Andrews, J., Page, M. and Sheehan, T. Ballycastle Golf Club 1890-1990

In conjunction with its centenary celebrations Ballycastle Golf Club has published an interesting history of the club from its foundation in 1890 until the present day. It was a fortunate day for Ballycastle when a golf club was formed as otherwise there is little doubt that the pleasant green sward which borders Ballycastle strand would have disappeared under a plethora of what are often termed desirable residences during the past one hundred years.

The formation of the club by Captain Alfred M. Causton, R.N., in 1890 is recorded in The Irish Golfer of September 1990:

Commander Causton, R. N., the then Divisional Officer of Coastguards at Ballycastle, having been initiated into the Royal and Ancient game at Portrush, saw that the Warren at Ballycastle, a stretch of sandy turf abounding in rabbit holes and bracken, could in time be converted into excellent links for those in the locality who might be induced to take up the game. Having received from Miss Boyd permission to use this ground, he laid out greens and with three or four other residents of the neighbourhood, established the now well known Ballycastle Golf Club.

Luckily Miss Kathleen Isobel Boyd of the Manor House, the owner of the Ballycastle Estate, was keen to see a golf club established and as an encouragement to the sponsors she offered the use of the Warren free of rent for the first twenty years. She was also instrumental in the formation of the ladies’ Branch in 1897 and was to hold the position of Captain of the Ladies’ Branch for forty-seven years.

The Warren had been a natural recreation area for the people of Ballycastle being used not only for walking but also as the venue for sports meetings and circuses. The first sports event was held in the town on Thursday 27th August 1879 and it was in 1882 that the sports track (which can still be seen) was banked and levelled, free of professional charges, by Mr. D. B. Wise, engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. By the 1920’s, however, the Golf Club decided that it could no longer allow the course to be used for the Annual Sports and this caused a certain amount of ill-feeling between the Golf Club and the townspeople. In defiance of the Golf Club’s decision the Ballycastle Regatta and Sports Committee agreed “to take possession of the Warren and hold Sports there on 20th July 1926”. The Golf Club went to the High Court and was successful in obtaining an injunction against the Sports Committee, who it was pointed out, in spite of having spent money in laying out a track, had no title or right to the ground. It was not until 1943 that the rift was healed when another sports meeting was held at the Warren. In the post-war period the Warren was used for sports meetings usually on the Lammas Fair Day.

The book is handsomely illustrated with numerous old (and some not so old) photographs as well as copious records of competition winners. The fascinating feature of the book is the social history which is sometimes evident and more often concealed in its pages. It is clear that in the early days of the club the members were drawn from the landed-gentry and the professions but by the end of the Second World War that the club was only too glad to welcome the support of artisans.

One obvious omission is any reference to the social side of the Golf Club. At one time, particularly in the thirties and forties, the Ballycastle Golf Club dance was one of the highlights in the social calendar. On these occasions, held in the Marine Hotel, it was a case of “Dress Formal”, an elaborate supper and dancing to first-class bands such as Mrs. Mooney and Her Boys, Johnnie Owens ad His Band or The Blue Serenaders.

In spite of this omission the local historian will find much of interest in this volume including the purchase of the beach and the Pans Rocks and the Club’s handling of the problem of coastal erosion.

I understand that this book is a limited edition and in a short time it is bound to become a collector’s item. Impact Printing has done an excellent job with this hardback edition and particularly with the dust jacket which has copy of a Charley Me Auley painting on the back. Brian Morgan’s spectacular colour photographs are an added bonus. Readers would be well advised to secure a copy of this attractive volume before it goes out of print. CAHAL DALLAT

Dunlop, E. & Kernohan, S. Around Ahoghill: Part III

“Around Ahoghill” is another in an absorbing series which you tell your friends about, but never lend to them, unless there is a spare copy in the house! This good opinion has no connection with the several times that I, and mine, are mentioned.

The many exhibits are excellently reproduced on non-shiny paper. This sets a good example to one Ulster historical publication recently received, where the readability was akin to driving with the sun in your eyes.

