The Town's Old Schools
We have now toured the highways and byways of old Lisburn,
and had a look round the burial places, which I hope you found not so
unpleasant. The resting places of these persons made the history book of the
surrounding areas, with each headstone a sentence or paragraph, or perhaps a
warning, out of the past.
On these memorials I have found the names of schoolmasters
of a bygone age and it started me searching for some information about the
schools of about 1900 or perhaps a little earlier, with a guess at a few really
Some of our present senior citizens attended one or more of
these schools and can tell nostalgic stories of their school days when the sun
was always shining. So, pull up your stockings, see that your boots are well
tied, a last look in the mirror at the well-scrubbed face and quiffed-up hair,
and we're off to school about the "turn of the century" with our
"piece" in our school-bag.
But which school? Let's have a look at some of them:
The Quaker School, the Hill School, the Friends' School, on
Prospect Hill, a private boarding school founded by the Quakers for Quakers in
1774, a pioneer in this class of school in this neighbourhood.
With the extensive ground surrounding this school, used
originally as farmland and then playing-fields for the scholars, the situation
was, and still is, ideal. Then later on the indoor swimming pool was provided
and the boys bathing in the Lagan became history.
Truly this was a school of which the town could be proud as
it grew from strength to strength. The original school end headmasters residence
cost "near £1,500" (The Shackleton Letters, 1918). The Quakers were
very wise in their day in establishing the school but I don�t imagine that
even they could foresee the present wonderful expansion.
Mr. Neville H. Newhouse (recently headmaster) is wring a
book, "The Founding of Friends' School, Lisburn" Its publication will
be eagerly awaited.
The Convent of the Sacred Heart of Mary, or, as stated on
the Estate maps, "Convent de Sacre Coeur de Marie," was the other
boarding school in Lisburn. It started with the buying of Charles Buckley's
house in Castle Street in 1870 for the sum of �1,350, which was almost the same
price as the Quakers' paid when they commenced their school about one hundred
Teaching commenced in 1871 when the school opened to admit
girls and boys, some paying a little and others free of charge.
Between this small convent school and the Castle Gardens in
1876, was the National School, one of a nationwide type of school which was
built after 1831. On the other side of the convent were private houses down to
the lane at Stevenson's garage, owned by Charlotte McCall, Dr. Thomas A.
O'Flaherty, Henry Seeds, David Beatty and William Savage (in trust).
The trustees of the Convent and National School were: Most
Rev. Dr. Dorrian, Very Rev. D. Marner, and the Rev. Edward Kelly, P.P. of
Lisburn from 1859.
As the town population of under ten thousand increased, so
the need for more accommodation arose, until over a long period of adjustment
the whole row of houses became the rebuilt and enlarged school.
During this period the National School was closed, and some
of the girls went to the Chapel Hill school until the new girls' school was
built in 1902 in the convent gardens. It, too, has been much enlarged and
modernised. A part of this school ground is on the site of the old Lisburn
Mineral Water Company, and the over-flowing well which supplied the water for
the minerals is now filled in.
The Convent Grammar School is closing down in Lisburn and
is moving to Holywood, after one hundred years of quiet and devoted teaching,
and another little chapter of history comes to an end.
'The Intermediate and University School' on the Antrim
Road was founded by Sir Richard Wallace in 1880 on a piece of his land at
Benson's Hill. This bit of ground had not been let in 1876 and it is possible
that he had the founding of the school in mind. Like the other two schools
mentioned, it started off in a small way and gradually grew to its present size
to accommodate the pupils.
It's now bursting at the seams and further development is
necessary. Sir Richard picked the wrong spot for the school. He should have had
a look round the Quaker School grounds before deciding. The name was changed to
"Wallace High School" in his memory in 1942.
We next come to a number of schools also attended by
Lisburn boys and girls. Their titles have changed with the years from "Free
School," "National School," "Public Elementary School"
and now "Primary School." In those early days these schools were under
the control of the Church Education Authorities and attached to a local church.
The exception in the Lisburn area was "Hilden
School," which was established by William Barbour in 1829 and is still
under mill management. The Mill School was, and still is, non-denominational.
If we start at the Belfast Gate end of Seymour Street, we
find the "Belfast Gate School" between Cumins' shop and Miss
Johnston's house, for bigger boys and girls, and an "Infant School,"
between Vaughan's Shop and Wallace Avenue, for babies, both under the Church
Education Society, really the Cathedral.
The other school was 'Seymour Street Methodist' and it
was held in the room below the Church until the William Foote Memorial School
was erected in 1907. The church was built in 1875. Small schools, but suitable
to the population at the time.
Market Square National School was at the rear of First
Lisburn Presbyterian Church, the Church Authorities being responsible. The
Church, dates back to the early sixteenth century, and the National School would
have been founded after 1831. The school closed down as a school in 1934, when
the pupils were transferred to new Central School on the Hillsborough Road.
The By-wash was an open stream running past the Linenhall
Street end of the school in 1876, and on the site of the Hibernian Hall was
Salem Methodist Chapel, the rear part of which was actually over the By-wash.
The National School of St. Patrick's Church, Chapel Hill,
is no longer used as a school In 1876 it was on the site of the present St.
Joseph's Hall, but had been there from much earlier, and had been used by boys
and girls. When the new girls' school was built in the Convent Garden, the girls
left and it became known as the Boys School.
There was a piece of land owned by the church between the
old school and the rear of the houses in Fairymount Square and on this a new
school was built. Although the houses in the Square are down, the old wall is
still there. The boys will be glad to be up on the Ballinderry Road in their new
Down Railway Street we had Railway Street National School
at the rear of Railway Street Presbyterian Church. As the church was erected in
1863 it could be assumed that the school was built about the same time. These
schools were used as halls for church activities in the evenings and as Sunday
The Free National School, Market Place, dated about 1840,
was under the control of the Church Education Society. This Free School was on
the site of the Ford Motor Garage and beside the Salvation Army Hall which, by
the way, is shown on the 1876 map as a Primitive Wesleyan Chapel.
The Free School was replaced by the Nicholson Memorial
School beside Christ Church, and it was replaced by the Central Primary School.
There used to be a little house beside the Free School, which was occupied by
The Infant School, Longstone Street, was under the Church
Education Society and was probably built at the same time as the two Seymour
Street schools and the school in Market Place. It was also used as a Sunday
School. During the last war it was used as a Civil Defence Wardens' Post.
The Chapel Hill Filling Station is built on the site of the
school. It was a small school with one room with a gallery at the end. There was
a house attached for the teacher.
The Lisburn Free National School, Longstone Street, is
still there and is now Christ Church Young Men's Club. It deserves special
mention as a school where the pupils got a free meal of bread and milk.
Sloan Street National School was the original Sloan Street
Presbyterian Church, and the school came into operation when the present Sloan
Street Church was opened in 1900. You will see it alongside the footpath in
Sloan Street. It is now part of the new Church Hall.
Largymore Primary School is not the original school. The
Largymore National School was on the site now occupied by numbers 94 and 96
Hillhall Road, and before this it was known as Bolton's School, after Captain
Bolton who built it.
A handbill printed at the Standard Once, Lisburn, in 1905,
states: "After long and careful consideration, the trustees unanimously
resolved to build an entirely new and up-to-date school-house at a cost of £1,800."
With some other repairs, the price came to £1,953, and
this was done, and it opened in 1906.
At the top of the handbill were two photographs, one of the
Principal standing in front of his residence, and the other, the new school
almost finished, with the builders' scaffolding still up.
In 1658 Sir George Rawdon had in mind "the purpose of
founding a Free School in Lisburn' (Lisburn Cathedral and its past Rectors). I
wonder did he do anything about it.
Then there was that great French and Anglican cleric and
scholar, the Rev. Saumaurez Dubourdieu, A.M., who started a Classical School in
Bow Lane, Lisburn, on August 2nd, 1756, and was master of it for fifty-six
years. There is a white marble memorial to him in the Cathedral. The inscription
is in Latin. It was erected by grateful scholars, as was a headstone in Lambeg
churchyard. He died on 14th December, 1812 aged ninety-six years and three
months. Surely a long and worthy life spent in service to others.
And what about
Benjamin Neely, with his English and Maths. school in Castle Street in the early
1800s? The great General John Nicholson is said to have gone to his school when
a boy in Lisburn,
"Mr. John Busby, Writing Master in Lisburn, died
1737," his headstone in the Cathedral graveyard states. He may have had a
private school somewhere. Writing used to be of great importance, but not now !
Any old squiggles good enough.
Remember the Vere Foster copy books? If you do you are
likely on the pension. And the slate and slate pencil? Economical timed
There is a memorial to: "John Crossley, Jnr., who in
1810 established the first Free School on the System of Bell and Lancaster in
this province and, although struggling with a feeble constitution, continued
until his last illness to exert himself with great zeal and judgment in
communicating the Blessings of Religious and Moral Knowledge to many poor
He died in 1816 aged 31 years. A martyr to education. Where
was the school established? And what was the system of Bell and Lancaster?
I am indebted to Mr. Andrew Thompson, ex-principal of
Brownlee Primary School for an explanation of the "Bell and Lancaster
System" of teaching, about which I knew nothing. Here is a much condensed
outline of the system:
It was a system of teaching children with the help of
"monitors." The monitors were bright and intelligent children who were
chosen to instruct the others. The two men, Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell, and Joseph
Lancaster, a Quaker, were not at first (1797) connected with each other's work,
although pushing this idea at the same time. The system had great popularity and
support and many new schools were built and others adopted it.
And John Crossley, junior, put the system in operation
somewhere here, and died whilst still a young man. Sad. Did anyone after 1816
take the job on? It's quite possible his work continued.
When I attended the Belfast Model School as a boy, we had
monitors. They were young men qualifying to be teachers and they assisted the
masters. So I may have benefited from John Crossley's early efforts.
