Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan
|Council:|| Armagh, Banbridge|
Lurgan is a town in County Armagh. The town is near the southern shore of Lough Neagh and in the north-eastern corner of the county, and about 18 miles southwest of Belfast and is linked to the city by both the M1 motorway and the Dublin–Belfast railway line.
Lurgan is characteristic of many Plantation settlements, with its straight, wide planned streets and rows of cottages. It is the site of a number of historic listed buildings including Brownlow House and the former town hall.
Historically the town was known as a major centre for the production of textiles (mainly linen) after the Industrial Revolution and it continued to be a major producer of textiles until that industry steadily declined in the 1990s and 2000s. The development of the 'new city' of Craigavon had a major impact on Lurgan in the 1960s when much industry was attracted to the area. The expansion of Craigavon's Rushmere Retail Park in the 2000s has affected the town's retail trade further.
The name Lurgan is an anglicization of the Irish name an Lorgain. This literally means "the shin", but in placenames betokens a shin-shaped hill or ridge. Earlier names of Lurgan include Lorgain Chlann Bhreasail (anglicized as Lurganclanbrassil, meaning "shin of Clanbrassil") and Lorgain Bhaile Mhic Cana (Lurg[an]vallivackan), meaning "shin of McCann's settlement"). The McCanns were a sept of the O'Neills and Lords of Clanbrassil before the Plantation of Ulster period in the early 17th century.
About 1610, during the Plantation of Ulster and at a time when the area was sparsely populated by Gaelic peoples, the lands of Lurgan were given to the English lord William Brownlow and his family. Initially the Brownlow family settled near the lough at Annaloist, but by 1619, on a nearby ridge, they had established a castle and bawn for their own accommodation, and "a fair Town, consisting of 42 Houses, all of which are inhabited with English Families, and the streets all paved clean through also to water Mills, and a Wind Mill, all for corn."
Brownlow became MP for Armagh in the Irish Parliament in 1639. During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Brownlow's castle and bawn were destroyed, and he and his wife and family were taken prisoner and brought to Armagh and then to Dungannon in Tyrone. The land was then passed to the McCanns and the O'Hanlons. In 1642, Brownlow and his family were released by the forces of Lord Conway, and as the rebellion ended they returned to their estate in Lurgan. William Brownlow died in 1660, but the family went on to contribute to the development of the linen industry which peaked in the town in the late 17th century.
The town grew steadily over the centuries as an industrial market town, and in the 1960s, when the UK government was developing a programme of new towns in Great Britain to deal with population growth, the Northern Ireland government also planned a new town to deal with the projected growth of Belfast and to prevent an undue concentration of population in the city. Craigavon was designated as a new town in 1965, intended to be a linear city incorporating the neighbouring towns of Lurgan and Portadown. The plan largely failed, and today, 'Craigavon' locally refers to the rump of the residential area between the two towns. The Craigavon development, however, did affect Lurgan in a number of ways. The sort of dedicated bicycle and pedestrian paths that were built in Craigavon were also incorporated into newer housing areas in Lurgan, additional land in and around the town was zoned for industrial development, neighbouring rural settlements such as Aghacommon and Aghagallon were developed as housing areas, and there was an increase in the town's population, although not on the scale that had been forecast.
The textile industry remained a main employer in the town until the late twentieth century, with the advent of access to cheaper labour in the developing world leading to a decline in the manufacture of clothing in Lurgan.
Lurgan and the associated towns of Portadown and Craigavon made up part of what was known as the "murder triangle"; an area known for a significant number of incidents and fatalities during The Troubles. Today the town is one of the few areas in Northern Ireland where so-called dissident republicans have a significant level of support. The legacy of the Troubles is continued tension between Roman Catholics and Protestants, which has occasionally erupted into violence at flashpoint 'interface areas'.
