Paul Hewitt, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.


Helen McClenaghan, a volunteer of 9 years, commented that “Being a UNZT volunteer brings great satisfaction, providing The Ballance House guided tours and catering for our many visitors at frequent special events, at our April to September Sunday openings and at pre-arranged visits by numerous organisations. Our cheerful, co-operative team ensures wide public access to this remarkable cultural and educational venue”.

The Northern Ireland Representative for the Award, Walter Rader OBE said “This is a wonderful achievement for the Ulster New Zealand Trust as it recognises the dedication, commitment and skills of volunteers who commemorate the life and achievements of John Ballance, as well as promoting good relations between Ulster and New Zealand".

Congratulations to our team of volunteers for the work they carry out to provide a unique visitor experience. 

Pectoral Cross on display at The Ballance House, 28 April 2019

The Ulster New Zealand Trust is honoured to showcase the Pectoral Cross, pictured below, during this year’s Anzac Commemoration event.  This unique cross went out to display at Brisbane Cathedral last year.


Mr David Ratcliff will be telling the story of how his Great Uncle, Canon David Garland, came to be awarded the Order of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by the Greek Orthodox Church.   This was in the form of a gold cross containing "slivers of the True Cross” and was re-set as a pectoral cross by the community of Brisbane.  Canon Garland is heralded as the "Architect of Anzac Day" for his work in establishing the commemoration as it is now celebrated across the world.

Canon Garland’s family came from County Monaghan and emigrated to Australia (ultimately Brisbane) towards the end of 19th Century. He was called to priesthood in the Anglican Church and served in locations across Australia, and for a short time in New Zealand. He was an extraordinarily gifted priest with huge ecumenical commitment.  During WWI he served in the Australian Army, becoming a Lieutenant-Colonel Padre. He was with the Allied troops who entered Jerusalem in November 1917. 


On Anzac Day, New Zealanders and Australians, in particular, remember with pride the sacrifice made by the men of the Anzac Corps exactly 104 years ago in the Gallipoli Campaign but also those men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice in very many other conflicts all over the world ever since.  Here at The Ballance House we also remember, with gratitude and pride, the men of all the Irish Regiments who lost their lives during the Gallipoli Campaign.

Our Commemoration Service this year will be held on Sunday 28 April, 20.30 pm.  Following the Service Mrs Joan Christie CVO OBE, who has been Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim for 11 years, will be performing one of her last duties as Lord Lieutenant; Mrs Christie will speak on “The Lieutenancy and the Armed Forces”.

Terror attack in Christchurch

The Ulster New Zealand Trust wishes to pass on wholehearted sympathy to all those families and friends of those who were murdered or injured.   Our prayers will be for them and all the security, emergency and medical services involved in the aftermath of this dastardly and inhumane action.  

Carried out in the name of some toxic and demented idealogical aim, we fully recognise that this is wholly unrepresentative of New Zealanders and totally foreign to the outlook and values of such a great, peaceable and diverse nation. 

New Zealanders at home and abroad can be assured of the prayers and sympathy of all in Northern Ireland who cherish the bonds of affection and respect which will always hold our two countries together at tragic times such as these.


ANZAC Commemoration Service guest speaker receives Freedom of the City

Congratulations to Mrs Joan Christie CVO OBE who has been awarded the Freedom of the City of Lisburn and Castlereagh in recognition of her dedication, service and support to the area as Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim.

Mrs Christie will be guest speaker at The Ballance House ANZAC Commemoration Service on Sunday 28 April.

Mrs Jill McIvor CBE


The Directors and everyone at the Ulster New Zealand Trust deeply regret the death of Mrs Jill McIvor CBE, our esteemed founder of the Trust, who passed away on 8thJanuary 2019.  We extend our deepest sympathy to her family circle.

Jill McIvor was the driving force behind the establishment of the Ulster New Zealand Trust at The Ballance House. It was her steely determination and old-world charm which persuaded her friends and business colleagues to support her through the difficult early stages of the restoration of the House. 

Thirty years on, her achievement stands as a memorial to an outstanding public-spirited person who, in spite of very many difficulties, achieved all that she set out to do.  She had the very happy knack of being able to select those supporters who saw things her way and whom she knew would deliver positive results. 

Mr Paul Hewitt, the present Chairman of the Trust, in a tribute said: “The Ulster New Zealand Trust, and generations of Kiwis with roots in Northern Ireland, will forever be indebted to a marvellous lady, a fearless ambassador and a remarkable visionary.  She was a truly outstanding person who has left her mark on the history of Northern Ireland”.

Lisburn sisters granted New Zealand Citizenship


Gail Porteous (nee Hall) and Lynne Robinson (nee Hall), from Lisburn, attended a New Zealand Citizenship ceremony on Tuesday 25th September 2018 to formally become dual British/New Zealand citizens.  The ceremony was conducted in Christchurch by the Deputy Mayor, Andrew Turner, who himself originates from England.  There were 190 people attaining their citizenship status that evening from countries such as Argentina, Spain, Samoa, China, France, Bhutan, Japan and the USA to name a few!  Each family received a New Zealand Kowhai tree to plant in their garden or at the Citizenship garden located in a local park.  

