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Limavady is a market town in County Londonderry, set on the plain that runs down towards Lough Neagh but with Binevenagh behind as a fine backdrop to the town. It lies 17 miles east of Londonderry and 14 miles southwest of Coleraine. It had a population of 12,135 people in the 2001, an increase of some 17% compared to 1991. In the 30 years after 1971 Limavady's population almost doubled.
The town's name derives from the Gaelic Léim a' Mhadaidh ("leap of the dog").
During the past 50 years the town has experienced sustained growth, related to significant development of modern industry and its perception as an attractive residential town. Limavady is a prosperous service centre for the Roe valley, but as a retail centre it is subject to increasing competition from Londonderry, Coleraine and to a lesser extent Ballymena. One of the distinctive features of the town's growth has been the predominant southward and eastward expansion of its suburbs, with the River Roe flood plain continuing to contain the town to the west and north. From mid 1988 to mid 2004, a total of 1,332 dwellings were built in the town, mainly at Bovally along the south eastern edge of the town. The large industrial estate at Aghanloo is 2 miles north of the town.
No-one is sure about the exact date of Limavady's origins, but estimates date from around 5 AD. Early records tell of Saint Columba, who presided over a meeting of the Kings at Mullagh Hill near Limavady in 575 AD, a location which is now part of the Roe Park Golf Resort.
In the Middle Ages, the ruling clan in the Limavady area was that of the O'Cahans. Their mark is found everywhere in the town and surrounding area. O'Cahan's Rock is one of Limavady's main historical points. This is where, according to local myth, a dog belonging to one of the Chiefs jumped the river to get help from nearby clans after a surprise enemy attack. This gave Limavady its name, Limavady being the anglicised version of Leim an Mhadaidh, which means leap of the dog. This rock, along with other relics of Limavady's history, can be seen at Roe Valley Country Park.
Limavady sprang up within the townland of Rathbrady Beg in the parish of Drumachose and was original known as Newtown Limavady. Over time, the urban area has expanded into the surrounding townlands.
The town developed from a small Plantation settlement founded in the early 17th century. It had an early association with the linen industry, but did not benefit from subsequent expansion of linen manufacturing in the 19th century and as a result it remained a modest sized market town until the late 20th century.
Limavady largely escaped the Troubles, though four deaths at the hands of the IRA marred this time.
In more recent years Limavady has grown rapidly, attracting population to an attractive town.
Places of interest
- Limavady lies in the scenic Roe Valley area and the Roe Valley Country Park on the River Roe lies to the south west of the town.
- The birthplace of William Massey, Prime Minister of New Zealand, is on Irish Green Street. Nearby Massey Avenue is also named after him.
- The archaeologically significant Broighter Gold collection was found nearby in 1896. It is currently in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
- Jane Ross, who first transcribed Londonderry Air, was born and lived in Limavady. A plaque is shown above her old house on Main Street.
Limavady is most famous for the tune Londonderry Air collected by Jane Ross in the mid-19th century from a local fiddle player. The tune was used for the song Danny Boy.
Some have claimed an ancient origin for Danny Boy in a melody supposedly composed by Rory Dall O'Cahan, a bard of the O'Cahan clan which ruled the area between the 12th and 17th centuries. The tale is that in its original version concerns the passing of the Chief Cooey-na-Gall whose death brought an end to a long line of O'Cahan chiefs in Northern Ireland.
The town hosts international events such as the Danny Boy Festival, the Limavady Jazz and Blues Festival and the Roe Valley Folk Festival.
- The Limavady Railway was a branch line to the main Londonderry – Belfast line. Limavady station opened on 29 December 1852, closed for passenger traffic on 3 July 1950 and finally closed altogether on 2 May 1955. Limavady Junction station opened on 1 March 1855 and finally closed on 17 October 1976. Limavady is no longer served by rail links – the nearest station is at Bellarena, 5 miles from the town.
- The Broharris Canal was dug in the 1820s when a cut, some 2 miles long on the south shore of Lough Foyle near Ballykelly was made in the direction of Limavady. The inhabitants of Limavady appealed for the building of a canal from Lough Foyle to the town but were turned down, and the Broharris Canal was the nearest they came to achieving such a navigable link.
Sports clubs of the town include
- Drummond Cricket Club
- Limavady Cricket Club
- Limavady United FC
- Newtown YFC
- Roe Valley FC
- Limavady Rugby Club
- "Limavady". Culture Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. http://web.archive.org/web/20080609022419/http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/YourArea.aspx?location=437. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- Parish of Drumachose www.ulsterancestry.com Retrieved 28 June 2010
- "Dungiven". Culture Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. http://web.archive.org/web/20080609022346/http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/YourArea.aspx?location=444. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- "Limavady and Limavady Junction stations". Railscot – Irish Railways. http://www.railscot.co.uk/Ireland/Irish_railways.pdf. Retrieved 2007-10-28.
- Limavady and the Roe Valley by Jochen Lueg