Big thank you from

Edenderry village past and present

This week Amanda Cunningham looks at the history of Ballylesson.

Drumbo ChurchCLOSE your eyes and imagine a time when young girls and boys left their simplistic life of school and play to start work at the linen mill, get married, have children and then return to work.

Sadie Grimes, the oldest resident of Edenderry Village, can do this with her eyes wide open because that was her own life's path, and by evoking her memories we too can travel back in time.

From the late 19th century right up to the Seventies the whole of Edenderry village was owned by one family alone.

And the head of that household, John Shaw Brown, is best remembered for his linen factory and the hundreds of jobs it provided for the local people.

Sadie, (84), who attended Ballylesson Primary School until she was 14 was one of the many weavers to cross the threshold of the mill door.


"I went to work as a damask weaver along with my mother, sister and most of the village, she said."

"The Brown family were very nice people but you didn't make good money, and it was very hard work at the mill.

"They owned the factory, corner shop, the mill houses and the dining hall for all the workers."

Sadie has fond memories of herself and her friends going to the corner shop which was the only place they could buy sweets, and later on when they got married, groceries.

The shop has been closed for around 15 years now and although the outer shell remains it has been divided up into apartments.

When the village was under me ownership of John Shaw Brown it was extremely well kept.

"Mr Brown would send his managers out to keep the Minnowburn Road in good condition," said Sadie.

Drumbo Church"They would clean the road and do any repairs.

"Now the Minnowburn Road is closed and the other is in need of repair"

Mr Brown also believed in keeping his work force content so on most Saturday nights he held a dance in the recreation hall at the side of the mill for his employees. He even brought billiard tables In for the men. 

And every Sunday many of the villagers attended a service at historic Drumbo Parish Church.

The graveyard was said to have an 18th century burial practice which was unusual even for the time. In order for a person to be buried, the deceased person had to be attended by some person of good standing to answer for the good behaviour of the deceased when alive.

 If this was not possible, the body would have to be interred elsewhere.

Much history also lies behind Drumbo Presbyterian Church in the form of an ancient tower, daring back to 1082.

One of Sadie's favourite pastimes was to take a walk along the towpath, Minnowburn or up to the Giants Ring via the Gilchrist footbridge, named after the first chairman of the Lagan Valley, Regional Park.

Before the Lagan weir was built boats were able to motor up the river to Edenderry and those from the village could travel up to Belfast for the day.

However nowadays until a new waterway is built residents have to walk, or take the car or hop on a Ballylesson bus to reach the same destination.

The main social point for Ballylesson and Edenderry was and still is 'Bob Stewarts' bar. It is filled with history every way you turn, with the only new addition, being women.

"In those days you never saw girls go into the pub. I suppose they didn't have the money then," said Sadie.

Councillor William Bleakes, a resident of the area for over 30 years, explained how and why the factory closed and gave his view of how a little farming village came to be transformed into a much sought-after residential town.

Mr Bleakes said: "I remember when Edenderry was an old village.

"In the late Seventies, early Eighties John Shaw Brown was the owner of all the houses and the damask linen mill.

"But he was finding it difficult to cope with the import coming in so he decided to let the firm out in units.

"A community group was set up to make sure they blended in with the village.

"Then he got improvement grants for the old mill houses, without which I don't know what would have become of them."


Mr Bleakes said that although beautiful new houses selling for in the region of £160,000 had been built in recent times, it was the old mill houses that had 'kept the village alive.'

And there are further plans to further develop the old mill at St Ellen Industrial Estate into craft shops; offices and a restaurant.

"It's a place that has a past and has a future," said Mr. Bleakes.

"In the 70's and 80's we could have lost a great deal. Now Edenderry has a great future," he said.

Although Sadie is very happy living with her daughter in the village and would 'never leave', she said she did not share Mr Bleakes' optimistic outlook for the area..

"Edenderry is not the same village I was born into," she said.

"It was a lovely village then, everybody knew each other," she explained.

"If you were ill the neighbours would be the first to help. We had the best neighbours there ever was. People aren't like that anymore."

It is true that society has changed - some may say for the worst and some for the better. In most areas the extended family or neighbour
network has all but vanished into the woodwork. "

And although many residents are pleased to see the new houses and developments, Sadie has yet to been convinced.

"I would rather have it the way it was." she said.