Dromore and District Local Historical Group Journal

Volume 2-1992




A familiar sight in the late 1920's as Sam Ferris enters the Stadium alone in first place. (F.G.)


Most of us this summer enjoyed the spectacle of the greatest of the worlds athletes gathered in Barcelona to compete for Olympic gold. The marathon, held over 26 miles represents for many the pinnacle of endurance, tactics and true grit. The games of 1924 were held in Paris and anyone who watched the film "Chariots of Fire" would have been given a good impression of the period, styles and equipment of the runners.

There were many famous names at these games Paarvo Nurmi winner of nine gold medals, Eric Liddell who refused to race in the 200 metre final because it was held on a Sunday, Johnny Weissmuller winner of five swimming golds and later to become the screen Tarzan. Amongst all these world famous characters was a man from the town of Dromore, Sam Ferris, one of the greatest distance runners that Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom was ever to produce, made his Olympic debut.

Sam Ferris was born in the townland of Magherabeg near Dromore in August 1900 which coincidently was the year of the second Olympic Games, also held in Paris. Sam's mother Minnie Clarke was said to be a bit of an athlete and it was not unknown to see her running through the fields hurdling the stooks of corn. Sam lived for the early period of his life at Magherabeg, however he moved to Glasgow with his father when his mother tragically died. They only stayed in Glasgow for a few years, returning to Dromore to the rest of the family. Sam was like his mother, always interested in running and at the early age of seventeen he joined Shelteston Harriers, winning many prizes in the Junior Open Category.

Sam was also used by the local pigeon men to run in the rings of the first birds home as there was only one pigeon clock in the Town, thus giving them an extra time advantage over their colleagues.

When Sam was eighteen the First World War had been raging for four years, so like most young men of his age he decided to join up. He joined the fledgling Royal Air Force, then known as the Royal Flying Corps and on enlistment he was posted to India. During that posting, however, he did little or no running, preferring to devote his energy to other sports such as football. After his service was up he returned to Dromore, once again taking up his first love of running. He didn't have to wait long for success winning many local races including the Co. Down One Mile Championship.

In December 1923 he rejoined the Royal Air Force and was stationed in Uxbridge where he competed in a cross country race. Although he only came third his talents came to the notice of Bill Thomas of Herne Hill Harriers who persuaded him that his true forte might be long distance rather than cross country running. Bill Thomas's entreaty had an effect on Sam and he joined Herne Hill Harriers with whom he stayed throughout his career. Many young men who had fought in the war were taking to serious athletics, Bobby Mills who had been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in the Royal Flying Corps won the 1920 Polytechnic marathon, although prior to the race had never run further than 14 miles. Sam's first 20 mile race was not a success so it was important for him to build up the stamina necessary for long distances.

In the 1924 Olympic trials there were 80 starters one of whom was Sam Ferris competing in the first ever marathon race of his career. Despite conditions being poor and a lack of experienced runners in the field, by the 23 mile point 3 runners were well in the lead. Ahead of Sam in first and second place were Duncan Wright and Jack McKenna. McKenna was in all sorts of trouble and collapsed with exhaustion just past the 25 mile point. Ferris, although exceptionally strong, could not catch the Scotsman Wright who finished in 2.53.47, only 45 seconds in front. It would appear therefore that Bill Thomas was right and Sam's talents lay in the longer distances. It was as a result of this achievement that he was picked for the British Olympic team to compete in Paris in 1924.

The marathon team for the Olympics was Jack McKenna, Duncan Wright and Sam Ferris and of the three runners who finished in the best position. The heat combined with the route chosen for the course, much of it over cobbled roads, led many including Wright to drop out; the only time that Wright was ever to fail to complete a marathon. Sam's fifth place in 2.52.26, behind the eventual winner Alban Stenroos of Finland was the best achievement to date for a British runner in an Olympic marathon. The achievement is even better when we see that at the 23km mark Sam was 30th and even after 35km was only 9th. The omens looked good, what might he achieve in future years as it is generally thought in the world of running that marathon runners reach their peak much later than those at the shorter distances?

