Category Archives: History

Woodvale Park

Woodvale Park

Woodvale Park

woodvale parkJPG - Woodvale ParkOn the present site where Woodvale Park now sits once stood a private dwelling called Woodville House, surrounded by 24 acres of land.

In 1887 the house owner the Rev. Octavius Glover sold the site to the Belfast Corporation for the yearly fee of £217 and 13 shillings.

It is believed the sandstones pillars, gates and railings cost £400 to erect.

The idea behind opening Woodvale and other parks in and around Belfast was to give the working class the opportunity to enjoy fresh air and open spaces away from the unhealthy environment of the surrounding textile mills and smog filled streets

Northern Ireland Peace Walls

Northern Ireland Peace Walls

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.

IMG 1771 - Northern Ireland Peace Walls

William Conor

William Conor

William Connor Local Artist

William Connor was born on 9th May 1881, 5 Fortingale Street, which ran from Agnes Street to the Old Lodge Road, Belfast.  One of six children, five sons and one daughter his parents were William and Mary Connor Nee Wallace.

Williams talent was first noticed at the age of ten when his chalk drawings on slate attracted the attention of his music teacher at school who encouraged him to attend the Belfast Art College.

William was often seen in and around the Shankill area leaning on lamp posts or shop fronts sketching the local people going about their daily routines.  He loved to capture the clothing and the facial expressions of those around him, during the early part of the twentieth century.

Conor would sketch on anything he could find, sometimes it was a newspaper or if he was lucky a scrap of plain brown paper.  He would use ink, pencil or a piece of charcoal and would later transfer them to oil and board when he could afford it.

On the outset of the First World War William was commissioned by the British Government to record, through his work the life of the British soldier and the local people.

Working in the factories making munitions and other goods in contribution to the war effort, through this work William became known as the peoples’ painter.

After the war Williams work was compared to the great L S Lowry, of Matchstick Men fame.  Conor was awarded the O.B.E in 1952, just one of his many awards and titles .

Today Williams work can fetch upwards of £50,000 for a painting and a 6 x 4 sketch on newspaper can fetch around the £800 mark.  Over 50 of his Art Works are on show at the Ulster Museum.

Later in life, Conor who was always proud of his Unionist and Presbyterian upbringing changed the way Connor was spelled and removed one of the N letters to become Conor, to lessen some of the Gaelic influence to his surname

William died of hypothermia after falling at his home in Salisbury Avenue in Belfast on 5th February 1968 and is laid to rest at Carnmoney Cemetery.

D5067626r - William Conor

 

 

 

Shankill Road Political Tour

Shankill Road Political Tour

Shankill Road Political Tour

Apart from the civil war in Yugoslavia the troubles in Northern Ireland 1969/1998 were the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the second World War, resulting in over 3500 deaths.

The Shankill Road at this time was the border between North and West Belfast and became known as the killing fields.  Almost 1200 people from the area lost their lives due to the troubles.    The vast majority of the victims were innocent men, women and children.

The Shankill Road Political Tour will tell the true story of the bombings and shootings that claimed many of these lives.  Told by local guides who have a passion and the knowledge of the area and who lived through this terrible time in our troubled past.

Standard bar bombing - Shankill Road Political Tour

 

Shankill Road Graveyard

Shankill Road Graveyard

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.

IMG 3839 2 - Shankill Road Graveyard

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

Albert Haslett

 

Nelson Memorial Church, Shankill Road

Nelson Memorial Church, Shankill Road

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.

SAM 2636 1 - Nelson Memorial Church, Shankill Road

Shankill Road Shops

Shankill Road Shops

Shankill Road Shops

As more people from Ireland moved to Belfast to escape the effects of the 1845 famine, the population moved further away from the city center and up towards the Shankill road.

With the building of the linen mills the Shankill, like all main roads leading from the city center was a bustling thriving community and shops were needed to clothe and feed the population.

Two established shops are McDowell druggist and Stevenson’s Fruit shop both have been serving the local Shankill community for at least 100 years each, with people coming from miles around just for McDowell’s famous teething powders.

Other shops on the Shankill that have been trading for over 100 years are Ewing’s Fish Mongers, who have been trading on the Shankill since opening their doors in 1911 and are still going strong today, supplying some of the finest restaurants and hotels in Northern Ireland.

The Shankill Road can also lay claim to having the oldest pub in Belfast,  with the Rex Bar, having opened to the public in 1865.

f3d117ae0e18d3b77406974ac9e8c2cf 1 - Shankill Road Shops

Shankill Road Memorial Gardens

Shankill Road Memorial Gardens

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.

20170612 124842 - Shankill Road Memorial Gardens

Shankill Road Memorial Gardens

St Matthews Church

St Matthews Church

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.
St matthews  - St Matthews Church