In the 1930s many Northern Ireland families, including the Troughtons and the Winters from Portadown, started a new life half a world away in New Zealand.
That this distant Pacific nation offered them better opportunities in the hungry Thirties was partly due to the foresight of John Ballance, a farmer’s son from Glenavy, who became NZ premier in 1892.
Fast forward to 1951 and one of those migrants, Victor Troughton, landed in a light plane back on the 40 acre field outside Portadown where he had played as a child.
As newspaper cuttings reveal, this spectacular return came about after a friendly bet with former playmate Trevor Winter, also from Kilmore and also settled in NZ.
In 1951 air travel to and from NZ involved multiple flights and landings on land and water – making today’s 36 hours ‘hop’ from London seem a doddle!
This ‘Flying Kiwi Farmer’ story came to light when Barbara Morrison and family visited Ballance House between Lisburn and Glenavy, a unique museum and event centre operated by the Ulster New Zealand Trust on John Ballance’s home farm. Indeed, the farm is still in the Ballance family.
During her visit Barbara recalled how her Great Uncle Victor had caused quite a stir arriving back on his old home farm in County Armagh by air long before she was born.
With Ballance House open from April 3 onwards, visitors of all ages can, like the Morrisons, enjoy a positive look at the enduring links between NI and NZ. Links recently highlighted in a William Crawley BBC TV series.
For groups and families making plans for outings, Ballance House offers a completely new interactive museum plus tea room with easy parking and conference facility – all on the farm of John Ballance, who on becoming Prime Minister in 1892 helped ensure women and Maori had the right to vote.
This Liberal PM believed all deserved equal treatment and that farmland was for family farms, not huge companies or landlords, views reflecting his Ulster upbringing.
Ballance House offers a warm welcome to visitors looking to learn about folks from this small Province who played a pivotal role in developing New Zealand, the first nation where women could vote and the foundations of a welfare state were laid – all a generation before the UK.
For a positive experience showing how your fellow countrymen and women continue to have a huge impact on this liberal democracy half a world away in the Pacific visit Ballance House, a family friendly experience for all generations..
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