Sadly for Sam he was to be bitterly denied Olympic gold for although he competed in two further Olympics, (Amsterdam in 1928 and Los Angeles in 1932) the gold was tragically to elude him. It was the 1932 games in Los Angeles that was perhaps to prove to be his greatest disappointment for through a combination of fate and bad management he lost the gold medal. In later years he was to relate this story, one that best illustrated the lack of a co-ordinated and professional approach on behalf of the administrators of the British Olympic team in those early days. When Sam and Duncan Wright arrived they were given no briefing on the course, indeed Sam only saw the course once before the actual race. In contrast Juan Zabala of Argentina, the eventual winner had trained on the course and knew it intimately. On race day they were given their British running vests to find that they were much too long and they both felt that it would be a disaster to use them in the competition. Duncan Wright was adamant he would not use the vest and he eventually competed wearing his own Scotland vest. Sam tried to redesign his vest cutting some eighteen inches off it's length, but this was to prove catastrophic during the race. After a distance into the race the vest began to ride up Sam's back exposing the kidney area to the wind and causing it to chill. He stopped several times during the race to adjust the vest eventually, holding it down using the safety pins that held up his number. Despite this he ran well coming up through the field until he had Juan Zabala in his sights. Once again Sam's backup team were to let him down. He was told Zabala was going well and to ease off for the silver medal. The truth was that Zabala had been through a difficult period in the race and was on his last legs. A concerted attack by Sam at this point would possibly have
finished him off. Sam finished 2.31.55, only nineteen seconds behind Zabala and won the Olympic silver medal, with both runners breaking the world record.

Sam eventually got over his disappointment and raced on for many years, increasing his tally of awards and honours both national and international. He won the first ever AAA title to be contested, was victorious in eight consecutive Polytechnic marathons and was runner up in the first Empire Games in 1930.

He set a course record in Turin of 2.46.18 beating the Belgian, French and Italian champions. They even came to England to get their revenge but, he destroyed them winning in 2.40.32 a margin of five minutes. Course records were his speciality, in Liverpool he came home in 2.33.00 some fifteen minutes in front of the next man.

Sam, a strict non smoker held strong views on marathon running and indeed training in general. A newspaper article written in 1931 said of him

"In order that the novice may evaluate Sam Ferris, he must do as Sam Ferris did, train wisely, train conscientiously and train
consistently. Spasmodic bursts of energy serve no useful purpose."

His training for any marathon began some eight weeks before the race and was set to a strict regime, one that he kept to and which served him well.

As a Warrant Officer in the Royal Air Force Sam served in many stations throughout the world over the years, at Dieppe in 1940 he was the officer in charge of evacuating the men prior to the advancing German Army.

Henry Fairley a local man and relative of Sam remembers spending time with him, his wife and daughters in India in 1938. Sadly Sam died in the late seventies but his widow Marjorie is still alive and living peacefully in a cottage in Rosson-Wye, England. I'm sure that many who read this story will like me be proud that a man from Dromore has written his name into Olympic history.

I would like in my article to acknowledge the help of Seamus McKeown and Henry Fairley for the invaluable information that they supplied in compiling this incredible story of surely one of Dromore's greatest sons.



Extracts from a thesis written by Martin Campbell, Belfast in the Spring of 1992. The Townland of Islandderry lies 3 miles to the west of the town of Dromore.

One of the first signs of settlement in the area is the "crannog" in Islandderry lake - a man made island supported on oak beams and reached by a causeway. It was used as a place of safety by both man and beast. In the early 19th century a dug-out canoe and oars were found nearby. The lake itself was man made in prehistoric times and in the 17th century stretched to over 20 acres. Today, with constant drainage schemes it has been reduced to approximately 2 acres. Flowing across the north of Islandderry and dividing it from the neighbouring townland of Gregorlough is the Shankerburn, the An Artist's impression of Islandderry Lake and Crannog. (F.G.)main stream in the area, it flows into the lake.

