Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



Four and a half decades of motorway driving in Lisburn

The M1 at Ballyskeagh - part of the original section between Saintfield Road and Broadway which opened on July 10 1962.

IT may not be a date which stands out in many peoples' memories but July 10 1962 brought a major change to the lives of Lisburn motorists who commuted into Belfast by car on a daily basis.

The opening that morning of to first section (6.75 miles) of motorway on the island of Ireland - the M1 between Saintfield Road to the east of the town centre and Broadway between Belfast's Falls and Donegal Roans - reduced the driving time to between 10 and 15 minutes.

Gone was the need to negotiate bottlenecks such as Finaghy Crossroads and the notorious Balmoral Avenue/ Lisburn Road junction.

Instead drivers could simply cruise along the traffic light free new 'super highway, which ended at a point just a mile and a half from the City Hall.

1 hose lucky enough to have radios in their cars - a real luxury in those days - were able to enjoy a more relaxed drive to work listening to songs such as 'I Remember You' by Frank Ifield which went to number one in the charts around the middle of the month.

Early users of the M1 remember those days with fondness.

People recall how at the quietest times it was possible to stop and pick mushrooms from the grass central reservation.

Individual motorists often said they had made the drive in one direction or the other without seeing another vehicle.

There was even a ghost story about a mysterious disappearing hitchhiker who appeared on the motorway in the Dunmurry/Drumbeg area.

The M1 opened without ceremony, the first motorcyclist simply being waved through by police. however, preparation work around Lisburn had been going on for some time.

The bridge at Kingsway. Dunmurry which carries the motorway over the A1 and was designed by Ministry of Commerce engineers was built between 1957 and 1959 by Farrans Ltd.

The contract for construction of the first two sections of the M1 - Broadway to Dunmurry and Dunmurry to Saintfield Road - was awarded to Sir Alfred McApine and Son Ltd.

It was a sufficiently prestigious project for local members of the institution of Civil Engineers to vist it on September 9, 1960.

By the Spring of 1962 work on. both sections was well advanced - including all the necessary sign posting, road markings, etc, not only on the motorway but also on the roads leading to it.

The Road -traffic Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary mounted a vigorous campaign to educate drivers in how to use a motorway and the motoring organisations such as the RAC and the AA produced explanatory leaflets.

Traffic Branch also organised the patrolling of the motorways on a basis similar to that used in England.

The Special Roads Act (NI) had received a first reading but would not become law in time for the opening of the first sections so the Ministry of Home Affairs Assistant Secretary made temporary regulations under the existing powers to control traffic using the motorway. The Act eventually became law in March 1963.

The section of motorway between Saintfield Road and Sprucefield opened on December 15, 1963 but it was not until 1965 that it to came possible to travel by motorway to Moira.

The entire motorway to Dungannon which ran through Northern Ireland's 'new city of Craigavon was not completed until 1968 although a couple of short sections had been completed prior to this.

Ulster Star