Lurgan sits in a relatively flat part of Ulster by the south east shore of Lough Neagh. The two main formations in north Armagh are an area of estuarine clays by the shore of the lough, and a mass of basalt farther back. The earliest human settlements in the area were to the northwest of the present day town near the shore of the lough. When the land was handed to the Brownlow family, they initially settled near the lough at Annaloist, but later settled where the town was eventually built. The oldest part of the town, the main street, is built on a long ridge in the townland of Lurgan. A neighbouring hill is the site of Brownlow House, which overlooks Lurgan Park.
The townland of the Lurgan areas, whose names mostly come from the Irish language. Lurgan sprang up in the townland of the same name. Over time, the surrounding townlands have been built upon and they have given their names to many roads and housing estates. The following is a list of townlands within Lurgan's urban area, alongside their likely etymologies:
||(Achadh na Cloiche: "field of the stone")|
||(Baile Bláthach: "flowery townland")|
||(Baile Riach: "greyish townland")|
||(English name: "Estate")|
||(Dúchorr: "black round hill" / Dúchorrán: "small black round hill")|
||(Druim na mBó: "ridge of the cows" or Druim na Mothar: "ridge of the thickets")|
||(Cnoc na Seangán: "hill of the ants")|
||(Seanchill: "old church" or Seanchoill: "old wood")|
||(Teach Naomháin: "Naomhán's house")|
||(an Tamhnach Mór: "the big grassland")|
||(Tobar hAoine /Chainnigh /Shuibhne: "Friday well/Canice's well/Sweeny's well")|
|(Achadh Camán: "hurling field")|
||(Baile na Móna: "townland of the bog")|
Lurgan has historically been an industrial town in which the linen industry predominated as a source of employment during the Industrial Revolution, and is said to have employed as many as 18,000 handloom weavers at the end of the 19th century, a figure significantly higher than the town's resident population at the time.
That particular branch of the textile industry declined as consumer tastes changed, but other textiles continued to be produced in the town providing a major source of employment until the 1990s and 2000s when the textile industry across the United Kingdom suffered a major decline as a result of outsourcing to low wage countries.
The large Goodyear fan-belt factory at Silverwood Industrial Estate was a product of the Craigavon development when large tracts of land in Lurgan, Portadown, and areas in between were zoned off for exclusive industrial use. The Goodyear factory closed in 1983 after failing to make a profit, resulting in the loss of 750 jobs. The facility was later partly occupied by Wilson Double Deck Trailers and DDL Electronics. Silverwood Industrial Estate continues to host other manufacturing and light engineering firms. Other industrial areas in the town are Annesborough and Halfpenny Valley (Portadown Road) industrial estates; areas in which growth has been limited compared to other industrial estates in the Craigavon Borough.
A key component of the Craigavon development was a central business district halfway between Lurgan and Portadown that would serve as the city centre for the whole of the new city. What was built was an office building, a court house, a civic building, and a small shopping centre alongside several acres of parkland that were developed around the newly created balancing lakes that also serve as part of the area's drainage system. In the 1990s, the shopping centre was significantly expanded to form what is now Rushmere Retail Park, containing many major retail stores. This has had a detrimental effect on the retail trade in Lurgan in the same way that out-of-town shopping developments in other parts of Northern Ireland have damaged other traditional town centres. The town's Chamber of Commerce is not functioning and has remained dormant despite numerous attempts to revive it.
Lurgan in popular culture
There is a figure of speech used in Ulster – to have a face as long as a Lurgan spade – meaning "to look miserable". The origins of this expression are disputed. One theory is that a "Lurgan spade" was an under-paid workman digging what is now the Lurgan Park lake.
