Drumbeg Community Association

Drumbeg News
Volume 1 Issue 2 December 2004
Online edition

A Personal View
Drumbeg-A Special Place by MS
daffodils on Drumbeg Road What makes a place special? In particular, what makes Drumbeg so special that more and more people wish to live here? After all, we have no post-office, no shop and no real "centre". But Drumbeg is situated in a most attractive rural setting, including a beautiful stretch of the Lagan and some open countryside officially designated as "of outstanding natural beauty".
In the ten years since I moved to Drumbeg there 'have been gradual changes to the local environment - some welcome and some less so. On the plus side has been the raised awareness of the need to cooperate with the council in keeping the village tidy. There has been a marked reduction in the amount of litter on our roads, to the point where we have been able to extend the intervals between litter busts. Enthusiastic members of the community have also begun to help in the management of the hedgerows, for example along the Drumbeg and Ballyskeagh Roads. Several phases of tree planting and hedge restoration have occurred. The unregulated ivy infestation on many trees along the Lagan is also being tackled in cooperation with Andy Bridge, the Lagan Valley Park Warden. On a recent ivy bust we even had a volunteer helper from Dublin! Several thousand bulbs primarily donated by Lisburn Council, have been planted, chiefly near the Church and Drum Bridge, and more planting will be made possible if a grant submission to the Lagan Valley Regional Park is successful. All these initiatives so willingly supported by community members are aimed at increasing the diversity, health and attractiveness of the local environment and thus encourage an increased variety of wildlife to the area. It has been gratifying that this year two buzzards have reared a chick to adulthood just off the Ballyskeagh Road.
With these attractions and our proximity to Belfast and Lisburn it is natural that more people seek to live here, and equally natural that developers are keen to build houses for them. Some attractive housing has replaced less attractive 'brown-field' sites. But such sites are now full and sadly in several areas some poorly conceived building has begun to encroach on green fields adjacent to existing development. In my view Drumbeg is in imminent danger of losing an important attraction, its rural 'feel'. We live in hope that the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) will give the necessary guidance to protect the individuality and heritage of areas like ours before they disappear forever. Make no mistake Drumbeg is under threat. We must all be prepared to work hard to keep Drumbeg clean and green.

Drumbeg to provide a cemetery for Belfast
The Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) proposals have been published in the last few days and contain a very mixed bag of plans for our fair village. Although there hasn't been time to study the document in any detail - you need a trolley to carry it about - it has been possible to unearth some of the main proposals that will affect us all. The one that jumps out and hits you between the eyes is the plan to create a 50 Hectare cemetery in the south quadrant of Drumbeg. This may not sound large at first but the designated area will actually extend south of Rosevale to Hillhall Road and from behind Rosevale east as far as Quarterlands Road. It's a monster. You might quite rightly think that its hardly in proportion to the needs of the local Lagan Valley Regional Park notice community and you would be correct. Apparently Belfast is fast running out of places to bury people and after 'consultation' with Lisburn, Belfast and Newtownabbey councils we were considered the best location for a new super cemetery. This process of consultation doesn't appear to have extended to ourselves. We have until the 25th of January to respond.
Well is there any good news? Well there is. The BMAP on paper at least appears to be committed to extending the Lagan Valley Regional Park to encompass Drumbeg. It also makes a pledge to protect and nurtue areas of high scenic value and what it refers to as "urban villages" and areas of "village character". It seeks to protect these settlements and spare them from development that is out of character. There is a strong recognition of the value of the sense of place, local distinctiveness, and community diversity throughout sections of the document which is encouraging. How this aspiration squares with turning Drumbeg into the dead centre of Belfast is difficult for me to see.

Other News
Despite objections to the content of the plans for the new Quarterlands Road site, building is well underway. However it has not all been plain sailing. The Rivers Agency are currently investigating the infilling of a designated water course at the rear of Hambleden Park. You all may have noticed the work undertaken to remodel the Drum Bridge Car Park. Recent months had seen an increasing problem of antisocial behaviour in and around the Car Park, mostly involving youths in cars late at night. This was causing great anxiety and disturbance to local residents particularly in Lagan Wood. As a result of representations to the Police, Rivers Agency and the DoE, the Car Park has been altered to deter this sort of activity and PSNI patrols in the area have also been increased.
Hopefully these steps will have the required effect and return Drumbeg to the quiet rural community we've all grown to love.
In November LCC placed an ad in the local press for a proposal to approve a Fast Food outlet in the same Car Park. The Association and many local residents have lodged objections.
For many years we have been lobbying for reductions in speed limits through the area as it is a perennial item raised at the AGM. Recent representations to the PSNI and Roads Service have again failed produce any significant changes. We'll keep trying!
We have had many complaints over recent months about the state of parts of the Quarterlands Road and the fact that although potholes were marked earlier in the year, nothing actually happened! Road Service were contacted and apologized for an oversight and repairs were rapidly done. The road has since taken a further pounding from Quarterlands site traffic. Please try to keep out of any potholes and keep us informed!

