Big thank you from

Solving the mystery of the White Hall

by The Rambler 14/06/2002

FIRSTLY, a bit of good news (for me). Some Aghalee readers say that when they learn that there is something in the paper about their neck-of-the-wood they never can get one - they are all sold out! (It could happen).

I have had an encouraging feedback about The White Hall, which I was trying to locate. The most convincing is this. One hundred years ago Tommy Moffett had a village store at the Cranagh T-junction.

His dwelling house adjoined the business premises, and the block was whitewashed.

In front, on the road junction, there was a long, low, curved wall also white-washed, hence Moffett's was named 'The White Hall'.

People who have spoken to me were more interested in Joe Clarke.

Seemingly he was quite a 'car-actor' to quote the local team.

Joe lived in a mixed area and he was a bit of a 'prate-cher', always keen to discuss theology.

He had a special rapport with the local canon, who strolled White Hall way regularly.

Joe always looked out for him and they debated constantly.

Joe, although he "dug with the other foot", even attended missions which were held every two or three years in the chapel and avidly appraised the sermons.

A nice "fairy tale" was brandied around. It went something like this (outside the chapel gate).

"Well, Joe, what do you think of these boys?"

"They aren't half as good as the fellows who were here the last time. This is their second week and all I have got back, so far, is an oul shovel.

"The last time I got my wheelbarrow and two galvanised buckets back, the first week!"

In other words, some of the local boys who had sticky fingers, had done what the preacher had commanded, returning anything they had stolen.

Maybe it happened, but it is more likely that the local storytellers made it up on the spot.

Last week, I came across a similar legend in a seventy-year-old West of Ireland paper.

It was reported that missioners on duty there had had gallons of poteen and a couple of stills dumped at the side of the parochial house following a "hell fire" sermon which they had preached on the evils of illegal distilling and supplying of poteen. I found this report intriguing, since the Joe Clarke story was also circulating about seventy years ago. Copycat?

But, getting back to Doctor Muhr's book of place names. At page 228 she discusses the origin of "Ducks town" as an English nick name for Magheralin, and the reference in the ancient ballad to King William's ordering a thousand pairs of boots (or clogs) for the ducks of Magheralin.

She draws an inference from the name Ballynadrone ("townland between two rivers") which lies in the vicinity of the Steps Bridge, where there may have been a problem with flooding centuries ago. Not far from Ducks Street!

Ulster Star