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North Down Bahai Community 1959

On 21 April 1959 the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was formed in Bangor, in what later became part of 'North Down Borough', a part of the Bahá'í Faith in the United Kingdom. Among the original members of that small community was Lady Kathleen Hornell (1890–1977), who had come over from England to live in Northern Ireland a few years earlier.

Another distinguished member of that first small group was the late Grace Pritchard, who later went on receive an OBE for her services in the field of education.

Regular Bahá'í meetings were held in Bangor throughout the late 1950s, and in June 1960, a weekend gathering at a hotel in Bangor attracted visitors from all over the United Kingdom. The guest speaker on that occasion was the distinguished writer and broadcaster Hand of the Cause Hasan Balyuzi, who then worked for the BBC World Service.

Indeed Bangor was the centre for many Bahá'í events in that period- usually advertised in the local 'Spectator' newspaper. Indeed the 'Dolly Vardon' cafe, off Main Street in Bangor, was then used on Friday evenings for regular talks by visiting Bahá'í speakers- these were also usually advertised in the local press. These meetings continued for several years.

North down bahais in 1972.
ND bahai in 1972 .

Permanent Bahá'í centre was opened in Bangor in the early 1970s (at 86 Southwell Road) and remained the centre for activities until the building was sold in the late 1980s. Regular talks and meetings had been held there, and children's classes. But as maintenance and insurance costs for the old building began to spiral in the late 1980s, it became necessary to sell it off. However, Bahá'í activities in the town continued unabated.

Perhaps one of the most memorable events to happen in the North Down area was in 1988, when a group of young South American Bahá'ís who were on a world tour, and who played traditional South American folk-music, made an appearance at Hamilton House in Bangor, at an event attended by the Mayor and several hundred local guests. Their rousing music received a standing ovation at the end of the concert, and many wished they could have kept them here much longer!

Changes in local government boundaries in the 1970s meant a geographical expansion of the area, and the disappearance of the old Bangor district, now merged into the much bigger 'North Down Borough'.

Although the Bahá'í community in North Down has remained small over the years, many members of the Faith from that area have gone to live and work abroad. Indeed many have gone to take the Bahá'í message to other regions of the world. For example, two members of the first Assembly later went to live in Venice, while another travelled to Malta- all with the intention of teaching the Faith in those countries.

In recent years, Bahá'í international gatherings have been held in North Down every summer, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Bahá'í gathering North Down, 2006.
Bahá'í gathering North Down, 2006.

Today, members of the Bahá'í Faith still reside and work in the North Down area and are active in Bahá'í activities throughout the country, and further afield.