His grave is beside the lamps which floodlight the
Cathedral spire. He was trying to bring light of another kind into the young
When you see the spire flood-lit, think, amongst other
things, of John Crossley, junior, and also of his father, John, who, with
others, signed the contract for David McBlain of Newtown, Limavady, to build the
spire in 1804. They lived in Bow Street.
The last school to be mentioned is the Workhouse School. It
was in the Workhouse on the Dublin Road. Yes, there were children in the
workhouse, the children of the inmates and orphan children, and they had a
schoolmaster who gave them an elementary education. They also had to do light
In the minute of the meeting of the Board of Guardians held
on the 14th August, 1847, it was "Resolved that the children in the house
whose parents are out and in a good state of health be sent out of the house at
the discretion of the Master and that the boys remaining in the house be made to
work three hours each day under the supervision of the schoolmaster."
Another minute of the 6th May, 1848, states: "The Master reported to have
three boys whipped for disobeying the orders of the shoemaker and tailor and
being disorderly." The minute of the 4th November, 1848, states: "The
Marquis of Downshire handed the Clerk a donation of one pound, which he was
desirous should be expended in the purchase of catechisms for the pauper
scholars." He was the fourth Marquis, Arthur Wills Blundell Sandys Trumbull
Windsor Hill, the "Big Marquis;" whose statue is opposite the entrance
to Hillsborough Parish Church. He was born on the 6th August, 1812, and died on
the 8th August, 1868.
In the minute of the 17th November, 1849: "Mr. Edward
Senior, Poor Law Inspector, stated to the Board of Guardians that he had just
visited the schools in the workhouse, and that he would now suggest, by way of
recommendation, the benefit which would be derived by putting the schools under
the National System of Education." This was eventually done.
Two thousand Irish workhouse orphans between fourteen and
eighteen years of age were emigrants at this period and were sent to Australia.
They sailed from Plymouth during 1848. They were specially chosen as suitable
migrants and came from the workhouses where they had been educated.
There were other old schools, or perhaps I should say,
private houses used by the owners or occupiers as places where some form of
education was taught to a few fee-paying pupils.
You will perhaps know of Hugh McCall, journalist, author
and historian, and, if you are really interested, you can see his memorial in
the south nave of the Cathedral. Well, he was born in 1805 in a house in Chapel
Hill and went to a school conducted by a Mrs. Sweeney a few doors from his home.
He attended for about a year and in October, 1813, he joined the educational
establishment of Mr. Sheals (or Shields) in Castle Street, and had been there
for five years ,when he entered the business of his father in May, 1818. He died
at his home, "The Hill," North Circular Road, Lisburn, in the year
1897, aged ninety-two years. He was a citizen which my town would be proud to
claim. I got these details from an obituary notice written at the time.
In another obituary of the death of W. J. Knox in October,
1905, it is stated that he received his early education in "Mr. Thompson's
School." These obituaries usually give a condensed history of the deceased
and contain valuable information.
I'm sure some of you will be thinking of Miss Wilson's
kindergarten in Conway Street where you commenced your schooldays -happy days of
not so long ago. You could add to the list of schools, the one I mentioned
earlier in Schoolroom Lane (Railway Street) at about the site of the Library and
Church, and on the very old maps in the centre of Market Square. I have no
information about these two schools.
There most have been other schools in those bygone days
where men and women were doing a useful job preparing the young hopefuls for the
simple life of the period. Who were these mostly unknown pioneers? What were
their qualifications? Perhaps they had a strong desire to teach, to impart what
they knew and, after all, isn't that a very important qualification?
Mr. N. H. Newhouse, recent principal of Friends School, is
engaged on the school's history at present, and a booklet has been issued giving
the history of Lisburn Convent School for the past one hundred years. There is a
largely untouched field of research into the history of education in Lisburn
which could be undertaken by persons engaged in the profession.
It would be a most interesting and important study to bring
together all that is known or could be discovered of these really remarkable
Well, there you are, a tour round Lisburn and a peep at the
old school buildings where education used to be enforced with a liberal dose of
Now for a look at the old Lisburn Markets. Lisburn has been
a busy market town from its earliest days in fact since before His Majesty King
Charles the First in the Third Year of his reign (1628) granted the Market
Rights to Edward, Viscount Conway and Killultagh. The Market Square and later
other market places were centers of activity where goods and animals, et cetera,
were bartered and sold, deals were made and a fair amount of the business life
of the community was carried on.
The markets were a most important responsibility of the
town managers, and so there was a desire that the town should acquire them. So
negotiations commenced about 1893 and proceeded to a successful conclusion when
Lady Wallace (Dame Amelie Julie Charlotte Wallace) agreed to convey the markets
to the Lisburn Town Commissioners. The Deed of Conveyance is dated 7th May,
1894, and it transferred the markets with all the rights and privileges of the
former owner to the Lisburn Town Commissioners, which then passed to the
newly-formed Lisburn Urban Council in 1899.
The Markets brought the town and country together, as the
surrounding farmers brought their produce to Lisburn and even to Belfast;
Lisburn on Tuesday, Belfast on Friday. A farmer at Lower Ballinderry told me of
filling the stiff cart with freshly-dug vegetables the night before and starting
off at three o'clock next morning in his cart to Belfast. ,
It was a long sit on a bag of hay with the rhythm of the
horses' hooves and the movement of the cart putting you over to sleep. He had
done it so often the horse knew the road. The motor engine had not arrived to
blast us into the ever-quickening pace which we think "progress"
demands, and the man with the red flag still walked in front of the steam
roller. You can just imagine the quiet, leisurely tempo which existed when the
Commissioners obtained the market rights from Lady Wallace.
|J. & J. Devenny
Bow Street Aug. 1920
Where were the markets and what was sold? The market space
in Market Square is a triangular piece of the roadway behind the Market House
(which was built in 1796 and is now the Assembly Rooms), and another triangular
piece in front of Messrs. Tweedy Acheson's, and the Corner as the base and apex
at a point down past where the Nicholson statue now is.
areas were free from traffic and could be used for the market. Even at present
one is a taxi stand and the other a car park The commodities sold were much the
same as are sold in the present Smithfield Market: fruit and vegetables,
clothes, delft, et cetera, and "fleshmeats" or butcher's s meats.
There were also the sellers of "quack" medicines; peculiar shaped
roots and liquid in bottles guaranteed to cure anything from housemaid's knee to
baldness. One of these gentlemen was an Indian named "Sequah." He
"Oil" and "Prairie Flower" to relieve
you of rheumatic or any other pains. "Sequah" is, I'm sure, long dead,
but rheumatism is, alas, very much alive. The stalls were the same as today,
some table tops and some covered over like the present wheeled stalls.
These wheeled stalls belong to the Council and were brought
from the Butter and Egg Market every Tuesday morning and taken back in the late
afternoon. There were also privately-owned stalls which also had to be taken
away, but this was not always done, as the following case shows very clearly.
On the 13th December, 1890, George Sharpe, a shopkeeper, of
Bridge Street, appeared in court on a charge of causing an obstruction in Market
Square by leaving his fruit stall in the Square from the 20th to the 29th
November, 1890. The solicitors were Wellington Young, for the Commissioners, and
F. W. Charley, of Messrs. Charley and Allen, for the defendant. After some
evidence Mr. Charley stated, "Stall-holders had left their stalls in Market
Place for a century, and Sharpe for thirty-seven years, and they were entitled
to keep them there to "Eternity's Bell" Case adjourned, and no wonder,
after that broadside.
When everyone had recovered, the case was resumed again on
the 7th February, 1891. Mr. Young: "On Tuesday, there were, he supposed,
sixty stalls in the Square, but they were all removed by the owners, except
Sharpe, who refused to obey the Town Inspector, Robert Bailey. He kept his stall
at the corner of Mr. Duncan's shop from Tuesday night till Saturday."
Town Inspector: "Sharpe had a shop in Bridge Street
and sold articles in the Square on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The covered stall,
eleven feet by three feet, was placed in front of Duncan's on Tuesday, and at
the side for the rest of the week, no goods exposed, the fittings taken off,
leaving the table. The table, to my recollection, has been there for eight or
nine years." Francis Turner, collector of stall dues, said, "Sharpe's
stall has been there for over twenty years !" Result: Sharpe fined five
shillings and, in default, one week's imprisonment. It looks like a foregone
conclusion. A rather unfair sentence, as it would almost seem that he acquired a
squatter's right to the spot after all those years.
Perhaps that was what the prosecution feared. John Chapman,
chemist, Castle Street, has an old photograph of Market Square looking from Bow
Street to Ulster Buildings, then Duncan's and what do you know, there is
Sharpe's stall, sitting all by itself, thumbing its nose at officialdom!
Just think, sixty stalls in 1890, and, apparently, some of
them owned by town shopkeepers. I would say this would apply to the butchers'
We leave the hurly-burly of the Square with the shouts of
the stall-holders following us down round Market Street corner as we go to make
our next call at the Fowl and Butter Market.
No. 2. The Fowl and Butter Market of 1893 was later to
become the Butter and Egg Market. It was a square, walled-in area of one rood
and twenty perches on the site of the former Linen Hall built by the Marquis of
Hertford about 1750 and giving the name to "Linenhall Street.- John Wesley
preached in the Linen Hall on several occasions. At this time half the people in
and around Lisburn were engaged in the linen business, most of them weavers.
There could be up to five hundred weavers present on a
Tuesday morning at ten o'clock in the busy season. There were sheds and stands
round the walls and in 1894 when the commissioners took over, a covered portion
was erected in the centre which had tables for the produce. It had ceased to be
a Linen Hall, although the estate maps of 1878 still gave it the title
From the Linen to the Butter and Eggs would seem a far cry,
but it was the same people bringing in both. In my time the big buyers were
shopkeepers, some of whom rented the sheds and stood at the doors haggling over
the price with the egg producers. You would hear someone just in asking,
"What's the eggs the day?" "One and six," "One and six
! They're fairly goin' up, and it no time till Aisther."
