Sunday, June 16, 2024


HUNDREDS of hours were dedicated to the creation of a colourful, yet poignant, display which was unveiled at St John’s Church of Ireland in Newcastle at the weekend.

Carefully crafted, well over 1,000 knitted poppies adorned the lectern, and there were also two commemorative wreaths on display – in memory of former parishioners and RUC officers, Detective Constable Maurice Rolston, who was killed by the IRA outside his home 50 years ago next month, and Karen Campbell (nee Johnston) who along with her husband John, who was also a serving officer, lost their lives in the Kegworth air disaster in January 1989.

The lectern’s ‘poppy fall’ was meticulously created over the past few months, by members of the church’s Craft and Chat Group, who meet on Tuesday afternoons and have devoted countless hours to creating, amongst other things, items for new-born babies in neonatal intensive care as well as teddy bears for the NI Fire and Rescue Service, PSNI and NI Ambulance Service to take on potentially traumatic call-outs which involve children. As Rev Myrtle Morrison explained, the group members “rose to the challenge” this year when it came to making the poppy display in time for Remembrance Sunday.

Praising the ladies for their “tireless” work making blankets, hats and protective cannula sleeves for babies receiving care in several hospitals’ NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Units) as well as the teddy bears, which she explained are crafted in the hope they “bring the children some comfort in traumatic situations,” Rev Morrison described their latest work as “beautiful”. “They also work on their own projects and have lots of fun and laughter,” she continued, explaining that the group consists of people from the wider Newcastle community, and that they also recently knit ‘Bible Buddies’ for the Sunday School children to bring with them to each of the activities in the church.  “This year they rose to the challenge of making a poppy display for the church. They knit or crocheted over 1,000 poppies and the ladies made a beautiful poppy fall which adorned the lectern,” she commented. In addition to the poppy display in the main body of the church, they also crafted what Rev Morrison described as “a very special fall of poppies” in memory of Detective Maurice Rolston, to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his death, on 11 December.

This covered a table in the main entrance hall, which was especially created as a lasting tribute to Mr Rolston. It was designed and built by former Castlewellan High School teacher and St John’s parishioner, Mr Bertie Lewis. The wreath in Mr Rolston’s honour includes flowers created by one of his daughters, and bears an RUC button at its centre. Commending everyone who played a role in the project, Rev Morrison added: “We are very proud as a parish to have such a loyal industrious group of ladies who look out for one another and encourage one another. “They have been heard saying that they don’t want to see another ball of red wool until next September at least!” Parishioner Vikki Methven was one of the ladies central to the project.

The former teacher, and a member of the Craft and Chat Group, said everyone was delighted with the end results, and added that, in addition to the display, handmade poppy badges were also sold in recent weeks, raising a substantial sum of money. “We have been working on these poppies since the summer, and it is the first time we have had something like this on display at church,” she explained. She said everyone was proud of the finished pieces and praised the group for “buckling down” and “getting on with achieving our goal.” Mrs Methven added that the club plans to build on this display for next year, although no decision has been taken as of yet as to what that will entail. “It was lovely to be a part of something so special and we were delighted with everyone’s reaction, including the Rolston family and Karen’s brother, Alan, who were very appreciative,” she said. Karen’s parents, Brian and Marguerite Johnston, have thanked everyone involved in the poppy project, especially Mrs Methven, for their “exquisite work”.

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