The view from the Whitemountain has changed over the past two hundred years and no doubt will continue to do so in the future.
Dr. Benjamin Workman, born in 1794 at Ballymacash, Lisburn left the area in 1819 and emigrated to Canada where he embarked on a career path that eventually led to success.
He later recalled in his journal one of those childhood experiences that had made a lifelong impression on him whilst residing at Ballymacash. When he was about 6 years of age he accompanied his father, Joseph, to the summit of Whitemountain. "For the first time I discovered that the blue sky I had gazed upon with my infant eyes did not touch the earth at the horizon."
His father pointed out to him the local villages and towns and he counted out a total of 21 church steeples. Lambeg, Lisburn, Hillsborough, and Moira were some amongst some of the places pointed out to young Benjamin. Marengo in Italy was however not in their sights, but was very much the topic of conversation at that time.
He recalls his father mentioning the recent success by Napoleon Bonaparte at The Battle of Marengo, Italy and wondering how the allies were progressing as he fixed his eyes on the horizon viewed from the Whitemountain.
"This trip to the mountain had a very marked influence upon my mind. I had realised the fact that I lived in a world not merely bounded by the horizon; but a vast extent, and I became exceedingly anxious to learn something about distant countries and different nations." The seed had been sown.
The Ordnance Survey Memoirs from the 1830 period record that the Plover Plain on the summit of the Whitemountain was a popular place for the plover bird and a favourite site to bold inspections and reviews of the yeomanry.
The townland of Whitemountain in the mid 19th century covered approximately 486 acres and there were 28 houses recorded there in the Griffith's Valuation of Ireland. Their occupants included the names of Armstrong, Belshaw, Byrne, Crawford, Crolly (Crawley), Crowe, Elliott, Fenning, Graham, Jackson, Johnston, Leckey, Maxwell, McCaul, McCourt, McDowell, McKeown, McKinstry, Morrow, Steel, Stevenson, Watson and Willis. Emigration from the townland over the years was a microcosm of wider society through the 19th and early 20th centuries. Members of the Watson , McCourt and Armstrong families had settled in the United States of America, Canada and Scotland.
The Ordnance Survey Memoirs also make reference to antiquities in the area and artefacts located by residents in the early 19th century Most of these were located in farmlands situated in tbe north-east of the townland. It was claimed that King James's Chair was situated in the face of a rocky eminence in the side of a hill. The ruin of a ringfort, discovery of quern stones and ancient weapons indicate that there had been past human activities in the area for many centuries.
In June 1851 it was reported that a cow had been killed on the Whitemountain when struck by lightning during a storm. It was the property of a Mr. W. Graham, a brewer in Lisburn. The previous month a young girl had been killed by lightning beside another farm owned by Mr. Graham in the County Down area of Lisburn.
In February 1859 Belfast Newsletter reported that the Whitemountain was one of the locations on which tar barrels were placed and lit to celebrate the birth of the son of Walter T. Stannus, a popular agent of the Hertford estate. A similar celebration was reported in March 1863 when the Prince of Wales married Alexandra of Denmark.
In March 1774 a farm in the vicinity called White Mountain was advertised to be let. It contained eighty English acres and there were two limekilns on the property. The advertisement states that limestone was very convenient. A similar reference to the availability of limestone was made in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs.
There is a reference to lime kilns in the area in the Belfast Newsletter in May 1869. £7 had been approved at the summer presentment sessions for the repair of 400 perches of road from Lisburn to Glenavy "by Cahoons limekilns, between Jefferson's kilns, and the Ballymacash Road, in the townland of Whitemountain." The death of a Mr. R. Cahoon, a local farmer and limeburner from Whitemountain, had been reported in 1843 when he had been found drowned in the canal at Lisburn, having gone to the quay on business.
There are many stories of events in and around the area of the Whitemountain including neighbour disputes and assaults. The alleged perpetrators and victims now rest in peace in the surrounding graveyards at Stoneyford, Derriaghy, Magheragall and beyond. It is said that "mountain dew" was made in the vicinity many years ago. The topography of the mountain area provided natural cover from prying eyes and excise officers.
During the German bombing raids on Belfast during the second world war there was at least one evacuated Belfast family shared a cottage with a local family in the Whitemountain area. Their children attended the local primary school at Ballymacash.
There are still some people in the district who can recall attending the annual open-air meeting at an area known as "The Lumps." An example of a typical advertisement for one of these services appeared in The Ulster Star on the 5th June 1965. "Magheragall Methodist Church Annual Open-Air meeting will (D.V.) be held at The Lumps, Whitemountain - by kind permission of Mr. D. Benson on Sunday, 6th June, 1965 at 3.30p.m."
In 1979 The Ulster Star published an advertisement for the sale of "an outstanding building site" at Whitemountain Road. "A truly magnificent site commanding uninterrupted panoramic views over the Lagan Valley and Dromara Hills beyond." There have been a lot of changes since Dr. Benjamin Workman stood at the Whitemountain and surveyed the surrounding countryside.
A friend of mine, who resides in the vicinity, once told me that the people in the town and surrounding area will readily complain if their view of the Whitemountain landscape was to be changed by the erection of a building or other man-made feature on the slopes. He added that they never stop to think about how his view is constantly been spoiled by the ongoing development and building at the foot of the mountain and the district beyond that.
I must agree with him. I did have some difficulty one summer's day spotting Hillsborough's Third Marquis of Downshire monument due to the sun glistening off the new factory roofs as I surveyed the ever changing landscape from the Whitemountain Road. That's progress!
For further information on the Whitemountain see the Whitemountain & District Community Association website - https://whitemountain.ruralcommunitynetwork.org.
The Digger can be contacted via The Ulster Star office or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.