Old Ballymena Photograph and 1851 Poem


As many of you know, I take great pleasure in cleaning up and enhancing old photographs, using photoshop and other software.

The following photograph of old Ballymena is most likely from around the turn of the 20th century, most likely from during the 1910s.

Old Ballymena
Bridge Street in Ballymena, 1910s

OLD BALLYMENA PHOTO – BRIDGE STREET

The original image obscured the man standing in the shop doorway on the left. After some research, on who owned the address (it says number 74 in the sign above the store), it turns out to be John Morrow.  One can speculate that the man standing in that doorway is indeed Mr Morrow himself. If this is the case, then one might summise that the photographer was working for John Morrow – or at least had forewarned the store owner that he would be taking a photograph.

Based on local newspaper promotion of the time, we know that John Morrow’s draper’s store opened in late 1906.  Here is the advertisement from 1st December 1906 that appeared in the Ballymena Observer. 

NOW OPEN

THE NEW DRAPERY HOUSE, BRIDGE STREET, BALLYMENA.
(Next Door to Post Office)
I Beg to Announce That I have Opened the Above Premises with a New & Up To Date Stock of General Drapery Goods, and I am in a Position to Give Extra Good Value In

Men’s ready-to-wear suits from 10/11;
Men’s overcoats from 12/11;
Men’s waterproofs from 10/11;
Boy’s suits from 2/11;
Boys’ overcoats from 2/9;
Men’s Suits to Order from 35/-
Men’s Overcoats to Order from 3½/-
Hats, capes, ties, mullers, etc, in great variety, very cheap

Blankets, flannels, shirtings, sheetings, etc, beyond comparison
Special blanket at 9 shillings 6d.
**********
Ladies’ Dress materials from 4½d per yard to 4/6;

Ladies’ Golf Jerseys from 1/11;
Ladies’ Blouses at all prices from 1/-;
For gloves, umbrellas, corsets, wool vests, stockings, et, try the New House;
Ladies’ jackets from 10/11;
Ladies’ Furs from 1/6;
Ladies’ underskirts from all priuces at 1/6;
Aprons, pinafores, etc, in great variety (see window);

**********

Kindly Give Me a Trial and I Shall Endeavour to Please.
John Morrow,
General Draper (Late of Messrs Gordon Black  Co)
74, Bridge Street,
Ballymena

Advertisement, Ballymena Observer, 1st December 1906

BALLYMENA TOWN HALL HISTORY

The advertisement also confirms that the building that we see next door, is indeed the post office.  Above the post office, in the photo, is the old town hall.  The photo was taken pre January 1919, and we know this because the old town hall (as seen above) burned down in the early hours of Wednesday 29th January 1919. 

Flames were first spotted at 4am, by Mr. A. McMillen, the Caretaker for the Town Hall.  The fire raged til 8am and the roof eventually fell in. A few hours earlier, the town hall had staged an event for local soldiers who had recently returned from the first world war.  It was summised, at the time, that the fire was caused by an improperly extinguished cigarette being accidentally tossed amongst the bunting.  The hall had been laden in celebratory bunting for the event.

Thankfully the fire hadn’t spread into the neighbouring post office building.

URBAN COUNTY DISTRICT OF BALLYMENA
NEW TOWN HALL ARCHITECTURAL COMPETITION
THE URBAN DISTRICT COUNCIL

Invite Designs for a New Town Hall and Municipal
Offices. Cost not to exceed Thirty Thousand Pounds.
The Competition is open to Architects recognised by
the Profession, and a Premium of £100 is offered for
the Design placed first in order of merit.

A Copy of the Conditions, Plan of Site, and Photograph of the
existing Buildings will be sent by the undersigned
to intending Competitors upon application and upon payment
of a deposit of Two Guineas, which will be returned on receipt
of a bona-fide design.

Mr. W. KAYE-PARRY, F.R.I.B.A., Past President of the
Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, is the Assessor.

By Order.
HENRY O’HARA,
Town Hall,
Ballymena

Belfast News Letter,
21st May 1920

Ballymena had no town hall for nearly nine years.  Quotations for a new building, on the same site, were accepted in late 1923. 

At a special meeting last night, Ballymena Urban Council accepted a tender of 26,400 pounds for the erection of the new Ballymena town hall” – Northern Whig, Wednesday 17th October 1923

The Duke and Duchess of York laid the foundation stone for the new construction on the 24th July 1924.