I remember in 1928 going round testing the eggs, I had a
little wooden box with two aluminum egg cups inside, below which were two
electric bulbs lit from a battery when you pressed a button, and the eggs in the
eggcups became transparent. You looked in at the eggs through an aperture and
made your decision.
Do you remember the wicker baskets in which the farmers
brought the eggs? A layer of hay, a layer of eggs, from the bottom to the top. I
inspected one of these baskets of eggs and got four really bad ones.
The Council prosecuted and the owner was fined one pound
per egg. A tough fine in those days. However, the Ministry of Agriculture took
over the production, parking, grading and sale of eggs and really made the egg
big business. No more hens "laying away" now. The site is presently
occupied by the main Post Office building.
No. 3. The Cattle Market was on the complete site taken
over by the Vehicle Testing Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs at the
corner of Smithfield Street and Hillsborough Road, and is an area of two roods
and thirty-eight perches. A part of it later became used as a Fowl Market and
later still a cattle grading station was established.
The wall along the Hillsborough Road side was fourteen feet
six inches high, and on the inside and along the wall was a row of sheds used by
the fowl dealers. In 1930 a Meat Inspection Depot was erected, the builder being
Robert MacHenry, Derriaghy. It was removed when the Ministry took over the site.
There were two gateway entrances from Smithfield Street, which, by the way, was
at one time called "Church View."
No. 4. The Hay Market. one rood and twenty-six perches in
arm, was on the other side of Smithfield Street from the Cattle Market. It
extended along Smithfield Street from the gable of the two private dwellings to
Market Place, and in depth, it went back a little less than half that distance,
almost the site used by Messrs. Walls as a storage space during the building of
the Swimming Pool, plus the piece which contains the present weighbridge.
I say "the present weighbridge;" because in 1894
there was a weighbridge and office at the gateway entrance next the two
dwellings. The weighbridge was in the centre of the gateway. There was a low
wall with an iron railing round the outside, iron gates at the entrances, and a
high wall separated the Hay Market from the Potato, Oats and Grain Market,
through which wall an entrance was made later.
No. 5. The Potato, Oats and Grain Market was two roods
thirty four and a quarter perches in area and was built in 1828 by the Marquis
of Hertford at a cost of £1,500. It was called the "New Market" in
1893. It was on the other side of the Hay Market wall (approximately on the
Swimming Pool site). There was a low wall with an iron railing along Market
Place. If you stand in Market Place and look through the railing, there was a
wall on the left, a wall on the right, and a wall across the far end, parallel
with Market place and in line with the gable wall of the nearest dwelling-house
in Smithfield Street, and behind the weighbridge and office existing. There was
an entrance from hares Street and two gates from Market Place.
The two walls at right-angles to Market Place had very
suitably designed sheds built against them. There were twelve or thirteen
openings on each wall with rounded arches over. Also, and this may surprise you,
there was a market house with steeple and bell, and a weighbridge and office at
about ninety-five feet from the Market Place railing.
The bell in this tower was rung to start the market off on
Tuesday mornings. The Historical Society has a bell which was in the recently
removed sheds (to make room for the pool) and I would say that this is the bell
from the original market house tower. There was a lever sticking out from the
bell to which a rope was attached, and the bell was rung at eight a.m.
On the 29th February, 1896 (a leap year), on a Wednesday
afternoon, I think, the Market House was sold, for taking down, by Robert
Diamond, auctioneer. The bidders were John Vernon and W. Todd (Todd Bros.,
Market Square, now Mace). Todd offered the highest sum, �25, and got the Market
House. This was two years after the Commissioners had obtained possession. They
had it taken down but they didn�t put anything in its place, and there has
been no market house since 1896.
Behind the rear wall of the Grain Market was an area
bounded by the wall, Haslem's Lane, and James Street, which was private property
and which the Commissioners acquired by purchase from the owners. This was done
No. 6. The Pork Market was held in Smithfield, in the open square. The 1893 map
shows a space around it to be used as a roadway. Where the pork weighing shed is
now (unused for that purpose) there was a covered shed, probably used then for
weighing the pork carcases The pork meat was brought to the Market in the
country carts, usually on a bed of clean straw or hay and, very much later,
required to be covered with a clean cloth.
The farmers' carts were lined up and were met by the
buyers, usually from Lisburn and Belfast. They were wholesale pork curers and a
few pork merchants who cured their own pork. It was a quiet market with no fuss
or excitement. It's much more quiet now. The hand-bell which used to be rung to
commence business is now a museum piece, like its big brother from the tower,
and the market is no more.
On Fair Day, Market Place was worth seeing as the horses
and ponies were trotted up and down to the shouts, cheers and laughs of the
crowd. Many a lad "mitched" from school on the Fair Day. The horse
trough, which was just in front of the entrance to the Swimming Pool and at the
edge of the footpath, did good business, but it was only for horses; the sellers
and buyers clinched their bargains elsewhere.
Well, now, there you are: a glance at the old markets of
almost a past generation. What a change today I Butter, egg, pork, cattle and
grain streamlined, organised, standardised and modernised, and priced to a
fraction of a penny. I would imagine there is no hand-slapping now as the
bargains are made, perhaps in London. No retiring to the nearest "pub"
to seal the bargain. And no one satisfied, "if I had been there I would
have let them know a thing or two." In the old days you were always there
and you had no one else to blame. However, we really have few genuine complaints
as time marches-nay, rushes on, and except for the present type of variety
market, the Lisburn markets have gone and have become a part of the towns
Will you please have a look at the market sites of 1893.
Do you ever, in your quieter moments give the Lisburn town
water supply a thought? When you turn on the tap and the life-giving water flows
out, do you feel a small degree of satisfaction, or do you just take it for
Perhaps you are one of the great majority who are
completely ignorant of who or what produces the crystal flow, and only goes into
a tantrum when, for some good reason, the water is turned off.
The old saw, �You never miss the water till the well runs
dry� is applicable when the water fails to arrive at your jaw-box, sink,
wash-hand basin or bathroom suite.
But this "water from the tap" business is of
recent origin. There was a time when, like all the other people in the country,
you bad your own supply: a well, spring, stream, or other natural source. You
can see this still not far from Lisburn, but gradually more difficult to find as
water mains push their way under the surface of the country roads.
This little bit of unseen urbanisation has, in some cases,
intruded into the rural scene. It hasn't always been acceptable. You will be
told, "Agh, it hasn't the same taste as the oul well." Which was
quite true for a variety of reasons, some unmentionable. The wells are being
filled in, and the pumps are now garden ornaments alongside the gas lampposts
which seem to be wishing they were still standing serenely amongst the rush and
bustle of Belfast.
But to get back to Lisburn, would you like to have a look
at the history of the towns water supply? You would? Good! Off we go.
Amongst the conditions concerning the ownership of land
which was granted away back in the 1600s were instructions as to the lay-out of
the new towns, that a place for a church and churchyard and a market-place be
provided, and "to take care that water may be conveniently had for serving
the towns." These considerations could decide where a town could be sited.
In the case of Lisburn, water was plentiful, as the town
lay on the banks of the river Lagan, then free of pollution, and there were
streams and springs running down from the mountains. The supply of water was no
worry to the people of the original town, with its fifty-two or fifty-three
houses in Castle Street, Bow Street, Bridge Street and Market Square.
In the book, 'Lisburn Cathedral and Its Past Rectors,'
there is a quotation from a letter dated 1621 from Lord Conway to Lord
Dorchester, in which he writes of the Lisnagarvey district: "boggy ground,
pleasant fields, water brooks, rivers full of fish, full of game, the people in
their attire, language, fashion, barbarous. In their entertainment, free and
noble." Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile.
I wonder will the proposed Lagan Valley park in some
measure restore the idyllic scene of this bygone age. He said the fashion was
"barbarous"! If Lord Conway could take a walk in the town on a
Saturday afternoon and see the style or fashion now, he would say he was born
too soon: in fact, just about three hundred years too soon !
Where was I? Oh, yes I You can see that to obtain water was
not a great problem; there was no scarcity in those early days. Of course people
drank water; they always did; but they also had ale, mead, milk and buttermilk
and "usquebaugh;" that is, whiskey. But, gradually at first and then
faster, the population grew and circumstances arose that rendered the old
supplies inconvenient and insufficient.
The increasing population, at 1600, say three hundred
persons, and at 1800, four thousand five hundred, and the new industries which
had developed, called for a new look at the water situation.
Reservoirs and piped supplies were being provided
elsewhere, including Belfast (see Jack Loudan's "In Search of Water"),
so why not Lisburn. Something would have to be done.
I have before me an old book of the Hertford estate, which
was used for the letting of the vacant town parks or plots of land, and on the
map for 1835 there is marked the "Spring Water Course," which was the
Town Water Stream. This stream, which ran along the glen at Duncan's Road,
before Duncan's Reservoir was made, divided, with one arm going down the Antrim
Road, crossing at Dunville's Bridge, and running across the land to Stewarts
Mill pond. From there the overflow joined some other streams and they became the
By-wash and went to the Lagan. The other arm went round the back of the
dog-kennels, crossed under Dog Kennel Lane, on across what is now the rugby
ground, round the Thompson House land, down the side of the Magheralave Road,
then, crossing under, ran through the Friends' School ground and, finally, into
the Old Reservoir, the Park pond.
From this Old Reservoir the water was conducted through
wooden pipes to the various parts of the town which were below the level of the
reservoir. These wooden pipes were made of straight lengths of tree trunks,
bored up the centre, and tapered at one end, like a lead pencil, and the other
end having a tapered hole which received the end of another length driven in.
Connections and junctions could be made to premises, but I'm sure there was very
little pressure. Various types of trees were used, but English elm was said to
be the best. On odd occasions parts of the old wooden mains have been dug up
during excavations in the town.
The overflow from the Old Reservoir flowed past the
Courthouse (no Courthouse then), down the Railway side of Bachelor's Walk (under
the front gardens of the houses), and joined its mate which it had left in
Duncan's Road, in Antrim Street, and together they went to the Lagan. They are
still running when at times there is a heavy rainfall to create a run of water
from the park pond.
