Robert Common
B.Sc. Ph.D

Changing Dunmurry


First published December 2003
Robert Common 2003

Kingsway South Dunmurry Railway Station 1982

3: Caring Services

The first school in Dunmurry was located opposite the N.S. Presbyterian church and with two teachers it served both boys and girls from 1832 until 1909. After the 1892 Education Act x it was joined, in 1896, by Trinity and Stevenson schools. By 1901 the former was run by three teachers and the latter by two. The starting age of part timers at school was raised from 8 to 12 years in this year but not until 1930 were half timers' regulations changed.

Trinity at the south end of the village was associated with the local Presbyterian church while Stevenson, at the north end, came as the result of a family benefaction. Pupils came to both schools from a catchment area which included the village, Seymour Hill, Derriaghy, Suffolk and Finaghy. And from the early 20th century these schools really became interdenominational in character.

At Trinity1 the average yearly intake between 1896 and 1915 numbered 49, of which 25 were girls. From 1916 until 1935 this average intake increased to about 50, of which 26 were boys, and thereafter this annual average rose to 64, of which 34 were boys. Records for Stevenson2 suggest an annual average intake of 26 boys and 24 girls from 1896 until 1914. By World War I the teaching staff had risen to 3, between 1915 and 1941 the annual intake averaged 31, of whichu26 were boys. There were short-term influxes as the result of refugees fleeing from Belfast after the German bombings there in 1941 that killed 863 and injured 2361 persons. Indeed both Dunmurry and Finaghy schools were used as temporary rest centres where local teachers and other volunteers provided support and succour.

Samples of school reports provided by their inspectors are of interest. Firstly, they suggest that actual numbers of pupils attending a particular school fluctuated. Secondly, they indicate that pupil numbers varied between the two schools. Thirdly, the total number of pupils attending these schools did reflect the growth of population. Finally, they yielded pupil totals that were soon to be affected by the 1930 opening of a new Public Elementary school in the village, in Glenburn Road.

Estimated pupil numbers at:

Trinity    Stevenson  
1902 117 1909 133
1919 196 1919 170
1927 216 1926 137
1931/32  234 1931/32 143

x There were four independent Education Authorities in Ireland until 1921.

Teaching staffs were gradually increased to a principal with three or four teachers at these two schools, aided by the short-term appointments of assistants. Staff were paid monthly at rates related to their seniority and they enjoyed six weeks holiday in the summer, two weeks over Christmas and one week at Easter. From the records it is clear that many of them gave dedicated service to both the pupils and the schools. Pupils might expect to spend two or three years in an Infant section, followed by six or seven years of more advanced lessons. As well as "the three Rs" (reading, writing and arithmetic) the curriculum also included drawing, geography, history and science.

It needs to be recalled that the Ministry of Education was established here in June 1921 and that between 1923 and 1947 only primary education was compulsory. Not until 1947 was the statutory leaving age raised from 14 to 15. As the result of a new Education Act in 1947 the school scene was to be transformed by the provision of primary, secondary and further education. Henceforth Counties and County Boroughs were also expected to have Education Committees with designated responsibilities.

In 1928/29 it was officially agreed that a new Public Elementary school would be built in Dunmurry3 to accommodate 300 pupils and in October 1930 it was in being4. Both Trinity and Stevenson schools were then gradually run down. The P.E. school register indicates that pupil numbers had increased significantly by 1938. Pupil totals were briefly swollen in 1941 but then temporarily declined in 1944 and 1945.

During the second World War years Larkfield House, off Blacks Road, was first occupied by American troops but in 1946 part of the site became an Emergency Training College for ex-Service personnel. Subsequently there has been another role change with the establishment of Larkfield Secondary School5. Nearby, both Princess Gardens girls grammar school' and Rathmore Convent school were also established. In the case of Rathmore a preparatory school was opened in 1949, permission was granted for a grammar school in 1953 and then by 1957 St. Anne's primary school was opened.

Population growth and housing developments soon resulted in the establishment of new primary and secondary schools in Seymour Hill. Clear indications of additional needs after 1960 can be judged from the local school rolls for 1994/5. In Dunmurry village the primary school served 171 pupils whereas Seymour Hill provided for 272 primary pupils and St. Anne's catered for 40 children. Secondary education at St. Colm's (Twinbrook) provided for 522 children, Dunmurry High School served 402 children and 231 were on Larkfield's rolls. Hunterhouse (formerly Princess Gardens) and Rathmore provided for 667 and 1357 pupils respectively, with the latter being a coeducational school. And yet by this date a considerable number of young people still maintained a well-established habit of travelling in term time to educational facilities either in Belfast or in Lisburn.

x Ground for Princess Gardens was released in 1945.