The ballad Master McGrath concerns a greyhound of that name from Lurgan who became a sporting hero. The dog was bought in Lurgan by the Brownlow family, and the song also mentions his owner Charles Brownlow, referred to in the lyrics as Lord Lurgan. Master McGrath won the Waterloo Cup hare coursing competition three times in 1868, 1870 and 1871 at a time when this was a high profile sport. A post mortem found that he had a heart twice the size of what is normal for a dog of his size. He is remembered all over the town, including in its coat of arms. The dog was named McGrath after the kennel boy responsible for its care. A statue of him was unveiled at Craigavon Civic Centre in 1993, over 120 years after his last glory in 1871. A festival is also held yearly in his honour. A Lurgan pub was also named after Master McGrath, although it has been renamed in recent years.
Everyone living in Lurgan knows the story of Marjorie McCall, the lady who “Lived Once and Buried Twice". While it makes an interesting story, it is nothing more than folklore. For centuries historians have attempted to establish some factual truth or proof of the event, without success.
The central feature of the story is that a woman (Marjorie McCall) was buried in 1705 while wearing a valuable ring. Shortly after the burial, a grave robber (or a corrupt sexton) disinters the body with the intent of stealing the ring. The robber was unable to slide the ring off the woman's finger, so he prepared to cut off the finger with a knife. However, upon making the initial incision, the woman awakes, surprising the grave robber. The woman had not been dead at all, but had been the victim of premature burial.
In the story, Marjorie McCall reputedly lived with her family in or around what would be known as Church Place Lurgan today. She was married to a man called John, who was a local doctor. Parish recorded held in the Public Records Office (PRONI) record the death’s of nine Marjorie McCall’s in Lurgan, three of them were married to a John McCall, so the name was a good bet in respect of offering some credence to the story. No record is held of the death of Marjorie McCall married to a John McCall, in 1705.
No record exists of anyone being buried twice. No descendants of John or Marjorie McCall are on record giving verification of the story. In the 1860s (some 150 years after the supposed internment of Marjorie McCall) a local stonemason by the name of William Graham created a headstone bearing the inscription Marjorie McCall "Lived Once, Buried Twice" and with permission of Rev Theophilus Campbell Church of Ireland Lurgan, erected the headstone in Shankill cemetery. This has been confirmed by the family of William Graham.
The headstone remains in the cemetery until this day.
The following details are included in some versions of the story of Marjorie McCall:
- the grave robber instantly dies of fright after the woman awakes;
- the woman walks a considerable distance from her burial spot to her home;
- the woman's husband or other people at her house think that she is a ghost and refuse her entry into the house;
- the person refusing entry to the woman tells the woman that it would be as impossible for her to return from the dead as it would be for horses to leave their stable and run up the stairs in the house; immediately after making this comparison, two neighing horses are heard and seen with their heads emerging from the second-storey windows of the house; when this occurs, the person refusing entry realises that the woman is not a ghost;
- the woman lives for many more years and gives birth to numerous children.
Versions of the story have been found to exist in almost every European country, including Germany, the Netherlands, France, Scandinavia, Italy, England, Scotland, and Ireland. The story is also told about a former resident of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.
In 18th-century Great Britain, the woman in the story was identified as Lady Emma Edgcumbe, wife of George Edgcumbe, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, or of ancestor Lady Anne Edgcumbe though numerous other ladies with the ring have been identified. In Ulster, her name was Marjorie McCall, and in the south of Ireland the same story is told of a Margaret Dwyer.
The site of what is now Shankill cemetery served as a place of worship over the centuries. It began in ancient times as a simple double ring fort, the outline of which is still noticeable, and is today an historic burial site holding the remains of people who lived in the earliest days of the town's existence, including the Brownlow family. Dougher cemetery is another old graveyard that was donated to the Catholic people by the Brownlows following passage of the Roman Catholic Relief Act.
The two most prominent modern places of worship are those of the Church of Ireland and of the Roman Catholic Church, the steeples of which are visible from far outside the town.
- Church of Ireland: Shankill Parish Church.
The original church was established at Oxford Island on the shore of Lough Neagh in 1411, but a new church was built in Lurgan on the site of what is now Shankill Cemetery in 1609 as the town became the main centre of settlement in the area. It was eventually found to be too small given the growth of the town, and the Irish Parliament granted permission to build a replacement in 1725 one mile away on the 'Green of Lurgan', now known as Church Place, where it stands to this day. It is believed to be the largest parish church in Ireland.
