Freedom of the Borough

Freedom of the Borough

Conferment of the Freedom of the Borough

The tradition of Boroughs conferring the Freedom of the Borough goes back to ancient times when the Royal Charter Boroughs were almost, if not entirely self governing with little or no control over the authority and the powers of the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses by Parliament or Statute.

Originally, such conferment conveyed special privileges of various kinds upon the recipients, but, over the years, and especially since the passing of the Reform Act in 1983, the conferment is purely honorary.

The Freedom of the Borough is the highest honour that a Council can bestow and the tradition is maintained as a means whereby public recognition may be given to the recipients as an expression of the highest esteem in which they are held by the Council and people of the Borough.

Dr Jonathan Rea MBE       Sir William Wright CBE

Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant Mrs Joan Christie CVO OBE 

B (North Irish Horse) Squadron The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry

Dr Jonathan Rea MBE

29 April 2021

Dr Jonathan Rea MBE signing the Freedom of the Borough book at Larne Town Hall













Born in Waveney Hospital, Ballymena, one of four siblings, Jonathan grew up in Kilwaughter and has been riding since he was just two years old.

The third generation ‘John Rea’, Jonathan has followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in his love of motorcycle racing.

His Grandad ‘Stormy’, although not a racer, sponsored five times Word Formula TT motorcycle champion Joey Dunlop in his early days.

His Dad Johnny was an Irish Road Racing Champion, so racing was definitely in the genes. 

Christmas 1989 brought Jonathan’s first motorbike, an Italjet 50, and so the seeds were sown for his illustrious racing career.

He began racing when he was six years old and went on to win his first British 60cc motocross championship at age 10. 

His career could have been dramatically cut short in 2004 when Jonathan sustained severe injuries and was told that he would never ride again.

Not one to give up easily however, he defied the odds, got back on his bike and went on to achieve success in British Superbike and World Supersport, before moving to the World Superbike Championship where he won his first world championship in 2015. 

That was just the beginning; he has continued to break records and rewrite the history book of motorcycle racing ever since. 

By 2017 he had become the first rider to take three back-to-back titles, as well as recording the largest points total in the championship’s history in that year.

In 2019 he became the first rider in the history of the championship to win five world titles.

Jonathan’s unrivalled success continued despite an unprecedented season in 2020, with racing suspended mid-season due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

When racing resumed, he went on to secure the 2020 World Superbike Championship in Portugal, becoming the first rider in his class to achieve six consecutive world titles.

Jonathan is a remarkably modest man given his impressive career; a career in which he has fought to overcome adversity and defy the odds. 

The recuperation and rehabilitation process which followed his injury in 2004 wasn’t easy but, as a result of this injury, Jonathan learned of the importance of mental health and well-being.

He remains a strong advocate of the need to raise awareness of mental health issues and willingly gives his time to this very worthy cause.

Jonathan has never forgotten his local roots in Mid and East Antrim, where he grew up and attended Larne Grammar School. 

He has been a stalwart ambassador for the Borough and it therefore fitting that he is awarded Freedom of the Borough, in recognition of his success in the Superbike World Championship, including a record-breaking sixth successive title in a row, and in the sport of motorcycling internationally.

Sir William Wright CBE

18 January 2019

William Wright was born in 1925 the elder of two children and grew up in Ballymena.

On leaving school he attended the technical college, going on to found Robert Wright and Sons Limited in 1946, along with his father Robert Wright, later becoming Wrights Group Ltd.

The company thrived under the leadership of the father/son team, becoming the leading commercial body builder in Northern Ireland by the 1970s.

Sir William Wright then masterminded the company’s entry into the wider UK market, where it has become one of the UK’s leading bus manufacturers.

Today, Wrightbus is one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers, manufacturing technologically innovative vehicles for service across the globe, from the UK to the USA to Hong Kong and beyond.

The company’s success is primarily due to Sir William’s foresight and persistence in introducing new technologies and developing new relationships with key partners within the industry.

The company launched the UK’s first pure electric bus in 1998 and Sir William went on to lead the way in developing hybrid and hydrogen bus technology, including the New Routemaster for London.

For many years Sir William has been a leading proponent of the development of environmentally friendly technologies; his vision is to improve air quality in towns and cities globally.

A legacy of his commitment to the development of new technologies is the William Wright Technology Centre, a joint venture between Wrights Group and Queens University, which was opened in 2016.

The centre promotes research and advanced engineering to facilitate the creation and incubation of technologies for the future development of the bus industry.

William Wright was awarded an OBE for services to the bus industry and the community in 2001.

In 2011 he was awarded a CBE for his services to the bus industry.

He was further honoured in May 2018 when he was made a Knight  Bachelor of the British Empire for services to both the bus industry and the UK economy.

Alongside his ever-growing bus business, Sir William Wright took an active interest in politics, and he served on Ballymena Borough Council from 1981 to 1985 and again from 1993 to 2005.

Throughout his career in industry and in politics Sir William’s wife, Lady Ruby, whom he married in 1954 has been his constant companion and support.

They have three children, ten grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Family and faith continue to be at the centre of this remarkable man’s life.

You can download the Freedom of the Borough booklet for Sir William Wright CBE here.

Mrs Joan Christie CVO OBE

21 April 2018

Mrs Joan Christie CVO OBEMrs Joan Christie CVO, OBE was appointed Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for the County of Antrim in September 2008, on the retirement of The Right Honourable Lord O’Neill TD JP.