In 1829 the Rev. Dr. H. Montgomery and his followers left the established Presbyterian church in Dunmurry, appropriating the church buildings, manse and churchyard6. Out of this split emerged the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian church and a new Presbyterian church, which was to be consecrated in the village during 1863. Roman Catholic and Anglican interests had to be satisfied elsewhere until a much later date. The former looked to Derriaghy or Hannahstown for most of the 19th century and not until 1995 did St. Anne's (Dunmurry) become a parish church in its own right. Like the nearby convent and school this church was based upon Rathmore House and its grounds. The House stood empty after World War II until 1948 when it became used as a convent. An empty storage facility in the grounds was also converted into a chapel for public use in December 1948 and was so used until replaced by a well-appointed church7.

By the time that the present Anglican church at Drumbeg was consecrated in 1870, a Sunday School had already been established in Dunmurry8, with the assistance of Drumbeg's select vestry. Public pressure for an Anglican church to serve the needs of a growing population in Dunmurry eventually resulted in a petition being presented to Drumbeg's select vestry in December 1903. Not until 1906, however, was a suitable site acquired and permission given for a chapel of ease to be built. Thus in 1908 some 308 persons attended the consecration service at St. Colman's on Church Avenue. Dunmurry. Time, population growth and sustained effort were next needed before parish status was achieved in 1932.

Early in the 20th century the percentages of population in Dunmurry townland subscribing to the main religions were 42 % Anglican, 38% Presbyterian and 13 % Roman Catholic. Of the remainder the Methodist church had become significant by 1911. In succeeding years the places of worship and the number of their adherents increased, firstly with the establishment of two gospel halls in the village and then by a Baptist church at Blacks Road.

The post World War II housing developments at Seymour Hill and Conway brought new Anglican and Presbyterian churches, as well as those for Methodist, Free Presbyterian and Moravian congregations. The rector and select vestry at St. Colman's first took on responsibilities for Anglican incomers to Seymour Hill where a combined church/hall was dedicated in 1958. Public demand then led onto parish status being attained in 1964 followed by the consecration of a new church building in 1970. As for the Roman Catholic church and parish in Dunmurry the established church at Derriaghy played a supportive role similar to that played by St. Colman's over St. Hilda's at Seymour Hill. A landmark event in the history of the Presbyterian church in Ireland is associated with Seymour Hill, when the first female minister (Ruth Patterson) ever to be appointed on this island took up her duties there.

x From the 1901 and 1911 Census data.

Sampled information from local church records gives an indication of changing fortunes in some Dunmurry congregations. Marriages in St. Colman's, for example, between 1908 and 1953 showed a low annual average rate of two until 1933 followed by an increased rate of four until 1946 and then another rise to seven annually after 1946. The average annual baptism rate between 1908 and 1918 was 13 in contrast to the average of 22 between 1939 and 1948. The actual baptismal totals in this first period showed males and females to be in equal numbers whereas males were more numerous in the latter period. Funerals averaged 14 per year between 1909 and 1918 but this average rose to 17 between 1939 and 1948. The numbers of deceased males and females were virtually the same in the periods selected9.

In the Presbyterian church the yearly average rate for marriages in the latter part of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century numbered seven whereas between 1947 and 1956 this average has risen to 10. Baptisms in the 1950-60 decade produced an average annual rate of 26. The Communicants Roll Book of members present at communion services indicated that five year averages of attendances over the years rose from 92 early in the 20th century to 160 after 195110.

At the nearby N. S. Presbyterian church the Baptismal Roll indicates that the average annual rate of baptisms soon doubled in the immediate post World War II years. This church possesses the only village graveyard and a name record of those interred there. The total number of females buried there between 1911 and 1930 outnumbered males whereas between 1900 and 1950 the male and female burial totals were almost equal. This name record has further interest, however, for it suggests that there have been lengthy family associations with this church and certainly back to the beginning of the 19th century11.

As well as providing religious and personal services to their own congregations the local clergy and church halls soon became involved in other social events. The religiously inspired "Catch My Pal" recreational hall was well established on the village main street by 1916. The hall of the Non-Subscribing church and then Trinity Hall have both been used regularly for the local Petty Sessions. Understandably the available church halls were put to various uses in World War II for Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) and Civil Defense purposes. Clearly the churches and their members have provided an important and ongoing contribution to the infrastructure of the local community.