I stand corrected from a plural with the word Ahoghill as “Ford of the yew tree” in the heading of The Poetic preface by Andy McFetridge. This is followed by “The Parish of Ahoghill”, by Hugh Alexander Boyd. For the record, I became aware last year that these two gladiators for historical truth have actually met, in private debate. It is certain that the sentence “I have no fear of contradiction” would have been in use. Mr. Boyd’s St. Colmanell’s essay includes incumbents to date, and is interspersed with material about the Centenary, Memories of the 1959 Revival, and MAHG1988 outing material.

“Around Ahoghill” goes smoothly, as in the 1988 outing, up to the doors of First Ahoghill. The 1959 Revival, which returns later in the book, could scarcely be forgot in that place, because the multiple attendance left the back balcony off the level ever since.

The 1898 history-lecture of First Ahoghill is reproduced. This contains the wholly misconceived 1898 policy that, “With regard to the history of the congregation from the days of Mr. Cuming it is not necessary that I should go into detail”. It WAS necessary. Here perishes most of the eighty years since 1809.

This “everybody would know” concept is not a fault in “Around Ahoghill” which even has some notes to add to the previous “Buick’s Ahoghill”, the predecessor, in the three, of “Ahoghill Folk”. The ISBN of International Standard Book Number is explained.

“The Maidens of Moorfield” (Pages 43—56) were in one of those places which are postal and electoral emigrants from Ahoghill toward Cullybackey. “Around Ahoghill” continues with photographs and many fully captioned groups. Some are outlying schools in areas such as Ballybeg, Ballymontena, Lismurnaghan, Gracehill, and Longstone. The last two are survivors in an area where country schools have been closing for eighty years. I gather Primary One is now officially Year One.

The Civil Defence papers show a lifting of a burden, the more felt as truth was the first casualty in the Gulf in January 1991. The information flow in “Around Ahoghill” literally runs right through from 1951 Football on the front, to the practical supporter on the back, Ballymena Borough Council. In their space the stone gable plaque from the Buick Memorial Hall is reproduced. It was removed before demolition of the Hall, which is on sale as a building site. The Hall, long since superseded, was separated from its mother church, by a private lane.

I hope there’s more to come. TERENCE NELSON


Schools, like churches, do not offer their domestic historians excessive scope for individualistic treatment, but a comprehensive volume (271 pp: £8.50) from the lively pen of the Ballymena man who was formerly Vice-Principal of Larne Grammar School is noticeably fresh in its treatment of inevitable topics.

Frankly, but not inelegantly, Hilbert Mcllrath tells how, more than a century ago, the need was met for a “high-class seminary for the Education of the rising generation of Lame and its vicinity”. Not his first contribution to the local history (see further below), this account opens with an excellent description of the town in the late nineteenth century and subtle characterisation of the local worthies, Sir Edward Coey and Mr. John Crawford, who sponsored and organised its new school. Here, as throughout the book, we are aware of the author’s constant but not uncritical use of newspaper files, always in the interest of local colour.

If a congregational history naturally divides according to the several ministries in that place, the story of a school must be broadly built around those who sat in the headmaster’s chair. These our author sets squarely in the context of their times. The first incumbent was R. M. Jones, obviously a tight wee man during his long reign at Belfast Inst (as is clear from J. C. Arnold’s classically witty eulogy of 1952 and John Jamieson’s more reserved history of some years later). But here we first meet a twenty-four year-old who had to prove himself during his few seasons (1881—91) in Lame. The ‘Grammar’ was not going to be built in a day and Belfast was to call well before the foundations had set. So what might have been if the youngster who had “bared his teeth” about local deficiencies in 1890 had remained in Larne until retirement in 1925? Who knows, but the eventual bequest of three-eighteenths of Jones’ estate to the Grammar suggested that the school had remained close to his heart. Much had happened, however, by 1947, when, a year before his decease, RM came back to distribute the prizes. William Dawson, his successor from 1891 to 1900, had worked and played hard, but, after less than a decade in a “perilous position”, had probably jumped before he was pushed. That he ended his days in a ‘grinder’ in TCD says more than enough.

