Plan to retain historic mace

Carrickfergus sword and mace.  INCT 02-727-CON
Carrickfergus sword and mace. INCT 02-727-CON

One of Carrickfergus Borough Council’s most valuable artefacts could be adopted for use by the new Mid and East Antrim authority.

The 300-year-old Carrickfergus Mace was most commonly used on ceremonial occasions such as Mayor’s Sunday, along with a sword dating back to the same period.

And now the mace, which is now routinely displayed during monthly council meetings in Carrick Town Hall, could be passed on to the larger super-council.

With Carrick, Larne and Ballymena councils to cease operation from the end of March, the question of what to do with each area’s assets - from the mace and sword to mayoral chains and councillors’ robes - was discussed at the December meeting of the MEA Policy and Resources Committee.

During the meeting, Ballymena-based councillor Declan O’Loan drew attention to the historical importance of the Carrick Mace, suggesting that it might be adopted as the Mid and East Antrim Mace.

Speaking to the Times last week, MEA Carrick councillor John Stewart said: “It was proposed and seconded that we will hold on to the legacy assets of the borough. They may eventually be put on display somewhere in the town, such as the museum.”

Despite the agreement at committee level, some later objections were made over how the objects should be dealt with, said Cllr Stewart.

“At the full council meeting in January, one councillor suggested they should be sold, but I think most people in Carrick will be happy to keep our historical artefacts,” he added.

Carrick’s sword and mace were presented to the Corporation of Carrickfergus in 1712 by Colonel Robert Gardner, a member of a prosperous merchant family whose memorial is in the Freeman’s Aisle of the historic St Nicholas’ Parish Church.

The Mace is cast in silver gilt and bears the Arms of Queen Ann and the borough of Carrickfergus.

It is thought that the Mace of the House of Commons at Westminster – the symbol of Parliamentary authority – is modelled, in enlarged form, on the Carrick Mace.

Meanwhile, the sword hilt is cast in silver gilt, and also bears the Arms of Queen Ann and of the Borough. The sheath is covered in red velvet and silver gilt bands, with the blade made of Sheffield steel.