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Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster

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Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster
FounderW.S. Armour
TypeAgricultural youth charity
Registration no.XN 47288
FocusAgriculture, farming, youth, non-political, non-sectarian, cooperation and peace
Coordinates54°37′46″N 5°56′20″W / 54.629438°N 5.938947°W / 54.629438; -5.938947
Area served
Northern Ireland
MethodYouth events, farming life and education
c. 2,600
Key people
Chief Executive Michael Reid
President Peter Alexander
Deputy President Stuart Mills
Ulster Farmers' UnionMacra na Feirme

The Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) was founded in 1929 by W.S. Armour[1] in Limavady, Northern Ireland. Since its creation, YFCU has grown into an association of 52 local self-governing and youth-led clubs, with a headquarters in Belfast.

The association is strategically managed by a peer-elected Board of Directors who serve as the Executive Committee.[2]

YFCU is for young people aged 12 to 30 years. The association is strictly non-political and non-sectarian and is open to anyone, no matter of his or her ethnic background, religion or profession. There is no requirement to be a farmer or come from a farming background to join – the only requirement for membership is an interest in rural life.


William Rankin, BAgr, put it accurately in a series of articles he contributed to The Ulster Young Farmer about the early days of the movement when he wrote:

"It required courage, vision, inspiration and absolute belief in one's own convictions to attempt anything like creating an organisation for young farmers in those days, and Northern Ireland was fortunate that such a man was found in the person of W.S. Armour."[3]

W.S. Armour

William S. Armour, founder of Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster
William S. Armour, founder of Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster

William Staveley Armour was a North Antrim man, born in the town of Ballymoney in 1883, the eldest son of the illustrious Rev. J.B. Armour, a man known throughout Ulster for his leadership of the local farmers in the Tenant Right Campaign of the 1870s. Through the contacts which his father had with the farming world, he came to appreciate and understand farmers' difficulties, and he had also first hand experience of a farm, for as a boy he spent much of his free time on his grandfather's farm at Lisboy, Kilraughts.

In 1903 he went up to Oxford on a scholarship to Jesus College. There he had a distinguished academic career and gained renown as a debater, being elected President of the Union in 1907, a much coveted position which is supposed to open the way to a Westminster seat and early elevation to cabinet rank. That was not to be W.S. Armour's path. He gained his law degree, went on to be a member of the Inner Temple and became a Barrister-at-law, but, while still pursuing his law studies, he chose for the moment to enter the sphere of education and sailed for India in 1910.

At first he was a headmaster and later an inspector of schools, but when the First World War began in 1914 he was given special responsibility for war publicity at Allahabad, eventually becoming editor of the United Provinces War Journal. He also published a short account of the war, which sold half a million copies in India, and wrote a number of school textbooks. For his services he was honoured by H.M. King George V with the MBE.

After his return to London in 1922, Armour received word that his father was very ill. What happened next he recorded in his book, Facing The Irish Question:

"I went home for six weeks, and on the way to London via Belfast the idea came to me that in the circumstances I should stay there. Without any premeditation, I went straight to the proprietor of The Northern Whig and asked whether there was any position on his paper."[4]

He obtained the position of reporter, but after six weeks was elevated to become 'Writer of Special Articles' and in 1928 took over the editorship. The Northern Whig was then one of the three big daily newspapers published in Belfast and Armour brought to it his many talents and rich experience. Even as editor, special articles remained his penchant and under the initials 'WA' he wrote on subjects ranging from political controversy, to all sorts of educational matters and accounts of people and places from his world travels, to investigation of social problems in Northern Ireland and suggestions for their improvement.

It was while pursuing this latter theme that he wrote the article which began the Young Farmers' Movement in Ulster.

Two things must strike everyone who moves about rural Ulster. The first is the steady drain of youth from the countryside to the cities and abroad. One reason is that they have very few interests and are frankly bored with life. The second picture is of young people night after night loafing round corners, winter and summer, with nothing whatsoever to do. They are like the people "standing idle in the market place ... because no man hath hired us". In this paper there have been constant references to the happier state a century ago; ... also from time to time there have been accounts of young farmers' clubs and similar movements, but nothing has happened and things remain just as before. We must try again and see whether something cannot be done this time'.


As usual he had researched his article thoroughly and had been in contact with the YFC Movement in England. It had already attracted membership of over two thousand, with ninety-four clubs in existence in various parts of the country.

