Julie Spence recalls a tragedy which shocked the whole of Lisburn
One of the most unfortunate stories in the history of the area happened in 1910 when an entire family perished in a house fire in the street.
On January 10, a terrible fire gutted a two-storey house in Bridge Street and lamplighter David Fegan (49), his wife Sarah Ann Fegan (37) and four children, Patrick (8), David (6), James Edward (4) and Mary Jane (2) all lost their lives.
Three men also lodged in the house but they made their escape through a back window virtually untouched by the flames that engulfed the house.
The outbreak was discovered at 3.40am by Sergeant Torrens and a constable, who were on patrol duty, but -despite attempts to rescue the family, their lifeless bodies were found inside.
When it was discovered the entire Fegan family had perished, the news caused a painful sensation in the town and many of those present wept openly in the street.
When an inquest was held, the three lodgers came under heavy criticism for their 'selfish' actions in making no attempt to save the Fegans.
Giving evidence at the inquest, one of the lodgers, Patrick Lundy, a coal carrier, stated that he lodged in the house with John Kindle and James Martin. He went on to tell that he awoke at around three in the morning to find smoke bellowing up the stairs. He shouted to the other two lodgers and the three escaped through a back window. Under cross-examination Lundy admitted that he was ashamed of himself for not doing more to save the family downstairs.
The coroner remarked that he did not think the lodgers were the stuff from which heroes were made. The coroner also commented he had never remembered in all his experience anything to resemble the 'very deplorable calamity' in Bridge Street. It was agreed that the fire was accidental and noted that 'Fegan was known to be a sober respectable man'.
The foreman of the jury also tendered heartfelt sympathy to the family and commented that 'it was a dreadful catastrophe, the like of which was never known in Lisburn'.
The inactivity of the three lodgers to help the stranded Fegan family shocked the whole of Lisburn. The entire community shunned the three men and eventually they were forced to leave the town. They were openly abused in the streets and refused goods in shops. They eventually left the town, with Patrick Lundy moving to Newry and John Kindle and James Martin going to Belfast.
A few weeks after they left town, rumours began to circulate that the ghost of one of the Fegans had been tormenting Patrick Lundy. Lundy told a friend that he saw the apparition of Patrick Fegan and that the boy looked very happy. He said he was glad of the sighting, as it seemed to let him know that the boy still regarded him as a friend.
The Lisburn Historic Quarter is currently collecting stories and memories from local people who lived and worked in Bridge Street to put together in a booklet about the area and they are keen to hear from anyone who may have a story to tell.
They are particularly keen to hear from anyone who may have more information on the Fegans and the terrible fire that took their lives.
If anyone has any more information on the Fegans, exactly where they lived or any other memories of life in Bridge Street, contact Julie-Ann Spence at the Ulster Star on 92 679111 or Patricia Cusack at the Historic Quarter on 92 660625.