Medical and health care
In 1852 the Dunmurry Dispensary Committee was established to serve a defined district about the village. From a small beginning its membership soon grew to 23. Its presence was quickly made known by public notices, the establishment of a dispensary in the village and the appointment of a doctor seeking to give medical help to poor persons12. By the spring of 1855 this Committee issued the first of many reports on the local incidence of water borne diseases related to poor water supplies and insanitary domestic conditions. Its members also became involved with the early establishment of effective vaccination programmes in their district. And so by 1906 this district was served by a resident Medical Officer and Sanitary Inspector, assisted by a Dental nurse, based upon "The Hill" in the village.

Records suggest that the number of village based doctors had doubled in the First World War years and then had doubled again by the end of World War II. Early in the 1950-60 decade this number of resident doctors had risen to eight, but not all of them practiced in the village, but provided their services elsewhere.

The Dunmurry District Nursing Society was established in 1896 seeking to provide services to sick, poor people. It continued its activities into the 20th century and the growth of its influence in the latter part of the 1920-30 decade is indicated by the fact that their own nurse attended c 66 maternity cases and 90 general cases in the year. Like a Local Relief Committee, also providing a range of humanitarian acts at this time, much depended upon the availability of local subscriptions and local volunteers13.

It was not until 194514 that the pressing needs for the medical welfare of mothers and children were officially recognized then followed by the provision of a purpose built clinic on the Upper Dunmurry Lane. The full time appointment of medical officers and qualified sanitary officers came in 1946. Home nursing and after care services became a responsibility of Local Authorities only in 1948. Also in these aftermath years of World War II the services of a residential dentist became available to the village. Dunmurry's public library" was relocated in the Upper Dunmurry Lane clinic on March lst 1963. This increased the pressure on space available for the Health Care services already there.

Clearly some additional information is required to set the foregoing material within a wider provincial context. Firstly, Poor Law Unions were the sources of District Dispensary Committees and they were established in the 19th century but continued to function here until 1946. They were focused upon sizeable towns across the province to serve these towns together with their surrounding rural districts, within a 10 mile radius. Dispensary Districts were set within Poor Law Unions and created by a subdivision of their areas of influence. Dispensary medical relief involved both doctors and nurses under the administration of Boards of Guardians. Because the Poor Law Union based upon Lisburn town involved part of Hillsborough's local Government area the name of Lisburn was used for designation purposes.

Secondly, prior to the Government of Ireland Act 1920 the development of social care across the province was slow. Social care then progressed steadily as Stormont governments followed social care provisions in Britain. A number of Unemployment Acts (N.I.) between 1920 and 1925, for example, introduced compulsory schemes to provide both "standard" and "extended" benefits. Schemes for the alleviation of unemployment problems were also provided with grants from both Westminster and Stormont.

x The local library had previously been located at the British Legion Hall on Ulster Avenue.

Thirdly, a most significant set of changes began shortly after World War II. Especially important was the National Insurance Act (N.I.) of 1946, which covered unemployment, sickness, old age and special needs arising, such as family allowance, maternity, widowhood and orphanhood15. The National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946 broadly covered all persons classed as employed in the aforementioned Act. With the Public Health and Local Government (Administrative Provisions) Act, also introduced in the same year, eight Welfare Authorities (i.e. six Counties and two County Boroughs) were charged with welfare functions previously carried out by Boards of Guardians. Shortly afterwards, in 1948, Assistance Boards were created by Act to be followed a year later by a Welfare Services Act which extended the powers of the Welfare Authorities. The scope of changes in health and social care has subsequently promoted the physical well being of most citizens in the province.