Structuring Young Farmers' Clubs

YFC social in 1950sl
YFC social in 1950sl

W.S. Armour said it was essential to hold a public meeting to test local opinion and especially to invite parents and teachers to attend. If opinion was favourable then the choice of an enthusiastic and responsible person to act as Club Leader was vital. He felt clubs should be open to all young people under the age of twenty and he favoured the idea, used in England, that each member should be encouraged to either own livestock or to interest him or herself in a garden or allotment. Members should meet regularly to compare notes, discuss costs and hear talks from experts. He noted that in England these meetings had gradually developed into a social centre for the young people of the village and hoped the same would be true of Ulster. He said one of the most promising features of the YFC movement was that it provided a practical and popular starting point from which other activities for the benefit of the young people could be developed.

Discover more about History related topics


YFCU is open to anyone aged between 12 and 30 years old. The organisation currently has c.2600 members spread across the 60 member clubs, the largest of which is Spa, Castlewellan.

Current member clubs:[6]

Co. Antrim Co. Armagh Co. Down Co. Fermanagh Co. Londonderry Co. Tyrone
Ahoghill Bleary Annaclone & Magerally Derrygonnelly City of Derry Cappagh
Crumlin Collone Artana Coleraine Castlecaulfield
Finvoy Mountnorris Ballymiscaw Kesh Curragh Clanabogan
Glarryford Newtownhamilton Ballywalter Lisbellaw Dungiven Cookstown
Gleno Valley Donaghadee Lisnaskea Garvagh Derg Valley
Holestone Hillhall Kilrea Newtownstewart
Kells & Connor Hillsborough Moneymore Seskinore
Kilraughts Killinchy Strabane
Lisnamurrican Moneyrea Trillick
Lylehill Newtownards
Milebush Rathfriland
Moycraig Spa
The Glens

YFCU promotes four key areas to its membership:

  • Achievement
Learn new skills and realise one's full potential.
  • Friendship
YFCU encourages its members to take advantage of the opportunities to meet and make new friends. These can be other members of one's club, members from other clubs and members from their sister organisations throughout the world.
  • Fun
To enjoy a wide range of social and travel opportunities exclusively available to members.
  • Participation
Working together as a team to do what one wants to do, and achieve the goals set by the local clubs.

Discover more about Membership related topics



Ahoghill is a large village and civil parish in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, four miles from Ballymena. It is located in the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council area. It had a population of 3,417 people at the 2011 Census.



Bleary is a small village and townland in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is near the County Armagh border and the settlements of Craigavon, Lurgan and Portadown. In the 2011 Census its population was counted as part of Craigavon. It lies within the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon area.



Derrygonnelly is a small village and townland in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Near Lower Lough Erne, the village was home to 680 people at the 2011 Census and dates to the Plantation era. It is situated within Fermanagh and Omagh district.



Derry, officially Londonderry, is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and the fifth-largest city on the island of Ireland. The old walled city lies on the west bank of the River Foyle, which is spanned by two road bridges and one footbridge. The city now covers both banks.

Cappagh, County Tyrone

Cappagh, County Tyrone

Cappagh is a small village and townland in the parish of Pomeroy in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Around 10 kilometres (6 mi) north-west of Dungannon, it is between Pomeroy, Ballygawley, Galbally and Carrickmore, with the hamlet of Galbally about one mile to the east. Most of the land around Cappagh is farmland although a quarry lies just outside the village. In County Tyrone, there is also the parish of Cappagh which includes part of the town of Omagh and small village of Mountfield.

Crumlin, County Antrim

Crumlin, County Antrim

Crumlin is a town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is at the head of a wooded glen on the Camlin River, near Lough Neagh, and 20 miles (32 km) west of Belfast city centre. Belfast International Airport lies just north of the village at Aldergrove. It had a population of 5,140 people in the 2011 Census. It is part of Antrim and Newtownabbey district. It also hosts the headquarters of Lidl in Northern Ireland.



Coleraine is a town and civil parish near the mouth of the River Bann in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. It is 55 miles (89 km) northwest of Belfast and 30 miles (48 km) east of Derry, both of which are linked by major roads and railway connections. It is part of Causeway Coast and Glens district.



Castlecaulfield is a village in the south-east of County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. It lies about 2 miles west of Dungannon and is part of the Mid Ulster District Council area. The village is mostly within the townland of Drumreany, although part of it extends into Lisnamonaghan. It is situated in the historic Barony of Dungannon Middle and the civil parish of Donaghmore.