The new town hall was built across the following four and a half years and eventually was officially opened on Tuesday 20th November 1928. It ultimately cost, according to local media, some 35 thousand pounds.

VERY OLD BALLYMENA POEM

To add some value to this old photograph, here is a poem that I recently came across in a very old local newspaper, the Ballymena Observer. The poem, by John Gallagher, was published in a series of articles across May and June in 1895. John Gallagher was a well respected citizen of the town.

The local wordsmith, in prose (stanza) that goes on for many hundreds of lines, refers to the various business owners, church leaders, and citizens in the town, from 1851.

Given the length of the poem, to make finding things easier, I have taken the liberty to subdivide and put titles to various sections of the prose.

John Gallagher’s composition offers a quite unique and wonderful snapshot of what was going on in the town in the mid 1800s. It’s a goldmine of local information.

A moment caught in time. Enjoy!

Ballymena Observer, May 1895 – “We have much pleasure, in response to the request of a large section of the community, in presenting our readers with the canto of the poetical works of an old and respected citizen of Ballymena, Mr. John Gallagher, on the Ballymena Improvements 1851. The series of poems….are a faithful portrait of the “City of the Seven Towers,” its men, and things, as they then existed.”

Awake, my sweet muse new, and carrol my lay,
And do not depart from your duty away;
For the love of my country invites me to write,
A reason sufficient your aid to invite.

Be active and steady — keep truth still in view,
And paint out no foible, but mind what is true;
You know Ballymena we painted before,
And in fanciful interest we’ll try it once more;

Twelve years have elapsed, my kind muse since I wrote it,
And six hundred lines in long version I quoted,
So now, for the honour of friendship and truth,
Which motto I held since the days of my youth;

I’ll do my endeavour, in every degree,
To keep the vain critic from censoring me.
Ballymena’s my subject, the town I respect,
It is not my duty the same to neglect;

I often found favour and friendship in town,
When fevers and pestilence on me did frown.
So now, gentle reader, when I am in the clay.
And my spirit flies up from this world away,

Let these lines in your mind be a mark of my name
For it’s far, very far, to the temple of fame!
Now first, I will mention the beauty and grace
Of my dear native town, and display every place—

No town for improvement can with her compare,
And strong perseverance by mercantile fare:
But first on religion, and bright education,
I’ll write my first stanza by strict observation.

A strong vote of thanks to Sir Robert Shafto Adair
Should be given for ever from town I declare;
And my honoured patron, I am proud of his name,
His name shall shine bright on the annals of fame!

And old Mr. Gihon, my kind benefactor,
And good Mr. Dickey, the poor man’s protector.
Kind reader! be patient my subject is long,
I want to please all in my fanciful song.

I spoke of religion, the fort of salvation,
My muse will not stray from the same observation.
Observe the church, and parochial school,
Where nought is observed but the Christian rule;

God prosper the Reverend Reeves and his lady,
To give kind relief to the poor they are ready.
Next, the Catholic chapel, I hold it in view,
Where the Reverend John Lynch our pastor so true:

Reverend Dobbin of Castle Street Church

God prosper his talent, his worth, and his fame,
He is my own pastor, I am proud of his name!
Now to Castle-street church my quick fancy must go,
I wish to give scope, and to tell what I know:

God bless Reverend Dobbin, that powerful preacher,
A strong Presbyterian, and Christian teacher;
This church was well taught good Wanhope for years,
He left us, and left all his people in tears.

Wellington Street Church, Reverend McKeown

Next Wellington Street church, I must give it due praise,
I wish in my fancy my patrons to please:
This church is the largest in town, I am sure,
God prosper the talent of good Mr. Moore.

The Reverend Patterson is dead and gone,
And, also, the Reverend kind-hearted McKeown
But I hope that the parish is fixed to their mind,
The Reverend Moore is both generous and kind.

Reverend Campbell, Old Meeting House, High Street

Now High-street old meeting-house comes in view,
Where Reverend Campbell lives steady and true;
God prosper bis talent, and guard him through life,
And bless his dear children and virtuous wife.