Mention of the pond in the park brings to mind the Wallace
fountain on the main walk. Did you ever really have a good look at this lovely
piece of workmanship made in Paris, or the one in Castle Gardens? In this
drinking fountain the water came up a pipe in the centre of the bowl and you
drank from a metal cup on a chain. Now only used as a support for a modern
drinking fountain, which use is a piece of vandalism.
In a Paris guide-book entitled "The Diamond Guide for
the Stranger in Paris;" by Adolphe and Paul Joanne, printed by Messieurs.
Hachette et Cie., eighth edition, 1878, there is the following information:
On page forty there is an engraving of the "Fontaine
Wallace," with this description: "The Fontaines Wallace" were
given by Sir Richard Wallace, to be placed in the districts frequented
principally by the working classes. They me of two different designs: forty-five
with caryatids and five called d'applique. In the first model the water comes
out of the cupola, which is supported by four caryatids; it fall's into the
basin and so washes the cup fastened by a chain. In the second system the water
comes out of the head of a figure placed in the front and falls into a little
cup which is fastened between two pilasters."
Old Lagan Bridge pre 1880
The first of these two types was that of the Lisburn
Wallace fountains, of which there were five. They were placed at the following
points:-One at the junction of Market Place and Bow Street, in the middle of the
road opposite "Crazy's"; one in Market Square, on the site of
Nicholson's statue; one in the Castle Gardens, which is still there; one at the
junction of Seymour Street, Low Road and Millbrook, in the middle of the road;
one in the Wallace Park main walk, which is still there. Now that we are in the
Common Market and you will likely be going to Paris, have a look round for a
Wallace Fountain, there are still some there.
Duncan's Reservoir was in operation prior to 1876 as it
appears on the 1876 map, but Boomer's Reservoir is absent. In the 1878 list of
occupiers of land, Renny Boomer is mentioned as being in McWatter's farm, "Oldpark
Farm," now owned by the Council (and there's a good story to be told about
the reason for buying it). There was another Roomer nearby, Edward, but I would
guess that Benny gave the name to the "Boomer's Reservoir." Why did
the name change from "Balmer"? and, by the way, "Renny" is
how the name is spelt on the estate notice which I read.
Boomer's Reservoir was made about 1880, and in 1894 it was
bought, along with the market rights, from Lady Wallace, as, of course, was
Duncan's Reservoir. The Town Commissioners became the owners of the water
rights, and the water authority. Boomer's Reservoir became the main source of
supply, a shaky supply in the summer, when the water was usually shut off at
The sill was raised eighteen inches about 1910 to increase
the water storage. It had now become a battle between the water supply and the
increase in size and population of the town. In 1925 a pumping plant was
installed at Duncan's Dam to pump water up to Boomer's. It was a diesel engine
pump and the last man to use it was Jack McAllister, an employee of the Borough
Council. In 1930 an electrically-driven centrifugal pump was installed and in
1941 both pumps were inoperative and Duncan's Dam ceased to be used as a town
Since 1935, when the "John D. Barbour Well"
started to pour forth its unending stream of very high quality water to Boomer's
Reservoir, it has never run dry. It sent up seventeen thousand gallons per hour
when it commenced and, as the borehole was beside Duncan's Dam, it was said
that they were pumping the water out of the dam and running it back into it when
the pump was on test. It was, however, coming up from the four hundred feet
bore-hole. It was a great success and the forerunner of three other bore-holes.
They were bored through Triassic sandstone, three of them four hundred feet deep
and one six hundred feet deep. It is interesting to note the colours of the
sandstone layers-red, green, grey, yellow, blue and white, and to think that the
sandstone was laid down millions of years ago.
The battle between town and water continues, with the water
always looking for reinforcements. We are now also receiving water from the
Belfast Water Commissioners' reservoirs at Stoneyford and the Silent Valley, and
the demand for more water grows apace. It seems unending, and if you go up to
McWatters' farm at Oldpark, Aghalislone, you will see the stream, the main
feeder stream, which filled the Old Reservoir in the Wallace Park and is still
playing a useful role today, Like "Ole Man River," in its own way, it
keeps on rolling along.
If you would like to see this little stream, go up past Mr.
Drayne's farm and take the first road on the right (Boomer's Corner), go down
to McWatters' farmhouse and you are over the stream. It runs under the road.
It's very nice country round here, with winding heaving
roads, good trees, a new view at every turn, and a pretty name, "Ivy
Hill." The Boomer's Reservoir looks like a sheet of silver from here. Away
in the distance the Mournes, and down among the smoke, the City of Belfast.
There must have been a very large tree about Ivy Hill one
time, for it is marked on the 1876 map "The Big Tree." I asked a man
at Derriaghy did he ever hear of it? "Oh aye, but I believe it blew down
the night of the �Big Wind� ! And who am I to question that
The McWatters' farm I have mentioned was owned by the great
Belfast bakery firm of McWatters. About two hundred and fifty acres in extent,
it was sold up in lots about 1937. It was the time of horse-drawn breadcarts,
and the farm was used, amongst other farm purposes as a holiday home for weary
and retired horses. It was a very tough job pulling a breadcart over the
cobble-stones and square-sets of Belfast.
The increasing size of Lisburn is shown by the number of
streets in the town being gradually added. In 1819 there were twenty-seven
streets and lanes; in 1914, ninety-seven streets; in 1970, two hundred and
sixty-three streets and more under construction, with new water mains.
The provision of main sewers became a priority in 1900,
when the population was approximately eleven thousand, I should say. So where
was all the waste water going previously? So William Tennent Henry, C.E.,
prepared plans for the new sewerage system, and later the work commenced.
On the 18th August, 1905, a curious sightseer could have
seen a jolly party of men setting off from the Town Hall, Castle Street, in a
couple of horse-drawn brakes and some side-cars. And where were they bound for?
To New Holland, where Mr. C. B. Wilkins was to cut the first sod of the New
Purification Scheme. He was presented with a spade which was unique. The spade
had a solid oak handle, beautifully carved, a solid silver blade, with the
inscription: "Lisburn Sewerage Works-Presented to O. B. Wilkins, Esq.,
Chairman of the Urban District Council, by the Contractors, B. Firth & Co.,
on the occasion of the first sad-cutting, August 16, 1905."
I wonder where the spade is now.
And so the demand for houses, more water, sewers and sewage
treatment keeps on and there is no point where finality is reached. We just have
to try to keep up with, or better still, a little ahead of the needs of today,
for tomorrow will surely come.
1 hope you have enjoyed this article on the Lisburn Water
Supplies. There is a lot more to be told of all that is done to give you a water
supply free from everything harmful. It's a wonderful story) You will think of
it now and again, wont you? Good !
A sad story to finish. On May 23, 1899, a little boy and
girl were drowned in the Old Reservoir, the pond in the Wallace park. The little
boy got over the railing and fell in and his sister got over to save him and
lost her life also. Mr. Fred McMurray made an unsuccessful attempt to save them,
for which he received the Certificate of the Royal Humane Society. well, well,
that was indeed a sad day in Lisburn. Could something like this happen at
Duncan's Dam at the present day? Children are playing around it.
The long spell of dry weather which caused the turning off
of the water supply led me to think of the fairly recent past history of the
water supply to Lisburn when a shortage of water was the accepted thing almost
The capacity of Boomer's and Duncan's Reservoirs was
insufficient to supply the demand for water, so when the rain ceased falling on
the catchment area, the top water level of the reservoirs fell and action had to
be taken to make the water in reserve last till the rain came on again.
It's as simple as that: no rain, no water I But sure
everyone knows that, and it is very little compensation when your day at the
seaside is spoiled by the rain to say, "Ah, well, it's filling the reservoir !"
Just previous to the last war, about 1938, an inspection
was made of all possible sources of water supply in case the town mains or
reservoirs were destroyed, and it was interesting m find that there was still
evidence left of early wells and pumps which had been in use for a very long
time and might come in handy again.
The Lagan River as a source of water for fire-fighting was,
of course, practically inexhaustible, but for use as a domestic supply no good,
except with special treatment. The most abundant supply of running spring water
was the "Boiling Well" on the left side of the Moira Road and behind
the Lisburn Service Station. It must have been running strongly before Lisburn
had a house built. It is mentioned by name on some of the old maps. It was used
as an auxiliary supply about 1911 to fill the town mains at top of Longstone
Street, a pump from the Belfast Fire Brigade being used.
In the Old Warren area, at the bottom of Warren Gardens,
down next to the Lagan, there were very strong springs, and the old thatched
houses in this district had a never-ending supply. You went down "Smith's
Lane" to the houses. '
At this spot there was at one time a bleach green, probably
used by Coulsons, who had a factory at Sprucefield. All this area is at present
under housing development.
Dr. Peatt, a well-known G.P. in Lisburn, some years ago
said that "the Old Warren area was the healthiest part of Lisburn, good
sandy soil, and the air from the Mournes and Divis filling your lungs."
We'll just take a few deep breaths while we're here; in, out; in, out; and you
begin to feel better already.
At Causewayend, on the west side of the esker road, were
very good springs running out of the gravel. I remember James and Charlie Drake
sinking a well for their slaughter-house, barn and cottage, and at two feet they
got all the water they needed. On a map of 1835 the name "William
Drake" is mentioned as holding land at Causewayend. The name is still
prominent in the town.
The "Fairy Well" in Benson Street is, alas, gone.
As you go into Benson Street from the Antrim Road you go up a little' hill, once
known as "Bensons Hill." You go up over the top, and at the bottom, on
the left, opposite the factory site, was the "Fairy Well," with an
overflow of spring water. Plenty of people in Lisburn today have had a drink
from the Fairy Well. This whole area has completely changed since 1930. Benson
Street ended at the Fairy Well, and all was fields with the stream from the
Dummy's Lane running down the middle of bogland to Stewart's mill dam. Before
the mills was erected in 1835 the stream ran across Antrim Lane (Street) as an
open rivulet and continued as the "By-wash" to the Lagan. Now this
stream in the old days was I'm sure, used for human consumption, as at Duncan's
road near the dog kennels the main stream divided, one part going towards Benson
Street, and the other part going to the town reservoir, known as "the
basin," in Wallace Park. This was "Clear Water Stream," which
supplied water in wooden pipes to premises on a lower level.