Caring Services Bibliography

  1. SCH804/1/1, 2, 3 and 4 in P.R.O.N.I.
  2. SCH498/1, 2 and 3, also SCH499/1/1 and 3 in P.R.O.N.I.
  3. LA47/2FA/11 in P.R.O.N.I.
  4. SCH804/1/5 and 6 in P.R.O.N.I. Also Lisburn Standard Oct. 31st 1930 for official school opening.
  5. LA47/2FA/20 P.R.O.N.I.
  6. A history of congregations in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, 1610-1982. Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland. Belfast 1982.
  7. Verbal information provided by a local parishioner (F. Hughes).
  8. Neill M. Ecclesia de Drum. Universities Press Belfast 1995.
  9. St. Colman's Funeral, Marriage and Baptism records inspected on site thanks to Rev. T. Priestly.
  10. MIC/IP/453 (1 and 3 Communicant Roll Books); MIC/IP/453/A/3 Baptisms; MIC/IP/ 453/B/7 Marriages. All in P.R.O.N.I.
  11. T1602/3 and T1602/1 in P.R.O.N.I.
  12. History of General Practice in Dunmurry. A summary statement provided by Dr. D. White "The Hill" Dunmurry June 1998.
  13. LA47/2FA/16 in P.R.O.N.I.
  14. LA47/2FA/18 Report: Recommendations on Maternity and Child Welfare for Dunmurry. (See also Lisburn Standard May 25ih 1928 for report on District Nursing Society's A.G.M.)
  15. Ulster Yearbook 1956. H.M.S.O. Belfast.

4: Change and Continuity

Many former residents of Dunmurry townland became increasingly reliant upon branches of the textile industry scattered across the area. From small beginnings in the 18th century branches of the linen industry flourished in the 19th century, with significant effects upon population numbers and their distribution.

One of the older family enterprises, i.e. the Hunter's, was associated with Dunmurry bleach green from 1790 until 1873 when it was replaced by Crawford's. In 1837 Hunter's employed some 50 men, but 30 years later involved 31 men and 9 women who worked a six day week and up to 12 hours daily. The Charley family acquired Seymour Hill facilities in 1822 and by 1837 employed c 40 men on bleaching activities there. At the same time on the nearby Glenburn estate 28 men were also engaged on the same work. More distant, to the southeast, the Lambeg Bleaching, Dyeing and Finishing works employed 28 to 34 persons between 1884 and 1886. By 1907/8, however, this labour force had risen to 201 men and 33 women1 working a six day week at daily pay rates of l0p to 20p or 2/- to 5/- for men but 6p to 7p or 1/2d to 1/6d for women. To the west the McCance family established themselves early in the linen trade at Suffolk, adding their own bleach works later at Kilwee. There 18 men and 9 women were employed in 1896, but 30 years later the Kilwee labour force had risen to 60.

Early in the 20th century these enterprises had been joined within the village by Barbour's spinning mill and the Milfort weaving factory. And yet by 1960 in spite of this growth and diversification there was only one remaining bleaching plant in operation at Seymour Hill. There, Blackstaff Spinning and Weaving Company first rented and then took possession of what had been Charley's mill, with a workforce of 60, to carry out bleaching, dyeing and finishing processes. This occurred in spite of Charley's having good business contacts in Ireland, Scotland and England, as well as, in 1925, an annual wage bill of c 2000.

Barbour's mill closed in 1939 but was then used for the wartime production of bakelite. Disuse between 1945 and 1957 was followed by renewed use for the Balmoral Bedding Company who employed 170 men and 30 women to make furniture, bedding and carpets. The Milfort Weaving Company operated between 1907 and 1926 when another family based business (i.e. McKinney) took over the plant to establish the Lilliput Laundry. By 1960 this enterprise employed 160 men and 50 women (again of local origin).

Crawford's Print Works occupied Hunter's works in 1873 and soon employed c 100 persons producing linen and cotton goods. This production ceased in 1930 but the property was next taken over by Stewart's for the making and the finishing of clothing until 19642. (Subsequently there has been a subdivision of this property for its use by a variety of small scale working units.)

Residents in the local area, unlike those is some other towns and villages, were fortunate in that Belfast and Lisburn were readily accessible as alternative places to seek work when, after 1924, adverse and fluctuating conditions really began to damage local textile enterprises.

It is also relevant to remember that the provincial unemployment rate between 1922 and 1928 averaged 19% whereas between 1934 and 1939 it had risen to an average of approximately 20%. In the 1922-28 period there were over 2000 officially sponsored Unemployment Relief Schemes affecting road and street works, public utilities and agricultural holdings across the province at a cost of c 2.7 million. Nearer to home the 1937 Labour Exchange unemployment rate was 19.3% in Belfast and 18.7% in Lisburn (compared with 3.6% in Belfast and 5.7% in Lisburn 20 years later)4. Both major outmigrations and minor inmigrations affected the provincial population figures in the interwar years. And in the Second World War some 60,000 job vacancies in Britain were filled by workers from this province5. Little wonder, therefore, that many of the older generation in the Dunmurry area can recall the direct and "knock on" effects of economic hardship, limited job opportunities and simple life styles that were forced upon them until the years following 19506.

