Friday was a proud day for Garvagh Parish stalwart, Helen Livingston, as she watched a blue plaque being unveiled on her local church to commemorate the woman who introduced the Women’s Institute to Northern Ireland.
Dorothea Florence Macausland, who worshipped in St Paul’s for many years prior to her death in 1970, formed Northern Ireland’s first Women’s Institute branch in the village in 1932. Her achievement was marked by the Ulster History Circle with the erection of one of its celebrated blue plaques on the east wall of the local church.
Mrs Livingston, who arrived in Garvagh two years after Mrs Macausland’s death, has written her predecessor’s life story for posterity and had campaigned for many years to have Mrs Macausland’s memory honoured publicly.
There was a glittering turn-out for Friday morning’s unveiling ceremony, which was performed by Mrs Macausland’s great-niece, Joanna Clark. Among those in attendance were the Lord Lieutenant for County Londonderry, Mrs Alison Millar; the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Sean Bateson; the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev’d Andrew Forster; the chairperson of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Cllr Sean Bateson; the President of the Federation of Women’s Institutes in Northern Ireland, Lady Anthony Hamilton; the Chairman of the Federation of Women’s Institutes of Northern Ireland, Mrs Colette Craig; and another of Mrs Macausland’s relatives, Jack O’Sullivan.
Bishop Forster, whose late mother had been a member of the Women’s Institute, described the work of the Ulster History Circle as remarkable for the way in which it acknowledged people who made a significant contribution to building up community. “Dorothea Macausland clearly lived a remarkable life,” the Bishop said. “Born in India, she was a nurse during the war, she was on a ship that was torpedoed during the war. She was a woman of real substance and, as the Lord Lieutenant said, an indomitable daughter of Garvagh. For us, in the Church of Ireland, we’re delighted to be associated with such a special day and delighted that the plaque is part of the fabric of our parish, now, as well.”
Addressing the many WI members who had travelled to Garvagh for today’s ceremony, Bishop Andrew said, “Many of you, today, love Women’s Institute. Why? Because it brings you together. It’s about community. It’s about being a positive and good force in the community, and all of us know that our community needs positive and good people making an impact. And today we acknowledge one of our own and delight in sharing in this special day. For us, as a Church of Ireland community – if I may use the word in the right sense – we’re proud to be associated with Dorothea Macausland and delighted that the Ulster History Circle has graced us today by allowing this plaque to be placed on one of our buildings.”
After the ceremony, refreshments were served in the Parish Hall where grace was said by the Rector of Errigal and Desertoghill, Rev Carmen Hayes.