Campaigners celebrate 50 years

A look back in time to the 1960s when the Campaigners group was dedicated at a special service.
A look back in time to the 1960s when the Campaigners group was dedicated at a special service.

Portadown Baptist Campaigners are celebrating their 50th anniversary this month with a service to which all former Campaigners are invited.

The service will take place on Sunday, October 25 at 6.30pm in Portadown Baptist Church.

Campaigners are an evangelical, uniformed, youth organisation with 40 centres across Northern Ireland.

The first Campaigners clan was formed in 1957 by John McClelland at the Ulster Temple in Belfast and the Portadown group became the sixth centre in the province.

The Portadown group has grown from modest beginnings to its current membership of 120 children and young people, aged from 4 to 18 years and 28 leaders.

It began life on September 22, 1965 when a few members of the congregation from Portadown Baptist Church met in a wooden hall in Tavanagh Avenue.

The founding leaders were Mr and Mrs Jim McMullan, the late Rodney Gilpin, Tom Kerr, Eileen McCluskey and Florence Smyth.

Two boys, Vivian Stringer and Alan Smyth, turned up on the first night, with numbers doubling on the second with the attendance of Paul Calvert and Robert Magee.

The first girl to join was Barbara Downham.

From its slow start, the Campaigners grew rapidly, and at its height there were more than 200 in the local group.

Over the years, badges were obtained, drill competitions entered and there were triumphs on the football and sports fields.

Many of the young people have also obtained the Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a scheme championed in the group by leaders Thompson Gillespie, Albert Boyle, Gladys Nugent and Graham Proctor.

Campaigners meet weekly in Portadown Baptist Church Hall.

They were spread over seven sections - Eagles (P1-2), Boy Junos (P3-6), Girl Junos (P3-6), Girl Inters (P7-Yr 10), Boy Inters (P7-Yr 9), Girl Craftsmen (Yr 11-14), Boy Craftsmen (Yr 10-14).

Depending on the age group, the current group of Campaigners enjoy football, volleyball, unihoc, badgework, craft and various outings and weekends away.

Fifty years on, the most important part of the evening remains Clan C, a bible based talk/discussion.

New members are always welcome.