William S. Johnson (1901—03), on the other hand, soon sought out a place in higher education in South Africa. At thirty-eight, and with a good academic record, he could not linger long, giving extra-mural lectures in the McGarel Town Hall. Apparently ubiquitous in the community, Johnson had revived the Grammar for a season, but knew that enduring prosperity was not necessarily assured. Thus the fascinating accounts of the headmasters who followed. James McQuillan (1904—37) saw the school through the days of the Gun Running and the First World War, only retiring, probably after some coaxing, as Hitler’s diabolical antics darkened the face of Europe. That the man who had set the Grammar on its feet and had lived for thirty years in the style that had threatened to weary Johnson after three, should in retirement have had a running battle with the Governors about the price of a mere motor mower is more than a little sad. The ‘old volcano’, who had given his magnificent energies to the firm for so long (here dominating four chapters), might have avoided this unseemly encounter, but do not robust men sometimes fight small battles with big guns?

In the see-saw of domestic history the next-incumbent, Jones-like, came, left his mark, and moved back to Belfast. John W. Darbyshire (1937—43), arrived from RBAI and went to BRA, where he was headmaster until 1968, being succeeded in Larne by a second Englishman (with a Ballymena-born wife), R. M. Williams (1944— 50). Then followed another long reign (1950—73), that of Joseph Alan Stewart, who had various claims to fame. It was he who, while at BRA, had switched the great Jack Kyle to the position of out-half, while admirers of John Luke may recall Stewart’s name from John Hewitt’s memoir of the artist. Stewart’s quarter-century, the one in which my own contemporaries fell, was often much marked (in a way that is everywhere again recognisable) by anxieties about supply and demand in local education. At times the future of the Grammar was a cause for concern and conservative forces grouped and re-grouped accordingly. But all the time the daily diet of work and play continued, the circularity of the scholastic year being reportedly relieved, no doubt desirably, by the likes of A. B. Sheppard. To him, remembered for those “false teeth slipping from their appointed places”, goes posthumously that premium of debatable worth, the “long service medal”, in a section where the author openly meditates on the arts of teaching and living, before rushing on to that eccentric ephemerality, the extra-curriculum. “These details of the clubs and societies of the Grammar School of J. A. Stewart are the merest trivia and the world will take no notice and rightly so… at the time they were important to those who took part in them

Not so easily forgotten are the tensions which arise in communal life, so, for Hilbert Mcllrath to say that Stewart’s “relations with the staff were likely to be interesting rather than placid” is for him to speak with knowing circumspection. The same care is evident in the author’s portrayal of the incumbency from 1973 of David J. Thompson, but “on one occasion”, it is reported, “recourse had even to be made to a tribunal in Belfast to bring about a kind of peace”. It will be left to another, however, fully to review that late headmastership distinguished by “a gospel of hard work”. But all of us are already greatly reinforced in our sense of a school that had long felt the obligation to prove itself, a condition that is far from unique. The author knows that a school must live off community.

Here, indeed, is more than a history of “the Grammar”; here, as already implied, is a very substantial slice of Larne’s history, a model of local historiography, a portrayal of a school in its town, in the wider life of the province, especially for the vital early decades. Note, as further examples, that fine evocation (pp47—50) of local circumstances at the turn of the century and those characterisations of influential clerics such as David Hanson and, not least, the combative J. Lyle Donaghy (once of Killymurris). But then Mr. Mcllrath was well-equipped to analyse the various religious strands in the fabric of Larne life, having already collaborated with J. W. Nelson in an update (1975) of Classon Porter’s ‘Congregational Memoirs of the Old Presbyterian Congregation of Larne and Kilwaughter’ (1864). In continuing the record of that meeting at ‘the head of the town’, Mr. Mcllrath had already documented an important strain in the history of “the Grammar”. And in producing this second volume, he has presented the local story in a context that a wider readership will readily recognise. Deep down (and not so deep down, as on p. 132), this account of one provincial academy amounts to a meditation on the demands on body and spirit of the now hardly popular “profession” of pedagogy. And in County Antrim at that. EULL DUNLOP

Some Handlin’; The Dialect Heritage of North Ulster collected by the pupils and friends of Ballyrashane Primary School

If you cannot immediately recall the meaning of sned, snib, snoken, soorlicks, spags, sprickled breid, spulpin, steaghey or stime then this is the book for you. The children of Ballyrashane Primary School, inspired by the school Principal, Mrs. Rae McIntyre, have done a magnificent job in collecting the dialect words and sayings of their native district. Most of the words will be easily recognised by Glens folk since most of them are Ulster Scots dialect, (see the article by Karen Corrigan on page 14),

Ballyrashane is a small village which can boast of two churches, a small primary school and a creamery. It lies in the north-east comer of Derry about a mile from the boundary of County Antrim. The collection and transcription of dialect words began as a school project but such was the success of the project that the principal felt that to do justice to the children’s efforts the work should be printed. This first edition which was privately published in 1984 was a sell-out. There did not seem to be any immediate intention to reprint the book.

