One of Northern Ireland’s oldest Orange halls, boasting stunning views over the Causeway coastline, has re-opened following major refurbishment.
Ballintoy Orange hall – a former schoolhouse – was one of its kind up until its redevelopment with lodge members meeting regularly in the property without electricity.
As recently as 2016, brethren conducted meetings with a coal fire under gas lamps.
The restored building is now a modern fit-for- purpose community facility, whilst retaining the characteristics of the original property with its gas lights, Georgian windows and panelled doors.
In a proud day for members of Ballintoy Rising Sons of William LOL 803, many of whom were personally involved in the sizeable renovation project, the hall was officially opened by Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Harold Henning.
The mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Joan Baird, was also in attendance.
Lodge worshipful master Wesley Craig expressed his delight at the refurbishment.
He said: “This is a very proud day for the lodge, bringing our property up to 21 st Century standards. The old hall was in many ways a relic of the past and it was like travelling back in time - people accepted it for what it was.
“Given the historical heritage of the building we were keen to ensure its character was retained in the development process. We also believe we now have a facility which will serve the needs of the local community of Ballintoy and beyond.”
Mr Craig also revealed a new bespoke element to the hall, replacing an adjoining old teacher’s residence, which will offer accommodation to let to the wider public, including holidaymakers.
“We believe such accommodation, which caters for up to six people, will sell itself due to the surrounding area, the fantastic scenery and quaintness of the building. The hall is located in an area of outstanding beauty, overlooking Rathlin Island, Carrick-a-Rede and Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
“We certainly think we are the only lodge in the country to offer such a hospitable service.”
Mr Henning congratulated LOL 803 on the completion of their new hall.
He said: “This impressive new facility will provide a wonderful social amenity and meeting place, not only for the local lodge and band; but also to a range of other users and groups situated in north Antrim and the surrounding area.
“It is a wonderful addition to the locality and I congratulate all those involved in the development process. They should be immensely proud of their achievements.”
The Ballintoy renovation project was part-funded by the Community Halls Scheme, administered by the Department for Communities.