Ballyclare woman Vera McWilliam has spoken of her pride after she was presented with a major honour by the town of Dorsten.
The Ulster Unionist Party councillor recently travelled to north-west Germany where she received the ‘Golden Stadtplakette’ (town medal) in recognition of her 49 years of work towards making and furthering links between Newtownabbey and Dorsten.
Her work over the years has built on connections first made in the 1950s by Rev Harold Allen, former Minister of Ballyclare Presbyterian Church.
“My first visit (to Dorsten) was in the summer of 1967 and when the Rev Harold Allen retired I took on the role of organising the exchanges, not only for the churches but helping with student placements or private visits,” Cllr McWilliam explained.
“When Newtownabbey Council became officially twinned with Dorsten I was also able to be involved with their exchanges in my role as a councillor. I am also very supportive of Ballyclare High School’s twinning with Gymnasium Petrinum in Dorsten, which has been going now for over 20 years.
“The visits over the years have done much to create a good understanding between the churches, councils, schools and groups who have learned much about each other’s way of life, industries, customs, practices and places of interest.”
Cllr McWilliam was presented with the town’s gold medal by the Mayor of Dorsten, Tobias Stockhoff, who described her as “a godsend for the partnership of our two towns.”
Pastor Wolf Rienacker, a long-time friend, praised the Ballyclare woman for her work building relationships and partnerships across borders and wished her and her husband, Ray all the best for the future. And Elisabeth Cosanneschulte-Huxel, Chair of the Friends of Antrim and Newtownabbey, thanked Cllr McWilliam for being such a good friend to Dorsten over five decades.
Reflecting on her latest visit to Germany, Mrs McWilliam commented: “It’s very humbling to think that the town of Dorsten has recognised me. I’m very proud that they chose me to receive this first award. I wasn’t looking for recognition. I have developed great friendships with so many people through my visits with the church and the council over the years.”