By 1990, however, times had changed and a new edition was called for as Mrs. McIntyre explains in the Introduction to the book: “Since the first edition of this book was compiled in 1984 there has been a perceptible change in attitudes towards non-standard dialect. Six years ago it was considered quite unacceptable in many quarters but now it is regarded as a distinctive aspect of our cultural heritage. In the consultation paper entitled “Cultural Heritage: A Cross Curricular Theme” it is advocated that pupils should know and appreciate a series of local words and phrases such as ‘oxter’, ‘cowp’, ‘scundered’, ‘thrawn’, ‘forenenst’, ‘carnaptious’, ‘a cup in your hand’, ‘a face as long as a Lurgan spade’ and ‘do you mind the time?’

It may not be necessary to stress the importance of dialect in our country, nevertheless it may be useful to quote the late Professor John Braidwood of Queen’s University on the subject:

“Dialects vary not merely because of geographical separation or isolation but because each is in a fashion a reflex to the culture pattern of the community that uses it. Dialects are thus the mark of history (our own history) upon our tongues. If our distinctive linguistic roots are allowed to wither, a substantial part of our heritage withers irretrievably with them; our culture is diminished, becoming colourless and nondescript, difficult to distinguish from any other. Our Ulster linguistic heritage is unique, for it is a unique composite of a number of Scots and English dialects (mainly though not only, of the west), with a sprinkling of Irish in those areas where Irish survived the longest (the Sperrins, South Armagh, [the Glens], and the border areas). This rich variety of origin gives our dialect(s) a richness and variety of expression unparalleled in any area of comparable size.”

A major step forward has been taken with regard to Ulster dialect in that an Ulster Dialect Dictionary is presently being compiled at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum; in the meantime, however, schools which are involved in the study of Cultural Heritage will find the Ballyrashane book a very useful teaching aid.  CAHAL DALLAT

Dunlop, E., Ferguson, V. and Hanna, B. Round ‘Kells & Conyer’ Published by Kells and Connor Luncheon Club with Mid-Antrim Historical Group.

It must be unusual for a luncheon club to publish a local history and yet it makes a lot of sense for members of such a club to record their memories since all the members are senior citizens with the happenings of a lifetime to talk about. In spite of all we say about the importance recording the memories of old people, we seldom seem to take any action in this respect. The members of Kells and Connor Luncheon Club are to be congratulated in giving us a lead here and although they do not claim that their efforts have resulted in some wonderful historic compilation they have managed to capture a corpus of social history of these “twin settlements with a distinguished medieval past”.

What memories are evoked in this description:

.. she would invite us into her neat, tidy house for a chat. We sat in the kitchen, because her parlour was only used when very special guests (such as the minister) visited her. It was a lovely room, with a China dog sitting on guard at either side of the fireplace and a mantlepiece arranged with a variety of vases and photographs. In the hall stood a grandfather clock which we loved to hear striking.”

The people of this area are not forgetful of their medieval history and were aware that a stone which had been built into a house in Main Street, Kells was at one time “the baptismal font from Templemoyle, the abbey which played an important part in the development of Christianity in Ireland. The villagers were afraid that the stone would be dumped with the rubble from the houses, but Ballymena Borough Council have had it installed in the renovated abbey.”

Local characters are not forgotten like the man with the two wicker baskets who called each week at the houses over a wide area and who delivered the same sales talk on each occasion:

“I hae safety-pins, hairpins, clips, ‘riddin combs’, penny picture books, and elastic . . . and I hae ten colours of black spools, so I hae.”

A selection of dialect phrases and sayings from mid-Antrim gives one a feeling for the speech of the area. The cobbler recalls what life was like in the wartime days when ever leather for shoes was rationed. He recalls that building labourers had thirty shillings for a forty-four hour week in 1942 and ‘Pool’ (no brand names in wartime) petrol cost 3/6 per gallon. The Newsletter cost three half-pence as did the Northern Whig; the Belfast Telegraph cost two pence. You could take a taxi from Connor to Ballymena for a shilling. As his workshop was the place where villagers dropped in for a chat he had many stories about the goings-on, happy to recall who was who and where.