- Methodist: High Street Methodist Church
The fiorst Methodist church in the town was built in Nettleton's Court in 1778 but found to be too small and a new church was built on High Street in 1802, and replaced by a newer building in front of it in 1826. This was extensively renovated in 1910 and stands to this day sporting a simple facade.
- Roman Catholic: St Peter's (1832), St Paul's (1966)
St Peter's was built after the passage of the Roman Catholic Relief Act on land granted by Charles Brownlow in 1829 on Distillery Hill, now known as Lower North Street.
About the town
Parks and reserves
Oxford Island is a nature reserve on the shore of Lough Neagh that includes Kinnego Marina and the Lough Neagh Discovery Center, which is an interpretive visitor centre offering information about the surrounding wildlife, conference facilities, and a cafe.
Lurgan Park, a few hundred yards from the main street, is the largest urban park in Northern Ireland and the second-largest in Ireland after Phoenix Park, Dublin. It used to be part of the estate of Brownlow House, a 19th-century Elizabethan-style manor house. In 1893, the land was purchased by Lurgan Borough Council and opened as a public park in 1909 by Earl Aberdeen, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It includes a sizable artificial lake and an original Coalbrookdale fountain. Today the park is home to annual summer events such as the Lurgan Agricultural Show, and the Lurgan Park Rally, noted as the largest annual motor sport event in Northern Ireland and a stage in the Circuit of Ireland rally. Mount Zion House in Edward St, formerly the St Joseph's Convent, is now a cross-community centre run by the Shankill Lurgan Community Association/Community Projects. It is funded by the Department for Social Development, the EU Special Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, and the Physical and Social Environment Programme.
Sights about the town
Lurgan town centre is distinctive for its wide main street, Market Street, one of the widest on the island, which is dominated at one end by Shankill Church in Church Place. A grey granite hexagonal temple-shaped war memorial sits at the entrance to Church Place, topped by a bronze-winged statue representing the spirit of Victorious Peace. A marble pillar at the centre displays the names of over 400 men from the town who lost their lives in the First World War.
The rows of buildings on either side of Market Street are punctuated periodically by large access gates that lead to the space behind the buildings, gates that are wide enough to drive a horse and cart through. The town's straight planned streets are a common feature in many Plantation towns, and its industrial history is still evident in the presence of many former linen mills that have since been modified for modern use.
At the junction of Market Street and Union Street is the former Lurgan Town Hall, a listed building erected in 1868. It was the first site of the town's library in 1891, was temporarily used as a police station in 1972 when it was handed to the Police Authority, and is today owned by the Mechanics' Institute and is available for conferences and community functions.
Brownlow House, known locally as 'Lurgan Castle', is a distinctive mansion built in 1833 with Scottish sandstone in an Elizabethan style with a lantern-shaped tower and prominent array of chimney pots. It was originally owned by the Brownlow family, and today is owned by the Lurgan Loyal Orange District Lodge. The adjacent Lurgan Park, now a public park owned by Craigavon Borough Council, used to be part of the same estate. The park is the venue for the Lurgan Park Rally.
- Lurgan Cricket Club
- Victoria Cricket Club
- Cycling: three clubs
- Glenavon FC
- Dollingstown FC
- Lurgan Celtic FC
- Lurgan Town Boys FC
- 13 further clubs
- Golf: two 18-hole golf courses
- Horses: An equestrian centre for show jumping
- Gaelic football:
- 10 clubs
- Rugby union: Lurgan RFC
- Tennis: Lurgan Tennis Club
- The Lurgan Mail
- The Lurgan and Portadown Examiner
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
- Lurgan Forward – Lurgan Town Centre Management Company.
- Sport clubs:
- Placenames NI: Lurgan
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