Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Blooming gorgeous - Broughshane's secret

Beauty shop workers Gillian Jamieson and Rhonda Hughes
Mrs Sara Ballantine with Katie Smyth, John Hamilton and Hanna Gunning refilling the bird bath
Blooming Broughshane

It's famous for its success in the Britain in Bloom competition but there’s much more to the Co Antrim village of Broughshane than hanging baskets crammed with brightly coloured flowers.



The award-winning village, with its bustling main street, boasts a rare community spirit that has impressed the competition’s judges year after year.

Britain in Bloom judge Jon Wheatley recently described his visit as an inspiration and praised the locals for “the best example of community involvement we have ever seen”.

Even pupils at the local primary school are clearly proud to live in picturesque Broughshane while the local pub the Thatch Inn is said to be a favourite of Prince Charles.

Sunday Life recently spent the day in Broughshane to find out why the locals are so proud of the village.

School-leaver Jonathan McMaster is five months into his four-year-long apprenticeship at McAllister’s Butchers on the village’s main street.

He said: “Broughshane is a great village and the good thing about working here is that I know a lot of the customers by name.”

Beauty therapist Rhonda Hughes and Gillian Jamieson, proprietor of Exclusive Beauty agreed that the village is special.

Gillian said: “Look at how neat and tidy everything is.

“The Britain in Bloom award is really good for business as it puts Broughshane on the map. We get lots of tourists and I have even had some clients from Europe because they see that we offer the French Guinot skincare.”

Local man Alex Douglas said one of the good things about Broughshane is that it has never lost its village atmosphere.

“I was born and bred here,” he said.

“I have brought people from England, Wales and even Japan here for business and they can’t believe it.

“They don’t believe it’s real and think it’s a set up!”

Local barman Chris Ramsay agreed.

He said: “The thing about Broughshane is that everybody knows each other.

“There is a really good community spirit here.”

The Thatch Inn on Main Street, which is owned by Brain Montgomery and managed by Sam Turtle, has been at the hub of the community since 1773.

Today the pub is bustling with people, many of whom travel from outside the village to enjoy its famous lunches.

Ballymena man Ian Torbitt, whose group Obsession often plays in the bar at weekends, said the atmosphere and food are second to none.

“Not only is it a pub, it’s a fantastic place to come and eat,” he said.

“The quality of the food is great. It’s a very friendly pub and there is a very warm atmosphere and it has a fantastic heritage.”

Anne and John McClory from Ballyclare come every week for lunch.

“The staff are great and the atmosphere is lovely,” Anne said while John added: “The people in Broughshane are very friendly.”

Others have visited from further afield, and the wall boasts photographs of some of the famous faces who have had a drink at the famous Thatch.

There is even a framed letter from Prince Charles praising the staff.

“Prince Charles was very pleasant and took time to speak to everybody,” said bar manager Sam.

“We have also served Barry McGuigan, Sir Patrick Mayhew and Graham Norton when he was filming Who Do You Think You Are for the BBC.”

The Thatch is the only pub in Ireland to have its own brand of single malt whiskey called the Podhreen Mare.

Sam explained: “The podhreen mare means the rosary mare. Legend has it that Lord O’Neill had a horse that ran with rosary beads around its neck and it won every race.

“But one day it ran without them and it dropped dead afterwards.”

Last year the bar raised over £4,000 for various charities through the regular pub quiz Sam organised between October and April.

Another hub of the community is Broughshane Primary School where the pupils are taught about caring for the environment from an early age.

While the Year One pupils watch the birds feeding on the bird table via CCTV with their teacher Mrs Sara Ballantine, the whole school is involved in regular clean-ups of the school grounds and village during the summer term.

Meanwhile Year Four pupils have access to cutting edge technology.

Amy Murray, Matthew Hariday and Timothy Brown explained that their class used video conferencing to help them with their project on the Great Fire of London.

“We had a video conference with a woman from the Museum of London,” Matthew said.

“It was good fun and it lasted for ages,” Amy added.

Timothy said: “We could see her and she could see us and at the end we got to ask questions which was the best bit.”

Teacher Lisa McIlvenna said: “It was really successful and the children could interact with her.”

Year Seven teacher Mrs Carolyn Hamilton said the school organises an eco shop in the spring/summer term.

“The children bring things in to sell and the money is used to buy plants for the school,” she said.

“We have recycling bins and have solar panels too.”

Susannah Graham, 10, who lives just outside the village said: “I like Broughshane because it is nice and clean and the people are friendly.”

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