In doing this research I examined a copy of the plan for
the "Proposed People's Park, Town of Lisburn," which had the Local
Government Board, Ireland, stamp as received 14th January, 1885. At this time
the area around the basin was all fields, with the exception of the Cricket
Field, which had been in use since at least 1857. Access to the cricket field
was from Dean's Walk, just as at present.
I think we should have a look at this old plan and see how
the park was to be laid out. It shows a "music stand" approximately
where the present band-stand is. (I wonder which band played the first tune,
probably at the opening.) .
Between the music stand and Parkmount front gardens was a
"coffee stand." It would have been the site of the "hot-dog"
stand at the recent '71 Festival.
The Railway Walk (the Deans Walk), which was already in
existence as a public right-of-way, between Magheralave Road and the Belfast
Road, was to be widened to thirty feet. There was an existing lodge at the
Belfast Road end at the railway.
The cricket field and lawn tennis courts were to be in the
same spot as now, The site of the present rugby ground was to have an ornamental
pond surrounded by trees and a twelve-feet footpath. The main walk to be made
thirty-five feet wide with a lodge at the Magheralave Road on the other side of
the walk from where it is now. There were to be plenty of secondary walks all to
be twelve feet wide.
The trees you see now on the main walk were planted at :his
time. Mr. Pat Gelston's house was along a lane which was the site of the main
walk. The house was about seventy-five yards from the Belsize Road. Mr. Gelston
rented the land from the marquis of Hertford, and later, Sir Richard Wallace.
The town got the park on 22nd June, 1885, as a public park
and recreation ground. Did they make a better job of it than the original plan?
I forgot to mention the football ground, which was in much the same spot as now
but lengthways between the Dean's Walk and Main Walk and just the size for one
match at a time.
Perhaps you are wondering where the water would come from
to fill the ornamental pond? It came from a stream at the side of the Parkmount
It is still there, but it is now covered over and runs below the rugby ground
down to the railway. There was also the overflow from the Basin which joins this
stream and they both run hand-in-hand down Bachelor's Walk.
Young Street c. 1920
As usual, we have wandered away from the subject matter,
water; the Boiling Well, Fairy Well and the Old Warren.
Springs were really on the outskirts of the town, but what
did the town residents have as their water supply? If they were below Basin
level they had a piped supply as mentioned in their deeds, paying annually from
five shillings to two pounds. The average would be about fifteen shillings.
The maps of the 1879s show pumps, barrels, troughs,
cisterns and tanks as being widely in use even where the piped supply was
available. The troughs, etc., in the yards were for the use of the horses and
ponies, which any family of note had in this motorless age.
You'll notice the number of gateway entrances in Lisburn
(being gradually built up) all made for the pony and trap, and horse and cart.
And the "pubs" had stables for the farmers' horses and, of course,
customers horses. The last old stable removed was at the rear of "The
Coachman," Market Square. The By-wash ran past the rear of this building as
an open stream and still runs in a culvert.
people all had their wells, even when they had the piped supply. The Friends'
School, Thompson Home (now Thompson House), Lisnagarvey House (demolished), The
Fort (on the site of Forthill Girls School), Roseville (demolished) and The
(now Manor Home) all had wells. The Union Workhouse, Dublin
Road, had a well beside the ditch between the hospital and the Ulster Bus
premises. It was put into working order before the war but never actually used.
The Convent School, Castle Street, had a well in the garden
which had a bee-hive shaped cover and door. The water level was about one foot
below ground level. The late Dr. Johnston's house and the house next to it had
wells. It must have happened that the great General Nicholson had many a drink
of this water.
A little further along this seam of water was the
overflowing well at the Lisburn Mineral Water Company's premises. On the same
seam at the rear of Nos. 38 and 40 Belfast Road was an overflowing well which
helped to water the tennis courts and bowling green when the mains were turned
off in the summer. Down the Low Road below Wilson Street are houses which when
erected had one pump provided for over four houses. The last one was removed for
scrap iron a few years ago.
And, of course, we can't forget the pump in Pump Lane (now
Ridgeway Street) and the Priests' Well in the Priests' Lane (now Tonagh Avenue).
When the lanes, courts and alleys were built about 1800
they usually had a water tap or, as it was called, a fountain. One tap for each
The last fountains were in Fairymount Square, two for
A little later there was a tap for each house, usually in
the yard outside, to be followed by the water tap over the sink inside the
house. The water had really come home to be with us as an invaluable ally,
without which life just couldn't exist. So dont waste this precious gift from
above, and I mean those heavy rain-filled clouds.
A good amount of the above information was obtained before
the war, but thank goodness it wasn't put into practice. And before I forget,
there was a pump on the footpath in Bow Street in 1878, just at what is now
About 1900, with the increase in the number of new houses
and ether premises, and the increase in the population, it was decided that main
sewerage and a disposal works be provided, and the first sod for the works was
cut at New Holland on 18th August, 1905. I'm sure there are a few persons around
who remember this event.
Boomers Reservoir had been the main water supply since
1894, and there was plenty of water for the population of approximately 9,000.
This was the beginning of the change from what was known as "Dry
Conservancy" to the "Water Carriage System" in relation to
domestic sanitation. The Council were forging ahead and appointed Mr. W. T.
McBride as Sanitary Inspector, 29th July, 1905.
What was the New Holland disposal works like? Simply huge
tank for settlement, and afterwards land filtration by-passing the tank effluent
along a series of open drains about three feet wide, when it percolated through
the soil into perforated drain pipes and from thence to the Lagan canal.
Between these open drains were planted willows, which, when
kept pruned, produced "sally rods" or osiers. These osiers or
"scallops" were in great demand for making potato, egg and all kinds
of baskets, babies' cradles, and used in thatching.
It was not a very satisfactory system, but it suited the
circumstances at the time. It was a step in the evolution towards the modern
scientific plant to be seen at New Holland today. Take a walk down some day and
have a look round. Most interesting !
When I joined the Urban Council in 1928, the removal of
domestic refuse was by means of horses and carts, and men with shovels and large
basins. Even at this time there were hundreds of dry "privies; whose
replacement with W.C.'s was a high priority. In the meantime the
"privies" had to be emptied. James McDowell, of New Street, off
Millbrook, had the contract to supply the horses and carts and drivers, and the
Council provided the men to do the filling and carrying of the large basins from
the pits at the rear of the houses to the waiting carts.
The excavated material went to the tipping ground (the
Dump) and sometimes to farmers The charge for emptying these pits was one
shilling and sixpence, but could be more, paid by the occupier who got a receipt
on the spot. It was an appalling job for men to have to do, and on looking back,
I never heard much complaint.
As W. Cs replaced the "privies," ash-bins came
into use, and those persons who had a bin paid sixpence to have it emptied,
usually about once a month, "pressed down and running over" to get a
good tanner's worth.
Sam Leckey, yard foreman, brought me the money and receipt
books and I banked the money every Monday. Somehow the government auditor didn't
like the pit and bin books very much; they got a very quick look over.
Later I got the bin price reduced to threepence, and
eventually convinced the Council to put the refuse- collection on the rates and
really do the job in a modern way. This was the end of the horse and cart era.
In 1930 the Council purchased a Shelvoke and Drewry
Freighter, a metal small wheeled vehicle with a moveable cover over, with the
driver standing in the cab at the front.
Now, when you see these great metal monsters with their
intricate machinery moving along the streets, give a thought m the early
pioneers, a bard-working body of men !
Gas Works--Gone But Not Forgotten
Henry Bayly wrote in his 1834 "Historical Account of
Lisburn," "Respecting the appearance of Lisburn, it is cheerful,
streets mostly spacious, carefully paved and always clean. The sidepaths are not
flagged, but we believe it is in contemplation to do so. Lamps were erected in
1825 and a Mr. Whowell employed to light the streets with gas; but owing to
Whowell's failure, the work has been neglected. We hope that this evil will be
remedied as soon as possible."
It was not,, however, till 1837 that Bayly's wish began to
An act of 1828 gave the Irish towns the power to elect
Commissioners, to improve rates, to provide for lighting, watching, water and
sewerage, and so forth. These powers were not taken up immediately and it was
not until 1837 that the Act was adopted. The Lisburn Gas Company Limited was
formed and a committee got to work with a capital £2,500 on the gasworks in
The production of gas was on the way, under the
chairmanship of John Millar, Esquire, J.P., who was part owner of the land
acquired. It was a private company.
Part of the land from Bridge Street to Back Lane, in the
names of John Millar, Rev. William Hind and Anne and Edward Heron was to become
the site of the Gasworks. This land was at the rear of Nos. 52 and 68 Bridge
Street and included Wood's Alley and Heron's Alley (sometimes called
"Herons Folly"), the first between Nos. 50 and 52, and the second
between 56 and 58.
Herron's Alley was the original gateway to the gasworks
from Bridge Street. There was another entrance from Back Lane. The foreman lived
in No. 58 and was in a handy spot to keep an eye on the number of loads of coal
The Lamplighter lived in No. 54, where David Feagan, his
wife and four children died when the house went an fire in 1910.
In the Notices of the Landed Estates Court, setting out all
the property owned by Sir Richard Wallace and dated 1878, the Lisburn Gas Light
Company had a Fee-farm Grant dated fifteenth of March, 1876, from Sir Richard
Wallace at the yearly rent of nine pounds with nine shillings receiver's s
salary. There was a charge of eleven pounds two shillings and sixpence for a
supply of pipe water to the premises. A total of twenty pounds, eleven shillings
and sixpence for approximately two roods and eighteen perches.