Drumbeg Flowers Yet Again
marigold As we watched summer entering its final phase, Drumbeg was beavering away getting ready for its centerpiece event of the year, the Flower and Vegetable Show. This years event was the 21st and in many ways represented a coming of age for the Show. As usual it was held in St. Patrick's Church Hall. We were very fortunate on the day with the weather which was warm and sunny and there was a steady stream of exhibiters throughout the morning. At final count there were just short of 150 entries in the various classifications. Mr. John McCausland a veteran competition judge and a regular visitor to the Show was kind enough to be act as Show Judge. Our special guest was Cherrie McIlwaine from BBC Radio Ulster's 'Gardeners Corner' who opened the event. Her enthusiasm for gardening was evident from the first and she chatted happily with exhibiters and visitors throughout the afternoon. She also presented the Class Certificates and Show Cups. Members of the Lisburn School of Music kindly provided musical accompaniment during the afternoon. This proved a wonderfully fitting backdrop and was very much enjoyed by everyone. Thanks to all the gardeners, young and not so young who year after year excel, surprise and awe those of us less gifted. It is a great celebration of hard work, patience and nature. See you all again next year.
The Cup winners were as follows:
Best in Show - Dr. M. Samuel with a magnificent trailing begonia.
Best Fruit and Vegetable Exhibit - Mr. J. Johnston with his succulent bunch of red grapes.
Children's Cup - Master C. Leckey for his posy in an egg-cup.
Children's Art - Miss S. Buchanan.

Environmental Group by Allison Keith
Whilst many plants and animals go into hibernation for the winter it seems that this principal does not apply to our intrepid Environmental Group. If anything they seem to be busier than ever.
Over the last month we have been carefully planting daffodil bulbs around the Drum Bridge Car Park. It is hoped to acquire more plants for next year including bluebells, crocuses and primroses to brighten up other areas of the village in spring.
Some tree planting undertaken earlier in the year has met with mixed success. A number of the saplings have been damaged by over zealous grass cutting and strimming and will have to be replaced.
Drum Bridge road signRecently volunteers spent some considerable time and effort clearing the Drum Bridge footpath of weeds and undergrowth. They also cleared away ivy that had invaded the stonework. The hedge on Ballyskeagh road appears to be slowly recovering from the wicked damage inflicted on it a few years ago. Some planting of new slips into the gaps has helped this process and sections of it have been tidied from time to time and this will continue.
There has been a welcome reduction in the amount of casual litter seen on the footpaths and hedgerows. This appears largely due to an increased awareness of the problem produced by the litter busts and a positive proactive approach from local residents who do voluntary litter sweeps. Thanks to all.
There are still some litter hot spots and extra litterbins have been requested from LCC for several areas around the village.
Sadly problems with dog fouling persist and the community group have requested better signage and improved provision of fouling bins especially on the first section of path running from the Car Park at Drum Bridge upriver and Quarterlands Road.
The Environmental Group remain committed to improving and enriching the local environment for the benefits of the local community and others. We are all very fortunate to have such a wonderful variety and abundance of wildlife and countryside on our doorstep. I would ask everyone to respect and protect it.
As a final note I would like to thank Dr. Michael Scott for his expertise, enthusiasm, hard work and leadership in all things environmental over the last few years. As Chair of the Environmental Group he set a high standard of commitment and dedication to protecting and nurturing our local environmental heritage, which sadly many of us take for granted. His shoes will be difficult to fill. Lets keep Drumbeg green and clean.