Next, the Arian house, for grandeur and taste,
Where the Reverend McFerran, as preacher, is placed.
To Castle-street now I most wander again,
And set forth the merits of Reverend Cobain

A Wesleyan preacher, and none of the worst.
I think in mind can compete with the first.
Now I promise, kind reader, in observation,
To bell of the standard ot bright education;

Reverend Reeves and New Model School

Behold Reverend Reeves’ large school of renown,
Stands high on a hill at the head of the town;
And the New Model School, too, for grandeur and style,
As pretty a building as is in our Isle.

Next, the old long established free school of the town.
Where Johnny Guy’s memory is still in renown;
And old Mr. Aickin, I’m proud of his name,
But now I must sing to good Mr Andrews’ own fame

To Mr. Boyd’s praises, one word I must say,
By strong perseverance he carries the sway.
To Castle-street school next my muse cannot fail,
To sing the due merits of Master O’Neill,

The oldest but Aickin, and, for talent and worth,
Few teachers superior to him in the North;
And, also, Broughshane Street, what a fine school is there.
But I don’t know the teacher, in truth, I declare;

And private schools a plenty you’ll find up and down,
For bright education is standard in the town.
Now, reader, the landscape I’ll try to portray!
Craigbilly comes first in my poetic lay,

A transparent castle surrounded by trees,
In summer the haunt of the birds and the bees.
And next Ballygarvy can plainly be seen,
For transparent beauty and linen so clean

Next, Mrs. Treacy’s fine building’s in view
A beautiful mansion for grandeur all through.
Then Hugomont cottage, Captain Harrison’a pride.
Stands equally grand an a pleasant hill side

This place bears its title from Waterloo farm,
This graces my subject, and gives it a charm
But, oh! what a contrast comes over my heart.
Thoughts of the poor-house strike me like a dart;

When I look at the poor-house it makes my heart sore,
When I think of the change and the good times of yore;
But, reader, be patient, and read for a while,
The end of my subject will make you to smile

My fancy now runs to the lovely hill road,
Where the poor and the needy were often times fed.
God bless the grey head of my old worthy friend,
I am bound to pray tor him unto my life’s end;

His honour has long been a friend unto me.
Which makes me respect him in every degree.
So now down the new line I must take my flight,
The glance of each new scene fills me with delight;

Impartial my subject, let me sink or swim,
My compliments kind to my friend David Syme.
Now to the old brewery I must take my way,
And view all these changes and prospects so gay.

Mr. Andrew Todd Dickey’s new building so grand.
And the clack of the engines puts me to a stand.
But here, down to Greenvale, with speed I must steer,
For I must fulfil my poetic career;

These beautiful lawns, with fine fruit trees and flowers,
Evergreens, groves, and fine beautiful bowers
And the house, for transparency, “stands nonpareil”
Where kind Andrew Gihon, Esq., in comfort does dwell.

God bless Mr. William, and kind sister dear,
And God bless the memory of her that’s not here.
But come, gentle muse, we’ve new scenes to explore.
Let us take a prospect of ancient Leignmore,

The seat of kind Dickey, to whom honour’s due
I must take an account of his bleach-green, all through:
God prosper his trade, and protect all his hands,
He has got a steam engine to farther his plans;

But now to Mount-pleasant I’ll start from the green,
My muse, in her fancy, is got very keen.
A beautiful building that stands on a hill,
Where the blackbird and thrush sings in chorus at will:

There the Reverend Clarke Houston, in virtue does dwell,
A temperate preacher, I wish him right well!
But Brocklamount cottage I cannot forget—
The hall-door is eastward, transparently set.

Old Stafford Church planted a pleasure cot grand,
When he held these farms and fields in command!
Then, after Buchanan the place improved well,
Where good Mr. Casement in splendour doth dwell;

Now over the river, I’ll wander right free,
And view that fair mansion that stands in Bellee;
Where Thomas Casement, Esq., a justice of peace,
With an absolute sway he commands this fine place;

Now down the station, with speed, I will go,
At Halliday’s brae, a vale down below;
And see these great engines how swiftly they fly,
Leaving clouds of black smoke soaring up to the sky!