During the 19th century and the interwar years of the 20th century the local labour force was used to long working days for low wages. Indeed it was not until after World War II that the Wages Council Act set better wages for male and female employees at a time when the production and use of synthetic fibres became increasingly important in the province's textile industry. Even though successive Governments introduced Acts to promote the diversification, expansion and development of provincial industry, the uptake locally was limited until after 19457. Between 1945 and 1964 Government sponsored industry did attract nine new enterprises, many of which were located on a designated Industrial Estate, beside The Cutts in S.W. Dunmurry. In 1958, for example, the Tellmit Gauges Company sought a location on this Estate, for an initial workforce of 75. This same year R.F.D. with a workforce of 160 and occupying wartime buildings, sought to expand its operation in the village. Again in 1960 Wandleside Warren Company, making electrical equipment, was involved with leasing arrangements for an advanced factory in the same Estate8. Grundig began a lengthy association with this location between 1960 and 1983, providing another source of local employment in that period. But, as has already been indicated, there has been a continuing willingness amongst local people to innovate in the reuse of older, disused industrial properties to maintain the presence of small scale enterprises. They have also been prepared to accept the inflow of new residents who, while not necessarily working in the village scene, have enriched the social fabric of the community in diverse ways.

In 1901 it is estimated that 46% of the local population provided a labour force composed of males and females. At that time 46% of this labour pool was engaged in textile work. By 1961 it is suggested that while 45% of the resident population provided the labour force, considerable changes had occurred in its work places. At this time the labour force in local industry could have been equalled by persons engaged in service activities to the community. It also seems probable that a greater proportion of local people were now travelling to work, away from their places of residence, than ever before. Even so the services of the baker, greengrocer, fishmonger, mineral water salesman and coal merchant were still on offer at house doors during the working week, in the village and surrounding district!

Functions in and about the village
Consideration has already been given elsewhere9 to the number of different activities within Dunmurry during the 19th century, when primary production associated with the land was to be surpassed by secondary enterprises associated with linen manufacture. A brief statement and summary diagram of the number of different functions provided within the village, between 1901 and 1961, can suggest some of the changes that have occurred there (see Table 1).

By 1901 the village population exceeded 1000 and the number of different functions (i.e. the Functional Range) totalled 3010. Because of duplications, however, there were 41 actual outlets for these functions. In that year Dunmurry possessed a Functional Range (F.R.) similar to that at Carnlough which had a population of 592, whereas Castlederg. Kilrea and Portstewart with comparable populations to Dunmurry possessed F.R. values of 51, 56 and 30 respectively.

Dunmurry's F.R. had risen to 35 in 1916 whereas Ballycastle with the same population total possessed a F.R. of 76. Some former functions had been lost in the village but these were more than offset by gains. Village clubs and associations had now been established. Petty sessions were held monthly and additional personal services were forthcoming. Milfort weaving factory and Miss Gamble's "Ladies School" were also in place.

Although Dunmurry's F.R. had risen to only 39 by 1926 it now possessed most of the basic functions and services to be found in other provincial settlements of comparable size, i.e. church, school, post office, grocer, pub or hotel, carpenter, draper, tailor, butcher, newsagent, police, hardware shop, doctor and chemist. Noteworthy additions by this date included an Ulster Bank agency, confectioner, motor garage, British Legion hall and Cooperative store.

(Source Belfast and Province of Ulster Directories)

  1. Dates
  2. Approximate village population
  3. Village Functional Range (F.R.)
  4. Actual outlets available
  5. Institutional outlets (church, school, police, post office, doctor, nurse, registrar, dentist, chemist, bank)
  6. Apparel outlets (draper, shoemaker, shoe repairs, tailor, dressmaker, fashion wear)
  7. Food and drink outlets (butcher, grocer, Cooperative store, confectioner, tobacconist, greengrocer, dairy, baker, miller)
  8. Housing and building (contractor, carpenter, house agent, general store, plumber, painter, electrician, upholsterer)
  9. Transportation and communications (railway station, motor service point, motor engineer, printer, newsagent)
  10. Industrial (linen thread, weaving, bleaching, dye works, body shop, A.S.R. equipment, laundry, industrial supplier)
  11. Recreational (Orange Hall, Catch My Pal, British Legion, Golf Club, Youth Club, playing fields)
  12. Other personal services (optician, financial, insurance, coal, gardener, hairdresser, solicitor, osteopath)

There were c 2100 villagers by 1933 when the F.R. stood at 35 as the result of more social and economic changes. Dunmurry P.E. school had been opened and Lilliput Laundry and dye works now functioned in the former Milfort factory.