God's Own Acre by E. Rice
"God's own acre" is how Drumbeg has been described and for those of us who live in the area, it's a pretty fair description. Close to two cities but surrounded by rolling hills, woodland, a river and, to date, not a densely populated area, it truly is a place apart. The history of this area is rich and long. There has been a church on the site of the present church, St. Patrick's Church of Ireland, since the 13th century and if current signage is to be believed, there has been a pub here too since the early 17th century!
One thing is clear, people from those long ago times also realised what a special place this is because they settled. The three dominant features from the 18th century which are still here are the large houses, the church and the canal. Some things have changed but the wonderful line of hills which embraces Drumbeg remains in view for us all. In the 1830's, Drumbeg was lived in by descendants from English and Scottish settlers and they described the area as "pretty genteel" and the "natives, hard working." Work was plentiful in the area as the Linen industry was in full swing. This meant that, like today, there was very little population movement from Drumbeg!
Three of the large houses built in the 18th and 19th centuries play a large part in the history of Drumbeg and the lives of those who built and lived in them were inextricably linked. Wilmont House, in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, was built circa 1740 by William Stewart whose father John owned Ballydrain House (now known as Malone Golf Club). But in 1830 Wilmont House was lost to the family as one of William's ne'er do well sons lost all the family money and Wilmont House. As a result of that, in 1834 Ballydrain House had to be sold and was bought by one of the founders of the Belfast Bank, the Montgomery family and the Stewarts finally left Drumbeg. Wilmont House, which had lain empty for most of the time since the profligate Stewart son frittered away all the money, was bought shortly after 1855 by another banker, James Bristow of the Northern Bank. The bank had bought the house to defray the debts of one Alexander Mackenzie Shaw, a brewer who had only owned the house for a few months. Bristow bought the house and eventually pulled it down. He employed an up and coming young architect, Thomas Jackson to build him a new house in 1859 which is the house we see today. (Jackson also built Drum House).
James Bristow lived in the house along with his son, also James, but divided it internally - although it still has two front doors. The younger Bristow died in 1877 and shortly afterwards, history began to repeat itself. In 1879 it was sold to a Robert Henry Sturrock Reade who bought it partly for sentimental reasons. It had belonged to ancestors on his mother's side ... the Stewarts of Ballydrain. So ownership had come full circle. Reade's ghost is said to be there yet!
Mind you, Wilmont House is on what is reputed to be the most haunted road in Ireland!
Reade's son George sold it to Sir Thomas Dixon in 1919. He was quite a colourful character and the proud owner of a yellow and black stripped Rolls Royce. It must have seemed like a giant bee gliding up that wonderful sweep of driveway! Up until 1964 it was owned by the Dixon family. Happily, Lady Dixon bequeathed the house and the land (circa 134 acres) to the people of Belfast.
A little known fact is that it was the temporary residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland when Government House was damaged by fire in 1934.
In 1904, Captain Scott of the Antarctic visited the house.
It was also the headquarters of the United States Army during World War 2.
A distinguished house with a distinguished past. Will it, as in the 1830s, lie empty and decay? Let's hope not.

An Armagh Adventure by Beryl Dean
The senior citizens outing took place in mid-June. Our destination was Armagh. The buses dropped us off at the Palace Stables Heritage Centre. These are a restored 1770 Georgian stables block set in the Palace Demesne. The Heritage Centre is located beside the Primate's Palace, formerly the home of the Archbishop of the Church of Ireland until the 1970's. It provides a living insight into 18th Century life through guided tours of exhibitions and the Primate's Chapel and grounds.
For the rest of the morning we were free to do as we liked so I decided to go and see St. Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral which is situated at the top of a hill in the centre of the city. My husband had grown up there as his father had been Cathedral Librarian and a member of the Choir. It was full of fond memories for me.
I re-joined the others for lunch in the Stables Restaurant. In the afternoon we got an insight into 18th century life through a guided tour called 'Day in the Life'. Living History interpreters re-enacted Georgian life in 1786. Visitors were encouraged to chat to the characters to get a fuller picture of life in this bygone world. The characters and costumes were wonderful. The Primate's Palace was equally impressive with its ornate plaster ceilings, crystal chandeliers and sumptuous furnishings, most of which had been made by local craftsmen. The Primate's Chapel was a most remarkable structure. It was in the form of an Ionic temple and is considered the best example of 18th Century ecclesiastical architecture in Ireland.'
Everyone had a wonderful day out. Where will we get to next year I wonder?

Radio Drumbeg
Drumbeg was featured twice in one morning on Radio Ulster recently. ‘On Your Behalf’ highlighted the issue of the Post Code anomaly in Drumbeg village. We have two Post Codes and if you happen to have the wrong one it has a significant effect on house and car insurance! Later the same morning ‘Your Place and Mine' also featured Drumbeg charting some of its history using St Patrick's Church graveyard as a reference point

New Riverside Park at Ballyskeagh
LCC commenced work in March 2004 to create a new park adjacent to Distillery's football ground. When completed the park will contain 22 acres and improve access to the towpath. The project has received grant aid from the Environment and Heritage Service. The project has included land grading, construction of new pathways, fencing and grass seeding. A wild flower meadow has been planted and extensive areas of new trees. This regeneration of a rather neglected and scarred section of the Lagan Valley Park is seen as a very positive sign of the LCCs commitment to what it calls 'riverside regeneration'. The park should open in the Spring.

Drumbeg News Volume 2 Issue 2 December 2004


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