Harryville

The village of Harryville now is my theme,
To tell of good Mr Sayers I think it no shame;
See what lofty buildings by him were erected,
His great perseverance should not be neglected;

See the great Railway Hotel, if I’m not mistaken,
Where once lived, in opulence, old Mr. Aickin;
But now ’tis well furnished in grandeur so gay,
And strictly attended by Mr. Hugh Wray,

Mr. Ligget’s new mansion comes next in eye.
On his father’s old garden, I won’t pass it by;
But see what fine houses is built up along,
Of tradesmen and shop-keepers, all in a throng

But the name of old Casement is now reinstated,
In the old ivy-crowned house, which must be related;
And McPeak’s ancient dwelling, in loftiest grandeur.
Where Mr. Orr lives in both comfort and splendour,

But, alas! my kind reader, it grieves me full sore,
To think on the subject I have to explore;
The moat up the road from the year ninety-eight,
Is remember’d where Irishmen met a sad fate!
On the landscape, kind reader, I need say no more,
The town corporation to you I’ll explore!

7th June 1895, Ballymena Observer advert, Robinson Crusoe at Ballymena Town Hall
TOWN HALL, BALLYMENA
FOR THREE NIGHTS ONLY
JUNE 11th, 12th, and 13th.
Terence Ramsdale’s Burlesque Extravaganza,
Entitled – Robinson Crusoe.
Magnificent Scenery, Gorgeous Costumes,
Novel Sparkling Music, Powerful Company.
Special Performance on Thursday Afternoon at Five o’clock.
Doors Open each Evening during stay at 7.30
Performance at 8
ADMISSION, 2/-, 1/-, and 6d.

Fly swift Pegasus, I want you again.
And bring me one bottle from Helicon’s plain;
Or the stream of Castalia sweet let me drink,
And then I will spare neither paper nor ink;

Here goes, my kind reader in ecstatic strain.
To picture our town — let us try it again
God bless kind Adair, he’s the lord of the toil,
To improve our fine town he does count it no toil;

The Name of Ballymena

Our town takes it’s name from old Antrim’s great centre,
And beauty appears every place that you enter.
First see the improvement in the old market-place,
The elegant structure will add a new grace;

Brave Steel and McAuley bears credit and fame,
These worthy contractors I am happy to name;
They are building a tower now, ninety feet high.
And beautiful spire, with its top towards the sky;

Success to brave Dickey, J.P., for the town,
Likewise his kind Lady, who merits renown.
Now, reader, no poem is without partiality,
I don’t mean to flatter, or yet use formality;

To the new bridge of Sodom I’ll first bend my way,
Where brave Mr. Ritchy did his powers display,
But through other places my fancy must trace;
Charley’s hammer attracts me as I rove along.

Bridge Street

And Mr. Bell’s old green comes next in my song:
Now Bridge Street, at large, is a beautiful place.
Here commerce all round on each side you can trace,
Here publicans, grocers, and bakers live well,

And hardware and leather, yes, plenty to sell.
The bank for exchange in Bridge Street you can find,
Where old Doctor Patrick lives, generous and kind.
Next Greer’s grand hotel, where, direct from the train,

Comes the brave Belfast merchants, for honour and gain:
I’ll mention one old friend, none need take it ill,
That never was afraid a good naggin to fill;
For Mrs. Carson I don’t like to pass,
When I’m at the corner I’ll call for a glass.
And the old-established Misses Smyth, I will name,
With the greatest of pleasure I write to their fame;

Church Street

Now Church Street, for grandeur and great merchandise,
With pleasure and truth I must characterise.
Her printers and clothiers, woollen drapers complete
With the town of Belfast we can nearly compete;

Spirit merchants and grocers, in splendour you’ll find,
With hardware, and top tailors, and dressmakers kind,
And kind public bakeries, and bread of the best,
Made by Taylor and Morton, as well as the rest;

Accommodation for travellers through all parts of town,
And good cheap conveyance to all their renown;
The places of commerce I’ll mention apart.
With mind full of fancy and friendship at heart.

The oldest establishments first I will name,
Let tha critical reader here give me no blame;
On my ramble thro’ Church Street I’d count it a sin,
To refuse a full bumper from friend Davy Lynn

Or brave Andrew Martin, of the old spirit store,
His tea, soap, and candles, might please you therefore;
They say Mr. Minnes sells twopenny whop,
Prepar’d in good style, for the drunkard’s own drop.

But his teas and his sugars would you please you right well,
And for meal, flour, and bran, be has plenty to sell;
But come, my sweet muse, we must tell something more,
Let us view Taylor’s grocery, bakery, and store;

But he has left Mill Street, I tell with regret,
His Mistress and family I’ll never forget;
And old Mrs. Brangin’a old tavern with pride,
Stands in grandeur and style, upon the other side.