Prior to the rebellion of the Irish Catholics of October 1641 the townland was the property of Art Oge Mac Glaisne Magennis. Following the defeat at the hands of Cromwell in February 1642 Art Oge had to forfeit his lands to the Crown. The first proprietor was Alexander Woodall/Waddell from Moffat Hills in Lanarkshire, Scotland, who paid a quit rent of �5.13.4 to Art Oge for 679 acres, 3 roods and 4 perches. This was the beginning of a long association between the Waddell family and Islandderry.

Alexander Waddell built Islandderry house on the site of a rath overlooking the surrounding countryside, across the Lagan, as far as the A sketch of Islandderry House. (F.G.)Mournes.

A two storey building, it was built in a style similar to the peel houses of lowland Scotland. Interesting features of the house are a well in the basement and a reputed escape tunnel running from the house and coming up on the other side of the Lagan about a mile distant.

Alexander Waddal married Elizabeth Hamilton and over the next hundred years or so his progeny quietly prospered in the area. Thus the Islandderry estate came down through the Waddell family into the possession of Robert (b. 1752 d.1810). This description of him was given to Lord Downshire by Thomas Lane of Hillsborough with whom he, Robert, had had a serious difference of opinion "as garrulous as an ignorant and uninformed man may be". Robert's son James (b.1782 d.1859) fought under Wellington's command in the Peninsular War retiring with the rank of Major to Islandderry. He was responsible for the closing of the old county road and the building of the road round the lake - now the Lough Road - for which he was paid one shilling by the County.
Catherine Meade Waddell (b.1790 d.1869) also lived in Islandderry House at this time. A spinster lady, she undertook the building of the first, and only school house in the townland. Built 200 yards from the site of a former hedge school, it consisted of one large classroom and a further two living rooms for the teacher - a Mistress Mary Milligan.

In the second Report of the Commissioners of Irish Education Inquiry of 1826 one, James Murphy is listed as the Headmaster at an annual salary of �19.0.0.

It was a fee paying school of the Church Education Society and by 1858 had 56 children male and female, 22 of whom belonged to the Established Church and 34 were Presbyterian. The school cost �53 to erect.

Thirty pounds being donated by the Waddell family and twenty three pounds by the Church Education Society of Kildare Place, Dublin.

Since 1938 the building has been home to the Kilntown Orange Lodge.

On the 31st of October 1796 the Islandderry Yeomanry was formed with Robert Waddell as Captain. When they were disbanded in 1803, by which time James Waddell was Commandant, he was given two inscribed Irish silver two-handed cups "As a token of their respect, gratitude and esteem" One still exists in New Zealand - the other was stolen. Others named in the Yeomanry records are Wm. Boys, Jn. Magill, Joseph Hanna, Jn. Harrison and Lieut. Wm. Nicolson.

Although, at the time of the Art Oge land forfeiture the population of the townland was only 18 (16 Scots and English and 2 Irish), with the coming of the outside landlords there was an influx of people to farm the land. Many small farms were rented out by the Waddells, the main one being Islandderry Farm about 1.5 miles north east of Islandderry House on the road to Hillsborough. Originally comprising 295 acres it had grown by absorption of the surrounding land, until, in the mid 19th century it stood at 426 acres. Today it is 457 acres.

The Griffith Valuation of 1863 shows the townland supporting 19 small farms ranging from Mary Jane Waddell 117 acres to SamuelMary Ann McCain's old dwelling (G.M.) Gooley with only 2 acres. Other names listed as being tenant farmers are Poots, McMurray, Preston, Savage, Patterson, Colter, Isabella McAvoy, Beggs and Downey. Many of these names are now periferal to the townland. As the land was fertile, with little or no bog, the main crops grown were barley, potatoes, turnips and corn. Any spare was usually taken into Dromore market.

Behind the old McCain house, there is a disused quarry. The rock, known locally, as pigeon rock, is a baked and hardened limestone - a poor marble. In more recent years it has been used for road surfacing although it would have originally been quarried to feed the lime burning kilns in the area notably at Moira and the aptly named Kilntown two miles from Islandderry.

