Wednesday 25th January saw the 245th Annual General Meeting of the Belfast Charitable Society at Clifton House. It was an event tinged with sadness as our wonderful President Lady Moyra Quigley decided to stand down from her role in the Belfast Charitable Society. She has been an ardent supporter of the work of the Society and memorably played a significant role in helping it grapple with change and ‘the uncertain future’ it faced at the turn of the 21st century. It was Lady Quigley who led the fundraising for the massive new nursing home at Carlisle Circus. She effortlessly took on this ‘daunting challenge’. She led the campaign to secure £1m, which enabled the Society to make one of the biggest operational changes in its entire 265 year history.

The Society choose well in deciding to ask her to take up the post of President back in 2007. She has been a great support to the board and staff alike; attending events, representing and promoting the Society and providing objective and suitable counsel when required. She will be sadly missed in her role as President, but we trust her support as a member of the Belfast Charitable Society will not diminish.

Mr Philip Hall, the Chair of our Building Committee also retired at this AGM. Philip was instrumental in bringing forward the refurbishment project at Clifton House in the early 2000’s. He has contributed significantly at Board level and in particular taken responsibility for ongoing repair, maintenance and relationship matters relating to the house. He has agreed to continue as co-optee over the next while and will be here to support staff to oversee the major conservation and repair programme in the coming months.

After the business of the AGM was conducted we were treated to a ‘Burn’s Night’ inspired lecture by Dr Jonathan Bardon. “The Scottish Enlightenment & The Foundation of The Belfast Charitable Society” took us on a journey through O’Neill’s Ireland to the granting of the Charter giving Belfast City status in 1888. Following this, Belfast Charitable Society member, Laura Graham, continued the theme of Burns Night by playing a soundscape which described Tam O’Shanter’s encounter with the local witches. The piece had been originally been a sound sculpture at Auld Kirk Alloway which Burns used as the site for the encounter with the witches.

Above all the AGM demonstrated the activities and work carried out by the Society to deliver its missions and bring it a step closer to achieve its vision. Significantly it demonstrated how the Society remains true to the ‘objects’ of its founding and modernised Acts of Parliament in pursuing charitable activities which advance the interests of those we consider to be disadvantaged.