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County Antrim
Grid reference: J312903
Location: 54°45’4"N, 5°59’56"W
Population: 8,770  (2001)
Post town: Ballyclare
Postcode: BT39
Dialling code: 028
Local Government
Council: Antrim and Newtownabbey

Ballyclare (historically Bellaclare) is a small town in County Antrim. It had a population of 8,770 people in the 2001 census.

The town sits on the river Six Mile Water with Craig Hill providing a wooded backdrop to the east. Its mediæval origins can still be seen in Ballyclare Motte, which is to the south of the town. The broad main street dates from the 18th century. A clock tower is a central focus within the town and the old mill marks the industrial district on the south east developed along the Six Mile Water. It is a local service centre with a significant dormitory role in relation to Belfast. It is the main focus within the rural area for housing, shopping and commerce, industry and employment, education and recreation.[1]

The name of the town is from the ancient Gaelic language Bealach Cláir meaning "pass of the plain"[2]


The earliest evidence of man in this area is a hoard of 39 flint arrow heads found when houses were being built north of the river in November 1968, some perfectly finished and others are blank indicating an 'industry' and trading here near the river crossing over four thousand years ago.

When the Normans built the castle at Carrickfergus they placed a line of outposts along the river which was then called the "Ollar" - River of the Rushes. In time the soldiers making the journey from Carrickfergus to Antrim reached the river at this spot when they had traveled six miles so began to call the Ollar the Six Mile Water. One of these mottes is close by the river in the War Memorial Park in Ballyclare. There are two on opposite sides of the river at Doagh and one at Antrim. The village grew after the Plantation of Ulster and was granted permission by King George II in 1756 to hold two fairs each year making it an important market centre.

The Plantation began in earnest at the opening of the seventeenth century and Ballyclare was settled by Scots planters. Many of the their descendants went even further west: the families of the author Mark Twain and Sam Houston, President of Texas, came from here.

In later years, Jonathan Swift preached here. The people of Ballyclare and the surrounding villages played a part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and fought in the Battle of Antrim.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Ballyclare was a growing industrial town and became the largest paper producer in Ireland.

Buildings of note

  • Ballyclare Market House is a 3–bay, 2–storey building built about 1855, recently used as a shopping centre. Now derelict.
  • The old cinema, near the river on main street, long closed to the arts.
  • The current Ballyclare Primary School building was originally built in 1880 and has been vigorously extended ever since.



Archibald McIlroy's novel "When Lint Was In The Bell" is a light-hearted, lightly fictionalized chronicle of life in 19th century Ballyclare. A Ballyclare native, born c. 1860, Mr. McIlroy was lost in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915.

People and commerce


  • Open Coffee Ballyclare is an informal business network that meets monthly in the area. It is open to all entrepreneurs and other professionals in the area.
  • business and community linked website – ‘Ballyclare, it’s your town’ was created by Ballyclare Chamber of Trade


The May Fair

Ballyclare May Fair occurs on a Tuesday in May every year, and is part of a week of festivities. The tradition stems from a grant by King George II of licence to hold two yearly fairs, although only the May Fair now survives. The fair began as a local horse fair, but representatives of cavalry regiments came from all over Europe came to buy as the reputation of the fair spread. The fair's heyday ended with the First World War, but it is still a well-loved event in the town.

The May Fair is one of the few horse fairs now left in the country. The Main Street is sanded down and given over to horse selling for the day. There is, however, now a variety of modern amusements in the square. Other events include the Mayor's parade, followed by sports, street events, concerts and exhibitions. Local shops compete for the best dressed window, and children take part in fancy dress competitions and the duck race. A May Fair queen is chosen to represent the town over the next year.

A recent attempt by local traders to uproot the traditional fair from the town's Market Square has sparked outcry and protest amongst the local residents.


  • Athletics: East Antrim Harriers AC
  • Cricket: Templepatrick Cricket Club also plays at the Cloughan.
  • Cycling: Kings Moss Cycling Club established in 1922 by the Whittley family in Kings Moss, Ballyrobert.
  • Football:
  • Hockey: Ballyclare Ladies Hockey Club - currently have 4 senior teams, 2 junior teams & a mini hockey section. They can be contacted on Facebook or on
  • Rugby: Ballyclare Rugby Football Club

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Ballyclare)