The population peaked just before the famine in 1841 with 211 people in 34 families. Although the area was not directly affected by the famine (there was only one rumoured incident of a mother and child dying by the wayside above Shankerburn) the population began to decline. Along with other areas within a 30 mile radius of the city Islandderry began to feel the draw of industrial Belfast. People drifted towards it in search of work and entertainment. Many also emigrated to America, New Zealand, Canada and mainland Britain. Waddell's, McCains', Dempsters' all left.

The old McMillan homestead (G.M.)Land purchase schemes, and in particular, the Northern Ireland Land Act of 1925 gave many tenant farmers the opportunity to buy their land. Those in Islandderry were no exception and so without an annual source of income from rents the Islandderry estate began to decline.

It was sold by Timothy Waddell to Mr. and Mrs. Bertie Wilson. At the beginning they lived in Alexander Waddal's old house but when they began to renovate it, it was discovered to be virtually beyond repair. A new family house was built one hundred yards away and Islandderry House now lies forlorn and derelict. The main staircase has collapsed, ceilings are down and the basement impenetrable. Mr. Wilson died last year and the estate is managed as a dairy farm, under the name Island Dairy, by his remaining family.

Islandderry farm lay empty for many years supposedly due to local superstition that bad luck went with the ownership of the house.

Former owners include a Mr. McClelland from Banbridge and a Major Beaument from Lurgan. It is now owned by Prima Farms, a large company whose land agent is Mr. Draffin of Dromore.A cluster of Islandderry dwellings (G.M.)

Although new houses abound Islandderry is no longer a close-knit farming community. Only three of today's residents were born in the townland. Many of the old homesteads are derelict, but a twenty-five minute drive, by way of the Hillsborough by-pass and the Ml, brings you into Belfast. Islandderry has been transformed into perfect commuter land.

According to parish Records for the period 1829-39, several children born in Islandderry were baptised in the Cathedral

as follows'.- 

10th May 1829-Margaret of Samuel and Margaret McCullough
21st May 1830-Anne of John Lamb and Susan Smyth
3rd April 1832-Marcia of Denis and Marcia Martin
15th July 1832-Michael of John and Susan Lamb
21st April 1833-Matthew of John and Jane Little
21st February 1834-David of William and Jane McKay
27th August 1837-Rosetta of James Morgan
20th September 1839-Elizabeth of William and Sarah Moore

By 1863 only Smyth and Moore were still living in the townland whilst the Littles had moved to Gregorlough fifty yards outside the Islandderry Boundary where their descendants still live today.

September, 1992

Dear Martin,
Just to bring you up to date. Oats and barley are growing in the fields. A new baby boy has arrived who is a Dempster descendant. All is well in the townland of Islandderry!

R. McM.


Tenant Rent Half Poor Rate Cash
  �.s.d. �.s.d. . �.s.d
John Arlow 9.10.0 4s.4d. 9.5.8
Mr. J. Thompson  10.0.0 4s.7d. 9.15.5
Win. Dennison 17.10.0 8s.0d. 17.2.0
I. Smyth 5.15.3 . 2s.7d. 5.12.8
F. Beckett 17.0.0 17s.10d. 16.12.2
J. Woods  21.5.0 9s.9d. 20.15.3
  81.0.3 1.17.1 79.3.2


Receipts for hay and grazing  January 1893 �204.0.0  
Rents January 1893 �237.19.9  

Source-Waddell Letters D2129/1 - Proni.

A group of pupils pictured outside Ballykeel School in 1939. The teacher seen at extreme right was Miss Fulton. The picture was kindly loaned by Mrs. Belle Jess, Rock Road, whose late husband, Irvine, is seen at second from right in the front row.


"But past is all his fame. The very spot where many a time he triumphed is forgot."

These lines by Oliver Goldsmith on "The Village Master" have kept recurring in my mind since I decided to pen this article on Ballykeel Public Elementary School, which once stood almost opposite the Orange Hall on the Dromore Ballynahinch Road.