Our printers, I’ll mention their names with delight,
Success to the press of friends Dugan and White!
Go on, happy muse, you are coming good speed:
Here the vendors of hardware, brave Gardner and Reid;

Brothers Lindsay and Co., with the great Mr. Small,
I wish to miss none, for the honour of all!
Our surgeons, my fancy is bent for their fame,
Mr. Black, Mr. Smyth, and Mr. Ross, I must name:

Next, Mr. McKay’s grand establishment fine.
How bright, in the window, his fine work do shine:
Mr. Baird, linen merchant, and old lady Adair,
Next to Minniss’ store stands their house, I declare.

Now the woollen department I’ll name with respect.
I’ll single them out, least on me they reflect;
The oldest comes foremost, none need take it ill,
Nor throw a foul card at my fanciful quill;

See Mr. Watson’s great store, long established in town.
Sells the best of good clothing, white, blue, black, and brown;
But, bless my heart, when I turn myself round,
Those transparent scenes does my senses confound,

Baird and Hardy, Baird and Hardy, Baird and Hardy hurrah!
What grandeur and beauty is come in my way;
And, what change for the better with Mr. George Tomb,
May he live in splendour in his happy home.

Likewise Mr. Robert Chesney at the corner lives well.
The fame of young Chesney I am happy to tell;
Mr. Patrick McVicker, and his dear brother’s son,
It is long in this town since their trade was begun,

And Mr. James Killen as pleasant as any,
Rich with both houses and money.

I musn’t forget my friend McAfee,
The best of good work his place you can see;

But now the Miss Ervine, I have them in view,
And friendly Miss Ellison, steady and true
Cheap Andy’s here yet, and I cannot forget him,
He was once in his time that few poets could beat him.

Now I’ll take a ramble just over the hill,
And call with Miss Laverty for a strong gill.
They say Mr. Hanna keeps a drop very strong,
And the watchmaker, Given, if I am not wrong.

I am keen for the law, and I now do incline
To call in and see Mr. George Ballentine:
But I am mistaken, I am very sure,
And I hope he’ll forgive me; ’tis young Mr. Moore,

In the woollen department he bears a good name,
I wish to do justice to every one’s fame,
For I told you my motto was honour and truth;
And now my kind friendship to Mr. Caruth,

And also brave Grier, that ne’er was afraid.
In the house of John Gray Craig to set up in trade;
But Hugh Mullen’s dead, of the great spirit store.
He died much lamented by hundreds and more;

But I’ll over and rest with Mr. Brownlees,
Contented and happy I’ll sit down at my ease:
Now I’m rested, refreshed and my muse is on wing.
With the word — Ballymena, I’ll make the woods ring.

Mr. Strachan, good morrow, I hope you are well;
You have candles and soap and great sundries to sell;
But Mr. Craig’s place makes my muse stop and smile,
And twenty-two years is a very long while-

He has stood in his credit since that time I know;
But ‘cross to friend Given’s yarn store I must go,
And I’ll call with Miss Acton, she sits here alone,
I wish her a good husband, for, oh! she has none.

So now ‘cross the lane I will quickly repair.
To see my friend Gilmore, who in comfort lives there,
I’ve tasted his liquor, I am certain it’s good;
Let this to the public be well anderstood.

Church Street Saddlers

Our saddlers in Church-street, Mr. Craig and friend Elliott.
And Montgomery’s coach factory in pride I will tell it,
A respectable tradesman, keeps workmen of skill.
But Mr. Morton’s new building is a mark for my quill;

His father lived long, and sold liquor in town,
And he is become a rich man of renown;
But Mrs. Montgomery has a drop of good wine,
I think in my heart I will stop here and dine;

But what, friend McKendry is calling me in.
He told me last week, he had excellent gin,
And old William Connor sells butter and cheese!
The kettle is boiling, step in, if you please.

I have no bad wish to Mrs. Wason, not I,
But her and many others I have to pass by;
Mr. Mitchel, the glazier, is in great esteem,
And Mr. McCamphill his friendship I claim.

