Dromore and District Local Historical Group Journal

Volume 2-1992





Some of our readers may remember the `comforts' of travelling in wartime `Utility' buses. Those who do not may still be able to find out for themselves, as one of these `Utility' or `Austerity' buses has been reconstructed, and it has links with Dromore.

Through the years, men from Dromore have been employed in the different bus companies which have served the area. They workedBack Row: Ray Stronge, middle; J. Lindsay Jun., third from right; Cyril Latimer, right. Second Row: Billy Black, third from right. Third Row: George Ferguson, left; James Lindsay Sen., third from right (Seated) Front Row: James McCartney, second from right. (on floor) not only as drivers and conductors, but also in the various trades involved in building and maintaining the buses.

After the First World War, as ex-service vehicles and men became available, there was a rapid expansion in the use of motor vehicles for commercial transport. At this time, as there were no controls a large number of small operators, each owning just a few buses, competed for passengers with each other and with the railways. In 1926 the Northern Ireland Government introduced legislation requiring that vehicles, drivers and conductors be licensed. Similar regulations were adopted in England four years later.

The two largest of the bus companies were the Belfast Omnibus Company and H.M.S. Catherwood, which, between them, covered most of Northern Ireland as well as express services to Dublin and Cork. Although engines and chassis were acquired from England, both companies constructed some of the bodies for their buses in their own workshops. Many Dromore men found work with these companies. A photograph taken in the University Street depot of the Belfast Omnibus Company in 1932, shows a number of Dromore men.

Front Row: (on floor): George Ferguson; third from left. Second row (seated): James Lindsay, Manager; middle.Competition from the buses had an adverse effect on the railways, and in August 1935 the Northern Ireland Road Transport Board was set up to take over all bus companies (except Belfast Municipal Transport) and `co-ordinate' road and rail transport. N.I.R.T.B. continued to build some bus bodies in its Duncrue Street workshops.

The outbreak of the Second World War led to a rapid increase in passenger traffic as fuel shortages restricted private transport. Initially the extra vehicles needed were hired, but from 1942 onwards a limited number of new buses became available. The standard wartime single deck bus was the Bedford OWB with its uncompromisingly severe utility bodywork. A total of 175 of these buses entered service with the N. I. R. T. B. between 1942 and 1945. All were withdrawn, and sold, between 1948 and 1950 when standardised post-war buses became available.

Postwar, the Ulster Transport Authority was created to take over the NIRTB and the various railway companies, and by the late 1950's the UTA had a legal monopoly of all commercial land transport, road and rail, passenger and freight. The authority continued production of standard single-deck buses, and double deck were also built 1955 until about 1962, when the move to one-man operation once again favoured the single-deck bus.

In the mid 1960's the Transport Industry was reorganised once again. The UTA was replaced by the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company and its road freight, rail and bus services passed to subsidiary companies while its hotel business was sold. The buses were taken over by Ulsterbus Ltd in April 1967.

1985 was the 50th anniversary of public ownership of road passenger transport in Northern Ireland and the Ulsterbus company decided to mark this in a special way. One chosen project, to recreate an old bus, was a completely new venture for Ulsterbus. Some people thought it would be impossible, but they reckoned without the enthusiasm, skill and imagination of the Duncrue Street folk.

UTA Depot Duncrue Street Billy Ferguson, 9 from left; Sammy Hamilton, 15 from left; Tommy Hutchinson, far rightAs their name suggests, utility buses were built with economy in mind to ease the shortage of public service vehicles during the war. They could be put on the road for just under �600. An extract from `The Transport World' dated September 10, 1942, gives a description of the buses which may jog a few memories.

"Particular points of economy are the brown semi-gloss primer finish and the wood-slatted seats. Beaten panels are eliminated from the roof, two windows only are made to open, and no interior panelling is provided.

