Speakers at our meetings in February included:

• Dr Tim Campbell, director of St Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick, reminded us of the rich variety of visitor attractions in Co Down.

The centre serves as the focus for journeys on the St Patrick’s Trail, stretching from Armagh to Bangor. Did our patron saint, originally a humble slave from Wales, really expel snakes from Ireland?

Unlikely, since there were none here to start with. Did he tend sheep on Slemish?

There is no evidence for this either. Whatever the truth behind the myths, in 2016 the centre was the destination of choice for over 800 tourist coaches, so the legends clearly endure. (pic)

Walter Rader OBE, NI representative for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, spoke of the award’s history and conditions for entry. All groups are judged on a UK-wide basis.

Out of 35 NI groups entered in 2016, 15 were successful. The closing date for nominations is September 2017. Full eligibility criteria and other details are on the QAVS website.

Ulster Wildlife’s Christine Chambers talked about the Home for Wildlife project, sponsored by Comber Rotary Club and involving 7 local primary schools. Lots of new creepy-crawly chalets and hedgehog hotels around Comber are now awaiting their 2017 occupants. (pic)

Rounding off the month’s speakers was Dervock’s Irwin McClean, professor of genetic medicine at Dundee University, the No 1 centre of excellence in life sciences.

In a fascinating talk on his work, Prof McClean revealed how he and his team have made key breakthroughs in the identification of the causes of skin diseases, and possible therapies or cures for some of them.

Clinical trials will begin next year on a revolutionary treatment for eczema.

Story by: DA


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