To-day not a brick of the old building remains. For a time after its closure, in 1939 I'm told, it was converted into a bungalow. But eventually it was demolished, and Mrs. Ena Graham now occupies the handsome new bungalow within its precincts.

Around the same time the neighbouring school at Drumlough was also closed and pupils from both centres were accommodated in a new and much more commodious building on the road leading from Drumlough Cross Roads to Ballykeel Cross Roads.

Both the old schools had been blessed for a lifetime with very gifted teachers - Mr. and Mrs. Sam Crawford at Ballykeel and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Craig at Drumlough. Mr. Craig continued to hold sway in the new school until around 1943 when Mr. Richard Beattie was appointed principal, bringing gifts to equal, if not indeed surpass, anything that had gone before. I speak with first-hand knowledge Mr. Beattie, who was the master of Ballyvicknakelly School in my closing years there, and who is still remembered with affection and gratitude.

Mrs. Craig taught with Mr. Beattie at Drumlough until about 1947 when he was joined by his wife Nancy.


"Time and change are busy ever," and after 28 years as the master at Drumlough Mr. Beattie decided to call it a day in 1971, but his wife continued for the short time that remained until the new school was also closed and the pupils transferred to Anahilt and Dromara.

From here on I continue the story of Ballykeel School with the help of one who had his education there and who has very happy memories of his school days and of the Master and Mrs. Crawford.

Needless to say, the present-day boys and girls have little conception of what school days were like in the 1920's and 1930's, when this Province was getting back on its feet following the Great War of 1914-18.

I was curious to know if my friend had ever used a slate and slate pencil in his time at school. Of course he had, and when the master ran out of slate pencils they went to the "Golf' a quarry across the road - got a slate stone, cracked it and used the pointed end as a pencil, "and you could have written the very best with it," said Tommy. That's not his name, but we'll call him that.

There were no free books or pencils in those days. You had to buy your own and you didn't get fooling about and destroying pages.

They were too precious, and the master would have "cut the knuckles off you if there was any nonsense."

The slates were only used for lessons around the blackboard, but at the desk it was a case of pens or pencils and notebooks. Mr. and Mrs. Crawford were both well versed in the art of calligraphy and the pupils had Vere Foster headline copy books as a means of improving their writing. I'm not sure if it's still there, but a house in Great Victoria Street, Belfast, carried a plaque to the memory of the inventor of this copy book.


In those days the classrooms were heated by means of coal fires, and pupils had from time to time to take coal money to help keep these fires stoked up.

Another thing which we take for granted nowadays is electricity, television and radio. At the time of which we are thinking most homes were lighted by means of oil lamps or candles. The invention of the Tilley lamp, which gave much better light, was a great boon.

The first TV programme which I can recall seeing was in 1952 at the time of Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne. Prior to that some of the well-to-do homes had battery radios.

We got round to discussing the contents of school reading books, and "Tommy" bemoaned the fact that the reading supplied to the schools nowadays is not nearly so appealing and does not place the same emphasis on morals as did the stories and poems in the old school readers.

Our conversation turned to dress. "No school uniforms then," said "Tommy" with a chuckle. "You were lucky if you had something to wear that was handed down, even if the trousers had a patch to keep your shirt tail from sticking out. And for the boys it was all short trousers then and stockings with turn-down tops. Some had trousers with buttons at the knees. Most boys and girls had to keep good the clothing they wore at school. Something less good was used for romping about on Saturdays and at other times, and for Sundays there was usually something better."


"As to footwear, it was a case of bare feet or a pair of 'gutty' shoes in the good summer days and a pair of clogs, which had wooden soles, in the bad winter days. Locally, most of the clogs were made by Rabbie Watson of Gallows Street."

But even then school had its light-hearted moments. "Tommy" re-lived one of these as he recounted times when Master Crawford might leave the room for a wee chat with a local farmer who might be passing by with his horse and cart.

This was the signal to start up a bit of dance-band music using the partition wall between the two class rooms to drum on. Never once did Mrs. Crawford try to stop this. Rather, "Tommy" thought she enjoyed the whistling and singing, "for she was a real musician and a very nice woman." But when the master returned a "court martial" began and the musicians usually got two or three slaps apiece.

