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by Jill McIvor
"On the 148th anniversary of the birth of John Ballance, March 27th, 1987, I talked to three friends about the restoration of the Ballance house at Glenavy, Co. Antrim. All were eminent in their own fields, and thought it could be done. All became Trustees.
Although Robert McKinstry, an experienced architect in restoration work, had seen the house, he was not unduly depressed. Dr George Thompson, the then Director of the Ulster Folk Museum, who was unable to be present on this occasion, had also seen it and was encouraging. He subsequently became our first treasurer.
Lady Faulkner sketched out future policy and advised stressing the idea of a New Zealand centre. Trevor Neill, Chairman of Lisburn Historical Society, promised support, becoming our secretary. We drank to the success of the venture in New Zealand wine. This was the start of The Trust.
The present Mr John Ballance, the owner of the family home and farm, agreed to halt the demolition of the old house, and generously gave us a lease at a peppercorn rent for twenty years. This included not only the house but the 'garden' in front, and the orchard to the rear.
This lease was superceded by another for twenty-five years with an option to renew for fifteen years and extended the area to include the courtyard and the two stone buildings, thought to be contemporary with the original cottage.
There is a superb view from the site of Lough Neagh and in the distance parts of five counties which must have lingered in Ballance's memory as he named his racehorse 'Lough Neagh' on the other side of the world."
This article looks at the birth of the Ulster New Zealand Trust, inspired by John Ballance, former Prime Minister of New Zealand.