An Evening with Lady Mary

IMG 2403

The Club were delighted to host a very special Charity Evening Monday 20 May when, in the form of a 'living room chat', Lady Mary Peters gave a fascinating and entertaining question and answer session with Keith McGarry Solicitor Advocate, Conn & Fenton Solicitors, encompassing many aspects of her life.

This truly exceptional evening was not only enjoyed by all
but also raised
£1,500 for Lady Mary's Challenge

89 attended and welcoming Hon Member Lady Mary Peters, Keith McGarry, the President of Inner Wheel Club of Belfast Beryl Crawford, Rotarians and Partners from the Rotary Clubs of Ironbridge and Wellington, Comber, Lisburn and North Down, members, partners and guests President Mark noted that Lady Mary had initiated her "Race to a Million" 2 years ago in the hope to raise £1m before she was 80 this year.

He highlighted that the Trust was established by Lady Mary to create an on-going and meaningful commemoration of her Gold Medal win in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and has made a difference to the lives of thousands of young athletes from across Northern Ireland sport. He also congratulated her on her Order of the Garter Award. A short video (right) showing what the Trust does and its impact on young sportsmen/women was played.     

Commenting on her Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter Award Lady Mary revealed that she had been invited with a surprising phone call from the Queen's Private Secretary last February and, appointed at the Sovereign's sole discretion; it is the highest Order of Chivalry. Lady Mary also divulged that she had recently had a private audience with Her Majesty and that she had to design her flag which will hang in St George's Chapel for her lifetime. It will contain, she advised, all facets of her life: a Liver Bird (reflecting Liverpool where she was born) with flax flowers around its neck (reflecting her love of NI), a Springer Spaniel (reflecting her brother and childhood) with a Red & White rose around its neck (representing Lancashire & Yorkshire) the Olympic rings, 10 oak trees (representing Derriaghy and her gift on retirement from Lieutenancy) and the Dome of the City Hall with a Ulysses Butterfly on the top (reflecting her father) - this will be the 1st time a butterfly appears on a flag. She will be invested in June on Garter Day when Her Majesty and all Companions parade to St George's Chapel from Windsor Castle for a service which, she noted, members of her family will be attending.

IMG 2384Lady Mary pointed out that the Trust has been bestowing funds for 40 years not only making a huge difference and joy to thousands of young athletes but also through their successes bringing joy to thousands of people not only in NI but across the world. She revealed that a Trust was initially set up to raise money for a track in 1995 after journalist Malcolm Brodie asked her what she would like to acknowledge her success. Lady Mary revealed that Club member Denis Wilson had been Chairman of the Track Fund and £75,000 was raised and a fantastic track was built in 1976. She also established a charitable Sports Trust in 1975 to support talented young sportsmen and women, both able-bodied and disabled, from across Northern Ireland. Known the Ulster Sports Trust (to distinguish it from the Track fund) it was renamed as The Mary Peters Trust 10 years ago. The Princess Royal gave her the Challenge to raise a million 2½ years ago and the final figure would be revealed shortly at the Gala Night on 31 May.

IMG 2383Lady Mary also talked about her dreams and aspirations when young. She revealed she had been born in Liverpool but her family had come to NI and she had attended Ballymena Academy but could not understand the accents! Aged 14 she went to Portadown Academy but her mother died when she was 16 and she and her father were grief stricken. The headmaster Donald Woodman and PE teacher Kenneth McClelland introduced her to athletics with Mr McClelland her first coach. Athletics became her new life and her mantra "if you don't try you'll never know".

When asked what she remembered standing on the podium receiving her gold medal Lady Mary revealed that 1972 had been her 3rd Olympics having also competed in 1964 & 1968 as well as several Commonwealth Games. She had felt great pride and was delighted to be bringing back good news to a Province that needed it so much. She also divulged that she found out live on television that her father had travelled from Australia and was in the stadium for her medal. She pointed out that she had had no track to train on, though she had got a Churchill Fellowship for 6 weeks full time training in the States which had been a strain on her body as she was not used to it. Nobody had thought she could do it - but she "brought it home".

IMG 2399She reflected that she did not get tired of being known and recognised rather she enjoyed it loving Northern Ireland and when away coming back to Belfast.

Lady Mary's hopes and aspirations for the Trust were that it would endure forever so that every young person would have the opportunity to follow their dream and reach their potential. She expressed the hope that having raised the £1m the interest would allow this.

IMG 2393

Concluding, she hoped that retirement would mean she would have more time to herself to enjoy her hobbies and that more NI young people will be competing and bring back more "good news".

Lady Mary answered several questions from the floor and the standing ovation merely reflected how privileged those attending felt to have been there.


Pictures will advance automatically - click on any image to enlarge and scroll manually