Travel in these vehicles is not uncomfortable, however, as the wooden seats are well shaped, and the excellently spDromore men Jimmy Ogle, David Ferguson and Billy Ferguson, with the wartime bus they helped to build at Duncrue Street in Belfastrung Bedford chassis ensures a minimum of jarring."

After the war, all the utility buses in Northern Ireland were sent back to England, where many had more sophisticated coach bodies put on them. One found its way back to Belfast again, but came to a rather inglorious end, as a hen house in the Castlereagh Hills. It was eventually tracked down by Ulsterbus, and transported gingerly to Duncrue Street, where the work of restoration began.

Three Dromore men took part in recreating history at the Ulsterbus maintenance depot, Duncrue Street, Belfast. Billy Ferguson, David Ferguson and Jimmy Ogle helped to build an exact replica of a Bedford OWB Utility Bus, which would have been a familiar sight around the country during the Second World War.

In all, about a dozen men worked on the bus, relying heavily on personal memories, as well as photographs and old documents to get the details just right. The Dromore trio brought to the project years of experience in bus maintenance and mechanics, and also added a more elusive ingredient - their own memories of those wartime buses.

First the old body was taken off and discarded, and the chassis and reconditioned engine were reinstated. Then the men set about building, from new materials, a body identical to the one the chassis had when it began its duty in Co. Down in 1942.

Next came the body builders, sheet metal workers, fitters, and painters, all enjoying a break from the routine work on modern buses. David Ferguson was involved in restoring the iron work, and Jimmy Ogle worked on finishing the inside of the bus.
The original wooden frame had rotted and had to be replaced. Billy Ferguson first `struck out' the frame in plywood to make sure all the measurements were correct. He then made up the new frame and pillars out of ash wood.
For some of the team, it was like stepping back to their apprenticeship days, for they had started their working lives on the utility bus.

The project captured the imagination of everyone at the depot, and even those not actually working on it often came over to watch as it took shape. As news spread, more information flooded in about utility buses. One man who had used a wooden seat from an old bus as a garden seat for years brought it in and the team were able to model the rest of the seats on it. Another enthusiast donated a destination blind.

The finished bus, which Mr. Laverty, the foreman coachbuilder described as going "Like a sewing machine", featured on the back cover of the commemorative book* produced to mark the 50th anniversary.

Dromore people were given a chance to admire the handiwork of their fellow townsmen when the completed bus visited the Dromore Horse Fair in 1986. It is now in safekeeping with Ulsterbus and is still used for special events during the summer months.

Another interesting project in which Dromore men were involved was in building a `mini' bus. This working scale model of a double decker bus was built in 1947. Frank Sefton and Billy Ferguson did the `marking out' of the wood work while Geordie Ferguson, who was quite small did the work on the inside of the bus.

This `mini' bus is now in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. * Fifty Years of Public Service by G. I. Millar.
I wish to acknowledge Mr. Wm. Ferguson and Mr. G. Millar of Ulsterbus for their kind assistance in the preparation of this article, and permission to use Ulsterbus copyright photographs.


During the Second World War many servicemen and women, came to Northern Ireland. Not all of them were total strangers however, having relatives, friends, or `friends of friends' in this area.

One such instance originated from the friendship between a shop owner in Dromore and another in Manchester. Mr. George McCalister, who owned a shoe shop in Dromore was friendly with Mr. William Walker from Manchester, who also had a shoe shop. When Harold Lantsbury, a relative of Mr. Walker's was sent to Northern Ireland with a RAF unit he came to visit Dromore. Other members of the unit came too, and became quite regular visitors. They got to know some of the local people and a few kept in touch, even after the War. Two of them have contributed some memories of those days.

Dromore 1941 by a Foreigner

In the Spring of 1941 I was serving with the R.A.F. Central Medical Establishment in London. I was called into the C.O.'s office and told that a small unit was to be formed to operate in Northern Ireland. In order to maintain the highest secrecy half the unit (Eight Officers and three N.C.O.s with a further three W.A.A.F.) would be from CME and the other half from Manchester. We all met at R.A.F.N.U. (Stormont) and were then allocated a large house in the Antrim Road. In conversation with my opposite number from Manchester (I can only remember him as Harold) I learned that he had friends in Dromore he intended to visit on his first day off and he asked me to join him.

