Northern Ireland Peace Walls
21 Miles! That’s the total length of the Peace Walls in Northern Ireland. Sometimes called Peace Lines, Peace Walls or Desisive Lines, they help to keep the peace between the two sides of the divide. Well most of the time!
The walls replace the barricades, first erected in 1969 by both sides of the community to help depend their community from attack and and also to mark their territory. The loyalist side would erect Union Jack flags and the Nationalists would erect the Irish Tri Colour.
When the army moved in later that year the make shift barricades would have been removed and replaced with corrugated iron, 8 -10 freet tall. Some would have had doors that would have been locked at night by the security forces or members of the community. Some remained close permanently, never to reopen again.
Today we have moved on, or backwards and we have massive concrete walls reinforced with steel. Some of these are as high as 25 feet and they attract many tourist and public figures. The Cupar Way wall divides the Shankill from the Falls and Springfield Roads in West Belfast. This wall contains in the region of 3 million signatures form visitors from all over the World.
So when will the walls come down? or will the ever come down? The Northern ireland executive are commited to remove all the walls by mutual consent by 2023. Of course it would be great if this could happen and that we all could finally meet our close neighbors. In some cases, these neighbours live less than the height of the wall that separated them from one another, but who they have never met nor spoken too.
It should be of course up to the people on both sides of the walls to agree to any removal and not the elected representatives who dont live in close proximity to the wall to decide.
The Shankill Road Graveyard
The Shankill Graveyard had been used as a burial ground for over one thousand years, among the 500 Hundred Thousand people said to be interred there contains those from all walks of life, rich, poor, men of the cloth, members of Parliament, and soldiers from the great, and Williamite wars, there is also a section where many victims of the great Cholera outbreak of 1832 are laid to rest.
The Shankill Graveyard is such a Historic site, to learn of our past or just to sit and reflect in the beautiful garden of rest and although it is no longer used for burials it contains a special area where cremated remains can be scattered and a stone memorial plinth for recording and remembrance.
Shankill Road Graveyard
Poem by local man Albert Haslett
In the garden of rest on the Shankill I was amazed at once by the scene
The paths were so neat and tidy
And the grass so short and green
No sign of litter or beer tins
People just sat on the seats
Enjoying the sun at their leisure
Such a feeling of great content
Made me want to care
As I looked around at the headstones
I felt there was someone there
There was a feeling of silence
as I looked at the names of the past
Mill workers, merchants, and builder
The rich and the poor of Belfast.
As I took in this aura of history
Like a book with page after page
I saw a stone to a Royal Air Force man
Killed at fourteen years of age
Memorials to famous people
Names you have often heard
The Nelson Family from Sugarfield
the Telegraph founder William Baird
Then I gazed again at the people
Sharing their worries in chat
Do they think as often as I do
That this will be their lot
When their name is called by the One above
Their trouble at once will cease
And like the people who went before them
I pray they will rest in peace
The Nelson Memorial Church
Nelson Memorial Church sits in Sugarfield Street just off the Shankill Road and is a Grade B1 Listed Building.
The Church was completed in 1887 and designed by William J Gilliland who also designed the Crumlin Road Methodist Church and the Bank of Ireland building on High Street Belfast.
The Church is a memorial to the Rev Isaac Nelson who ministered at Donegal Street Presbyterian Church before becoming a Nationalist MP for Co Mayo.
The Church no longer functions as a place of worship and a bust of the Rev Isaac Nelson and the two World War Plaques have been removed and are stored in the nearby Spectrum Centre for safe keeping.
Shankill Road Memorial Gardens
The Shankill Road Memorial Gardens are dedicated to the nine innocent victims of a no warning bomb explosion in Frizzells Fish Mongers on the Shankill Road on 23rd October 1993.
Situated beside West Kirk Church, the gardens were opened on 29th May 1994 and also commemorate the many victims from the community during WW1, WW2 and more recent conflicts
Within the Gardens are a Memorial Stone and a Memorial Lamppost, which has a casket entombed within it, containing the ashes from the many thousands of floral tributes that were placed at the Shankill Road Bomb site.
Shankill Road Memorial Gardens
St Matthews Church sits at the junction of the Woodvale and Shankill Roads and has served the community since 1869. Designed and built by the renowned architects, Welland and Gillespie, who built many Church of Ireland churches throughout the North and South of Ireland.
St Matthews is built in the shape of the shamrock and the ancient Irish symbol of a round tower.
This building replaced the one where St Matthews parochial hall now stands. This site is believed to be the oldest Christian site in Belfast, dating back to around 455AD. It is said that St Patrick himself visited this site. The name Shankill means Old Church in Gaelic.