My late parents, Peg and Jim Armstrong started Tullycarnet Yarnspinners in February 1991. The season was to run from September to May each year, as indeed it does to this day. Before the September 1992 season started, my dad was operated on for cancer, but he bounced back quickly and ran the monthly yarnspinning events. But knowing he didn’t have a lot of time left, he suggested to me that we record some of the sessions. So from January to May 1993, I travelled from London and with the invaluable assistance of Stephen Maxwell, we recorded 5 of the monthly sessions. Instead of just a main storyteller, as had been the norm, my dad invited the best of the local yarnspinners to tell a couple of stories each month. So we assembled a collection of stories by the finest that Northern Ireland had to offer.
That summer I worked with dad on picking stories and I put together enough for a cassette compilation, which my record company Ace manufactured. He was declining in health as the weeks went by and eventually my brother Perry rang to say that I had better come over as he didn’t have long. On the way to the airport I dropped into the office and as I was leaving my sales manager said ‘your cassette is in’ – they were a week early. I grabbed a few copies, flew to Belfast, arriving on the Friday night and the first thing I did was to give him a copy of the cassette. That was it for him, last ‘I’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed, and he slowly faded away over the following week.
We sold the tape for the benefit of the Hospice and raised around £12,000, with requests for it coming in from all over the World. It is still available as a double CD and now benefits the MacMillan nurses, who took such good care of dad in his final days.
As February 2021 is the 30th anniversary of the launch of Tullycarnet Yarnspinners, we have edited all of the stories and they are now available on the AST web site. This is a valuable archive of the times, and many of the story tellers are no longer with us, so this is their legacy as well.
You are free to listen to them, but should you feel moved enough, there is a Paypal button.
Original recordings by Roger Armstrong and Stephen Maxwell in 1993
Edited by Stephen Maxwell in 2021
Billy Ritchie from Gilford, Co Down used to write a lot of his own material.. Many of his poems can be found in “Stand Up and Tell Them” and “Stand up and Tell Them Some More ” edited by Liz Weir and published by Adare Press.
Billy Teare was born in Ballycarry, Co. Antrim and is a storyteller who has tried his hand at everything from hypnotising chickens to performing as a court jester. He is the author of Antrim Folk Tales (History Press) with Kathleen O’Sullivan
Reverend Cecil Brennen
The late Cecil Brennen was an army chaplain during World War Two. He served at Monte Cassino and was held as a prisoner of war at Colditz.
Dr Clodagh Brennan Harvey is a folklorist and poet who has made Belfast her home after many years living in the United States. She has written extensively on Irish folklore and storytelling, elements of which infuse her poetry, now the focus of her writing.
The late Crawford Howard was well known as both a musician and a versifier. Known for his laconic humour, in his own words his success left him “agog with apathy”.
Dorothy Thompson was a regular yarnspinner who lived till she was nearly 100 years old.
The late Harry Scott was well known for his work with the Scouts and he was a Presbyterian church elder who took his stories out to audiences all over Northern Ireland.
Ian Coalter lives in The Moy and started telling stories when in the Young Farmers Club. Since then he has become well known as a popular MC and entertainer.
In 1991 the late Jim Armstrong founded Tullycarnet Yarnspinners with his wife Peg who continued to run the monthly sessions until her death. Jim was a keen boxing fan who reported on boxing matches and had many ringside tales.
Lillian Nesbitt was a regular attendee at Tullycarnet Yarnspinners.
Liz Weir MBE was the first guest teller at Tullycarnet Yarnspinners and is now Storyteller in Residence, Libraries NI, for the Armstrong Storytelling Trust
Maude McNeely is a Fermanagh woman who grew up listening to stories. Maud moved to Belfast for work and became a regular Yarnspinner.
Muriel Simpson from Bangor used to share her poems regularly at Tullycarnet Yarnspinners.
The late Tom McDevitte started broadcasting back in 1935. He was the firs person seen on Ulster Television in the guise of his alter ego Barney McCool from Coolaghty, a country man from Tyrone. He was a household name in Northern Ireland, a fine storyteller.
Wilson Logan is a retired Co. Antrim farmer who is well known for his recitations in the Ulster Scots dialect.
The Armstrong Storytelling Trust welcomes donations from organisations or individuals in order for us to continue and expand our work in bringing storytelling to communities throughout Northern Ireland.
Please use the DONATE button to financially support us in our continued development.