Big thank you from

Traced back to the time of St Patrick 

This week Jakki looks at the history of Glenavy

"WAS ever fairer country in dear old Ireland seen 
Were ever farms so prosperous, ever fields so green 
Or people kinder hearted than round Glenavy fair. 
For if so may I tell you, I can't find them anywhere. "

GLENAVY stands on two hills and is divided into two parts by the river, between these two parts and at the further side of the river is a Parish Church, with a clock on the tower which serves as a time keeper for the local people.

Glenavy is full of history, that goes right back to the time of St. Patrick himself. Indeed Irelands' Patron Saint baptised many converts and founded a church, which was believed to have been roughly where the modern development is today, at the end of the Pigeontown Road, close to the banks of Glenavy river.

It was this church which was placed in the care of Patrick's angel dwarf; and so we have Glenavy, the name meaning 'the Church of the Dwarf.'

Another eventful historical event in the village of Glenavy was when in 1689, the Duke of Schomberg who became second- in command of William of Orange's army, landed at Groomsport and then some of his forces passed through Glenavy on his fateful journey southwards for his fatal tryst at the 'Battle of the Boyne.'

glenavy-03.JPG (32863 bytes)In Schonberg's wake other  Huguenots landed and some made t heir homes in and around Glenavy. It is said that many of the long poplar lined avenues leading to isolated farmsteads are a mark of the Huguenots, with many of their names still remaining in the area.

The rebellion of 1798 affected much of the country near Glenavy. The nearest recorded incident seems to have been the looting and burning by the yeomanry of the Montgomery family home at Boltnacomnnell in Killead parish. As a punishment for their sympathy with the United Irishmen.

At the end of the eighteenth century Glenavy started to develop small to medium farms, and as Belfast grew, market gardening became a feature of the local agriculture scene. It has been noted that in 1816, a labourer was paid 1s. 3d. per day, while hired menservants with bed and board earned £10-£16 a year.

Glenavy always took a great pride in the appearance of its village with the houses being always neat and white- washed with a great display of flowers to be seen and admired. This pride of appearance still prevails today among the residents.

In 1938, a great disaster that is well remembered among the locals took place on a very cold frosty Christmas Eve. In the Church of Ireland, St Aidans a severe frost which froze the pipes in the heating system caused a fire in the boiler which completely gutted the Church. Mr. George Totten told me: "I remember my mother crying at the burning of the church as this was a terrible thing to have happened in those days, it is just one of those things that sticks out in my memory. My mother and father were married in the church over 80 years ago, my father was a bit of a character in the area 'Eddie Totten', he worked as a grave-digger for many years and thought nothing of sitting at the side of a grave with his lunch while throwing away bits of bones from old graves. He even put his own headstone up in the graveyard of St. Aidans Glenavy with his name on it years before he passed away and every Sunday he liked to visit it. "My father knew many people in the local Glenavy village and surrounding area, and of course when any of them died he would always pay his respects at their funeral.

Sam Biggerstaff

"One particular day, Malcolmson the local funeral director said to him. 'Ned you have been to more funerals than I have', to which my father replied, "Aye but I haven't been as well paid for them."

It should be said that Glenavy has contributed some men of fame to the world, prominent among them being the Honourable John Ballance, Prime Minister of New Zealand, from the years 1891-1893, to which his relations who still live in the Glenavy locality.

Today Glenavy is still a village of yesteryear. The local Community Association has recently had 'olde worlde' lampposts erected in the village, which adds to the character of the place. The Association also holds a festival in the village every June, where all the people in the area come together to enjoy village fun, with something for everyone of all ages.

This event is reminiscent of the old village fairs that used to take place in Glenavy twice a year, in the 1800's.

Terry CormicaOne of the drawbacks of the village at the moment is that like in so many small villages a great influx of new housing has taken place. Mrs. Sylvia Price from the Community Association said: "There are just no facilities at all for the young people of the area, and though we do our best to organise as many trips to football matches or the swimming pool it just is not enough. What is needed is a community hall to bring everyone together, hopefully this will come into place soon, and help to build up a greater community spirit."

Sammy Bickerstaff, who owns the VG store in the village, has many memories from an older slower Glenavy. A story Sammy told me was of quite a few years ago when gas cookers were a bit of a new item, a Lady came into him and bought a cooker. "I told her how to work the cooker, telling her to be careful always to make sure that the gas was always switched off when not in use and all the general instructions one would expect to get.

"A couple of weeks later she was in the shop and I asked her how the cooker was going, she told me she heated it up for 15 minutes and then put the bread in to bake, but she had been switching the oven off after 15 minutes and then putting the bread expecting it to be heated enough to cook.

"Frank McNicholl had no electricity at his home and he would come into the shop with an oil can and ask for a gallon of electricity.

At the other side of Glenavy village there is also a Spar store run by Terry Cormikin also a local of the area. It is not hard to know that Terry was a butcher by trade, with his delicious display of finest quality meats. Terry also remembers many of the old characters of Glenavy and says, "The village has changed with a lot of new as faces in the area, there is not the same easy going way as there used to be, I suppose it will just take a while for the new people to integrate into village life as we know it.

"I am all for new development but I feel it is very important to retain the old character and values of any place as this can never be replaced if destroyed." 

Lets hope that Glenavy will continue to be the friendly quiet village that it has always been and that the new-comers to the area will enjoy the tranquility and charm of generations past, and come to know it as the their own 'Glenavy Dear.'