In what was the boardroom of the new Gas Office, in Bridge
Street, is an old oil painting with the following inscription on a brass plate;
"John Millar, Esq., J.P., founder of the Lisburn Gas Company Ltd., and
Chairman of Directors until his death, 8th December, 1881. Painted in accordance
with the resolution of the shareholders passed at the annual meeting, 7th
August, 1882." John Millar was a pleasant looking, bearded gentleman who
guided the affairs of the company for forty-four years, surely a record term of
service to a company with shareholders. It was a boom time for gas; everyone
drew their dividend with a smile.
The man Edward Heron, mentioned above as a landowner, is
perhaps the same person as is stated in the 1819 directory as residing in Castle
Street and being a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. The little entry, Herron's
Alley, with seven houses, belonged to Anne and him. I think she must have been
his sister, as in the case of a married man the wife's name is not mentioned in
the court notices. In those days the man was the boss !
In all the expanding that occurred at the gas works they
never got No. 70 Bridge Street and the land at the rear right through to Back
Lane. This was Edgar's Entry and the entrance was from Bridge Street. It was a
cul-de-sac with eleven houses in 1882.
The lease for No. 70 was dated 10th April, 1751, and was
given by Francis Earl of Hertford to one Saywell Kain with perpetual renewal.
The lease was last renewed (before 1878), 1st January, 1830, from Francis
Charles Marquis of Hertford to William Edgar, and was for the lives and life of
his Majesty William IV (who died 1847 when the gas works started-no connection);
her present Majesty Queen Victoria and Prince George of Cumberland.
The names of members of the Royal Family appeared in many
of the old leases as, I suppose, they were likely to live to a ripe old age.
The last occupier of No. 70 and owner of what had now
become Sloan's Entry (Slow being the owner after Edgar) was Robbie John Allen, a
well-known general dealer in this town.
Of course there was no gas without coal in those days and
the coal came from Belfast by barge or fighter on the Lagan Canal, and was put
into carts like the old-fashioned country carts with the horse between the
shafts, and the horse pulled the load up to Herron's Alley.
This was the Bridge Street entrance to the works then. The
canal opened on the 7th September, 1763, when the horse-drawn canal
boat "Lord Hertford," made the journey from Belfast to Lisburn.
In 1794 the canal was completed to Lough Neagh. The level
of the canal kept rising through to the locks up to the Broadwater at
Soldierstown and then down by lock to Lough Neagh level. It was 25½
miles long and had twenty-seven locks. A barge could carry up to ninety tons and
at 1906 the annual traffic was one hundred and sixty thousand tons.
It took a week to do the journey from Belfast to Lough
Neagh and back. And now, when canals are being revived everywhere, our canal is
gone for good. What a peaceful relaxing journey to spend a week travelling
quietly by lighter up the beautiful Lagan Valley to Lough Neagh, "far from
the madding crowd."
(By the way, have you ever heard that heroic ballad,
"The Cruise of the Calabar." It tells of the trials and dangers of
getting a barge to Lisburn. Have a look for it, it's good fun, and would suit a
pop group.) And then going for a lough cruise on the steamer, "The
Marchioness of Donegal," owned by the Canal Company and the first lake
steamer in Ireland. The "Lough Neagh Queen" was another of those old
As mentioned above, the coal for the gas works (and Hilden
Mill, etc.) came from Belfast in barges which were loaded at the coal quay at
the harbour in front of the County Down Railway Station, and adjacent to the
ferry steps which led down into the water. On the other side of the harbour (the
Albert side) there was a similar set of steps and a steam ferry, owned by the
Harbour Commissioners, plied between these two steps, taking shipyard workers
and others across the harbour at a charge of one halfpenny, later raised to one
penny (old money).
You could walk on board the ferry at both ends,. You walked
down the steps and stepped on and on reaching the other side of the harbour you
moved along the ferry, stepped off and went up the steps. As the tide rose and
fell, less or more steps were visible above the water. The ferry had an
uncovered flat deck, with the engine, boiler, et cetera, and engineer in the
centre. It went forwards and backwards across the harbour without having to turn
around and carried probably a total of one hundred persons, all standing.
There were three ferries, the one at the coal quay (Queen's
Quay), another between Abercoro Basin and Donegal) Quay, and a third working
from Victoria Wharf to Milewater Basin. Those were the days when Harland and
Wolff and Workman and Clarke's shipyards were going full blast, night and day,
and the ferries were very busy. The ferries stopped running about 1932 and the
steps were filled in. A careful scrutiny of the harbour wall would probably give
a clue to the original site.
On the 27th March, 1900, the lighter "Rory O'More,"
of Lisburn, was sitting at the ferry steps, Queen's Quay, at the Co. Down
railway station, fully loaded with coal. It had been a wild day, with a gale
blowing up Belfast Lough and causing the waves to break over the lighter, which
was low in the water. It eventually filled and sank. The lighter-man, James
McVeigh, and a woman named Annie McCann (35), Joseph Street, Belfast, were found
dead on board by the harbour divers. A sad end for one of those legendary men of
bygone leisurely days who steered the barge or led the horse on the towpath all
the way to Lisburn. '
Well, after that diversion, back to the Gas Works. The new
Gas Company was forging ahead. The first gasometer was inside the gasworks at
the Back Lane entrance to the premises. It had a capacity of about 10,000 cubic
As the demand for gas increased, more storage accommodation
was provided by the erection of larger gas holders and removal of the earlier
and smaller ones. The original gas holder was gone from inside the works area
and the present site was being used for holding purposes. Of the present three
holders two have a capacity. of 120,000 cubic feet each and the other 250,000
cubic feet. Of course, we have the resources of the Belfast Corporation Gas
Department to keep them filled.
Over the years the whole site bad been gradually changing,
houses in Bridge Street had been demolished, a new entrance road made between
Jelly's public-house and the present Gas Office, built in 1913. There was an
older office building with the title, "Gas Store Showroom," a
photograph of which is in the present office. It may have been nn the site of
the new building. The new road mentioned was formerly "Woods Alley."
Heron's Alley, the original entrance, was closed up, houses demolished and the
space used as a coal store. Mack's Court, off Back Lane, had become stores and
had been installed and a gas-from-off plant was erected in what had been an
orchard at one lime. A steam disinfecting station had been erected in 1930
convenient to the boiler house where steam could be obtained to disinfect
clothing taken from houses where there had been an infectious disease. This
replaced the old gas-heated disinfector which was just inside the gate to the
Lisburn Cemetery in Sandy Lane, now Warren Park. A peculiar place to have a
disinfector, in a graveyard.
There was a belief that you could not get an infectious
disease (scarlet fever, diphtheria, et cetera) if you lived within a hundred
yards of the gasworks. The fumes from the retorts were supposed to kill the
germs. I haven't the foggiest notion as to whether there was any truth in this
belief or not, but I don't remember an infectious disease in Bridge Street, Back
Lane or Barnsley's Row, and only one in Market Lane during my time.
I told Mr. Wilson, who was the town clerk, about the
scarlet fever in Market Lane, and he said, "Well, well, I thought they were
so tough down there that the germs couldn't penetrate them" ! He hadn't
much faith in the gas works fumes idea.
Lisburn was growing rapidly, boundary extension had taken
place and the population was in 1960 about 17,000; say, over 4,000 houses in
comparison to 1837, when the gasworks started there were 992 houses, 675 slated
and the rest thatched. The gas works was at full stretch but it was just too
small. Some hard thinking had to be done. It was a new gas works, or else--.
The Lisburn Gas Company Limited had been in operation from
1837 until 1909, when the Lisburn Urban Council bought the Company's assets and
became the new owners. It was now the Council that had to make the vital
decision as to the future of the Lisburn Gas Department, and they courageously
For some time there had been rumours of Lisburn getting gas
from Belfast as other small towns had done. It eventually became a fact with the
laying of a gas main from Belfast to Lisburn; Belfast gas was first supplied to
Lisburn on the 20th September, 1981. It was the beginning of the end of the
There were many bangs and explosions in the Gas Works when
it was in its hey day, as some of the residents in Bridge Street well remember,
but the loudest bang was at its last breath. On a weekend in December, 1963,
Captain Tom Monaghan and a detachment of territorials from the Royal Engineers
arrived at the works and its demolition was used as an exercise in the use of
explosives. A few well-placed charges, an explosion, and all the hopes,
aspirations and imaginings of the Lisburn Gas Company Limited had crumbled into
dust and rubble. It was the end of a great endeavour, and surely all the mental
effort and gallons of sweat produced in one hundred and twenty-five years have
not been in vain, but hang around somewhere in time and space to be used again.
I wonder what the spirit of John Millar was thinking as the dust settled.
The Lisburn Gas Company has come and gone after
approximately one hundred and twenty-five years of supplying the town with gas
and light. All that now remains visible is the Gas Office in Bridge Street and
the gas holders at Back Lane. The Bridge Street car park gives no hint of the
busy times and hard work carried out by the gas workers. I always considered
that the men filling the retorts with coal and removing the red-hot coke were
the hardest-working men in Lisburn.
Watching the men working at night in the dim light of the
retort house, with the roar of the steam as they damped the coke, the white
shafts of fight from the open furnace doors, was like a glimpse of Dame's Inferno.
The blackened faces of the men, streaked with perspiration,
sweat-rags round their necks, pushing the long iron bars in and out of the
retorts, made them look like lost souls moving about in the smoke and steam.
They were very tough men, God rest them all. I knew some of them very well and
Hats off to the old Lisburn Gas Works, gone but not
entirely forgotten ! Hail and Farewell.