So, on the next Sunday we caught a train in Belfast to the unknown City of Dromore. (We decided that it had to be a city as it had a Cathedral) He told me his friends were named McCalister and they owned a local shoe shop.

We were greeted with great warmth and made very welcome. The high-spot of that day was the food. Compared with England there seemed to be plenty of all the lovely food we had not seen for months. We ourselves in Northern Ireland were living on army rations, made even worse because we had to cook it ourselves!.

This first visit was followed by several more and we were quickly drawn into the life of Dromore. After service on Sunday we would go to Mrs. Stronge's house and, with her daughters, Sadie and Mary would gather round the piano for a sing song. I remember starting to sing `London Pride' but I was stopped and told `That is not in the Hymn Book'.

I was asked by the Dromore St. John's Ambulance Brigade, to talk to them about the air raids in London. This was a subject about which I knew very little at that time but of which I came to know a lot more later.

A very good friend at the time of our visits to Dromore was Andy who was a journalist on a local paper. We also met the verger of the Cathedral who proudly took us to the top of the tower to see the view of the surrounding countryside and to the ancient Mound.

I have none but pleasant memories of Dromore - in fact somewhere in a hedge is a blackthorn stick which I tied up to be collected in my old age. Alas I doubt if I shall ever reclaim it.

E. S. (Sid) Broadbridge

Mrs. Morley, then Miss Terry Farrell was one of the WRAF members of Mr. Broadbridge's unit. She writes:

When Sid Broadbridge took me along to Dromore we used to alight from the train at the Halt and Walk to the McCalister's house where we stayed the day or sometimes overnight. On one occasion when we also had with us our third member of the team from Central Medical Establishment, London, Bernard Hanson, Sid actually slept under the dining room table as the bedrooms were all occupied!

We also called on other friends in Dromore from time to time including Miss Robinson, a Schoolteacher. They were all very kind to us and we certainly did appreciate the food provided especially if there were cakes, which were unobtainable in the main at home with the rationing of so many things. I have no doubt they all had difficulties in finding food to give us but of course they never said anything. We only had Air Force food which was not exactly liberal.

As we usually stayed a week each month in Belfast we tried to rush as quickly as we could through our preparatory work on the Friday we arrived and also worked full speed on Saturday with the hope of paying a visit to Dromore on the Sunday. It did not always work out but when we did it was a treat. Miss Robinson sometimes provided us with tickets for a Theatre. I have a stub of the ticket to the Belfast Empire dated June 5th, the day before D Day, and the programme showing the play `Night Must Fall' by Emlyn Williams - price Grand Circle 3/6 d (17 1/2 p), the Gallery 9d (4 1/2 p), Programme 2d (1p).

I remember very well the sheer discomfort of train travel to Holyhead when we came by boat. What with the cold - snow on the ground - the only heat coming from being so crowded. We could not get seats and sat on luggage in the corridor, which meant getting up every time anyone wanted to pass. No food or drink except what you carried. The old boats were pure luxury after that. We once proceeded back through the Larne - Stranrar route which meant a long uncomfortable night by train to London during which time Bernard was hit on the head by a soldier's tin hat falling on his head and we reported to CME with one casualty of the journey!

Sometimes we did get a plane, to the Air Field called "Nutts Corner" just outside Belfast from either Hendon, near London, or Doncaster, where we picked up the Radiographer group of 3 or 4. This was the first time I ever wore trousers as there
were no steps into the aircraft and I had to be heaved up with a push behind from Sid. Also we had to put on a parachute which needs a trouser outfit. We did have a good laugh on one occasion when we were provided with a Mae West but no parachute and wondered about the time between leaving the aircraft and hitting water! 

Looking back it all seems a bit hit and miss, but when you are young none of this is worrying.


