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Remembering the Bard of Ballycarry

By Eddie McIlwaine

James Orr, known as the Weaver Poet, and a friend of Rabbie Burns, will be remembered today at the Broadisland Gathering, which runs until Monday.

Just in case you are wondering, the festival takes place in the east Antrim village of Ballcarry, which used to be called Broadisland.

This is the 24th year of the event, and it involves pageantry, poetry and music. Broadisland was settled in 1609 by a William Edmonstone, who came over from Stirlingshire, liked the people and the landscape and stayed.

Ballycarry today boasts the oldest Presbyterian congregation in Ireland - founded in 1613.

Getting back to that man Orr, who called himself the Bard of Ballycarry, I know that he fled to America after the ill-fated United Irishmen rising of 1798, but was allowed to return under an amnesty and died in 1816.

His poetry will be read and the folk group Na Leanai will be there, too, along with traditional pipes and drums.

The population of the village is around 950, but upwards of 6,000 visitors are expected to attend.

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