(On the 1st April, 1975, the Lisburn Borough Council Gas
Department was taken over and administered by the Belfast City Council Gas
(I read the very interesting article about the
old Lisburn Gasworks. For information, my great great grandfather
George Mearns used to be the Manager of the Gasworks in 1865. He
lived there with his wife and family. His wife, Susanna Mearns,
unfortunately died as a result of a fall in 1865. I have no other
details but thought you may wish to add this information to your
records. George Mearns and his family managed several of Northern
Ireland's gasworks in the mid to late 1800's. Andrew Mearns) 02/11/2010
Workhouse Is Not Forgotten
Walking along the footpath in Smithfield a few months ago,
I met a man I knew to see. He stopped and said "I enjoyed reading your
articles in the Star about old Lisburn, but you never mentioned the Lisburn
Workhouse !" I had to agree that he was right and to my surprise he
informed me that he had been an inmate when a boy many years ago. D'you know, it
started me thinking. So here is a brief history of the forgotten institution,
"The Lisburn Union Workhouse," which had been in action for over
eighty years as a place of refuge for the orphans and the starving and homeless
people of the neighbourhood.
Before the workhouse was built the only buildings on the
site were the two little cottages close to the footpath and opposite Warren
Park. In 1878 these two cottages were occupied by John Graham and William Fulton
at an annual rent to the Marquis of Hertford of £3.10 and £4 respectively. One
of these cottages was taken down at some time and the last occupier was Fred
Fitzsimmons, who sold the cottage and land to the District Hospital in 1950. The
hospital at first used the cottage as a home for nurses and later for cooks. The
cottage was taken down two years ago after being on the site for one hundred and
fifty years at least. An old landmark quietly obliterated.
It was under the provisions of the Irish Poor Law Acts 1838
that persons wore appointed to act, and were known as Guardians of the Poor. The
committee formed was named the Board of Guardians. They were mostly farmers and
businessmen and they were authorised to have erected a workhouse, to be
responsible for its management, to levy rates for the purpose on the town of
Lisburn and twenty-six townlands surrounding it One Guardian represented each
townland and there were three for Lisburn. AR were well-known men who performed
their duties without payment.
Previous to 1838, help for the poor had been provided by
charities ran by private persons, sometimes with a little government financial
help. Now we had a body set up by Act of Parliament to administer relief and
shelter. A building was to be built wherein the poor could be housed and fed for
as long as was necessary, even for years, or only a day.
The first meeting of the Board of Guardians was held in the
Assembly Rooms, Market Square, Lisburn, on the 20th February, 1839. The chairman
elected was James Watson, of Brookhill; vice-chairman. William Caldbeck,
Lisburn, and deputy vice-chairman, William Graham, Lisburn. Mr. James Ward, of
Lisburn, was appointed clerk at a salary of fifty pounds per annum. He had to
get two sureties of fifty pounds each, one of one hundred pounds himself. These
Guardians were hard-headed and tight-fisted Ulstermen. "Every penny a
prisoner" was their motto. There never was a penny spent that was not
really needed for some purpose.
It was decided to hold their meetings on Tuesday (market
day) and it remained so until the last meeting, the final dissolution of the
Board on Tuesday, 28th of September, 1948. After one hundred and nine years of
social welfare. Truly a wonderful record:
The meeting decided to ask the Very Rev. James Stannus, the
Marquis of Hertford's agent, for a building site of six acres and a building
committee was appointed. It met on the 19th March to consider plans for the new
workhouse and to ask for tenders from contractors. On the 28th May, 1839, the
estimate of Arthur Williams and Sons, Dublin, was accepted at �6,000, and work
commenced on the bare field on the Hillsborough Road.
On Tuesday, the 1st December, 1840, the first meeting was
held in the new boardroom on the Hillsborough Road. The Assembly Rooms were
vacated. They were home. They must have been fast workers in those days.
A Mr. McCartan was appointed Workhouse Master and sent to
Lincoln Poorhouse for two or three weeks to learn the system and be prepared for
the rush. It was necessary, for on the day appointed to admit the poor,
Thursday, 11th February, 1841, two hundred and fifty persons were admitted, as
beds to that number were filled with straw and were ready.
Also an order for clothing for from two hundred and fifty
to four hundred suits for men and boys and the same for women and girls had been
placed. A stock of clogs had been laid in, each pair costing 4s 4d a pair for a
man and 3s 6d
for a woman, and each pauper (the name for inmates) was given a pair. Usually
their own clothing and footwear (if any) were unwearable and perhaps infested
with lice and had to be destroyed. The louse spread the typhus fever. The
wooden-soled clogs with leather uppers and leather laces were somewhat like the
modern wooden sandals, but they were iron shod on the soles and heels. I wonder
did Alfred Connel of Bridge Street, the last of the Lisburn clogmakers, ever
supply the Workhouse. Perhaps his father did. Mind you, they were warm, on the
feet and were worn by the workers in the bleach works and the mills.
The Workhouse was so called because you had to do some work
for your keep. The Workhouse Master employed the inmates to do all the work.
Jobs were found which were suitable to the abilities of the paupers, who were
mostly labourers, their wives and children. There was gardening, cleaning, stone
breaking, looking after piggeries, making up faggots, oakum picking, laundry,
washhouse and kitchen work, blacksmithing and white smithing, groundsmen, making
coffins and digging graves, and painting, et cetera, et cetera. Even the
schoolgirls did needlework, some of which was sold. In August, 1843, broken
stones were being sold at is 1s 6d a ton to Ralph Jefferson for use on the Mail
Coach Road (now the Belfast Road). I would say yon were a good workhouse master
if you could keep the inmates employed on some useful or saleable work.
When you sit in your car in the front car park at the Lagan
Valley Hospital and look at the beautiful stone building with the slated roof
you are seeing what once was the living accommodation of the workhouse master,
upstairs over the front middle door. On the left of the door was the girls
day-room and dormitories, and on the right-hand side the boys'. There is still a
smaller door into each day-room. This is where the children lived and were
taught in school. On the top floor, where the boys slept, there is still a
portion of the original floor left, Like all the dormitory floors, there was a
sunken passage along the
center of the room, about six inches deep and three feet six inches wide, and
the straw-filled mattresses were laid flat on the raised portion of the floor
between the passage and the outside wall. It was like a modern "sleeping
platform" minus the springs and fancy work. This is the building now used
for private and maternity cases. Do have a look at the stonework: a really good
To the left and rear of this building were the adult
dormitories, laundry, bathroom, kitchen and workrooms, and the "padded
cell." Yes, this cell was for the "lunatics," persons mentally
deranged. It was a room well padded on walls, floor and inside the door. The
strong door had an iron barred grill through which the person could be watched
and spoken to. When I saw it about 1929 the padding was hanging from the walls
and it was rat infested. A room eight feet square and nine or ten feet high,
many a sad sight it must have seen.
The lighting was by gaslight in the original building, coal
fires were used for heating with hinge fire-guards locked to brackets on the
The Workhouse Hospital was the stone building away down at
the back, now the men's and women�s medical unit. When I saw it first it was a
fever hospital. That was in the year 1928. These old black-stone buildings would
last forever, and it is good to see them so efficiently adopted to modern
methods in the treatment of patients.
You are still sitting in your car, I hope, and are probably
over the site of the Board of Guardians office, built in 1840 and taken down in
1967. It had seen one hundred and twenty-seven years of very useful work.
Beside this office was the Fever and Cholera Hospital,
built in 1848 of the same black stone as the other buildings. It was taken down
in 1934. It accommodated sixty patients. Before this fever hospital was built,
the Manor Hospital was used as a fever hospital. It was a red brick building
somewhere about the site of the present Manor Home. It was there before the
Manor House was built and the avenue to it was at the entrance on Chapel Hill to
what was the Golf property, known as "Laverty's Lane." It was built
about 1832 and taken down in 1847. John Millar was secretary of thee Manor Fever
Hospital committee, and it may be he who was manager of the Lisburn Gas, Company
Limited. When it closed Mr. Millar offered the use of
the contents at �3 a month to the Workhouse Guardians, who had now to
build a wooden shed, as there was no fever hospital available until the Fever
and Cholera Hospital was built in 1848, a year later. At this time, 1845-1850,
famine and fever raged through the whole of Ireland, and wooden sheds, marquees
and tents, were in use everywhere to house the disease-ridden population,
especially in the South and West. The Great Famine had arrived. The potato crop
failed; the blight killed the potato crop almost overnight.. The workhouses were
full to overflowing. The first case of cholera appeared in Lisburn on 25th
January, 1849, and very soon it was epidemic, with many deaths. Dr. Cupples was
medical officer of health of the Workhouse. He had the assistance of Dr. Samuel
Musgrave in dealing with the fever patients. At this time there were 638 paupers
in the Workhouse, eighty-four in the general hospital and sixteen in the fever
and cholera hospital.
The members of the Society of Friends, the Quakers, were
always helping where there was trouble, and one of them, Samuel Richardson,
owner of the Island Flax Spinning Mill, visited the typhus fever patients, who
lay in great numbers in tents, in front of the aforementioned Manor Fever
Hospital, sometimes three times a day. He contracted the fever and only survived
a few days. He died on 24th October, 1847, only thirty years of age. His
headstone can be seen in the Friends graveyard in Railway Street. It was a very
perilous occupation to be a doctor in those days, and Dr. Cupples and Dr.
Musgrave were very brave gentlemen.
During the 1843-48 famine period, the potatoes, which were
the staple diet of the paupers, were replaced by oatmeal, buttermilk, rice
(something new), soup made from cows' and sheep's heads, and bread. At the
meeting of the Board on 8th April, 1843, the workhouse master's estimate of
provisions required for the ensuing week was: 1 ton of oatmeal, 117�, Ibs. bread, 2,600 quarts of buttermilk, 210
quarts sweetmilk, 2 lbs. butter, 26�,
lbs. beef, cows' and sheep's beads for soup, 1 lb. tea, 4 lbs. sugar, 8� ozs. tea, 2 lbs. salt, 2 lbs. pepper. Total
in workhouse 525,total in hospital 52. The average cost of pauper for the week
was eleven pence. No potatoes were mentioned. The potato crop was failing again
as it had done on and off since 1728. In January, 1845, the contractor for
potatoes reported he had no more and asked to be released from his contract.