"A parchment on which one lot of writings was scraped away to make room for the next."

On the ordnance survey map the loaning is marked with a stubby double-line symbol measuring a mere halfmilimetre. In reality, it windsfor nearly a mile, an overgrown, rutted cart-track, meandering from the summit of B-1- Hill down to the Drumbroneth/Ballaney road.

In England it would be called a lane. In Gaelic speaking Ireland, a boreen. Here in the heart of Down, following the custom of the Scottish influence, we prefer loaning.*

The older inhabitants of the area, in memory of a family who lived here once, employed the lengthier version of "Gourleys' Loaning. "We of a later generation referred to it simply as "The Loaning."

From the top, near where it joins Barban Hill road, the view encompasses a vast arc of countryside. In the distance, almost directly ahead, looms the fissured mass of Slieve Croob. To the right and much further away the faded blue Mournes trundle dimly along the horizon.

Much nearer, down and across to the left, the spiralling smoke and clustered chimney pots of Dromore are silhouetted on the rim of the town's encircling ridge.

Nearer still, on neighbouring hills, no-nonsense Ulster farm-houses, holding the same position they have held for over a century, squat in their protective huddle of trees. Below, on the Drumbroneth road, a line of detached cottages wink their windows in the afternoon sun.

Further down the loaning, rising mysteriously from the nearby tractor pampered grassland in a juxtaposition of ancient and modern, stands an iron-age rath, its crumbling circle-bank ringed with gnarled oaks, the Druid's sacred tree which once covered all of Celtic Ireland.

Here, well before the birth of Christ, some early hunter-gatherer/come farmer scratched a living, retreating at night with his stock to his crude dwelling behind the fenced ramparts. But this has long been colonist land; the vast oak forests felled by the incomers hand, the soil broken with plough and harrow by generations of settler/farmers: Brown and Baxter, Gamble and Jamison, Prenter and Carlisle.

To the practiced eye, each patch of greenery, each rectangle of field tells its own history. And just as one set of writings on an ancient manuscript emerges, faint and barely detectable from under fresher writings, so the traceable remains of the shape and structure of the old land and the old ways emerge from newer shapes contrived by a more modern methods of agriculture: there a hedge torn out, running two fields into one; here a rushy meadow drained and ploughed, changing forever the pattern of the countryside.

Winding through all this; dividing the spread of walled and hedged farmland, is the loaning. It is an oasis of peace, its timelessness unchanged and unspoiled, its memories unvioliate. To walk its slow length in the somnolent heat of a summer day is to be enveloped in a time-warp; a piece of lost Celtica, where the oak, the ash and the wild dog rose; alive with robin, blackbird, thrush and linnet-all representatives of the loveliness of nature once worshipped by the ancients who pitched their scattered settlements of wattle-walled clachans in these gentle drumlins.

The tumbled stone and mortar walls of much later settlements remain forlornly at the loaning side, overgrown now with nettle and briar and ivy. The names of their long departed occupants ring out like old English sea captains who might have cruised the Spanish Main with Drake, or took the Americans with Raleigh; Kydd and Haskins and Mount.

All this land that the loaning lies at the heart of is an historic metophorical palimpsest, scarred by the evidence of centuries of occupation by Celt and Gael and planter, extending right up to the present day.

Every indentation in hedge, every mark in flanking field is remembered, for we too have left our signature. Here we picked blackberries in white enamel pails, and drugged with sun, climbed the loaning to barter for the price of a cinema ticket in Herbie McDonald's shop near the old Banbridge road.

