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16 October 2014
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Randalstown Viaduct

A 19th century viaduct built to extend the railway system now helps bridge the community gap.

Randalstown Viaduct
 

 

YPAM radio programme feature
YPAM reporter Jim Kelso went to Randalstown to find out more about this impressive landmark in County Antrim and discovers a town with a strong industrial past.

Originally called An Dun Mor - "the great fort" - Randalstown was named after the 2nd Earl and 1st Marquis of Antrim, Randal MacDonnell and has strong links to the O'Neill family. The original stronghold of Edenduffcarrick was built in the 16th century and changed ownership repeatedly until it was renamed Shane's Castle after the new owner, Shane Mc Brian O'Neill. The O'Neill family still reside within the castle and enjoy a prominent position in Northern Ireland.

 

River Maine, Randalstown  looking north
River Maine, Randalstown  looking south
River Maine, in Randalstown looking north
the river looking south from the viaduct

In 1830 Randalstown was described as " chiefly one street extending for half a mile along the road from Toomebridge to Belfast.."

The area was also a "potwalloping borough", which meant that anyone who boiled a pot of yarn was entitled to vote....

By the end of the 19th century the town depended on the success of the industries based on the east bank of the river, including an iron works and the Old Bleach Linen Company which was established here in 1864. You can just make out the chimney of the mill in the top right of the picture on the left, above.

 

view from the top of the Randalstown viaduct
The view from the top of the viaduct, once a vital rail link out of Randalstown, it now links both sides of the community within the town, via a walkway and cycle path

 

 

The Charles Lanyon designed viaduct was built in 1856 to extend the railway from Randalstown to Cookstown.

In the late 1990's the top of the viaduct and part of the railway track were converted into a walkway and cycle path leading from Station Road to New Street. This development provides spectacular views of Randalstown, the River Maine and the adjoining parkland of Shane’s Castle.

The walkway on top of the viaduct links both sides of the community in Randalstown, from Station Road across to New Street. The opening ceremony for the recent works saw an Orangeman and a representative from the Ancient Order of Hibernians walk from opposite ends of the viaduct to meet in the middle.

Jim spoke with Lord O'Neill, President of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland about the introduction of the railway at Randalstown in the mid 19th century and its impact on the town.

Jim also spoke with Christine Doherty, founder of the Arches Association ( Assisting Randalstown Community towards Harmony and Economic Success ) whose husband was appointed postmaster in the town in 1971. Christine recalls the large parcels of linen, from the nearby Old Bleaching Company linen mill, stacked to the ceiling at the post office.

George Graham, chairman of ARCHES tells us about past projects and future objectives of ARCHES including the recent renovation work on the viaduct. George spent 35 happy years working at the Old Bleaching Company and describes how the linen made its way from the mill to the railway station on an electric lorry and on to destinations all over the world.

Audio Clip : Listen to Lord O'Neill , Christine Doherty and George Graham

 

 

If you roll your mouse over the image above you can see the contrast between the scene of mid 19th century New Street, in Randalstown, with that of the same street in 2005.

 

Old Bleaching Company linen mill building
part of the Old Bleaching Company building awaits demolition

At its peak in the 1930's, the Old Bleach company employed over 1000 people. Its doors finally closed in 1980 and the wrecking ball swung into action in 1994.

As you walk around the decaying site, with a brand new housing estate next door, you feel a real sense of history passing by. You can almost hear the hustle and bustle of linen production echoing around the once proud buildings, which are now reduced to empty shells, open to the elements.

If you worked in the mill or railway, please get in touch using the form at the bottom of the page.

In 1996 Randalstown was designated as a Conservation Area, which was achieved in conjunction with Randalstown Historical Society and the D.O.E. Planning Service.

YOUR RESPONSES

John Mc Laughlin - Mar '08
I was born in Randalstown and lived there for about 18 years when I decided to wander, I am now settled here in Australia and have been for the past 30 years.
I have discovered this website and enjoyed the reading.
My Father George was born at Feehogue in 1921. My Mother Helen nee Mc Gary was born in Glasgow, Scotland but was reared by 2 aunts from Cargin near Toomebridge called Katie Conway and Mary Conway. They had a brother Peter Conway who was killed in WW2. Anyone cot any connections to these names, please contact me. Also a lot of people were asking for photo etc here is a website I found which might help some of you.

Thank You All

http://www.downmemorylane.me.uk/Randalstown%20A1.htm

Robert Morrison Stewart - Feb '08
For Ray Kerr, Regina ,Canada.

In the Kerr Family Chronicles I noticed a Henry Haslett Whan. I have an ancester's sister, Margaret Haslett, born 1782, who married a Whan. Are you aware of any connection?

