Banbridge lights up to celebrate 90 years of work by Guide Dogs NI

Guide dog owner Jill and yellow Golden Retriever x Labrador Ace recently took a trip down to see the clock tower at Banbridge Old Town Hall illuminated blue in recognition of 90 years of guide dog partnerships.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 2:10 pm
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Glenn Barr with Leslie Massey from Portadown, Mrs Stephanie Massey, son Rhys,and guide dog Monroe.

Jill and Ace have been in a partnership for the past three years. “Ace means everything to me. He is my life and my eyes,” said Jll.

“He helps me get out and about and with my independence. He is a super companion.”

The first four guide dogs in the UK were handed over to their new owners, veterans blinded in World War I in Wallasey, Merseyside back in 1931.

Jill and Ace

Two innovative women, Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond are the people to thank for what was back then a pretty radical idea... and look how far things have come since then.

A base in Northern Ireland was initially established at Lanesborough House in Belfast but the charity now resides on the Heron Road in Belfast, with fundraising groups right across Northern Ireland including Armagh. There have been 554 partnerships trained and matched in Northern Ireland since 1984.

Armagh Gaol and the Palace Demesne were amongst the other buildings joining in on the celebrations.

Guide dog owner Peter O’Kane visited the Palace with guide dog Emily saying; “Emily means a lot to me. She’s my sight, she still surprises me. Everything about her is just incredible.”

Peter and Emily

Glenn Barr, Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council picked the organisations as one of his chosen charities earlier this year saying: “I am a dog lover, having been brought up around working dogs all my life. You can never under-estimate the vital work that Guide Dogs NI does in training these exceptional assistance animals, providing support and independence to those with impaired vision.”

The Lord Mayor also welcomed guide dog owner Les Massey, his family and not forgetting guide dog Munro to Craigavon Civic Centre to view the illuminations.

Les and Munro, a black Golden Retriever-Labrador cross have been in partnership for just over two years.

Leslie lives with his wife Stephanie and his son Reece and says they all enjoy volunteering as fundraisers as a family.

If you’d like to donate to Guide Dog NI’s 90th appeal you can do so at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/guide-dogs-ni