In these fields, running each side of the loaning, my father, following the gentle plodding Clydesdales, tied hay and corn in their season.
Flax was retted in this dark weed-choked pool, its pungency coating the air for days.

n this sheltered snuggery among the blackthorn bushes, the tinkers made camp, the smoke from their wood fires mingling with the first cool earthy smells of Autumn. Scents of childhood are still retained, hermitically sealed within the loaning's tangled hedges. They hang, heavily aromatic, in the closeness of the Summer air: the heady musk of cow-parsley, the sweet froth of elder, the cool dark rankness of fern. All combining to evoke memories of that concentrated conjecture that once accompanied a dreamy adolescent, teetering precariously on the brink of young manhood; whistling mournfully across the familiar fields or loitering abstractedly in the loaning, the big wide world beckoning: awesome and unknown and stretching invitingly; luring him irrevocably away - half wanting to remain, half wanting to go - from all that he knew and loved.

* LOANING -A lane: An open space for passage left between fields of corn.


The Break of Dromore was a small battle in or near the town of Dromore on Thursday, 14th March, 1689. It is part of what would become known as the Williamite Wars in Ireland. It was fought between units of the Irish Army led by General Richard Hamilton and protestant adherents of the new English King William III. Some of these protestants are named for us as Lord Mountalexander from Comber; Colonel Upton; Major Baker; Captain Magill and Sir Arthur Rawdon from Moira. The word break is a Scottish word meaning a rout. It was these protestant forces that were routed in the skirmish at Dromore. While the Break of Dromore was a small local event, its causes went deep into Irish history and the conflict of which it was a part began with events in England and in Europe.

In France the King was Louis 14th. Although small in stature and a narrow minded bigot, he had a determination to make France the most dominant power in Europe. He had built up his country's strength and between 1672 and 1679 waged a successful war against his neighbour Holland. Other European leaders especially those of the German states felt threatened by Louis' actions. In times of trouble, the Dutch states turned for leadership to the House of Orange. In 1672 the Prince of Orange was William, like Louis small in statue but one of the great European statesmen of the century. He built an alliance against Louis which included Holland, Brandenburg, Hanover, Saxony, Bavaria, Savoy, Spain, The Holy Roman Emperor and Pope Innocent XI who disliked Louis attitude to papal power and his treatment of French protestants, To strengthen this alliance William married Mary daughter of the future King James II of England and heir to the English throne. Through his wife Mary, William on the death of her father would become ruler of England with its wealth and power. In early 1688, Louis went to war against this alliance, a war that lasted until 1697. The Break of Dromore was a very small part of this great European Conflict.

The Break of Dromore was also a part of the great events unfolding in England in the year 1688 which would become known as the Glorious Revolution. James II had come to the throne on the death of his brother Charles in 1685. Brought up as a protestant James had turned to the catholic religion. His two daughters Mary and Anne were both protestants and Mary as heir to the throne was married to the champion of European Protestantism William Prince of Orange. James II tried to rule as an absolute monarch and succeeded in uniting against him people and parliament. In June 1688 his second wife Mary of Modena gave birth to a son. William and Mary would have no rights to the throne and England faced a succession of catholic monarchs. There was dismay in Holland and discontent throughout England. Three weeks later leading English public figures wrote a vague letter to William inviting him to come to England and restore "true liberties". Freed from defending Holland by Louis attack towards the German states and anxious to prevent a catholic England with its wealth and powerful navy from joining with France, William, with an army of 15,000 sailed for England landing at Torbay on the 5th November 1688. James fled to France and the English Parliament invited William and Mary to rule England.

But Ireland stayed loyal to James who was still its legal king. In March 1689 with French money and soldiers James II landed in Ireland hoping to use his Irish subjects as a stepping stone to regain the throne of England. A small army was quickly sent north to secure Ulster for James. It was this army that clashed with the protestants at Dromore.

In Ireland over the century land ownership had changed hands between protestants and catholic. In 1603 only 10% of the land was in protestant ownership. By 1640 after the plantation of Ulster this had risen to 40% and by 1688 after the Cromwellian settlement, protestants owned 78% of the Land. When James II became King of England, many dispossed catholic land owners began to look to James to restore their lands. Protestant landowners were alarmed. This alarm gave way to fear when Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyroconnell, known to protestants as Lying Dick, a catholic was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Against the law, Tyroconnell began to sack protestant Judges and army officers and appoint catholics in their place. When William landed in England in 1688 many protestants in Ulster began to look to him for protection and military aid. Warned by Tyroconnells reforms of the army and fearing a repeat of the events of 1641 when thousands of protestants had been killed in the Great Rebellion and taking encouragement from William landing in England, protestant landowners had begun to raise and train troops. In December 1688 protestant fears were increased by the hoax Comber letter sent to their leader Mountalexander.