Regards
Morrison Stewart

Oonagh - May '07
This is a really good site for looking up stuff on Randalstown. Thanks to it I now have a better understanding of the History of this town and how much the O'Neill's played in it! The O'Neills were really intresting people especialy Shane who the Castle was named after. So thanks alot!!!

Marcia Armstrong - California - Mar '07
I am a descendant of Elizabeth Jane Harper/Harpur (her maiden name.) She was the daughter of James Harper who was a farmer who rented land from the O'Neill Estates. They lived in Randalstown . She had three sisters - Mary Ann, May and Margaret May. She married Samuel Wilson in 1847. His father, Hugh Wilson, was a weaver. He must have died as she migrated to the United States and remarried.

David Ayre of Kilmarnock - Feb '07
I was delighted to discover your webpage featuring Randalstown.
My paternal family hails from Randalstown (I lived in the Parade Ground listed houses in my childhood - a very long time ago!). Perhaps you could add a photograph of the Parade Ground here sometime?
Randalstown has a brief mention - with a small collection of old postcards - on the AYRE page of my website, should any reader drop by at www.kilmarnock.org.uk Kind regards.

Kathleen McDonald - Feb '07
my g. g.grandfather was born near randalstown town land of carngranny circa 1830 his name was George Hannon he married in Scotland to Violet Riggs 1872 she was a widow with 2 daughters they moved to antrim town were they owned a pub and china shop anyone any information please contact thank you.

Sheamus Brendan McIntyre - Dec '06
Dear Mr Bob Brehm
I have just read this site and let my father above Ian Robert Morrow McIntyre whom you were looking to contact know of you message.
We havn't managed to get back to any earlier than 1876 which is the date writen on the side on my great grandfather house in Clonkee road Randalstown.

Well if you want to get hold of dad back in NZ email me below and I'll pass on your details.

Christopher Peake - Nov '06
A family friend, Margaret Gordon Erskine (c.1912 - 31st January 1994), the only daughter of the four children of Robert M. Erskine, J.P. and Eleanor Erskine (nee Pollock) of Holywood, Co. Down worked as a designer for the Old Bleach Mill in Randalstown in the 1950s. She lived in a caravan in the factory yard during the working week and returned to her cottage at Creighton's Green, near Holywood, Co. Down at the weekends. Two of Margaret's three brothers died during World War II. Her eldest brother died shortly after the end of the War.

Ian Millar - June '06
Hello. I am trying to research my family who I know lived in Randalstown prior to WW1. They are my Great Grandparents James and Sarah Millar. Their son, Thomas Millar who was born in Drumaul, Co. Antrim, and lived in Randalstown, was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 01/07/16. Tommy was in the 12 Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. There was also a daughter (my paternal Grandmother, Sarah Jane Millar. I would be obliged for any information. Thank you

Steven Smith
May '06
I went there it was nothing short of a war zone, there are good people there but some are still wrapped up in bitterness, such a shame as it is a gold mine waiting to be discovered. Take my advice drive through it and you will see what you want but don't stay there!

Ray Kerr from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada - April '06
My great grandmother was Mary Ann Foster (Kerr) born 1864 to William Foster / Margaret Small of Cloghoghue(Drummaul) near Randalstown. Their where also Samual Foster and Joseph Foster of Andraid and they where members of the old presbyterian church Randalstown. Their was their father Robert Foster also. Looking for Foster Family History in the area! My greatygrandmother married a Michael Kerr of (Armagh) - Carrowcolman (Clonfeacle) and they left Glasgow, Scotland May 1893 for ellis island, NY. Then to Melita, Manitoba until 1905, then Indian Head, Saskatchewan until 1935, retiring to Regina, Saskatchewan.Canada.

Mary Kerr (Foster) died 1964 at the age of 100 year old. Michael kerr died 1957 at the age of 94 years. Both are buried at Regina (Cemetary), Saskatchewan, Canada. please contact > raymondkerr1961 at hotmail.com

**FYI go to Google * then type :
' Kerr family chronicles' Kerr history from Dungannon connected to the Fosters.

Ray Kerr.

David Wayne O'Neill - April '06
I am always interested in meeting family, so drop me a line anytime.
I am the son of John Martin O'Neill son of Francis Martin O'Neill who died in Philidelphia in the early 1920 in an auto accident. He was an artistic plasterer with 32 horse drawn carts. He came here from Ireland in the late 1800's.

Bob Brehm - April '06
I would very much like to contact Ian Robert Morrow McIntyre.(see below ) We may have a common ancestor, since my mother Mary McIntyre was born in 1903 in Motherwell as well. Ancestry goes back to Dunaghy, Antrim, Ireland, in the early 1800s.

Ryan Joseph Patrick O'Neill - March '06
I am an O'Neill and a proved descendant of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. I would appreciate any information on the current head of the family and woulkd like to know if any of the old titles of the Great O'Neills still exist.