The work of the village blacksmith is recorded and there is a detailed description of the hooping of a cart-wheel.

The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs of groups of factory workers at John Dinsmore and Sons, Ltd., Oldgreen 1939, Woodgreen Weaving Company 1939, football teams as far back as 1892, several schools, flute bands, accordion bands, church choirs, bowlers, etc., and the beauty of it is that each of these pictures is accompanied by almost complete lists of names. There is also a photograph of Mary Miller, who was a knocker-upper, a person who went round in the mornings knocking on doors to ensure that the workers got to their work in the factory at 7 a.m.

I can see this book (which has been supported by a video entitled Bonny Kellswater being an absolute godsend for teachers and pupils involved in the new subjects on the Northern Ireland Curriculum — Cultural Heritage or Education for Mutual Understanding. Congratulations to all who contributed to this interesting production. CAHAL DALLAT

McBride, P. G. Watertop; Where the Curlew Flies Published by the author, 1990.

Watertop is the name of an area in the townland of Ballyvennaght, which lies between Ballycastle and Cushendun. The name is not an ancient one as it does not appear in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1669 and yet William Butler who was alive in 1775 is described as being “of Watertop”. The area has become well-known today because it contains one of first open farms in Ireland — Watertop Farm. The farm is run by the McBride family and Paddy McBride or ‘Paddy o’ the Top’ (as he is locally known) tells the story of life on this farm during the past seventy years.

An article in ‘Farmweek’ describes the man and his book:

Where the Curlew Flies is the work of Patrick (Paddy) McBride, a farmer from the Glens of Antrim. It is the story of a simple man; a man who is neither author nor scholar; a man who left school at 14, like most of his generation and background.

This book charts aspects of his life, from the 1920s to the present.

He was born in a thatched house and the book unravels the simple existence, the hardship, the moments of despair and the occasions of joy.

It is a history of the area, of the people, the relentless passing of time, and the remarkable, yet inevitable changes that have taken place in his own lifetime.

The book gives the reader a rare insight into the author’s own life on a Glens of Antrim hill farm; the daily dawn-to-dusk toil and struggle to provide a home and a livelihood for himself and his family.

Life was difficult, but life also had its lighter side: the barn dances, often held in the author’s own barn; the story-telling; the ‘ceilidhing’ in each other’s houses, and most importantly, the characters that have emerged over the years who have moulded and retained the unique culture and heritage of the Glens.

In the author’s own words, this book is a recollection of “what I did, what I saw and what I heard.”

When Paddy McBride writes about farming practices and customs he is writing about things which he knows at first hand; his knowledge of farm animals is extensive resulting from first-hand experience. He tells of how he was working with horses before he was tall enough to put the harness on them. Being a hill-farmer he is a recognised expert on sheep; to most of us one sheep looks like another but Paddy can claim: “I could always see something different in every sheep.” The farmer’s year with the ploughing of the land, the sowing of the seed and the harvesting of the crops are described in great detail by a man who knows and loves his subject. When he enters the realms of history he is less sure. For anyone wanting to know more about farms and farming in the Glens area, Paddy McBride’s book is a must and indeed it should be required reading for school parties intending to visit Watertop Open Farm. CAHAL DALLAT

Carmody, Rev. W. P.: Cushendall and its Neighbourhood — A Guide. Reprint by Dalriada Publishing.

Most Glensfolk will know of Carmody’s Cushendall but very few are lucky enough to possess a copy. It is good to see this booklet available again at a reasonable price. A copy of the original cost me £10 many years ago. The author was the Church of Ireland Rector in Cushendall when he wrote this potted history of the area and he certainly had a feel for the place and retained his love for the Glens all during his life. He died in 1938 and was interred in Knockbreda, Belfast. The booklet has been printed on good quality paper by Impact Printing of Ballycastle and great care has been taken in the reproduction of the black and white drawings and five water-colour paintings (also in black and white). An advertisement for the Cushendall Toy Industry tells of a craft long since disappeared.