And Mr. and Mrs. Rainey and Co.,
And Mrs. Jack, too, I must let you know.
The critic may censure, but I’ll mind my employ,—
I call with friend Dickey, and Mr. Malloy;

Two respectable friends, near the church they do dwell
With honour and credit, good liquor they sell.
From friend Robert Sutter I’ll get good a good glass
Then by Mr. Taylor’s small houses I’ll pass,

Till I come to the oldest top tailor in town—

I’ll mention Joss. Hanna, lest on me he’d frown.
M’Alister, Mebin, and Nugent, and Reid.
And friend William Duffen, is baker indeed;

But now round the corner Sandy Smith I’ll go see,
That can make a strong pair of good shoes unto me;
But Felix Maguire has oranges plenty,
With codfish and oysters the boy can content ye;

But now the pimp tavern, for grandeur and style,
When I look at the window it makes me to smile;
The bottles and glasses, decanters so bright,
So nicely arranged, is a beautiful sight;

Success to the owner, friend Smyth, of renown,
This place is a pattern to many in town.
Now, reader, before I face Wellington Street,
On some small mistakes in these lines I will treat:

There is not one in Church Street that can I wish better.
Than good Mr. Wilson, but in this I’m his debtor;
I know Mr. Wilson above thirty years,
The want of thought oftentimes adds to fears;

And the great big teetotaller, that makes boots and shoes.
He has plenty of money, a mark for my muse;
And Huston, the bluedyer, a steady, honest, old man—
Reader, take my excuse here, as well as you can,

For I have to go back on old Bridge Street again.
For fear that some friends on my poem might complain;
I will pass by the inn till I come to friend Rea,
For groceries and spirits his sign-board looks gay

And I’ll pass the bank to Mr. Kane,
That can treat the old bard to a glass of champagne;
But friend Henry Carson is in need of a wife,
May get a good one to please him through life;

But kind Mr. Hamill got a puncheon last week,
The Mistress will treat me, as sure as I speak.
And Mrs. White a strong glass of good ale,
And excellent whiskey here, daily, for sale;

John Ross sells potatoes, onions, and cheese.
Sugars, and strong lundy, that would make you sneeze.
Henry Ewart makes broth, boils the kettle, and so;
Mr. Gordon, the gardener, sells good glass I know.

Good Mr. Simpson I hope you’re all well
I think you have got some good wine here to sell.
Now I’m getting hungry McHarg I will go,
For a very good loaf, for he has it, I know.

My muse quite willing her course to pursue,
Mrs Walkinshaw’s delf shop is bright to the view,
But I’m passing Kennedy’s, where my own friends I meet;
His whiskey is powerful, but very sweet;

Thomas Cunningham sells, too, a very good dram.
He lives next the antry, as quiet as a lamb;
But here lives a right man, my friends, I’ll go bail,
Just opposite Kain’s inn, ’tis Doctor O’Neill.

Mrs. Hannah cuts leather, an old residenter,
But now for a taste of McAuley’s decanter.
Brave Mr. Davison makes rope and twine;
How bright does Miss Peggy’s clean bottles all shine.

Samuel Ferguson lives with his consort in peace,
And something I’ll say about Mr. Smyth’s place:
The sons of old Vulcan I wish them good speed—
And Mr. Smyth has a fine tavern indeed;

I think, my dear friends, I will alter my plan.
And turn and call with big, fat, Mr. Swan:-
He lives at corner, a kind hearted man,
My compliments kind to my brave William Swan;

But stop here — kind reader — till we see Mr. Graham,
A steady rich merchant, I write to his fame
His great hardware stores and the best of good leather,
To keep our feet warm in cold winter weather.

But here’s a fine baker came down from Belfast,
And Mr. Orr’s office I’m come to at last,
And old Mr. Wallace’s ancient old dwelling—
Believe me, kind friends, for its truth I am telling.

But Mr. McCurdy sells excellent whiskey!
I’ll call for a bumper as I’m getting frisky
I’ll bid time of day to my friend, Mr. Bell,
From this to the bridge is his own I can tell.

Mr. Ballentine’s place lives Widow Charter’s and Millar,
And friend, William Allen, has plenty of siller.
McAully and Carnochan sell whiskey, too,
And friendly John Martin both steady and true—

And old Mr. Saunderson came from Glenwhirry,
But I’ll pass the rest by as I’m in hurry.
Now, reader, be patient, this is no disrespect,
Tis not through disdain good men’s names I neglect:—

But I’ll go to the cloth-room and crack with the boys,
They are all clever fellows Mr. Gihon employs:
But bless me! what sights here and there strikes my eye,
The garden and vine-yard how can I pass by,

And the now porter-lodge where friend Blakley lives well.
But, no longer in Bridge Street, my friends, I can dwell,
I will over to Sodom and see the old mill.
And yon beautiful building erected by Dill;

For beetling machinery fronting the green,
As grand a new building as here can be seen.
Success to friend Dill, for I wish him right well.
But, now, I’m inclined something more, friends, to tell.