Like most schools, Ballykeel had a poem about the master, and it ran something like this:

Sammy Crawford's a nice wee man.
He tries to teach us all he can.
To read and write and `rithmetic,
But he's the boy can use the stick.


Leaving Ballykeel School we took up our stand in heart and mind with the boys who assembled at McAdam's Cross Roads mostly in the long summer evenings. "One would have thought there was something wrong if there weren't at least a dozen or more there," he said.
The crack was always good, and one had a choice of a game of skittles, marbles, quoits or football - the latter in the "Sticky Park," a field off the Ballykeel Road. Occasionally there might be a bit of a concert, the music being supplied on violin, mandoline, flute or mouth organ.

We went over the names of some who frequented the Cross Road and were shocked to find that few of them are alive to-day. Names that readily came to his mind were - John Gamble, Sandy, Willie and Stanley Young, Billy Porter, John, Sandy and Sam Gourley, Jim Chambers, Billy Shannon, Rabbie Armstrong, Jimmy, Tommy and Willie Hamilton, John Hunter, Bob, Hugh and Tommy McClune, John Doloughan, William, Geordie and Sammy Wilkinson, Sam Allen, Joe Gamble, Jimmy and Willie Wallace, Willie Coulter, John Wilson, Herbie Scott, Sandy Steele, Jimmy Scott, Billy and Jim McNeill, Fred Jess, Willie Jess, Sammy Jess, Jimmy Tinsley, David Black, Walter and Jim Black, Sam and David Gibson.

Vehicular traffic in the years of which we are speaking was very light. Cars most frequently seen on the Ballynahinch Road were those owned by the late Joseph Lindsay (The Leader), Hawthorne Bennett, Robert J. Poots, Jack Bailey, Hugh Corbett and the renowned Harry Ferguson, who had been a pupil of Ballykeel School.

The thought of the few cars in the countryside then prompted "Tommy" to remark "It's a nightmare on the roads now, and until the powers that be cut down the speeds that cars are able to do it will be no better."

Another thing he doesn't agree with is the driving test. He feels that passing the test gives some people the impression that they have nothing more to learn about driving - and that's all wrong, he says.

We went on to recall one of the motor bikes in the district in those days. It was owned by the Rev. William Bill, minister of Drumlough Presbyterian Church, who kept a few stones in the side car to steady it on the road.

Mr. Bill's successor was the Rev. William Copes - "a man in whom the congregation placed great confidence." As an entertainer he is remembered for his ability to recite such delightful pieces as "I'm living in Drumlister in clabber to the knee" (by the Rev. W. F. Marshall) and "The man with one hair".

The precentor of Drumlough Church Choir was John Gibson, a handloom weaver who also played the violin. He lived between McAdam's Cross Roads and Ballykeel Hill, the sloping banks of which are a reminder that it was much steeper a lifetime ago.

At the roadside by John's home was a blacksmith's forge, run by John Magowan, whose brother Nelson is well known in the district. Another brother, the late Sam, was the Member of Parliament for Iveagh for some years. Another smithy to operate at the forge was Ernie Hanna.

Towards the foot of the hill Mark Hamilton had charge of McAdam's Cross Roads Post Office. He also sold sweets, groceries and paraffin oil. The Post Office is now located at The Pole on the Leapoughs Road, and the postmistress is Mrs. Annie Sudlow.


Near Ballyvicknakelly School there met a group known as "Grovey's Lodge." This consisted of a number of young men from the district who congregated in the evenings in the home of Hugh Watson, known in the area as "Grovey" because he resided at Watson's Grove.

The "crack" there was always good. If any of the group got a bit of news about any of the others, their latest romances and so forth, the idea was to arrive first and have "Grovey" primed so that he could let the cat out of the bag when the "lodge" was in full flight.

I close with a warm word of thanks to "Tommy" for his time and interest. I'm sorry he chose to remain anonymous, but that wish I must respect.

