Abercorn Square, Strabane
|Council:||Derry and Strabane|
Strabane is a town in the west of County Tyrone. The town stands on the east bank of the River Foyle, which here forms the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is linked by the Lifford Bridge to the town of Lifford across the border in County Donegal.
The River Mourne flows through the centre of the town, and meets the River Finn to form the River Foyle. Strabane suffered huge economic damage in 1987 when much of the centre of the town was flooded.
Strabane once had the dubious distinction of the highest unemployment rate in the Industrial World, during the height of the troubles. It is one of the most economically deprived towns in the United Kingdom. The average wage in Strabane is just £233 per week, compared with £320 in Northern Ireland and £349 in the rest of the United Kingdom.
In August 2005, a Channel 4 television programme presented by property experts Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer, named Strabane as the eighth-worst place to live in the United Kingdom, largely because of the high unemployment rate. Strabane had been moved out of the top 20 in the 2007 edition.
The town once boasted one of the busiest rail connections on the island, serving both standard gauge and narrow gauge lines. These were all closed by the 1960s and little trace remains, with the exception of an old railway building still stands in the town.
Construction of the standard gauge Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway (L&ER) began in 1845 and followed the River Foyle valley 12 miles south to Strabane, which was reached in 1847. By 1852 it had extended from there to Newtownstewart and Omagh and its terminus in Enniskillen was reached in 1854. The company was absorbed into the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) in 1883.
In 1792, the four-mile Strabane Canal was constructed from the tidal waters of Lough Foyle at Leck, to Strabane. The canal fell into disuse in 1962. In June 2006, the Strabane Lifford Development Commission awarded a £1.3m cross-border waterways restoration contract. The project was launched by President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, in Lifford and involves the restoration of one and a half miles of canal and two locks to working order. Work was due to start on the Lough Foyle side of the canal in the summer of 2006 but has not commenced as of yet.
Music and arts
CRAIC (Cultural Revival Among Interested Communities) a cross-border, cross-community group provides music lessons to both adults and children on a voluntary basis in the local Irish language Gaelscoil. The Barret School of Irish Dancing has produced some of Ireland's best Irish dancers, and the local theatre group, The Puddle Alley Players, has won several awards over the years in amateur dramatic competitions.
In 2007, the Alley Arts and Conference Centre opened to the general public, offering a 270-seat theatre, art gallery, tourist information centre and café-bar. The Alley has won numerous awards since opening, including Northern Ireland Building of the Year 2008, Allianz Arts and Business Award 2009 and The Green Apple Award 2008. The venue has also hosted the All Ireland Confined Drama Finals (2008) and is the current home of the North West Music Festival, The Stage Write Schools Drama Festival, Sounds Like Summer Music Festival, Strabane Drama Festival and the Johnny Crampsie Music Festival.
Strabane boasts two brass bands: Strabane Concert Brass, five times national champions, and St Joseph's Brass Band, current NIBA Grade 2 Champions. Accordion bands have also been a feature of the culture in Strabane's past, with the Mourne Accordion Band and Tom P Mullan Accordion Band. These were succeeded by the Oliver Plunket Band which survived until 2005. The town is currently represented by the Tom P Mullan Memorial Accordion Band, which was formed in 2006.
Strabane plays host to a very popular and successful St Patrick’s Day Parade each year.
One of Strabane's most notable features are five 20-foot steel structures on the banks of the river: two dancers, and a fiddle player on the Lifford side, a flute player on the Strabane side and a drummer in the middle. Designed by Maurice Harron, they were placed at the site of the former army base at the Tyrone-Donegal border. The sculptures were originally titled Let The Dance Begin but have since become known affectionately as The Tinneys.
Places of interest
The wider area surrounding Strabane has many scenic forests and glens. Angling and fishing in the River Mourne is a popular tourist pursuit, particularly between Victoria Bridge and Strabane. Golfing legend Tiger Woods fished this stretch of the river during a recent visit. The town is home to one of Ireland's largest golf courses.
The National Trust owns a Strabane house in which John Dunlap learnt the printing trade. Dunlap went on to print the United States Declaration of Independence. The house has been visited by several famous people, including former American President Bill Clinton. It is located at the end of the Main Street.
- Northern Ireland Assembly - Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment - Report on Strategy 2010 Inquiry (ANNEX 37, SECTION 2)
- The Best and Worst Places to Live in Britain
- "Town shrugs off dismal TV label". BBC News. 2007-10-16. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7045609.stm. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- Patterson, Edward M (1962). The County Donegal Railways. Dawlish: David and Charles. pp. 10–11.
- Maurice Harron-Artist-sculptor web page
- Geographia - World Travel Destinations, Culture and History Guide
- BBC NEWS
http://www.ninis.nisra.gov.uk/mapxtreme/report.asp?INIT=YES&POSTCODE=BT828HY&DESC=FromGeneral&CurrentLevel=COA&ID=95ZZ060005&Name=95ZZ060005&Tab=DC Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service (NINIS)