Third Canto

Now, reader, just back to the pump I must go,
Ballymena’s my idol I must let you know,
I invoke for my aid all the musical train,
In ecstatic strains 1 will try It again.

The beauty and grandeur of Taylor’s whole place,
In my fanciful poem gives my subject a grace.
These grand palisades and those ever green trees,
And the yard and grand cloth-room does my fancy please.

And Wm. B.’s own house and office and all,
Where many a gentleman with him does call—
God bless these kind gentlemen now and for ever,
Their friendship in times past, forget it I’ll never;—

The best friend I had among them, is in her grave,
And the green grass and daisies does over her wave.
Mrs. Tracy’s fine houses is near Taylor’s ground,
And the church adds a lustre to this place around;

For on Sunday morning the church bell does ring,
Where sweet Christian raptures holy songs they do sing.
And Mr. Smith’s leather store commences Broughshane Street.
But through Wellington Street I’ll come back to the main street.

Now, take care my kind muse, you have done mighty well.
But great and grand subjects you have yet to tell:
That grand lofty structure, just on my right hand,
Built for the Banking Company puts me to a stand.

Success to the inmates, ladies, children and all.
At other fine places through town I must call;
There’s a house ‘cross the way, but I’m not very sure,
I think its inmate is my friend, Robert Moore.

But what black smoke is that coming out of yon fuse,
Enough now to frighten my poor simple muse?
But oh! ’tis friend White and his brave merry men,
I must step in through friendship and crack with them—

Success to ye boys, you’ve a very fine fire,
And I’ll have a smoke, if it is your desire?
Good day, Mr. Kennedy, how do you do?
Do you think you have got any patterns new?

But Mr. James Ballentine has got a great store,
Of all kinds of leather and hemp-twine galore;
And Miss Jane keeps a school, to teach pretty young maids,
To make rich gowns, head dresses, and other nice trades;

Now, reader, this young man and sisters, I say,
Built all this concern that now looks so gay
It might be called Trades Place, I am speaking the truth,
I knew James’ plan from the days of his youth.

Ulster Bank and Manager Mr Clark

Now the great Ulster Bank, I must view it all round,
As fine a large building as any in town;
Success to the manager, Clark, and the ladies,
For wishing and praying, kind reader, my trade is;

But I’ll cross again to lady of fame,
She has a fine house, and Miss Moore is her name.
William Dunsheath, Esq.. I know him right well,
Has very fine horses I am happy to tell;

Doctor Kidd lives in splendour, he thought it no harm
To come to our town from the shores of Glenarm,
Charles Disney Esq., a grand architect,
He improved Mr. Tomb’s, which I must not neglect;

There’s some I must pass, for their names I don’t know.
And brave Doctor Wallace’s place I will show;
McKibben lived here, once, in grandeur and style.
And improved this fine budding, yea, for a good while

It was old Mr. Gibson, who that laid the first plan
Of these lofty buildings, a respectable man.
They tell me Mr. Newell is come to our town;
Bat now I must write to Miss Balfour’s renown;

Mr. Orr lived in this house very long,
But, friends, I must turn for another new song.
My throat’s getting dry, now, I must have a glass,
A friend, John McGaughey, I don’t like to pass;

Mr. Barr is next door, friends, but I must be quiet—
And McKillen‘s new buildings I’ll not turn by it.
Mr. Walkinshaw’s house, and new furniture grand,
And splendid framed pictures puts me to a stand.

Bryan Street

This grand corner lady, I don’t know her name,
I hope she will not chide the bard, for the same;
But oh! here’s Bryan street just in my view,
I must ramble up here, I have something to say.
By the bye, here’s McAdam, and friend Duffin, too,
Two respectable neighbours, both steady and true-

Well famed for good spirits, rum, brandy, and wine,
But onward I’ll go something more to define:-
Here’s coopers, shoemakers, and many a trade,
And victualling houses where strong tea is made;

McAuley’s great pork store I’ll name with respect,
The grand haberdashers I cannot neglect;
And George Moore’s canaries bow sweetly they sing;
Excuse me, kind reader, my muse is on wing.