Photographs are of the Regalia worn by Thomas Wilkinson, kindly lent by his grandson (F.C.) 64


The RAOB Buffs Lodge No 4294 was formed in Dromore in the early 1920's and met in the premises of John Murphy in Bridge Street. After meeting in a few other locations they moved to premises beside Alma Lodge in Castle Street and around 1935 eventually moved to the Crown Hotel in Meeting Street where they had a Buffs Hall in the Crown's yard. The RAOB order was a benevolent order and like the Masonic order it helped educate the children of deceased members. The order is open to members of all religions.
The members have to pass degrees at risings, which are conducted by the Grand Lodge in Ireland. Members are presented with degrees and Jewels suitably inscribed. One of the oldest medals the present writer has seen was a Knight of Merit jewel which was presented to Thomas Wilkinson, Boot and Shoe repairer formerly of Bridge Street, Dromore. It is a 9ct. gold medal, with the date May 1923. He also had the worthy Primo jewel and also a sash with the RAOB 4294 presented also.

The members of the Lodge had an annual outing each year and went around the Co. Down coast. They held Christmas parties for children each year.

One of the first secretaries of the Dromore 4294 Lodge was Arthur Beattie, Rampart Street, who was manager of Josiah Ward's public house in the Square. Another secretary was W. J. Thompson of Iveagh Terrace who had been a colour sergeant in the army. Ernest V. Copling who was Chauffeur to the Graham family, Clarence McMurray of Meeting Street and John Aherne of Maypole Park filled the role of secretary over the years until with the passing of time the lodge was disbanded in the 1980's as most of the members had passed away.

This ended the Buffs in Dromore after a period of over 60 years and those who had sought to keep the lodge going included B. Bingham, W. D. Kelly, Ed. Poots, J. Aherne, Ed. Boal, C. McMurray, V. McMurray, W. J. Wilson, G. Lilley, K Lindsay, W. H. Gamble and Robert Gailey.

Resurfacing Church Street, Dromore in 1956 - it was then part of the main Belfast-Dublin trunk Road. (G.M.)


It was thought for many long centuries that Troy (of the Wooden Horse) was just a name used by the Greek poet Homer in his famous poem about a fictious war. Then when ancient Troy was discovered and excavated in 1870, it was realised that the poem was not fiction but an account of a real place and a real war and it was also discovered but there had been possibly ten Troys built and destroyed in battles with their enemies. Why, you ask, begin an article on a sewerage system by a reference to ancient Troy? - for this reason; when we visited this ancient site some years ago we were surprised to see that it had had a sewerage system; partly open drains, which had to be helped to perform their function, but also there were crude pipes excavated in the ruin, probably dating back to the 13th century before Christ.

Sewerage systems are as old as intelligent man - wherever people have come together they have been part of organised life. It is easy, using a little imagination, to see how the necessity arose. Take Dromore (or any other town, but we are interested in Dromore) - many years ago the `road', then not much more than a track, known later as the Old Coach Road (running from Carrickfergus to Dublin), passed through Drummor, it became Dromore. The river could be forded there and so it became a stopping place. First a cottage would be built, then another, then one or two crude dwellings until gradually a small settlement appeared. As it grew provision had to be made for the traveller and the inhabitants. It became more complicated with each new dwelling. The open field, the dry toilet, the open drain into the river and later, much later, a crude septic tank. As the town grew there was a tangle of pipes and drains, all heading towards the river and every new dwelling added to the problem. I remember seeing one of the open drains which had been covered and was revealed during excavation. In our imagination we can see the little village developing around the muddy square.