In 1946 when post World War II recovery was beginning the village F.R. stood at 38. Although the services of a contractor, greengrocer, petrol filling station and ladies' fashion shop had been added the functional outlet total remained at 49, as it had done since 1926.

Village population exceeded 3000 in 1953 when the F.R. was 44 but the functional outlets had multiplied to 81. The presence of an insurance agent, estate agent, funeral furnisher, car service station and bakery reflected the growth of more specialist services and increased population numbers. Less than 10 years later the F.R. amounted to 55 while the outlet total had reached 98. The former Barbour mill was now used for furniture making, the Ulster Transport Authority (U.T.A.) body shop had become a fabrication plant for Air Sea Rescue Equipment (R.F.D.) while Crawford's former textile mill was in use by Stewarts clothing firm. Welfare clinic services, car and tractor agencies, for example, were other indications of the widening range of functions.

The N.I. Housing Trust development at Seymour Hill made early provision for some basic social services to be available. Thus by 1959 five shops and three churches were in place. In 1961 the service provision included a baker, grocer, butcher, draper, newsagent, confectioner and sub post office. Also near at hand were a hotel, linen enterprise; doctor, Orange Lodge hall, a primary school and another church.

Residential preferences
Records provided in the Belfast and Province of Ulster Directories11 indicate that some resident traders carried on their business affairs uninterruptedly for lengthy periods of time. Many of these persons made their marks on various aspects of social life hereabouts and their numbers are now worth noting.

Between 1900 and 1926 some nine individual traders each provided at least 10 years interrupted service. These included a blacksmith, tailor, grocer, carpenter, coal merchant, publican, hardware dealer, shoemaker and dressmaker (see Table 2). From 1926 until 1946 there were 18 traders providing at least 10 years of continuous service. Newly included were a builder, grocer/newsagent, stationer/ newsagent, dressmaker, confectioner, chemist, greengrocer and motor engineer. There were 10 traders providing at least 10 years uninterrupted service between 1946 and 1961. Indeed upon inspection not less than 18 of these traders had served for at least 20 years continuously between 1901 and 1961.

Many professionally qualified residents have also served locally for periods of 10 years or more between 1900 and 1961. Their numbers included six clergymen, i.e. Revs. R. Arnold, J. Kelly, R. Davey, R. Ellis, J. McCleary and G. Ferguson. Similarly involved were eight general practitioners, i.e. Drs. G. Gaussen, R. Hunter, W. Colhoun, M. Colhoun, J. White, E. White, C. Alexander and R. Johnston. Amongst the 10 long serving school teachers were Messrs. Marlow, Burns, Chesney, and Foster; Mrs. Hamilton; and Misses Spence, Trainer, McFarlane, Gamble and Lewis.

Table 2

The presence of large houses in their own grounds across the district and the past involvements of their occupants with the local community have been noteworthy. Family names possessing lengthy associations with these particular properties between 1900 and 1960 include Barbour (Conway), Charley (Seymour Hill), Paul (Dunmurry House), Anderson (The Park), Bunting (Larkfield), Dixon (Wilmont), Hall (Rosemount), Bryson (Huntley) and McCance (Woodburn). Many of these properties were either lost or changed their function in the 20th century but they are worth recalling as reminders of the way that change can soon eradicate items with culturally significant associations in a district.

From these brief considerations and remarks such as those recorded in "Dunmurry Reflections"12 by local people it seems that there was a stable population base hereabouts in the recent past. This in turn fostered a shared sense of continuity amongst local people. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that incomers to Seymour Hill and then Conway took several years to settle down and then generate their collective feeling of "togetherness" in their new housing estates.

Social fabric
The social fabric is a product of the combined effects of relationships and shared experiences between residents of a settlement or a district, over a period of time. Expectations of life, personal interests, interactions with neighbours and resources available for non-basic activities serve either to enrich or stultify the nature of this fabric. Directly and indirectly religious and political affiliations, as well as official agencies can also influence attitudes and the activities associated with them. Hereabouts the influences of the Church have tended to decline whereas those of political affiliations and statutory agencies have tended to increase as the 20th century progressed. Like the individual and group awareness of residents to the physical, built and social environments to which they are exposed the social fabric has added its share to the well marked "sense of place" that pervaded Dunmurry in the first 70 years of the 20th century.

