1960-1966 1960-1966 History 2
© R.Irvine2011
Cookstown Wildlife Trust
    Cookstown Wildlife Trust  started in 1960 under the chairmanship of Sir Robert Staples and was then known as ‘ The Cookstown and District Game and Wildfowl Preservation Society’.   It was  concerned with the rearing of game and destruction of vermin – so different from today’s objectives! Nevertheless this newly formed club  which met at the Bacon factory,  was  supported by the local community and included  in its membership such people as  Dr Small, Harry Dolling, Vernon Wright,  George Crooks, Tom Coulter and Jim Warnock.  No women enrolled. Soon it became affiliated with the Ulster branch of “The Game and Wildfowl Preservation Society”. The subscription fee was 10 shillings and a committee was elected. It even had printed notepaper! The speakers were selected on knowledge of shooting, pheasant rearing and control of pests.  One speaker discussed the best method of dealing with Grey crows.  His theory was that it was best to wait until the birds had roosted before shooting them.  In these early days of the club, grey crow shoots were popular and became more successful when a small prize was  awarded to the member with the most kills! In 1961 the club moved to ‘The Central Inn’, Cookstown and a proposal to operate a pheasant breeding pen at Lissan House was put forward. This entailed expenditure and as the club also had its eye on a brand new American shotgun it was suggested that a ballot should be arranged. Tickets at 6d each were all sold, although whether or not they ever managed to buy that shotgun remains a mystery!. By 1962 the pheasant breeding scheme was under way with over 300 pheasant eggs bought, to be hatched and reared by the club’s members and friends. Unfortunately membership began to fall and meetings became fraught with tension as different opinions were expressed. A topic of concern was the purchasing of shooting rights around Lough Neagh. Some members were keen on this while others were less so. One member pointed out that the society was not just a shooting club but a preservation society as well and ‘he preferred to kill pests rather than game birds!’. This proved contentious and although shooting rights were not obtained it led to ill feeling  within the group. To help alleviate this, a ‘social’ sub- committee under the chairmanship of Harry Dolling was created . Outings to Glenveagh Estate and Rowallane Gardens proved popular. Annual Christmas Dinners were well supported.  However, animosity rose again. Shoots were by now rare,and pheasant eggs no longer bought. One member even suggested that the eggs were infertile which was hotly denied! Poachers destroyed young birds before organised shoots could begin.  As the rearing of birds was costly the question of economic viability was raised? By 1966 relationships hit rock bottom when one member from the social committee called for future outings to be held on a Sunday and closed to females! What an idea!!  War was well and truly declared. The sub-committee retracted this proposal and stated that ladies were indeed welcome to join the men folk at any time!  At a poorly attended A.G.M in the same year Sir  Robert, now in declining health, declared his intention to resign from the chair. The small attendance debated if there was a future for the club. Another A.G.M was arranged to discuss the club’s  prospects but it looked like the days of the Cookstown and District Game and Wildfowl Preservation Society  were well and truly over      Resurrection At the A.G.M on 19th December 1966, Chairman, Sir Robert Staples outlined problems facing the club.  Lack of support was a main concern. He stated, once again, that he wished to resign from the chair. Mr Dolling also requested that his post of Vice- Chairman and  Secretary be given ‘to a younger man’. With these wishes in mind the club debated its prospects.  Some members still wanted the club more involved with game shooting and culling of pests. Most however, were of the opinion that this was not the path the club should follow. Eventually Mr S. Hamilton declared that the society should continue and the club was saved yet again. Mr Henderson was proposed as Chairman and Mr Hamilton elected Vice Chairman. Sir Robert Staples was made President as a mark of appreciation for his contribution to the club. The next meeting, at Wellbrook , home of Mr Henderson, saw an increase in numbers. Mr McMillan, a member of the RSPB, was invited to join and co-operated on to the committee - a first indication of the nature of the Trust changing.   The first topic to be discussed was not speakers for the year nor suggestions for summer outings, but the annual Dinner Dance! Some members were displeased.  In the previous year £96 had been spent on dining and only £5 on food for pheasants! Mr Dolling stated that the society was’ not out of pocket’.It was agreed that a Dinner Dance should be held at Killymoon Golf Club and that Daintifyt be approached to donate a prize. The mind boggles as to what a lingerie firm could provide—a Rose Queen foundation garment perhaps?.! More seriously, Mr Mc Millan thought that something beneficial could be done for wildfowl of the area. Mr Hamilton and Mr Henderson kindly offered to set aside areas at Tullylagan Manor and Wellbrook to hold duck and game. The possibility of pens at Drum Manor was also mentioned.            At the following meeting,Mr Hamilton outlined plans for the development of Drum Estate which had been acquired from Mr Archibald Close by the Forest Service in 1964.  The club had been asked to take an interest in its future improvements. The plans were as follows: The introduction of birds, butterflies and moths to the area and the provision of safe habitats by providing nest boxes, shrubs and flowering plants.  Measures would be introduced to control vermin.  Sites and pens for the brooding wildfowl would be provided.Clearing away rubbish would be a major objective and creation of ponds for the  waterfowl.   Mr Hamilton explained the importance of publicity and suggested visiting schools and other groups to enlist volunteers for the project. It was decided that Dr Fenton and Miss Kertland from Queen’s University would survey the flora at Drum and Mr Rutherford would be asked to draw charts and maps of Drum.  Pupils from Cookstown Intermediate School woodwork classes and the Boys Brigade were to be invited to make nest boxes and pens.  Mr Getty and Mr Thompson offered to donate birds but this was declined until later because of foxes and other predators in the area. The Chairman commented on the changing character of the club and suggested that the title be altered to describe more accurately the current objectives of the society. A number of members thought that the club should develop along the lines of a Field Naturalist’s Club and after discussion it was proposed to adopt Mr James’s idea that the society be known as Cookstown Wildlife Trust . We were born at last!       
founded February 1950
  Pheasants, pests and poachers.          
1966-1969 1966-1969