A few days later the gates of Derry were shut and Ulster protestants were on the brink of rebellion. When James II landed at Kinsale in March 1689 he was forced to hold a parliament which restored all lands back to catholic ownership. If they wanted to keep their estates, protestants in the north would have to fight. In March General Hamilton was sent north with a force of about 2000 soldiers to crush protestant resistance.

This protestant resistance in North East Ulster was centred on Hillsborough. It was directed by a Supreme Council with Lord Mountalexander of Comber as its leader. The commander of the protestant forces was Sir Arthur Rawdon of Moira. The Irish army under Richard Hamilton had a simple task. It was to subdue Ulster and prevent help arriving from England. To do this it would have to capture Hillsborough and the ports on the east coast of Ulster. Some where it would have to cross the river Lagan and the most likely place to do this was at the ford in the old cathedral town of Dromore.

Sir Arthur Rawdon was ordered to gather the protestant forces and concentrate them at Dromore to guard the ford. The hills behind the Lagan would give him a good defensive site. On Thursday, 15th March, 1689 these two forces clashed at Dromore.

There are two main sources each giving a differing account of the battle. In his book a History of the Presbyterian Church in Ulster. Dr. Reid gives the following description of the battle. On Monday, 11th March the Irish Army arrived at Newry. Sir Arthur Rawdon with
drew his garrison from Rathfriland and he himself fell back from Loughbrickland to Dromore, the protestant inhabitants abandoning these towns. To Dromore came Captain Magill with a troop of Dragoons and Major Baker with four companies of foot soldiers. The protestant cavalry which was at Hillsborough was not sent to Dromore. On Thursday, 14th March units of the Irish army approached Dromore.

Sir Arthur Rawdon posted his foot soldiers under Major Baker in the streets of Dromore to guard the ford over the Lagan. He sent out his horse to reconnoitre the Irish army but surprised by the swift movement of the Irish army the horse hastily retreated and the foot gave way and fled. Many inhabitants of Dromore were killed. Lord Mountalexander, Colonel Upton and others marched to their support from Hillsborough but were unable to rally their troops and a general flight took place.

The second account of the battle was given by Alexander Colvill Webb in a letter to the Nation Newspaper dated 1843. He says the fight took place in the townland of Ballymacormic, the site being bisected by the Belfast to Dublin road. It was on the south side of Gallows Hill about 200 yards in front of Crow's Wood. The left flank of the protestant forces was protected by the common bog but their right flank was open to attack. The protestant forces must have launched some form of attack against the Irish army because according to Colvill Welsh they were repulsed, then retreated into Crow's Wood and dispersed over Cannon Hill. The words retreated and dispersed do not suggest a rout. Colvill Welsh does not believe that any of the inhabitants of Dromore were in the fight or if they were none was killed "if any had been killed in such a religious occurrence their graves to this day would be pointed out .... as the present churchyard was then the only burying place."

Possible Site of the Battle -
Area between Mossvale and Hillsborough Road (G.M.)