Before 1910 an indication of active group interest was shown locally by the establishment of a golf club in 1905 and the building of an Orange Hall in 1908. By the end of World War I collective public interest was expressed over the state of Main Street (Kingsway) and its traffic, the dangerous railway crossing to Church Road (Ashley Park) and the felt need for proper street lighting. Late in 1922, J. Milne Barbour offered land for a small public park in the village, an individual gesture soon to be officially accepted and named after the donor. By the mid 1920s Dunmurry residents were again expressing shared dissatisfactions over the incidence of water borne diseases, unsatisfactory sanitary conditions and careless disposal of household refuse, complaints readily endorsed by the local Dispensary Committee. And before this decade ended a thriving village football club was established, proposals for a Mission Hall accepted and a flute band actively present.

The village population exceeded 2000 by 1930 and in spite of, or maybe because of, poor economic conditions the range of shared social activities multiplied. As a result of felt needs a long to be used Scout and Guides hut appeared, in contrast to a short lived village Quoiting Club. Official permission. by licence, was given for Trinity Hall to be used for entertainment purposes in 1936 and shortly afterwards it was also granted to the Orange Hall and then to St. Colman's Hall. Public awareness by now had directed attention to the need for the services of a Fire Brigade. This prudent request was soon to be satisfied by arrangements with Belfast Corporation.

With 1938 came new unifying challenges involving Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) and Civil Defence (C.D.), in the face of a common, external threat. A year later there were six A.R.P. posts, two First Aid parties, one Rescue party, one Decontamination crew and two Auxiliary Fire patrols in the local area. Space in Trinity Hall, Dunmurry House, the Orange Hall and Lilliput Laundry was soon pressed into war service, just as extra space was next found in Dunmurry House for the local Women's Voluntary Service (W.V.S.).

German air raids on Belfast in the spring of 1941 produced an inflow of refugees into the village and the use of Dunmurry and Finaghy P.E. schools as Rest Centres from mid April until late May. One consequence of these unfortunate experiences was the decision to erect A.R.P. shelters in the district. The village was also declared to be part of a Neutral Area reserved for the future billeting of homeless, non-priority persons as the result of further air raid damages. Not surprisingly, St. Colman's church hall, in use as a Control Centre, also came to be considered as a communal feeding centre for meals to be charged at rates similar to those in the Belfast British Restaurants sponsored by the Government to provide basic meals at low prices.

Moves to wind down A.R.P. and C.D. arrangements came in 1945 as residents began to adjust themselves to continuing austerity and the fact that future physical developments in the district would involve Antrim County Council as well as Lisburn Rural District Council. By now the District Nursing Society. which began in the late 19th century was inadequate to meet maternity and child welfare needs. New proposals were forthcoming and included the building of a nurses' home and clinic on land gifted by J. Milne Barbour, along with the establishment of a dedicated working committee that included local residents.

The pressing need for temporary housing resulted in vacated Army Nissen huts at Ballybog being converted into three bedroom and two bedroom houses in 1947. Residents in both Dunmurry and Finaghy were now pressing for public playing fields at this time. When Fullerton Park was officially opened in 1950. at Dunmurry, applications to use its facilities had already been received from the Church Lads Brigade, the Boys Brigade, Dunmurry Boys Club, two local football clubs, a tennis club and a hockey club.

During the 1950-60 decade, when the village population exceeded 3000, a succession of sectional interests demonstrated their presence and intents once more. A Ratepayers Association of 60 members was formed in 1953 and immediately sought improvements to the state of the Glen burn, roads and footpaths in parts of the village, along with better traffic control and more street lighting. In the same year a Senior Citizens Club looked for a site and also support for their own clubhouse in the village. Within six months these objectives had been achieved and their Maxwell Hall was aptly named after an important local supporter of this initiative. (It was to serve its purpose well, before its untimely removal in recent years.)

In 1901 the population in Dunmurry townland was predominantly Protestant by religious persuasion, with the greatest number of them residing in the village. Most Roman Catholics dwelt in the western part of the townland. By 1961 noteworthy increases of Roman Catholic residents had occurred in and near Suffolk, as well as at Dunmurry, Seymour Hill and Killeaton. Over the same period the structure of the local population had also changed, bringing with it a transformation from a small upper class and large working class to one in which a sizeable middle class gradually emerged13. Not surprisingly a number of distinctive neighbourhoods came to be recognized in the properties of the mature and older parts of the village14. On the other hand it is interesting that in spite of the rising number of motor vehicles using the Al through route along Kingsway this street has remained the preferred linear location for business, trade and institutional affairs in the local district.