During the early years of the century small schemes were carried out from time to time, trying to improve what seemed to be unimprovable. Each householder and merchant was a law unto himself and parts of `The System' were always giving trouble. With the passing years more voices were saying that something would have to be done. At this time Commissioners were responsible for the affairs of the town and knew about the problem. When the Urban Council was formed in 1922 they inherited this difficult question and the matter was raised and discussed from time to time but, what with a war just over and with various money problems, it was postponed, but never allowed to be forgotten. Money was gathered from various sources. For instance, in May 1940 it was reported at a Council meeting that a sum of �1,000 was available to the Council and it was decided, on the proposal of Dr. J. C. Wilson, that it be invested in War Loan until the Council was in a position to take the matter up. The years rolled by, and as soon as the second World War was over, while there were many pressing needs, the Council decided to move as quickly as possible for the system that did exist was fast failing. Ultimately, after due consultation with the appropriate government departments, in particular with the Department of Health and Local Government, on the 20th of January 1948 the Clerk informed the Council that the plans for the proposed sewerage system had been sent to the Government department responsible. Suitable loans had been established and tenders for the work were sought.

On the 11th August of that year the Council received five tenders for the construction of the system. The lowest was received from Messrs John Graham and Sons, as the firm was then known. The tender price was �77,947 eight shillings and five pence - a large sum in those days. This tender was accepted, it was pointed out that the firm undertook to carry out the work in 30 months. The Council was also informed that the Government would meet 66�/ per cent of the cost. Most of the rest of the cost it was thought would have to be raised through the rates.

Bill of Quantities

It was known at the time that it would cost much more, it did! - over �50 thousand more and this did not include all the other work that was necessitated because of the scheme.

When it was known that the green light was on for the scheme, the people of the town were delighted, for it would mean the end of dry toilets and weekly cleansing by the scavenger brigade of the Council. However, as was anticipated, there were going to be difficulties, as happily they were few. The very favourable weather during the initial months meant that the river was low and this facilitated the installation of the pipes in the river bed and the concrete casing over them.

The flat concrete surface along the river bank proved to be an attraction to the children, who ran along it were in danger of slipping off it, which could have been fatal if the river were in spate. This was raised by Mr. Francis Russell and the Council discussed it. It would seem there was no action that could be taken. Also with so much excavation there were many tracks in the roads. This resulted in a number of claims for broken car springs.

When the pipes were laid and the system operating, the various householders had to make the connection. Some were initially unwilling to do so and for some time the two, or perhaps several, systems were in operation. This, of course, was a small matter compared to the task of providing toilets for 70% of the houses which had only the dry toilets. This took time, but it was achieved. For some years the Council continued to be responsible for some rural cottages. During the digging of the trenches not only did the contractor come up against stubborn rock but, in some ways more difficult, there were the pipes of many centuries impossible to tell where some of them came from or where they went to. I remember the trench in the Square as being very deep.

All this helps us to understand the difficulties of the scheme. The disposal works were situated at the town end of Holm Terrace on ground purchased for this purpose; the main pipe running along the path on the right-hand side of the river going towards Holm Terrace. On a number of occasions cattle on the south bank of the Lagan came across when the river was low and did some damage to the filter system in the disposal plant.

After the system was fully established it was stated that it was at full capacity and for this reason it would be unlikely that the town would be able to develop further. However, when some of the first of the new estates were anticipated, it was found that the capacity could be increased by pumping stations and other means. The High School was the first to benefit by this and, as we all know and rejoice in, there have been some very large and valuable developments since it was said that `Dromore will not be able to develop because .....'

I remember an interesting experience when the work was almost finished. One of the engineers whom I had met offered to take the late S. J. Duffy, who at that time owned the bakery shop in Church Street, and myself to see the disposal works at Holm Terrace and to explain the workings to us. The two things I remember from this experience were that, according to the engineer, we could drink the water that flowed from the system - neither of us volunteered!!

The other thing I remember was when Mrs. Duffy was giving us a cup of tea afterwards, the engineer explained that to put the tea in first and then add the milk was a colloid and to put in the milk first and then to put in the tea was a solution. Chemically, he seemed to indicate, they were two different drinks.

On second thoughts - was it the other way round? the tea first - a solution, and the milk in first a colloid. Well, it is one or the other. Perhaps I am confused - like the original tangle of pipes under Dromore!!!!!

Thanks to Messrs. I. Bill and D. Leeman of Graham's Dromore for their help.