During her time as the Sovereign’s representative in County Antrim, Mrs Christie approached the role with unstinting dedication.

Through her gracious nature and unwavering enthusiasm, she worked to support the entire community, especially our young people.

As Lord-Lieutenant she welcomed members of the Royal Family and world leaders to Northern Ireland, including HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2016 and HRH Prince Henry of Wales in 2017.

Leading by example, she organised county-wide celebrations for occasions such as Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and 90th Birthday celebrations.

A strong advocate for the Armed Forces, Mrs Christie brought genuine empathy, with her late husband Col. Dan Christie having served with the North Irish Horse and the Ulster Defence Regiment.

She was instrumental in bringing Armed Forces Day to County Antrim on a number of occasions, giving the public the opportunity to recognise and encourage those serving in the Armed Forces and the wider Armed Forces family.

She was also a tireless supporter of the Cadet movement, honorary patron of the Army Cadet Band and was closely involved with the Sea Cadets.

Mrs Christie gave n a lifetime of service to Northern Ireland.

Born in Castlederg, County Tyrone she began her career in the civil service as private secretary to several Secretaries of State, she went on to serve and hold significant positions on a number of public bodies and charitable committees, in the arts sector and in the business community.

These have included Queen’s University Belfast Senate, North Eastern Education and Library Board, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, the Royal British Legion, the District Policing Partnership, the RUC George Cross Association, the UDR Benevolent Fund, RNLI, Macmillan Cancer, the Women’s Institute and Girl Guiding.

In recognition of her personal service and dedication, Mrs Christie was awarded the private honour of Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by Her Majesty The Queen in 2017.

This followed on from an OBE for services to Education in 2005 and previously an MBE for services to Government in 1976.

Mr and Mrs Christie married in 1979.

They made their home in the north Antrim area and had three children – Joanna, Harriett and Marcus - and five grandchildren – Joe, Angus, Patrick, Ned and Rose.


B (North Irish Horse) Squadron The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry

30 January 2016

Image from the Freedom of the Borough Booklet for the North Irish Horse

History of the North Irish Horse

Every regiment has its own traditions and history that are treasured by those who have served.

The North Irish Horse has an outstanding record.

They can look back with pride on the achievements of its soldiers in two world wars and its excellent performance in the post-war period as a Territorial Army unit.

The fact that it has survived a series of defence reviews that have drastically reduced the army is a testament to this continued success.


The North Irish Horse arose from the aftermath of the Boer War in South Africa.

Following this war, The Militia and Yeomanry Act 1901 was enacted, allowing the raising of new yeomanry regiments, two of which were the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry and the South of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry. Both were sanctioned on 7 January 1902.

Four squadrons were formed with the Regimental Headquarters and A Squadron based at Skegoniel Avenue in Belfast, close to the present day Dunmore Park Camp.

The other squadrons were located as follows: B - Londonderry; C - Enniskillen and D - Dundalk.

The first annual camp was held at Blackrock Camp, Dundalk from 28 July to 12 August 1903.

Thereafter annual camps were held at the Curragh, Ballykinler, Dundrum or Bundoran.

On 1 September 1908 the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry became the North Irish Horse, becoming Special Cavalry Reserve in July of that year.

The Great War

On the 4 August 1914, at the outbreak of war, the North Irish Horse received mobilisation orders and sailed to Le Havre in France, commanded by Major Lord Cole.

The North Irish Horse were the very first non- regular British troops to arrive in France and see active service.

They played a significant role in bringing the defeat of the Kaiser’s German forces and the end of the Great War.

The total number of personnel of the North Irish Horse who served was 70 Officers and 1,931 other ranks, of whom 27 Officers and 123 other ranks were killed.

A memorial window in Belfast City Hall was dedicated to the Regiment in 1925.

After the war, the Regiment no longer existed as a fighting unit and was classed as ‘disembodied’.

The Second World War

On 11 September 1939 a special Army order re-embodied the North Irish Horse, establishing it as a light Armoured Regiment of the Supplementary Reserve and in 1941 were equipped with the new Churchill tanks.

The North Irish Horse played a prominent part in the North African campaign and were the first allied tanks to enter and liberate Tunis on 8 May 1943.

In April 1944 the Regiment supported the 1st Canadian Division in a frontal attack on the Hitler Line, a defensive barrier in central Italy. Success came at a high cost, with the Regiment losing 36 men and 32 tanks.

In appreciation of the support they received, the Canadian Government awarded the North Irish Horse the honour of wearing the Maple Leaf.

The Post-war years and beyond

Since 1947, when The North Irish Horse became part of the Territorial Army, the regiment has withstood a number of reorganisations over the years.

Most recently this saw the North Irish Horse subsumed into The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry under a wider reorganisation of the Yeomanry regiments.

It is one of the Army’s Reserve Light Cavalry Regiments carrying out combat reconnaissance.

The regiment has squadrons in Ayr, Belfast, Cupar and  Edinburgh, B squadron being the North Irish Horse squadron.

The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry (SNIY) is the newest combat regiment in the Army Reserve, entering the Army’s Order of Battle on 31 October 2014.

From 2003 and the outbreak of war in Iraq to the end of the British campaign in southern Afghanistan, the North Irish Horse had 55 deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.