Ballyclare Town Hall
|Population||9,953 (2011 Census)|
|Irish grid reference|
|• Belfast||13 miles (21 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Ballyclare (from Irish: Bealach Cláir, meaning "pass of the plain") is a small town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It had a population of 9,953 according to the 2011 census. It is part of Antrim and Newtownabbey district.
It sits on the river Six Mile Water. The town probably owes its origins to its being a crossing point of the river, the strategic importance of which is shown by existence of a small Norman motte on the south side of the river and presently located in the War Memorial Park. The broad main street dates from the 17th century. In the centre of the town is the Market Square with the Town Hall. The town grew in the 19th century with the coming of the railway and it became an important industrial town with a large paper mill in the South West of the town and a large Linen Bleach Green . These factories gave their names to the roads leading to them, the Mill Road and the Green Road, but have been closed for some time. It is now a local service centre with a significant dormitory role in relation to Belfast. It is the main focus within the rural area for shopping, education and recreation. To the north is the remnant of Craig Hill, which once provided a wooded backdrop but is now covered with modern housing. Much of the Craig Hill has been quarried for its basalt.
People have lived in Ballyclare for six thousand years. The earliest evidence of people in this area is a hoard of flint arrow heads found when houses were being built north of the river in November 1968. There were a total of thirty-nine flints discovered – some perfectly finished and others are blank indicating an 'industry' and trading here near the river crossing over four thousand years ago.
When the Normans built the castle at Carrickfergus they placed a line of outposts along the river which was then called the "Ollar" – River of the Rushes. In time the soldiers making the journey from Carrickfergus to Antrim reached the river at this spot when they had travelled six miles so began to call the Ollar the Six Mile Water. One of these mottes is close by the river in the War Memorial Park in Ballyclare. There are two on opposite sides of the river at Doagh and one at Antrim. The village grew after the Plantation of Ulster and was granted permission by King George II in 1756 to hold two fairs each year making it an important market centre.
At the same time as the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America, Ballyclare was settled by Scots planters. Jonathan Swift preached here and it was from here the families of Mark Twain, Sam Houston and General Alexander Macomb left for America. The people of Ballyclare and the surrounding villages played a part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and fought in the Battle of Antrim. At the beginning of the 20th century Ballyclare was a growing industrial town with an urban district council and became the largest paper producer in Ireland.
It includes three stages: the 1880 school house, the 1923s extension, the 1950s extension, the 2006 mobile classrooms addition. There are two large Post Primary Schools, a grammar school on the Rashee Road and called Ballyclare High School and a state Secondary School with access from the Doagh Road and Avondale Drive.
Visitors to Ballyclare have a choice of quality accommodation, 3 Star Dunamoy Cottages & Spa, Greers Cottage and The Five Corners Guest Inn. Ballyclare activity trail, comprises ten locally based tourism and day tripper business within a 6-mile radius.
Archibald McIlroy's novel When Lint Was in the Bell is a light-hearted, lightly fictionalised chronicle of life in 19th-century Ballyclare. A Ballyclare native, born c. 1860, Mr. McIlroy was lost in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915.
Two award-winning musical ensembles frequently represent the town on the regional, national and international stage: the Ballyclare Male Choir since 1933, and the Ballyclare Victoria Flute Band since 1919. The Major Sinclair Memorial Pipe Band is also based in the town and is regular in parades and RSPBA competitions. Ballyclare is also birthplace to Andy Cairns, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist from the critically acclaimed alternative rock band Therapy? who have achieved worldwide success.
The Ballyclare May Fair occurs on a Tuesday in May every year, and is part of a week of festivities. The tradition stems from a grant by King George II to hold two yearly fairs, although only the May Fair now survives. The event began as a local horse fair, but representatives of cavalry regiments came from all over Europe to buy there as the reputation of the fair spread. The fair's heyday ended with the First World War, but it is still a well-loved event in the town.
The May Fair is one of the few horse fairs now left in the country. The Main Street is sanded down and given over to horse selling for the day. There is, however, now a variety of modern amusements in the square. Other events include the Mayor's Parade, followed by sports, street events, concerts and exhibitions. Local shops compete for the best dressed window, and children take part in fancy dress competitions and the duck race. A May Fair queen is chosen to represent the town over the next year.
The road network in Ballyclare is centred on Main Street, North End and Market Square in the Town Centre. A number of roads lead into the Town Centre including the Hillhead Road from the south, the Doagh Road from the west and the Rashee, Ballyeaston and Ballycorr Roads from the north and north east. Car parking available in the town centre ranges from surface-level parking to free and paid on-street parking.
Ballyclare had a narrow gauge rail link to Larne and a broad gauge connection to Belfast. Neither of these have been in use since the 1950s. Ballyclare railway station on the narrow gauge Ballymena and Larne Railway opened on 24 August 1878, closed to passenger traffic on 1 October 1930, closed to goods traffic on 3 June 1940 and finally closed altogether on 3 July 1950. The station on the broad gauge Northern Counties Committee railway line opened on 3 November 1884, closed for passenger traffic on 1 January 1938, closed for goods traffic on 2 May 1938 and finally closed altogether on the same date as its narrow gauge counterpart in 1950. The building was demolished altogether in 2004 and was replaced with a similarly shaped and styled building. The old engine shed, however, remains and is now part of Modern Tyres.
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