Betty devoted to her family and helped shape ‘new city’

Elizabeth (Betty) Gilpin.
Elizabeth (Betty) Gilpin.

Elizabeth (Betty) Gilpin, who passed away at the wonderful age of 99, wasn’t a woman to just settle down as a housewife and mother.

While always devoted to her family, she contributed much to the local and wider communities and was one of two ladies on the City Commission which brought about the new city of Craigavon.

Betty was also a member of Craigavon Rural District Council and the Armagh Education Committee.

She was a Justice of the Peace and also served as Chairman of Iveagh Unionist Association.

On top of all these things she ran a home and took charge of the family hatchery at Stramore, where at one time they were producing 30,000 chicks a week.

Betty was born on December 6, 1917 in Moira, the daughter of well known farmers Hercules and Lily Jordan.

As a young girl she went to a boarding school in England, but had to return to the farm after a short while as her mother had been critically ill.

From then on she became a second mother to her younger sister Olive and other members of the family and they were very close.

The year 1939 was an eventful one for Betty. She became the first Northern Ireland Queen of Agriculture at the age of 21.

It turned out that she was to be the only person to hold such a royal title as subsequent rules meant that future holders of the ‘crown’ were referred to as ‘Princess’,

Among the qualifications for the position were that entrants ‘must have more than good looks: she must also have a good knowledge of agriculture’. Betty had those and many more qualifications.

She was a champion judge of cattle, she was involved in the Young Farmers’ Club movement and had a charming personality.

During her year of office she paid an official visit to Balmoral Show, Portadown Show and many other events.

On one occasion Sir Basil Brooke, the then Minister of Agriculture, in proposing a toast to ‘The Queen of Agriculture’ said she had all the qualities for the post and hoped when her term of office expired she would find a ‘Prince Consort’ worthy of her.

She certainly did that.

At a tennis party she met a handsome young man from Gilford called Tommy Gilpin and they were married on August 7, 1940, a marriage that lasted 61 years.

After their marriage they set up home in Gilford where their three children Errol, Dorothy and William were born.

Betty didn’t just settle for life as a housewife and mother, entering the political fray as a member of Craigavon Rural and District Council, sitting on the committee that set up the new city and becoming a Justice of the Peace.

Her main interest, however, was her family. So long as Tommy and the children were alright, she was alright.

They loved their foreign holidays to the Canary islands and other places and were both heavily involved in the life of St Paul’s Church in Gilford.

The family were brought up within the fellowship of the church and they each in turn contributed much to the parish.

Over the last few years Betty’s health was not the best but she was always alert and when visitors called were always made welcome.

In recent times she was lovingly cared for by her family and by the carers who called every day to help her.

The other members of the family thank her daughter Dorothy especially for the constant care and attention given to her mother and that goes to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well.

They also thank the acute care team, the daily carers and Dr Logan and the team at Gilford Medical Centre for their help, and Rev Denise Cadoo for all her pastoral visits.