To this point the influence of local and external factors upon developments had, for the most part, been peaceful. Wartime service in the Forces by some residents did, unfortunately, have sad consequences for their families and friends. After 1960 the patterns of social life were to change locally, for both predictable and unpredictable reasons, as the century progressed.

Change and Continuity Bibliography

  1. D/1770/4/10 Lambeg's wage books 1907-08. P.R.O.N.I.
  2. Common R. Water and Society in Ulster. Northern Geographical Essays. House J. (edit) University of Newcastle 1967.
  3. Ulster Yearbook 1938. H.M.S.O. Belfast.
  4. COM63/1/479 and COM63/1/174 in P.R.O.N.I.
  5. Ulster Yearbook 1947. H.M.S.O. Belfast.
  6. Neill D. Social Services in British Association Handbook. Belfast 1952.
  7. Isles K. and Cuthbert N. An economic survey of Northern Ireland. H.M.S.O. Belfast 1957. Sections concerned with manufacturing, linen and distribution of industry provide fuller insights.
  8. Lisburn Herald 1958 carried observations on R.F.D., Wandleside and Tellmit.
  9. Common R. Some Observations on Dunmurry's Past. Regency Press. Belfast 1999.
  10. McManus M. The Functions of Small Ulster Settlements in 1854, 1899 and 1916. Ulster Folklife (39) 1993. Ulster Folk Museum, Cultra, Co. Down.
  11. Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory. Belfast Newsletter Ltd. Belfast.
  12. Dunmurry Reflections compiled by Hall M. (Island Publications) Regency Press. Belfast 2001.
  13. Belfast Urban Plan, Main Report p124. Building Design Partnership. Belfast 1964.
  14. Elliot A. Dunmurry - a former mill village near Belfast. B.Sc. thesis Geography Department Q.U.B. 1962.


As a professional geographer, resident in Dunmurry since 1960, I am well aware of the planned and unplanned developments that have occurred locally between 1960 and 2000. Some indication of these events is provided from the following:

  1. Northern Ireland from the Air. Common R. (edit) Queens University Belfast 1964. Locally relevant information is provided in chapters on "The Settlements" and "The Future".
  2. Northern Geographical Essays. House J. (edit) University of Newcastle 1967. Information on Dunmurry is available in my chapter on "Water and Society in Ulster".
  3. Common R. Irish Troubles. Town and Country Planning 1970. Concerns are expressed about the need for proper public consultations over planning projects.
  4. Common R. The 1970 Glenburn floods and their implications. Irish Geography 1971. These problems resulted in a chapter in my Geography Department Research Paper No. I produced at Queens University 1977. (Flood protection work followed later.)
  5. Common R. A community under siege 1970-1977. Renewal Design and Print. Lisburn 1980. The terrorist campaign and civil disorder within a one mile radius of Dunmurry Post Office were the concern of this publication.
  6. Common R. The Borderlands of Belfast in 1981. Church of Ireland Gazette. Lisburn March 1981. A wider survey of the troubled conditions in and about Belfast.
  7. With the assistance of M. McAnespie three short papers were privately produced and copies delivered to selected recipients: 1994. An analysis and assessment of the state of the built and semi-natural environment about Dunmurry village.

    1995. Recreation and amenity land about Dunmurry

    1996. A proposal for a dedicated cycle linkage on the linear parkland of Dunmurry.



Silurian Period
Rocks of the Silurian period were laid down between 430 and 440 million years ago, in the Palaeozoic era.

Tertiary Era
The Tertiary era occurred between two to 70 million years ago.

Bronze, Neolithic and Iron Ages
Archaeologists estimate that Neolithic farming settlers lived here 4000 to 5500 years ago. They were succeeded by folks of the Bronze Age 3000 to 4000 years ago who were succeeded by folks of the Iron Age 1650 to 2100 years ago.

Anglo Norman Period and Plantations
The Anglo Norman period in Ireland ran from 1 150 to 1550 A.D. to be followed by the Plantations between 1550 and 1700 A.D. Both periods were associated with the influx of people and varying degrees of political and cultural change.

Depression Years
A world wide economic slump began in 1929. Recovery in the early 1930s occurred sooner and more effectively in Great Britain than it did in N. Ireland.