Northern Ireland

The Ballymoney man who captured the life of the area in film

A film-maker, a businessman, a magician - Ballymoney man, Charlie McAfee, was a man of many talents.

Eleven years after his death he is still making a big impact on the community he kept a close eye on for 40 years.

Charlie was a prolific film-maker. He was ahead of his time when he bought an 8mm camera in the 1950s and started to film in and around the Ballymoney area.

He captured local events, shows, interviewed people and generally encapsulated what was happening.

Charlie died in 2000 but his massive contribution to life in his home town can been seen in Ballymoney Museum.

His nephew, Ivan McCausland, has donated all of Charlie's film footage to the museum and it is now in the process of putting all of it into a digital format so that members of the public can view it.

Already, some of the footage is getting an airing and those who had a starring role are enjoying their repeat performances.

Maggie Flynn was employed by Charlie and his brother, James, at their shop in Ballymoney. In the 1970s, Maggie was captured trying out some of the merchandise.


"It's amazing seeing it," she said.

"I was only about 16 when that was taken and I can remember the day vividly. Charlie wanted us to go out onto the street.

"We'd just got hula hoops into the shop that day and he asked us to go out onto the street and hula hoop.

"I can remember the boys from the bank opposite hanging out the windows and wolf-whistling at us and, oh, it was so embarrassing but there it is - it's preserved for all time."

Meanwhile, the singing farmer, John Watt, was comparing his voice back then to his voice now. John was filmed many times over the years by Charlie.

"It was very exciting for me in those days because I was a singer and I was getting filmed and I was able to see myself at a later stage," he said.

"A lot of people thought we were from the BBC when they saw us out with the cameras. Looking at me as a younger man, well, it sort of upsets me a wee bit. It would be nice to be that age again!"

Wallace McNaul was filmed by Charlie in the early 1980s. He was demonstrating a new style bicycle that was worth £370.

"He (Charlie) was a great character to be with," Wallace said.

"I can remember that day. It's strange. You're looking back to the early 1980s and it is very strange to remember what happened and what you looked like.

"Charlie was fun and didn't fade into the background. He always passed a joke to you and kept your mind active.

"There was no-one else filming like him at the time and if he hadn't of done it there wouldn't be these records in the museum and I think he did a great job for the town."

'Great legacy'

Keith Beattie is Ballymoney Museum's manager. He says the public can now view Charlie's wonderful work.

"He went out around the town and countryside back over those years and filmed on cine film every day events, people and places, interviewed people and was here to capture some really rich moments of local history," he said.

"In the past we have had these films on cine film and now, with new technology, we are able to transfer them onto computer.

"Now for the first time people can walk in and see some of these films as and when they please in the museum."

Close family friend, Mac Pollock, said Charlie was a man before his time.

"He's left a great legacy to the people of Ballymoney," he said.

"Who would have thought of going out to the street in Ballymoney and taking a 8mm film of them removing security barriers and barricades when the Troubles were beginning to decline and streets and towns were opening up again?

"Who would have thought of going out to take photographs of that? Charlie McAfee!"

If you are interested in old footage and wondered where you could view it or find out more then visit the past with the BBC's Hands on History Campaign.

Hands on History is a two-year project from BBC Learning that aims to inspire adults and children to get hands on with history together.

This Autumn, Hands on History has been exploring how we can learn about history through archive film.

You may have seen Melvyn Bragg's "Reel History of Britain" on BBC2 in September. Using archive footage the series was all about connecting people with history through film, encouraging them to share stories and memories as a family and getting them really excited about the past.

To find out more about exploring the past through film visit the BBC's Hands on History website and check out our twitter feed of BBC Northern Ireland archive.

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