To say which is the correct version of the battle would be impossible but from other shorter sources we can find certain clues. It would be fair to say that the title of Dr. Reid's book is the History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland while Colvill Welsh was writing about the Break of Dromore and Colvill Welsh does attempt to explain why he reaches certain conclusions. As Colvill Welsh says the common bog would have given the protestant forces a secure left flank and it is clearly marked on all the old maps of Dromore. There is a description of Dromore dating from 1665. "There are noe buildinge in this Parish onely at Dromore. It beeing a Markett hath some old Thatcht houses and a ruined church." A census for the 1659 suggests that the population of Dromore was 48 Irish and 130 English and Scots. These two sources do not support Dr. Reid's claim that the protestant foot soldiers were in the streets of Dromore. It is difficult to believe that twenty odd years after these sources, Dromore would have been a town with many streets. Colvill Welsh is correct in saying there are no graves from this battle in the local churchyard. But that does not prove that no inhabitants of Dromore were killed. Consider following the battle of Aughrim 1691 the bodies of the Irish were not buried after the battle, it seems unlikely that protestant dead would have been buried in the churchyard. There are no proven graves of any of the dead from this battle. He is probably also correct in saying that few Dromore people took part in this battle. It is likely that the 48 Irish, catholics, had fled with the arrival of Rawdons protestant forces. Of the 130 English and Scots many were old men, young children, women and only a small number would have been men of military age.

In his account Colvill Welsh claims that the protestant forces retreated into Crow's Wood and dispersed over Cannon Hill. He is supported in this by another local source. E. D. Atkinson in his book Dromore an Ulster Diocese says. "Sir Arthur Rawdon retreated with the remnants of his troops to Coleraine and eventually Derry where they subsequently formed part of the heroic garrison who held the city through the memorable siege". We also know that Major Baker who commanded the protestant foot soldiers at Dromore was one of the leading figures in the siege of Derry. All of this does not support the idea of a protestant force, routed by the Irish, fleeing and being cut down by the Irish cavalry.

However Alexander Colvill Welsh gives us no details of the battle eg. names, numbers involved. The protestant forces were clearly in Dromore to guard the Lagan. But in Colvill Welsh's account they do not appear to have occupied the Norman Mound or the old stone castle built by previous generations of soldiers to prevent a crossing of the ford.

By moving up Gallow's Hill towards Crow's Wood their pikemen could not stop the Irish crossing the river and their muskets would have been almost out of range. They had lost their reason for being in Dromore and the battle before the first shots were fired. Major Baker who commanded the foot was a soldier by profession and in Derry showed he was a very capable officer.

Dr. Reid claims the protestant foot was posted in the streets of Dromore. While the word streets may cause us some concern it does seem a good place to station soldiers guarding the ford and taking advantage of any cover given to them by the houses. Three other sources seem to support Dr. Reid's version of the battle. E. D. Atkinson in Dromore an Ulster Diocese say "Hamilton rapidly advancing fell upon them and drove them in upon the main body of foot massed in the town .... seized with panic they broke and fled and numbers were ridden down and slain by their victorious pursuers". This is very close to Dr. Reid's version of the battle.

Dr. Reid claims that even before the battle, many inhabitants of Dromore had fled. This letter dated 6th December, 1688 seems to prove he was correct. "the English and Scots are under such apprehensions of fear that the Irish will rise and kill them that many families have removed themselves and gone to Newtown and many people have removed their wives and goods to Portaferry". Also in this book Jacobite Ireland the leading historian of the Williamite Wars J. G. Simms writes" The protestants appear to have mismanaged matters; the pick of their cavalry did not arrive in time, and the infantry in clanger of being surrounded by Hamilton's horse saved themselves by flight".

Whichever account of the battle is correct it is clear the protestants forces suffered a severe defeat at Dromore. There are a number of reasons for this. Bad leadership was an important factor. The protestants of North East Ulster had formed a Supreme Council with Lord Mountalexander at its head, but as J. G. Simms says "Mountalexander was an ineffective leader and his associates quarrelled with one another". What the quarrelling was about we do not know but it led to the fatal failure to concentrate all available protestant forces at Dromore. It was not until after the battle that Mountalexander, Colonel Upton and others marched to Dromore. The pick of the protestant cavalry never reached Dromore and there were other protestant garrisons throughout counties Down and Antrim that surrendered after the battle at Dromore without firing a shot. The quarrelling between the protestant leaders can even be seen after the battle. Sir Arthur Rawdon marched to Derry but Mountalexander escaped to the Isle of Man. It is interesting to note in passing that after the defeat at Dromore and during the siege of Derry effective control of the protestant forces passed from the nobility into the hands of the `common' people such as the Rev. George Walker a Church of Ireland Rector, Major Henry Baker, Adam Murray even though Sir Arthur Rawdon was at Derry.

