|Population:||22,182 (2008 est.)|
Omagh is the county town of Tyrone, situated where the rivers Drumragh and Camowen meet to form the Strule. The town, which is the largest in the county, has an estimated population of 22,182 by 2008 estimates.
Omagh took the title of county town of Tyrone from Dungannon around 1768. The town is said to owe its origins to an abbey founded in AD 792, making it one of the oldest towns in Ireland. Its name derives from the Gaelic an Ómaigh, meaning "the virgin plain".
Omagh was founded as a town in 1610, nearly 150 years after the foundation of the Franciscan Friary in the town. It served as a refuge for fugitives from the east of Tyrone during the 1641 Rebellion. In 1689, the same year as the Battle of the Boyne, James II arrived at Omagh, on the way to Londonderry. Supporters of William III, Prince of Orange, burnt the town.
In 1768, Omagh replaced Dungannon as the county town of Tyrone. Omagh acquired railway links to Londonderry in 1852, Enniskillen in 1853 and Belfast in 1861. The military barracks were built in 1881. In 1899, Tyrone County Hospital was opened. Today the hospital is the subject of a massive campaign to save its services.
The Ulster Transport Authority closed the Omagh-Enniskillen railway line in 1957 and the Portadown-Londonderry main line in 1965, leaving the town with no rail service. The town's large military barracks, St Lucia Barracks, closed on 1 August 2007.
Omagh has a history of flooding and suffered major floods in 1909, 1929, 1954, 1969, 1987, 1999 and, most recently, 12 June 2007. As a result of this, flood-walls were built to keep the water in the channel (River Strule) and to prevent it from overflowing into the flood plain. Large areas of land, mainly around the meanders, are unsuitable for development and were developed into large, green open areas, walking routes and parks.
Places of interest
- The Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh includes the cottage where Thomas Mellon was born in 1813, before emigrating to Pennsylvania, in the United States when he was five. His son Andrew W Mellon became Secretary to the US Treasury. The park is an open-air museum that explores the journey made by the Irish (specifically those from Ulster) to America during the 1800s. The park is famous for its large events during Easter, Christmas, Fourth of July and Halloween. It also hosts a major Bluegrass festival every year. Over 127,000 people visited the park in 2003.
- The Gortin Glens Forest Park, 10 miles north of Omagh, is a large forest with many attractions, including a deer enclosure and many areas of natural beauty, including waterfalls and lakes.
- Strule Arts Centre opened in 2007 was built as a part of the urban renewal of Omagh town centre. Creating a modern civic building, in a newly created public space reclaimed from the formerly disused area, between the River Strule and High Street.
- Omagh boasts over 20 playgrounds for children, and a large amount of green open area for all the public. The largest (and most well known) of these is the Grange Park, located near the town centre. Many areas around the meanders of the River Strule have also been developed into open areas. Omagh Leisure Complex is a large public amenity, near the Grange Park and is set in 26 acres of landscaped grounds and features a leisure centre, boating pond, astroturf pitch and cycle paths.
Omagh has many churches, including:
- Church of Ireland:
- St Columba's Church
- Roman Catholic:
- Sacred Heart Church
- Church of Christ the King
- St Mary's Church
- Omagh Baptist Church
- Free Presbyterian:
- Omagh Free Presbyterian Church
- Independent Methodist Church
- Omagh Methodist Church
- Evangelical Presbyterian Church
- First Omagh Presbyterian Church
- Trinity Presbyterian Church
- Omagh Community Church (Non-Denominational)
- Omagh Gospel Hall (sometimes referred to as "open brethren")