The ceremony provided a good opportunity to truly see the diversity of people settling in this unique country and to understand why so many people are drawn to making a life for themselves in New Zealand.   

Northern Ireland's special connection to suffrage

On Sunday 10 June an event called PROCESSIONS commemorates a hundred years since women in the United Kingdom won the right to vote.  

This year is also the 125th anniversary since New Zealand women won that right, the first country in the world to give it, and Northern Ireland has a link to the story, as the legislation was put into place by Premier (Prime Minister) John Ballance, who was born near Glenavy in 1839.  His birthplace now houses the Ulster New Zealand Trust..... read more

Thanks to Graeme Cousins, journalist with the Newsletter, who wrote this recent article on The NI man who changed the world for women.



PROCESSIONS commemoration event

On Sunday 10 June, an event called PROCESSIONS will take place across the UK’s four capitals.  It commemorates 100 years since UK women won the right to vote, and coincides with New Zealand’s 125 years of women’s right to vote. 

There will be simultaneous marches in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London.  Women and girls will hold banners and walk through the streets, wearing green, purple and white – colours of significance to the women's suffrage movement.  The idea is to create a mass participation artwork. 

All details can be found on: www.processions.co.uk It’s free to sign-up and participate in.

The High Commission is currently rallying New Zealanders in London to walk in the procession and the Ulster New Zealand Trust would be pleased if anyone reading this would also share details about the event with any New Zealand networks you know of in Belfast/ Northern Ireland, and encourage them to get involved and spread the word.  


125th Anniversary of the death of John Ballance

A New Zealand Plagianthus regius tree was planted on 27 April by Mr Paul Hewitt, Chairman of the Ulster New Zealand Trust’s Board of Directors, in the arboretum of our Patron, Mr Brian McKnight, on the 125th anniversary of the death of John Ballance. Many thanks to the McKnight’s for their kind hospitality to the Directors and friends.  Mrs Yvonne Hall presented Mrs McKnight with a beautiful home-made bouquet of roses.

Paul and Nick's Big Food Trip

A Northern Ireland media company is producing a cookery series 'Paul and Nick’s Big Food Trip' for UTV and STV.  They recently filmed with chefs Paul Rankin and Nick Nairn in New Zealand and interviewed Tim McIvor who wrote a biography on John Ballance.  The show is due to air on Monday nights from the 16th April and there is one programme that focuses on John Ballance (ep 4 in Wellington) which will air on 7th May.

Photo: David Cumming/Supplied

Photo: David Cumming/Supplied

Willie-John Remembers...

 “Arriving in Invercargill for the Lions was amazing – just like a wet day in Ballymena”

 “Where’s the Coach?” I was asked. {WJ replies } ”That’s it over there, it takes us to matches”

 “There’s this British thing – it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about taking part. Well go and tell them that in New Zealand” 

The highlight of the Commemoration at the Ballance House to mark the signing of the Waitangi Treaty was an absolutely fascinating talk by Willie John McBride recalling his tours to New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions Rugby teams both as a player and manager.

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6th 1840 – exactly 176 years ago – between representatives of the British Government and the Maori Chiefs of the North Island. The Treaty recognised the Maori ownership of their lands and gave them rights as British subjects.

Other of our guests on this auspicious occasion included – The Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim: Mrs Joan Christie, Lord Lieutenant for Co Antrim; The Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh, Mr Tim Morrow; our Patron, Mr Brian McKnight and his wife; and also two Sixth Form Tutors from Dilworth School in Auckland who are attached to Dungannon Royal School for a year.

It was an atrocious day weather-wise with several members being unable to travel on account of the state of the roads, but over 40 members of the Ulster New Zealand Trust at The Ballance House braved the weather for a most enjoyable day.  

The party began around mid-day with a very welcome glass of warm spiced apple juice in the very atmospheric 19th century Parlour at the House which was lit, as usual, only by oil lamps. Lunch was provided by Gilberry Fair, Banbridge and was introduced by Mr Freddie Hall, the Chairman of the Executive Committee.

For many years Miss Betty Wilson has decorated the lunch tables with snowdrops from her brother’s farm and after lunch these are sold off in aid of our own funds to those who wish to take a bunch home.

Once lunch was over, everybody made their way over to the Cottage Room to hear Willie John McBride reminisce and remember the highs and lows of his tours to Australia and New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions. It was a very personal account of sporting history in the making and which we were all very privileged to hear.  

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

Andy Glenfield has a keen interest in the involvement of Northern Ireland during the Second World War and he photographs headstones of men from New Zealand who lost their lives in Northern Ireland whilst serving in the Air Force.  

Andy's website is called 'The Second World War in Northern Ireland' and he also has a Facebook page which gives updates on additions to his website as well as Information regarding forthcoming events. There are also video and local news items connected to Northern Ireland during the Second World War.

Read more about Andy's research and his photography.