by Fred Kee
This book is dedicated to my dear wife,
I am deeply indebted to the members of the Lisburn
Historical Society for the publishing of this book, especially to Trevor Neill.
The chairman, and the committee; Harold Duff and Valerie Harkness, who proof
read my articles; John Chapman and the Historical Society for the illustrations.
I am particularly grateful to Judy Cinnamond for the illustration on the cover.
To the staff of the Public Record Office, where I spent many happy hours
gathering information, and to all those worthy citizens of Lisburn who
contributed knowingly or unknowingly b the contents of this book, I say "Thank
Printed by William Sweeny, Reid &
and published by the Lisburn Historical Society
IN the following articles, written about the Lisburn area
and published in "The Ulster Star" at various times, I have derived
most of the material from my own experience as the Public Health Inspector under
the Antrim County Council and the Lisburn Rural Council, but principally from my
work for the Lisburn Urban Council. I was Inspector from 1928 until 1982 and saw the old courts, lanes and entries gradually
disappear, the occupiers dispersed to new developing areas and the old homes
crumble into heaps of bricks and rubble.
My job was to recommend to the Councils that these slum dwellings should be
taken down and that new housing be provided. It was not until approximately 1960
that demolition commenced. Are the people any happier in their new homes? I
don't know; at any rate, they are healthier. Here's a little story to illustrate
the complexity of the situation:
When Barnsley's Row was a street of empty derelict houses about 1970, with
gaping holes for the windows and doors, and rubbish of all sorts littering the
inside of the houses, which had become a danger, I was having a last look down
the row one fine Saturday morning. As I came out of one of the houses a young
woman was standing on the road. "Excuse me; aren't you Mr. Kee?"
"Yes," I said. "My mother knew you very well; that's our house
you were in:" She told me her mothers name, and I had been in and out of
the house often. Then she says, "Mr. Kee, there's a horse-shoe in the back
wall above the yard door; would you see if it is still there."
"Sure." I went in again and there was the horse-shoe nailed to the
outside of the wall. I told her it was there. "World you please get it for
my mother, she would like it as she had always good luck while she lived in that
house." I got the horse-shoe and she put it in her handbag, gave me a big
smile said "Thanks very much," and went off, giving me a wave of her
hand as she turned the comer. It makes you think!
Lisburn at 1928 was a small, compact town, with a population of approximately
twelve thousand persons. It was still growing but slowly, and it was not until
about 1950 that the building of houses really commenced. One of my first
assignments as, Sanitary Inspector was the abolition of 1,000 dry `privies;' and
the provision of W.C.s, which gives you some idea of the large number of
primitive dwellings in the town. The Town Hall was in Castle Street, and the
staff was as follows:-Town Clerk, T. M. Wilson; Assistant Clerk, T. H.
Macdonald; Clerk, George McGow; Town Surveyor, R. E. L. Clarke; Clerk, James
Hasley; Yard Foreman, S. Leckey; Medical Officer of Health, Dr. D. C. Campbell;
Health Visitor, Miss McClelland; Sanitary Inspector, Frederick Kee; Water
Inspector, John Haire; Gas Works Manager, A. S. Brook; Assistant, Walter Tyler;
Veterinary Inspector, Frank Russell; Town Solicitor, John T. McConnell; Clerk of
Markets, Robert McCreight; Weighmaster, Ed. McNeice; Rate Collector, Thomas
Waring; Sewage Works Foreman, David Robinson; Captain of Fire Brigade, Wm.
The domestic scavenging system was carried out by the Council. and James
McDowell, of New Street, off Millbrook, supplied the horses, drivers and carts.
If you wanted your bin emptied you paid sixpence and got a receipt. If you had a
"privy" and ashpit you paid one shilling and sixpence, and, of course,
the pits were full to overflowing, so that the owner got his money's worth. It
was a filthy job, but no one seemed to mind, it brought you a week's wages.
Shortly after, in August, 1928, I recommended that the bin charge be reduced to
threepence, and the Council agreed. Eventually, the Council decided to get a
motor-vehicle and a Shelvoke & Drury freighter was purchased and was the
first mechanical vehicle to be used for domestic scavenging in Lisburn. The day
of the horse and cart was over. The collecting of refuse also soon became a
charge on the rates, although the Councilors resisted this very strongly, as it
would raise the rates by about threepence, a little over the present one new
penny. Keeping down the rates was the object every Councilor placed first in his
priorities. No wonder progress was slow. From James McDowell's horses and carts
to the great vehicles you see now has been a long haul. What next? The Income
Tax office is on the site of the tipping ground at Hillsborough Road.
The Sewage Treatment Works was at New Holland, Hilden. Its name was derived from
the Huguenots who came from Holland. The system was settlement tanks and then
land filtration, and finally the Lagan. A bit smelly!
The water supply was from Boomer's Reservoir, and it was usual to turn the water
off at night during a dry summer.