St Patrick’s Ballymena Girls Friendly Society
St Patrick’s Ballymena Girls Friendly Society held their annual display at the Church’s Castle Street building recently.
Some of you might ask what is the Girls Friendly Society or the GFS as it is now known? The GFS was officially started in England on the 1st January, 1875 by Mary Townsend. She was an Irish Rector’s daughter who had married a very rich man by the name of Townsend.
At this time the girls had to leave their homes and family to find work. Most of the work would have been in mills or in service in the ‘Big Houses.’ Most were cut off from friends and family. Mary had the idea where a lady would befriend these girls and become their mentor, while the girls would then become the Members of the Society.
The outbreak of the First World War saw a decline in numbers, but in the 1920’s the Society began to grow again. 1925 saw the Society with 66 Homes and Hostels throughout England and Wales. Here the girls gathered for Training Weeks and Correspondence Training Courses.
During the Second World War the Society again launched the War Training Scheme for girls aged 14-18 years. They were taught various subjects ranging from ARP Techniques to Poultry Keeping. The Youth Wartime Section provided housecraft training for the girls aged 16-18 years old.
St Patrick’s Ballymena Girls Friendly Society now meets on a regular basis, where the girls can enjoy a varied programme.
The Society now is a very different organisation from its original conception. However, it still attracts young girls from 3 years upwards each Tuesday night. They meet between 7:15pm – 8:15pm from September to Easter at St Patrick’s Church, Castle Street, Ballymena. Here they take part in various activities from Bible Study art, marching, singing and a lot of other activities too numerous to mention.
To find out more about the Girls Friendly Society, log on to their website here. For more about St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Ballymena, click here.