Soup, bread and stirabout was now the diet. Porridge for breakfast and supper. B
you haven't tasted porridge served with the good old buttermilk with little
pearls of butter floating on the top, you have missed a treat, but you wouldn't
fancy it three times a day. The paupers did, for there was nothing else for
them. But wait! The Marquis of Hertford on one of his visits to Lisburn visited
the Workhouse on the 21st October, 1845, and was much pleased with the order and
regularity of it, and said it was not excelled by any similar institution in
England. He ordered a comfortable dinner to be provided for the paupers at his
expense, consisting of beef, carrots and soup, and afterwards tea and currant
buns. He could well afford it, as he was receiving about sixty thousand pounds a
year from his Lisburn Estates.
James Nicholas Richardson (another Quaker), of Lissue,
entertained the inmates of the Workhouse on New Year' s Day to a selection of
fruit and sweetmeats annually in Sir Richard Wallace's time.
And so the Workhouse, under the Board of Guardians, went on
from 1840, in good times and bad times, until the dire necessity of finding a
home for the destitute became a thing of the past. On the 22nd April, 1922, the
number of persons who could be taken in was approximately 1,000, but there was
no one there. The last eighty inmates had been removed to Lurgan Workhouse.
In January, 1922, a notice of motion stated: "That the
Lisburn Workhouse as such is now non-existent, having been converted to a
district hospital, the office of chaplain be abolished." Yes, the various
religious bodies had an official chaplain to the workhouse. The new district
hospital was the stone building which housed the workhouse master and the girls
After the inmates left, the Board of Guardians continued
with Outdoor Relief under the supervision of two Relieving Officers, where there
originally had been six. The last meeting of the Board was held on Tuesday, 28th
September, 1948, and in attendance were Miss A. S. Martin, chairman, and Mrs.
McLeavey, J.P., Messrs. W. Balmer, W. J. Fullerton, J.P.; J. H. F. McCarrison,
Andrew Maze, Albert A. Peel, J.P.; Arthur J. Reddick and Andrew M. Wedderburn.
Mr. Woods was the master and William Sinclair was the clerk when the buildings
were occupied by the last of the paupers.
And so this very practical work commenced in 1839 (when the
first train ran from Belfast to Lisburn), gradually came to an end. The
necessity for it to continue had passed. The Welfare State had been born and was
taking over with unlimited financial resources. The bad old days were gone; a
new era had dawned.
If you are still in your car, look at the splendid new
Lagan Valley Hospital with all its wonderful equipment and kindly staff; give a
thought to the "blood, tears and sweat" of the thousands of destitute
folk Who were taken in, lived and were cared for, and even died, in the old
Lisburn Union Workhouse, and were buried there. To the members of the Board of
Guardians who ran the institution so well on so little, and the staff and
volunteers who gave of their best, even unto death. And don't forget to thank
God that we have passed through the long shadow and come into the sunshine,
however fitfully it might shine at times.
During my visits to the gravesides in and around Lisburn I
have read inscriptions on headstones which were interesting, sad and melancholy,
thought-provoking, ridiculous, uplifting and courageous, on plain and flamboyant
stonework but the headstone which intrigued me most is in the Lisburn Cathedral
Churchyard. A plain little stone stating: "John Young, aged five years and
eight months, assassinated 23rd August 1822." It was on a Friday the boy
It is about two years since I first noticed the headstone,
and its inscription has been worrying away at the back of my mind on and off
ever since. I made local enquiries without any result and gave it up. However, I
had occasion to visit the Linenhall Library, Belfast, and then the inscription
came into my mind. I got the copies of the Belfast News Letter for 1822, and in
the issue of Tuesday, August 27th, found and read the following almost
"About seven o'clock on the evening of the 23rd
instant, Patrick Maguire, a lad of about sixteen years of age, tied John Young,
a very fine boy of about six years old, who had accompanied him to a field near
Lisburn, to a cow's tail.
At first the animal moved slowly forward, but soon, it
appears, became terrified at the unusual weight appended to her tail. The driver
of a mail-coach, as was proved at the inquest, called in vain for some
passengers on the highway to stop the cow, which rushed violently through the
turnpike on the Hillsborough Road. Before the arrival of the mail coach, the
poor child, contused and mangled by percussion on the pavement, had expired.
We are informed that his mother was just returning from
Belfast when she met the cow dragging the lifeless corpse of her son on the
highway, and was thrown into a state of distraction, in which she still
Maguire has fled. He is a lad about five feet high stout
made with a downcast countenance, and had on him an old artillery coat and a
An inquest was held on the body by Mr. Henry Allen,
coroner, which found that "the said John Young came to his death in
consequence of having been tied to a cow's s tail, the property of John Woods,
by Patrick Maguire, and that the said tying was not through malice, but youthful
inadvertence by said Maguire."
Would you have used the word "assassinated"? You
might if you had been the loving father or mother of little John Young.
The "Thompson Memorial Home for Incurables," now
"Thompson House," was erected in 1885. This magnificent building on
the Magheralave Road, Lisburn, was built in memory of William Thompson, Esq.,
M.D., F.R.C.S.I., born the 7th March, 1806. He was surgeon m the County Antrim
Infirmary, Seymour Street, Lisburn, for fifty years. He died on the 22nd
September, 1882, in an accident on the level crossing on the railway at
Dunmurry. Dr. Thompson's s memorial and grave is in the Lisburn Cathedral
graveyard. He resided in Castle Street in which is now the Fire Authority
building, next to the Technical College. He got a fee farm grant from Richard,
Marquis of Hertford, on the 26th of January, 1854.
The founder members of the home were his wife, Mrs. Rostina
Thompson, who died 8th December, 1884, and his daughter, Mrs. Mary Hogg Bruce,
and her husband, James Broke, Esq., D.L., J.P., of "Thorndale," Antrim
Road, Belfast. Mrs. Bruce died on 4th May, 1893. The architect was Godfrey W.
In a book entitled "The Fultons of Lisburn," it
is stated: Jane Wightman, daughter of James and Margaret Wightman, married
Francis Abbott Thompson on the 6th June, 1805. Their son, William, married
Rosina, widow of - Maxwell and sister of Sir James Weir Hogg. Their daughter,
Mary Hogg Thompson married as her second husband James Bruce of Belfast. She
founded the Thompson Memorial Home in memory of her father."
The Bruce family maintained a very close personal interest
in the management of the home and the welfare of the residents, knowing most of
them and visiting them after Board meetings. Their association with the home
never ceased, and the late Mr. M. R. Bruce of "Corriewood,"
Castlewellan, was president of the Board of Management of the Thompson Memorial
Home when it was finally taken over by the Antrim County Council.
Many prominent persons in the business life of the
community were also on the Board during its seventy-eight years of voluntary
service, including Thomas Richardson, D.L., Springfield, Lisburn, Mr. George
Clark,, of the Island Spinning Company; Mr. James Hanna, of Boyd's.
The home was meant for people who were in need of care,
preferably young or middle-aged who needed attention which they could not get in
their own homes. There was Thomas Withers, who was admitted at the age of about
twenty years and lived in the home for almost fifty years. being permanently
confined to a wheel-chair. There were many others, men and women who spent a
large part of their life in residence.
Originally the inmates paid nothing, but about 1930, during
the chairmanship of Major Charles Blakiston-Houston, endowments could no longer
cover the cost of upkeep, and it was decided to make a small charge. The home
had been free to the residents for forty-five years.
Mr. Thomas H. McDonald, M.B.E., Town Clerk of Lisburn, was
secretary for many years.
And so ended, in 1963, the first period of the life of the
home, which had actually been home to so many.
The home was taken over by the Antrim County Health
Committee in 1963, and after very many extensive alterations and additions it
was re-opened on the 9th October, 1967, by the Governor of Northern Ireland,
Lord Erskine of Rerrick, G.B.E., LL.D., with the new name "Thompson
The "House" has now a new lease of life and is
part of the Welfare Service. The most advanced apparatus is now in use for the
various disabilities and a qualified staff, under the matron, Mrs. E. King, is
in constant attendance.
Lisburn should be proud of having such an institution in
I thank Mrs. Ingeborg Ross Bruce, of Castlewellan, a member
of the home Board for many years, for her help in getting the above information.
Another little bit of information I discovered was about
the land on which the Park Parade and Llewellyn Avenue houses are built. It
appears on some of the deeds as the "Doctor's Field." He had it as a
grazing field in 1858. The gate to the field can be seen at No. 1 Park Parade
(Mr. Carmichael). There are two granite pillars and an iron gate in the existing
hedge next to the footpath. Really remarkable after all the years. Have a look
at it next time you pass and imagine Dr. William Thompson or his coachman coming
out with their pony and taking it up to Castle. Street to start the doctor on his
HEADSTONE AT GRAVE OF WILLIAM THOMPSON, M.D., F.R.C.S.I.,
In Lisburn Cathedral Graveyard just behind the Cross Row
Houses. Polished granite
In memory of William Thompson, born 6th Jan., 1783, died
7th Oct, 1843.
Dora Thompson, his wife, born 1749, died 11th April, 1823.
James Thompson born 1784 died in infancy
Jane Thompson born 8th Nov. 1787 died 1805.
Francis Thompson born 3rd Aug. 1783 died March 1885. Interred in Hillhall, Co.
Jane Thompson wife of the above named Francis Thompson born 30th April 1782 died
9th July, 1840. Interred at Hillhall, Co. Down.
Richard Thompson born 25th Aug. 1810 died 5th Sept. 1856. Interred at Hillhall,
James Thompson born 9th June 1821 died 12th Oct. 1854. Interred at Coimbatore,
William Thompson, M.D., F.R.C.S.I. born 7th March, 1808 died 22nd Apl. 1852.
William Thompson, Colonel, 3rd Madras Cavalry, barn 1st Sep. 1834 died.
Stewart Thompson born 8.12.1835 died 28.12.1862 and his widow
Rosin Thompson born Feb. 1803 died 8th Dec. 1884.
At the bottom of the headstone:
Erected by Rosina Thompson widow of Wm. Thompson M.D., F.R.C.S.I.,