The Strangford Lough Wildfowlers & Conservation
Association Celebrate their 50th Anniversary
By Dennis Stephenson, Hon Publicity Officer

The Strangford Lough Wildfowlers and Conservation Association was formed some 50 years ago by a group of local wildfowlers who believed that the type of legislation being enacted at that time was of very little value to wildlife and, at the same time, was detrimental to the sport of wildfowling. The Wild Bird Protection Act (N.I.) 1950 resulted in some of the harshest restrictions for sportsmen anywhere in Europe.

Fifty years later, it is interesting to reflect how the SLW&CA has developed, from merely shooting wildfowl to becoming a leading organisation for the conservation of quarry species, the protection of important habitats, the education of its members and providing a strong lobby at Local Government level.

The Association now controls two conservation areas in the Newtownards area, one at Glenvale, Crawfordsburn Road, and the other at Kiltonga on the Main Newtownards to Belfast Road.

Albert Titterington presents
the Countrysports and
Country Life conservation
award to club Conservation
Officer Stephen Mc Murray.

Photo 1
An educational centre has been incorporated into the Glenvale area, and this now extensively used by schools and other educational groups. The Association carries out a yearly programme of rearing and releasing wildfowl most likely to adapt to the locality and provide a breeding stock.

The SLW&CA has over the years put on exhibitions locally, depicting the history of country sports, shooting and wildfowling in particular, in an attempt to enlighten an increasingly urban population.

The first such show in the Town Hall, Newtownards, was in 1956 and was called 'Natural History and the Shooting Man.' The Association is convinced that good public relations has a very significant role in whatever is done to protect and improve the lot of wildfowlers.

The year 1963 saw the successful conclusion to negotiations for the lease of Glenvale Hall from the owners and this provided the wildfowlers with their headquarters beside the main conservation area.

The Strangford Lough Wildlife Scheme came into being in 1966 and resulted in a successful partnership between the National Trust and local wildfowlers through a Joint Council bound by a covenant.

The Strangford Lough Wildfowlers' Association had almost completed negotiations with the Mount Stewart estate for the shooting rights over much of their North foreshore of Strangford Lough, but gave up their claim in the interests of an overall scheme.

Years of dedicated conservation work finally resulted in the Association winning the Stanley Duncan Trophy awarded by the Wildfowler Association of Great Britain & Ireland (now B.A.S.C.) on three separate occasions for the most successful club in the British Isles.

The Ards Borough Council and the SLW&CA work together to manage the Kiltonga Reserve where members of the public and wild birds happily co-exist, and fight the dead hand of potential developers.

The Millennium Year saw one of our members, Ian McMurray, win an award for his conservation work, against strong competition. The Rotary Club of Newtownards and Ards Borough Council set up this award.

It is not all conservation, of course. The members enjoy rough shooting, game shooting, clay pigeon and air rifle target shooting.The upper dam at Glenvale has been stocked with Rainbow and Brown trout for the benefit of the angling section. The members also train their dogs on summer evenings in preparation for the oncoming shooting season.

The Game & Country Fairs in the province are fully supported by the Association to the mutual benefit of both.Vermin control is also carried out by Association members in co-operation with estates and farmers to ensure a proper balance is maintained to the benefit of everyone who enjoys the countryside, whether for sport or livelihood.

There have been many contributions over the years to the success of the Strangford Lough Wildfowlers Association and to attempt to name them all would be well nigh impossible. But if ever the definitive history of our Association is written, one small man with a big heart and an even bigger intellect will stand as the one persons who in his capacity as honorary secretary for an unbroken 38 years made the Association the success it is today. I personally count it an immense privilege and honour to have served with one Tommy Wightman. A true sporting gentleman if ever there was one. D.S.

The Celebration Dinner

The Club celebrated the anniversary in fine style with a dinner and dance at the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel. Guests of Honour included the Mayor, Margaret Craig, Alderman Jim Shannon, MLA and his wife; Ronan Gorman BASC NI and his wife; Mrs Eveleigh Brownlow (widow of the late Major William Brownlow); Tony Jackson (ex Editor of the Shooting Times) Michael Dickey (Game Fair founder) and Albert and Irene Titterington.

The Mayor outlined the contribution that SLW& CA had made to the local community through their conservation work in the local area most notably through the very important visitor and education attraction at Kiltonga. She wished them well for the next 50 years.

The Chairman Jack Gilliland, then presented a special award, a beautifully engraved piece of crystal, to Albert Titterington to mark his association with SLW&CA over the 24 years that he and they had been associated with the Fair.

Tony Jackson and Jack Gilliland toast the success of the auction.

Photo 2
Albert accepting the award on behalf of all those who had contributed to the success of the Fair over the years including his wife Irene, his co Founders the late William Brownlow; Stanley Scott and his close colleague Michael Dickey ; his recent co Director John Beach and all the clubs and associations including Strangford who put so much effort in over the years.

He reflected that his first contact with the association had been when as a schoolboy he visited their exhibit in Ards Town Hall and was shown round by none other that RW(Bob) Milliken.

He congratulated SLW&CA in reaching this important milestone in their history and expressed great pleasure at , in turn, presenting Stephen Mc Murray with the Captain James Hamilton Memorial award for Conservation in recognition of the clubs magnificent conservation record.

After two congratulatory speeches by Alderman Shannon and Ronan Gorman , director of BASC, Tony Jackson took the floor to conduct the auction of field sports items.

Reflecting on his association with the club and the Game Fair he told the very amusing story of his main recollection of the first Game Fair when the toilet blocks promised by the army failed to arrive the night before the Fair and Albert Titterington and Michael Dickey after scouring the country for female loos , set too after midnight with a JCB to dig the most memorable , if not most sanitary, earthworks for the male latrines. He reflected that Shooting Times could well have lost an editor to these gaping trenches.

After a superb meal, the presentations and speeches members and guests enjoyed themselves dancing until the "wee small hours".

Personal Editors Note

It gave me great pleasure to attend the SLW&CA celebratory dinner even though it meant that Michael Dickey and I had to drive through the night to get to the Scottish Game Fair the following day. I am extremely grateful to the club for their presentation but as I said and have always said the success of the Game Fair was and is a team effort with many individuals and indeed clubs such as SLW&CA making truly invaluable contributions. It was good to meet so many old friends including Tony Jackson and it was a great pity that club stalwart Tommy Wightman, whom I worked with for many years, could not be there.

SLW&CA have been part of the Game Fair since its existence and have made a massive contribution to it over the years including working alongside us to get permission for the first major air rifle range at any event in the province.

Tony Jackson shares a joke with Albert Titterington and Michael Dickey.

Photo 3
As I said my first contact with Strangford goes back over 40 years to when I as a boy at School took the afternoon off to visit their display in Ards Town Hall and met RW Milliken for the first time. As someone who from an early age always had a keen interest, indeed fascination with guns and shooting - my father was an armourer, and someone who went on to train as a biologist , the display and Bob's shooting/conservation interests cemented my belief that the two interests could and should be combined.

It is my genuine belief that it is clubs such as Strangford and the people who manage them, who do make the largest contribution to conservation in the countryside- they are the true environmentalists.

Albert J Titterington
This is the first of our club reports - if your club has a special anniversary or special event coming up please do contact us to have it featured in our events diary and possibly in a feature in the magazine and/or Web Portal.