George Allan - March '06
Is there any Hotels B&B to stay in Randaltown ? How close is it from Rail Links. My Great Grand Father/Mother was form there, Joe McGlaughlin they moved to Clydebank to work in the Ship Yards. I would love to visit but it is hard to find anywhere even close by to stay. can Anyone help?

Anne McManus - Jan '06
One of my husband's forebears was a gardener at Shanes Castle, circa 1847 - 1850. Can anyone tell me if the old staff records, the Castle documents concerned with the running of the estate, still exist, or, are preserved anywhere? Your help would be appreciated. Thanks.

Diane Purches - Jan '06
How wonderful to see good photos, and history of Randalstown. My g grandfather Felix O'Neill b. 1841 married to Annie Henderson lived in the area - in the townland of Brecart and parish of Duneane. Would be most interested to know of a possible connection to Shane's castle as family lore suggests.

Eileen Phelan - Dec '05
I found this article very interesting and enjoyed looking at the pictures. My grandparents lived in Randalstown and my Mother and her three sisters (who were all born there) worked at the Old Bleach (can't give names because I still have an Aunt in Randalstown) at different times and one of them was still there when the factory closed. Mum and two of her sisters used to do the hand painting on the tableclothes. Mum told me that they couldn't get the colour dyes from Germany while the war was on. An Aunt told me the pay wasn't very good, but that the staff had a laugh. Pity the factory wasn't turned into a Heritage site, but I suppose selling off the land for housing was more lucrative.

Dawn(O'Neill) Kobel - Dec '05
I am a desndent of Hugh O'Neill and would like to know who now owns the O'Neill Castle and any information would be Greatly apreciated.

Bob Duff - November '05
My family is in the process of tracing our Irish roots. Unfortunately we have run into a dead end between randalstown & belfast.

We know that our Paternal grandfather Thomas Duff ( born March 15, 1888) was apparently born in randalstown and that his father was James Duff, lived on Shanes Street for a while, husband of Cassie Duff. Both relocated to Belfast and are identified as living in Belfast in 1920 at 9 reid Street. An uncle 2 generations removed has dim recollections of Aunts or cousins with the forenames of Julia and Sarah, nee Duff who lived somewhere in the vicinity.

There also is a cousin apparently from Randalstown who was on the police force in Belfast ( retiring some years ago.)

Other given names in the family are David and obviously Thomas. My father was born in Belfast but came to Canada as a child in 1923. His father Thomas Duff, son of James Duff passed on in the early 50's.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

p.s. good website.

Ian Robert Morrow McIntyre - August '05
Very interested to find this article about Randalstown because my father (Robert McIntyre) was borne near here to Robert McIntyre and Esther Morrow in July 1898 before they emigrated to New Zealand in 1904. I would be interested to know of anyone that knew the Morrow family of the Randalstown Area or it's environs.

Jennifer Steen - July '05
I have recently discovered that my great grandfather, William Rea, worked in the Old Bleach company and lived in a cottage owned by the mill where he and his wife Elizabeth had 13 children. One of them, my grandfather Alexander Rea, became stationmaster at Coleraine and he may have joined the railway when a station was opened at Randalstown. I think my grandfather was born around 1868 so my great-grandfather would have been working in the mill then.

I wonder if anyone can advise me if there is any way of finding out details from records or if there would be any old photographs of the mill workers?

Fergus Browne
Fergus, i would like to know who owns the farm up at staffardstown road as i recently got some money off deceased relatives and wouldn't mind buying this farm.

Robert Morrison Stewart - Feb 08
For Ray Kerr, Regina ,Canada.
Ray,
In the Kerr Family Chronicles I noticed a Henry Haslett Whan. I have an ancester's sister, Margaret Haslett, born 1782, who married a Whan. Are you aware of any connection?

John Mc Laughlin

Hi All
I was born In Randalstown and lived there for about 18 years when I decided To wander, I am now settled here in Australia and have been for the past 30 years. I have discovered this website and enjoyed the reading, My surname is Mc Laughlin My Father George was born at Feehogue in 1921 My Mother Helen nee Mc Gary was born in Glasgow Scotland but was reared by 2 aunts from Cargin near Toomebridge called Katie Conway and Mary Conway They had a brother Peter Conway who was killed in WW2. Anyone cot any connections to these names Please contact me. Also a lot of people were asking for photo etc here is a website I found which might help some of you Thank You All

http://www.downmemorylane.me.uk/Randalstown%20A1.htm



 


Relevant Weblinks

A.R.C.H.E.S.

Randalstown Talk

A history of a market town

Antrim Borough Council website

Sustrans Lough Shore Cycle Route





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