From the pages of the Down Recorder, May 8, 1979

From the pages of the Down Recorder, May 8, 1979

8 May 2019

DOWNPATRICK — Absenteeism among bin men in the Doownpatrick area has reached crisis proportions in the past 14 weeks and a top level enquiry has been ordered by local councillors who want stiffer disciplinary measures against workers.

Already a staggering 331 working days have been lost through absenteeism this year — on one day alone 10 men failed to appear for work.

A squad of 26 bin collectors are involved and their collection areas cover Downpatrick, Ballynahinch, Crossgar, Killyleagh, Saintfield, Strangford and Ardglass. But it is the Downpatrick area which has been most affected by the lost days.

After Down councillors were given a private memorandum of the record of absenteeism and sick leave among the bin men, Downpatrick councillor George Flinn immediately launched into an attack on their conduct.

He said he was appalled by the absentee figures and wanted to know whether discipline was tight enough and whether men were dismissed after after they had been warned.

“Something is wrong and it will have to be put right,” he said. “I do not see why these men are being retained if they are not present. We cannot carry on under this basis.”

Castlewellan councillor Ethel Smyth said it was a disgrace that 331 days were lost in 14 weeks and she felt it was a symptomatic of 1979 when a man could not be given the sack.”

BALLYNAHINCH — Ballynahinch Chamber of Commerce has joined the protest against the decision to a swimming pool from the plans for a new sports centre in the town.

The chamber’s executive committee have met local school representatives in an attempt to prepare a case for presentation to the Department of Education.

Figures of pupils likely to use a swimming town vary considerably, but chamber members believe that around 5,000 would want the use of pool facilities.

They are to prepare a detailed breakdown of the likely users and present the figures to the Department in a bid to reverse the decision to chop the pool.

NEWCASTLE — The final bill to repair the sea wall at Newcastle has jumped by almost £40,000 to £103,000. At the moment the money will have to come from local rates, although Down councillors are anxiously looking for Government grant aid.

This week they were warned that that if final repair work is not carried out this summer a large section of the wall could be washed into the sea.

Council workmen are currently completing a £12,000 ‘holding operation’ on the wall and 800 tons of boulders were brought to the site this week.

However, a consultant engineer appointed by Down Council, warned that the wall was continuing to slide in the sea and that fresh cracks were appearing at the base.

He said temporary measures had been essential, but warned that if permanent work was not carried out he could not guarantee the wall would still be standing next summer.

Mr Seamus Byrne, council clerk, explained that repair work was not normally covered by grant aid, but he had written to the Department of Environment and was awaiting a reply.

Newcastle councillor Norman Bicker reminded councillors that another section of the wall, beside the damaged section, belonged to the Department of Environment and this was also beginning to crack.

He felt that since the council had attended to short term measures on the council-owned section, the Department should be taking steps to repair the damage to its section.

STRANGFORD — Dympna Marron, from Myra Road, Strangford, finished third overall in the Daily Express Nurse of the Year finals. Staff Nurse Dympna, who works at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, set out for London last week to face up to the challenges of 13 others in similar careers, but with many more years of experience.

Dympna did not return home with the crown, but she was placed third — a wonderful achievement considering she is so young. In fact, she is the youngest nurse to compete for the coveted title, which was televised nationally.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience,” said Dympna, who took home a television set, a cheque for £50 and a bottle of champagne. “All the nurses taking part in the final were delightful. The nurse who won the title deserved to do so.”

In October Dympna will set out for a holiday in Hong Kong, her reward for winning the Northern Ireland section of the competition and will take her mother with her for company.

PORTAFERRY — Declan Mackell, a 39 year-old yachtsman who intends sailing round the world, made the first important step on his expedition when he launched his boat in Portaferry last week.

Although his history-making trip doesn’t start until the end of the month, Declan had to get his boat from dry dock into the water to continue his preparations — and to record the occasion he had television cameras standing by at quayside.

It wasn’t Declan’s idea to have the television crew there, but Gloria Hunniford and her Good Evening Ulster team were keen to have the scene on tape for their teatime show.

Gloria not only interviewed the yachtsman, but launched his boat in style by smashing a champagne bottle off the bows in traditional style.

Declan still has a lot to do before starting his trip on May 27, but now that the boat has been launched preparations can continue more quickly.

CROSSGAR — The only two-day horse trials in Ireland took place at Rademon, Crossgar, under the direction of Mr Ernest McMillen and proved again to be a great success.

Much work had been done to make the roads and track sections more effective, but a number of competitors found short cuts over sizeable stone walls and across a river at a fairly difficult spot. Not hall, however, managed this unscathed.

The cross country course was greatly altered from last year and included a difficult fence built around the famous Crawford Monument which commands the skyline.

A large number of competitors travelled from the South of Ireland and one from Scotland.

DUNDRUM — The third annual general meeting of the Dundrum/Seaforde Combat Cancer Group was held recently in Dundrum Field Centre. Mrs N F Mitchell, in her role as chairman, thanked everyone who made the past year so successful.

The Rev J K Laird, on behalf of his wife who has been treasurer for four years but who has been ill recently, reported that the group had sent £1,200 to headquarters in the past year. The guest speaker, Mrs N Gordon, of Annalong Combat Cancer Group, said she was very impressed by the work of the committee and wished them every success in the future.

BALLYGOWAN — A Ballygowan quarry has been voted the cleanest in Europe by a host of continental visitors. The unusual accolade has been awarded to the quarry belonging to Miskelly Bros where, it is said, it is hard to find a stone out of place.

“With tyres for lorries and loaders costing up to £600 each, it makes good sense to keep the place as clean as possible,” says Mr Fergus McKeown, managing director.

CRICKET — The new cricket season began on Saturday in the worst possible fashion for Downpatrick when they scored one of their lowest ever totals in an eight wicket home defeat against double champions Waringstown.

It was a disastrous day for the locals, who scored only 54 runs. They failed to make the good start needed and slowly went downhill to a heavy defeat, which leaves them wondering what lies ahead.

A late stand from Tom Hanna and Robert Strain pushed the score above the half century, but in general it was a poor batting performance.