HILLSBOROUGH was nothing more than a piece of barren land until 400 years ago. There was nothing. that looked particularly interesting or attractive except the ruins of an ancient chapel dedicated to Saint Malachi; and a cluster of wattle huts on the banks of the winding stream from which the place took its name, Cromlyn -'the Crooked Glen'.
All of this changed when an Elizabethan soldier Moyses Hill arrived from Devon in 1573 and married Alice MacDonnell of Dunluce in 1603.
Moyses gained possession of Cromlyn from the Magenesses in 1611, this being the first step in a process that would result in his descendants being among the richest and most influential landlords in Ireland.
Wills Hill, First Marquis of Downshire (1718-1793) virtually rebuilt Hillsborough to bring it into, the Georgian style, that it still has to-day, leaving a legacy for us of beauty and elegance to enjoy.
Any day of the week you will see family's taking strolls along the edges of Hillsborough Lake often with a bag of bread on-hand to feed the ducks, with the magnificent and stately presence of 'The Fort' watching on as day runs into night, and the journey of time continues to divulge more secrets to its silent keeping.
Although the Fort has been extensively altered over the years the essential character remains. Charles II raised it to the status of Royal Fort with Arthur Hill then the head of family being made a Hereditary Constable, allowing him to recruit and train a Garrison of twenty men. One representative of the guard was still maintained until recently by the Marquis of Downshire and could be seen in the village on special occasions complete with sabre, bugle and resplendent uniform.
Canon John Barry was Rector of Hillsborough Parish Church for 34 years, from 1949 - 1983, when he retired. Canon Barry told me about his years in service in Hillsborough Parish Church and the changes he has seen. "In 1949 it was still the tail end of the second World War and at that time Hillsborough was a sleepy little village that you would have passed through without really noticing it, and in those days you had to pass through to go South as there was no Ml.
"I often look back to the beginning of my ministry in Hillsborough. I remember one summers day looking down the long drive of the church and there lying in the middle of the road fast asleep was an old dog. I asked myself how long would an old dog lie in the middle of the road in Hillsborough sleeping now?
"Of course after the war Hillsborough was much neglected as there was no paint to keep the houses and shops looking bright and clean. The houses were often occupied by 3rd and 4th generations of families, this just does not happen today as the house prices are so high that families can no longer afford to buy them from family members. I remember when you could have bought the whole of Arthur Street for £400. Now a one bedroom house in the same street would cost about £95,000.
"The Downshire family practically owned the village with a lot of people having connections with them through working on their estate, then the Castle was taken over by the Government, as a residence for the newly appointed Governor and that brought a lot of changes with lots, of newcomers arriving in the village.
"Lady Granville was often in residence at the Castle, she was the sister of the present day Queen Mother, so this brought a lot of Royal Visits, both official and unofficial. In fact you never knew who you might bump into. I have particular memories of meeting Douglas Fairbanks Junior, and Sir John Hunt the leader of the Everest expedition he was in Hillsborough the weekend after his famous expedition," said Canon Barry.
"Hillsborough now is a far, far, more attractive place than it was in my time. There is a lot of Civic pride now in the village with gorgeous shop fronts and a wonderful array of flowers always on show.
"One thing that I am concerned about is that the new generation in Hillsborough do not care enough about their history, they are so busy with their shops and new houses that they do not just take enough time to stop and look e around them and realise how beautiful their surroundings really are. I feel that with a loss of history comes a loss of taste, - and if they are not careful Hillsborough will have too many shops and too many strangers.
"I know I probably seem old is fashioned but I really hope that s Hillsborough along with other at small villages do not give into to the money grabbers, who only want to swamp green fields with houses to make more money and destroy village life. The residents of Hillsborough are among the most generous, lovely, homely people that I have ever 'had the pleasure to work with and I still have many good friends in Hillsborough today."
Hillsborough today sees a lot of visitors along with tourists. Through the tree-lined avenues there are clusters of small attractive shops full of giftware or exquisite clothing along with a great ice-cream shop which offers many different flavours to tempt your taste buds. Award winning restaurants are also on hand to give much needed nourishment after a good long walk through the village and along the side of the beautiful lake that still recreates echoes of ancient times to those who listen carefully.