Volume 1 Issue 2 December 2004 Online
A Personal View
Special Place by
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
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
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 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.
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!
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
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
Children's Art - Miss S. Buchanan.
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.
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
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" 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
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
A distinguished house with a distinguished past. Will it, as in the 1830s,
lie empty and decay? Let's hope not.
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
Everyone had a wonderful day out. Where will we get to next year I wonder?
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
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