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16 October 2014
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A stroll through Larne

Interesting facts and figures about the town of Larne. Read on and then add some Larne facts of your own by filling in the form below.

Larne main street

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Electricity first came to Larne in 1892 when the "Larne Electric Light and Power Company" installed two small AC generators turned by belts from two steam engines.

Once transformed this gave a supply of 100 cycles at 110 volts. and at first was used to power fourteen street lights and also a few houses. The electricity was only available from dusk until midnight.

Then in 1916 they changed over to a gas powered engine and altered the supply to Direct Current and for the first time gave a 24 hour service. There later followed the building of two power stations and increased generation until by 1939 the Antrim Electricity Supply Company was powering about two thousand Larne customers.

What I find intriguing is that they started by generating AC then changed to DC and finally reverted to AC again. I am not "up" in these things but would have thought Direct Current would have come first. ("Discuss"!) . Mind you when I first came to Belfast in 1962, part of the city was still on DC and tape recorders wouldn't work unless you used an AC converter.


FIRST IN THE WORLD The drive-on drive-off cargo boats which came into use at Larne in the late 1930's were the first such ships in the world. These were the old LMS steamers. (LMS is the London, Midland and Scottish Railway).

And talking of these steamers. Did the trains used to go onto these boats and was there some problem over the different rail gauges between here and the rest of the UK? If you can help with this query, see below as to how you can contribute to this page.

Larne Coat of Arms
THE CORRAN

is the ancient name for a Sickle, and the Curran (note the change of letter) area of Larne is a sickle shaped long promontory which juts out into the Lough. This Corran also appears on the top of the Larne Coat of Arms.


16th century Olderfleet Castle
16th century Olderfleet Castle
OLDERFLEET CASTLE

is on Curran Point. And it was near here in the 50's that archaeologists discovered over 10,000 worked flints. Such was the distinctive nature of these flints and also the way the people of the area traded with those across the water in Scotland, that the term "Larnian" was coined to describe them.

Occasionally it is still possible to find flints on The Curran.

Shipbuilding

Whilst I am at Oderfleet, did you know that Larne had quite a busy little ship building industry in the early 1900's? There were two companies that existed for about thirty years around the time of the First World War. One was the Olderfleet Ship Building and Engineering Co. and the other The Larne Shipbuilding Company. They constructed quite sizeable craft, up to 100 tons or more.


LARNE'S SQUINT In one of the local churches (St. Cedmas, Inver) there is a small window known as a "Squint". This goes back to the days of leprosy when lepers were kept away from the rest of the congregation and had to watch the ceremony through a small peep-hole known as a Squint.

JAMES CHAINE M.P. You can't write about Larne without mentioning James Chaine. He was the Member of Parliament for Larne four times over. He has been credited with developing Larne's short sea link with Scotland and was also responsible for giving the town its lovely park beside the lough which bears his name. The Chaine's quay is named after him too, for as Harbour Master he was deeply involved with the harbour and was responsible not only for encouraging shipping trade with Scotland but also for bringing the American Liners to Larne when plying their way across the Atlantic.

Ferry passing Chaine Tower
Ferry passing Chaine Tower.
Chaine Memorial Tower

His most famous memorial is the granite replica round tower built in 1888 to commemorate him. It can be seen on the shoreline at the entrance to Larne Lough. The tower is 92 feet high.

As we took this photo, so this huge ferry passed majestically by, on its way to Scotland. How thrilled James Chaine would have been to see such a sight.

Although hard to read now, the plaque above the door to the tower explains that the monument was erected by the...


"....contributions of every class in this mixed community irrespective of creed or party, all cordially united in esteem and affection for the Memory of JAMES CHAINE of Ballycraigy and Cairncastle Co. Antrim who represented this County in the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland from February 1874 till 4th May 1885 when his early and lamented death in his 44th year of his age deprived his native County of one who had worked indefatigably for its interests especially in developing and improving the natural capabilities of the harbour of Larne and establishing its connection with Great Britain, the United States of America and with the inland parts of this County, (This might also be the longest single sentence ever written on a plaque)

Buried Upright. He died when he was only 44 years of age, but where is he buried?. Or more interestingly how is he buried? For there are two tales associated with his tomb, both of which say that he is buried in an upright position. One suggests that he is buried upright within this memorial tower, whilst the other says that he is buried, still resplendent in his yachting clothes, in the cliffs above Larne, upright and looking out to sea. Somehow I don't believe either suggestion but who am I to dispel a good myth. Any ideas? See below for how to contribute to this debate.

Kilwaughter Castle Gates
Kilwaughter Castle Gates
KILWAUGHTER CASTLE GATES

About three miles west of Larne are the ruins of Kilwaughter Castle (In private ownership and not open to the public) . It was designed by John Nash, the same man who designed Regent's Street in London. His work on the Kilwaughter site included this fine entrance.

Now, as you see, the wrought iron gates have gone leaving only the octagonal pillars. The driveway is practically enveloped by mother nature with only a small pathway beneath the tangled trees and bushes.


But it wasn't always thus. As we were taking this photograph we met an elderly local man who told us of their importance. Apparently the Agnew family lived in Kilwaughter Castle in the 1800's and, amongst other things, they were the tax collectors for the County of Antrim. So through these gates, once a month, would emerge the stagecoach, setting out for Dublin and carrying all the taxes of the good folk of Antrim.

MIGRATION FROM LARNE

Being a harbour, it is not surprising that from here many Ulster people set off for America. Perhaps the first such boat was the "Friends Goodwill" which left Larne for the four month journey in 1717.

These were to be the first of thousands of such brave families setting out into the unknown.

Emigrants statue
Emigrants statue
Statue

In 1992 a poignant sculpture to these first emigrants was unveiled in Curran Park, Larne, by Professor Bobby Moss of Carolina.

The statues show the family group preparing to leave. Under her arm, Mother carries the precious family bible, which in those days often had the family tree written inside. The boy carries his shoes so as not to wear them out.

(Footnote. Unfortunately this public park is not open to the public until 2pm each day so we had to wait to take this photo until that time. Then the gates were unlocked for us, and together with several other visitors, we were allowed to enter)


(Can you help satisfy Brian's curiosity? If you can, please reply to this article below.
or you can e-mail us here at ypam-online@bbc.co.uk .


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