Finvoy is a hamlet and civil parish in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is situated in the historic barony of Kilconway. The hamlet had a population of 187 people in the 2011 Census.



Mountnorris is a small village and townland in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The village also extends into the townland of Tullyherron. It lies about six miles south of Markethill. It is within the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon local government area. It had a population of 155 people in the 2011 Census.

Kesh, County Fermanagh

Kesh, County Fermanagh

Kesh is a village in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It is on the Kesh River about 1 mile (1.6 km) from Lower Lough Erne. The 2011 Census recorded a population of 1,039 people. It is within Fermanagh and Omagh district.



Clanabogan is a small village and townland in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. In the 2001 Census it had a population of 225 people. It lies within the Omagh District Council area.

Activities and events

Glarryford YFC Choir 2010
Glarryford YFC Choir 2010

The commitment, skills and energy of members who take on positions of responsibility at club, county and central levels continue to be the source of the YFCU's strength and success. Combined with the youth led nature of the Association at all levels, a wide range of activities and events, relevant to the needs and interests of rural young people, is organised every year.

Throughout the year staff and members are key to delivering and participating in the annual programme of centrally organised competitions and activities. Encouragingly there has continued to be a year on year increase in competitor numbers.[7] The YFCU has been represented by a number of members at events and conferences held by the Association's sister organisations in Scotland, Wales, England and the Republic of Ireland.

YFCU currently operates 33 competitions and events that members are encouraged to enter.[8] By entering events YFCU members earn proficiencies points. The better the member does in the competition, the higher the proficiency points awarded.[9]

Event Event
Advanced Sheep Sheering Art Competition
Arts Festival not happening
Build It Choir Festival
Craftwork Dairy Cattle Stock Judging and Assessment
Demonstration Drama - One Act Festival
Drama - Full Length Fencing Competition
Floral Art Girls Football
Group Debating Home Management
John Bradley Competition Junior Member of the Year
Junior Ulster Young Farmer Machinery Handling
Member of the Year NI Quiz
Photographic Competition Public Speaking
Sheep Stock Judging and Assessment Silage Assessment
Silage Making Soil Assessment
Something from Scrap Swimming Gala
Tag Rugby Tournament Tug of War
Ulster Young Farmer

Rural Dispatch magazine

Originally established as The Ulster Young Farmer in 1946, the first editor was A. S. George Loxton. In his first edition editorial he hoped the new magazine would become "the most interesting and instructive"[10] of the many then in circulation in the Province.

Loxton retired in March 1948 and was succeeded b Arthur McAlister, who used his considerable literary ability to good effect as editor for the next sixteen years. He introduced many new features and widened the scope of the magazine to include general, as well as agricultural interest. In May 1964 the magazine changed format to keep pace with modern developments in printing. Michael Fieldhouse, the first Public Relations Officer of the YFCU, became editor in July 1964, and in September 1965 Dulcie Proctor succeeded him. She remained editor until the publication ceased in 1971.

In 2004 the magazine was revived under the new moniker Rural Dispatch.[11]

Rural Dispatch is the official magazine of the Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster. It is edited in-house at the Belfast Headquarters. The magazine, which is published three times a year, has a circulation of 2,500. Its main aim is to showcase the events and activities that YFCU organises, and to inform the membership of news from other clubs and the Northern Ireland agricultural industry as a whole. It is published in association with United Dairy Farmers.

Sister organisations

Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster has many sister organisations not only throughout the UK and Ireland, but throughout the world.

Source: "Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, August 20th),'_Clubs_of_Ulster.

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  1. ^ "What we do".
  2. ^ "Presidential Team - Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster website".
  3. ^ The Ulster Young Farmer. Vol. 23, No. 7, April 1969, p.13.
  4. ^ Facing The Irish Question, W. S. Armour, Duckworth 1935, pp29-30.
  5. ^ The Northern Whig, Belfast, 30 August 1929.
  6. ^ "Club Finder". Archived from the original on 2 May 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 January 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Ulster Young Farmer, Vol. 1. No. 1., October 1946, p.2.
  11. ^ "Rural Dispatch".
  12. ^ "Macra na Feirme".
  13. ^ " - ufu Resources and Information".
  14. ^ "NFYFC-National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs".
  15. ^ "SAYFC - Scottish Association of Young Farmers".

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