The proprietor of Dalriada Publishing is Mr. Danny Morgan of Ballycastle, a member of our Society. Danny is hoping to do a number of reprints of publications which are out of print or difficult to obtain and this exciting venture is worthy of our fullest support. CAHAL DALLAT

Waugh, Edwin: Irish Sketches London, Simpkin, Marshall & Co. 1874. Reprint by Dalriada Publishing, Ballycastle 1990.

Among the many travel writers who visited Ireland in the last century was Edwin Waugh. He described his travels in a book published in London in 1874. A section of the book dealt with north Antrim and it is this portion which has been reprinted by Danny Morgan. Waugh’s visit to Rathlin Island coincided with the dedication of the island’s Catholic church on 22nd August 1865 and he recorded the occasion in great detail:

“There were two boats going over to Rathlin, chartered for Dr. Dorrian, the Bishop of Down and Connor and about a dozen of the clergy of his diocese, and their friends; and I think I must have been the only person in the company who was not going specially to be present at the consecration. Whilst waiting for the arrival of the bishop and his clergy, I sauntered about among the boatmen, and fishermen, and folk from the town, who had come down to see the boats off.

“Are ye going’ over to the island, sir?” cried old Archy Weir, a short, stiff-built, weather-beaten Triton, who looked as shrivelled and tough as a dried haddock. “… As we drew near the landing-place, a little crowd of island folk was waiting to welcome us. As soon as I got clear of the slippery landing-place, I stopped to look about me, and my first impression was that the country inland looked like a bit of Cumberland in its cultivated parts. And this is the wild island of Rathlin, which has so often felt the fury of Danish, English and Hebridean arms …”

The booklet also includes chapters on the Coast Road, Dunluce Castle, Dunluce to the Giant’s Causeway, the Giant’s Causeway and the Irish Patriarch. Dalriada Publishing has produced a most interesting booklet at a very attractive price. CAHAL DALLAT

Dallat, Cahal: Antrim Coast and Glens — A Personal View. Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland. Belfast 1990. 

It is surely appropriate that a book about the Glens should be written by a member of the Glens of Antrim Historical Society and the choice of author has been vindicated by the resulting work. Mr. Dallat relates the story of the Glens and their history with a commendable economy of words accompanied with an easy readable style.

The reader is left in no doubt that the Glens are special to this man as he translates the meaning of each Glen name, defines their boundaries, clearly outlines the reasons for their isolation, and writes of their customs and folklore. His brief telling of the Legend of the Children of Lir and of the Return Deirdre and the Sons of Uisneach sets the tone for the rest of the work. There is also the tradition of the Grey Man who haunts Fair Head and the mystery of Loughareema, the Vanishing Lough.

The history of the struggles of the de Burgos, the Bissets and the MacDonnells to retain possession of this difficult territory makes interesting reading; at another level there is the struggle of the common man to eke out an existence from a less than friendly terrain and the Glens are an excellent example of how man has shaped the landscape and no doubt the Glens in turn have shaped the man.

The book is described in the publisher’s blurb:

“A rich blend of fables and fact is presented in this colourful, compact history of the Glens of Antrim. Local historian, Cahal Dallat, inspects the myths, memories and surviving relics which are part of the unique cultural identity of the Glens. This book makes the landscape come alive with events and personalities of the past.”

Although the book runs to only five-two pages it contains a wealth of information as can be seen from the Table of Contents: — A Legendary Landscape; A Place Apart; A Turbulent History; Fairy Lore; Farming in the Glens; Industries in the Glens and Bibliography. The text is complemented by maps and copious illustrations in colour, sepia and black and white. As unusual feature of the laminated cover is a copy of a portion of Johann Blaeu’s Map of Ulster (1654). Great care has been taken in the reproduction of the old photographs and the entire work is a credit to H.M.S.O. If there is such a thing as a Concise History of the Glens of Antrim, this has to be it. SPECIALLY CONTRIBUTED.



In an article entitled “Townlands and Their Significance” in the Glynns Volume 18 1990, mention was made of “a grant of land to the Cathedral of Down by John de Courcy and Malachy O’Morgair, Bishop of Down, in 1163.” Malachy O’Morgair, Bishop of Down, died in 1148 and the Bishop referred to above should have been Malachy III, Bishop of Down, 1175—1202, and the date of the grant should have been 1183. (Editor).

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