Another important factor in the protestant defeat was the number and quality of the soldiers on both side. The Irish army numbered between 1500 and 2500 soldiers. These, although not well equipped or often paid, were units of the regular standing army and in later clashes such as the Boyne they proved to be good soldiers. Against this force the protestants were raw, untrained and undisciplined. They were also small in number and easily outnumbered by the Irish Army. Protestant forces at Dromore seem to have been the garrisons of Rathfriland and Loughbrickland, a troop of Dragoons under Captain Hugh Magill and four companies of foot led by Major Baker. These forces should have been much larger. As already mentioned there were protestant garrisons throughout counties Down and Antrim and the cavalry never arrived from Hillsborough. A Muster book of 1630 shows that in County Antrim there were 1618 protestants trained and equipped with weapons and in Co. Down there were 4045 such men including 2848 with swords, 1633 with pikes and 386 with modern muskets.

A third significant factor in the defeat of the protestant forces was weapons. "Tyroconnells next move was to send Richard Hamilton northwards with a force of 2,500 men including cavalry, dragoons and a few pieces of artillery". Protestant forces had cavalry and dragoon but not artillery. Even if the protestants had not mismanaged matters at Dromore, Hamiltons few pieces of artillery would have ensured their defeat. A better protestant tactic might have been not to give battle but to harm the Irish supply lines a tactic used successfully by the protestants at Enniskillen.

The consequence of the Break of Dromore could have been a disaster for William's cause in Ireland. The defeat at Dromore broke the morale and resistance of protestants throughout eastern Ulster. Richard Hamilton's Irish Army met no further resistance until he arrived at Coleraine by which time he had achieved a major part of his task to subdue north east Ulster and prevent help arriving from England through such ports as Carrickfergus. Many protestants fled the country and those who stayed were either shut up in Enniskillen or Derry or at the mercy of the Irish army. All protestant estates could now be confiscated and a century and a half of English and Scottish plantation in Ireland brought to an end.

All this could have been the consequence of the defeat of protestant forces at Dromore. But it was not to be. The failure of James to crush Derry and the protestant victory at Enniskillen meant that by the end of 1689 all of North Eastern Ulster was back in protestant hands and help from William had begun to arrive. Thus the Break of Dromore was not a decisive battle in Irish History and is left to the local historian to study. Even the local historian may be forced to conclude that the most important event in Dromore of that period was not the Break of Dromore but the passing through the town a year later of that Dutchman, who at the beginning of our story set out to oppose the ambitions of a French King. Yes William III Prince of Orange on his way to the Boyne ... and we all in the North of Ireland know what that did to the course of Irish History.

Penned following a visit to Navan Fort


My forefathers had no feeling for this place;
Planter protestantism denying them the Gael's kinship.
Cuchullain and the Red Branch Knights
Need never have happened for all they cared,
And Queen Macha's curse mattered not a damn
As they defaced history with limestone quarries.


As for me, full of unexplained attachments
To a history not entirely mine,
I identify with the ancient shrine
(Scratch me and you find a Kelt).
And yet, I cannot join the clan,
They side-step and close ranks
And my long-sowed roots
Keep me a nation-width away.

For we live in dreams always,
And mine are on the periphery,
Forever on the outside,
Hearing the soul of Ireland:
Plaintive fiddles and sad pipes;
Listening, enjoying,
Foot-tapping on the jigging floor,
But always uninvited,
Unable to rise and join the wave
Weaving patterns in the distant dance.

A part of old Dromore that has gone forever making way for the new roadway that links Meeting Street with the Banbridge Road (F.G.)