Tradition is useful, where truth carries on,
On facts handed down, still, from sire to son.
Ballymena was one time a poor hamlet small,
And very few slates on its roofs placed at all—

And the lands round the suburbs was heather and rushes.
With some thorn hedges and wild hazel bushes
Where Bryan street now stands, there is cause to remember,
The muir-cock could feed in the month of December;

But time brings on changes for better or worse.
Some change for a blessing and some for a curse
But strong perseverance, industry, and care,
Improves every country, and town, I declare;

There is something, my friends, that I have to reveal,
The North side was held, once, by Cormack O’Neill;
And old Bryan Orawe held the South ride, I know.
And now Bryan’s name remains on it, also.

Back to Wellington Street

But onward to Wellington street once again,
I must see the butcher, he has fat beef and lean-
And his faithful dog, Keeper, can watch a thief well;
But here’s Joseph Fowler, has fine shoes to sell.

Likewise, Mr. Cosby, the horse can prepare,
Aye in all things but shoes, here, the smith gets a share.
But Davison’s office I had nearly forgot,
He’s a kind worthy man and forget him I’ll not.

But reader, by jing, here’s my friend, Mr. White,
To see him still thriving, would be my delight;
But I’m dry—and friend, Black, is an honest old neighbour,
Does nobody harm, but lives by his labour.

But here’s Mr. Green, where the drapers attend,
Him and Mr McCaughey, with others are friends.
And Mistress Buchanan’s great old spirit store,
And the great yard and yarn stores I must explore;

Next the beautiful office—success to Adair.
And good Mr. Dickey, my patron, sits there,
Mr. Logan’s large gateway and Mrs. White’s place,
Here lives Miss McKinlay, of virtue and grace;

McGradey’s come here, too, his fortune to make,
And pensioner Craig, too, can roast you a stake.
I forgot friend, McClarnon, in Wellington street,
Call in friendly neighbours, he has elegant meat;

But I must rove down to Galgorm street, here,
First I’ll take a bumper my spirits to cheer ;
For Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s good liquor invites me,
And her long honest conduct and manners delights me

Now, reader, here pause, when you stand at her door,
And view round about, there’s a fine sight I am sure;
How dazzling does Atkinson’s windows appear.
With delf, glasses, and china, transparent and clear;

And young Surgeon Diamond sells Holloway’s Pills
And physics, and powders, to banish your ills.
And old Mr. Martin, round the comer, lived long.
Now Galgorm Street I must view it long;

Now, reader, don’t tire, be patient and read,
On Surgeon Young’s buildings my fancy most speed
Observe the brown cloth-room, the store-house, and gate,
And the nice flower garden in its fanciful state –

The lappers are busy – Sarah Martin sits marking;
William Berrys at work, and the watch-dog is barking—
Round the comer the hall door in grandeur doth shine,
And the parlour for beauty’s like something divine.

The bank and the office, the white-room and hall.
It gives me much pleasure to mention them all—
For the Youngs are a family in every degree,
That always were friendly and kind unto me;
God prosper the Surgeon, Mr. Robert, also,

And all the young gentlemen, well may they go—
And the Surgeon’s grand lady, sure this is no harm?
To say she’s left town and away to Galgorm;
And the Fenaghy lady and kind family, too.
May they all live in opulence during life through;

Hillmount & Whitehall

And the lady of Hillmount, that lovely sweet place,
May she never know grief or the want of God’s grace—
Let my friends not remark me, while for them I .pray,
It is but my duty till my dying day;

God prosper their bleachers, and Uppers, and all.
From the shades of Hillmount to the groves of Whitehall.
Kind reader, be patient, it’s nothing to read,
But if you would compose, it would dizzy your head;

See that old fellow, Bacchus, is winking on me,
Into kind Mrs. Diamond’s to have a good spree—
But I’ll not stop long, till I cross the new fine,
To see how Dunseath’s pretty cloth-room do thine,

The red painted windows and cloth shining through.
And the lappers all busy, their work to pursue:
God speed Mr. William and his manly boys,
Now some other subject fancy employs.

David Larkin’s new shop in great splendour do shine,
And friend, Gordon Dempsey’s in the grocery line
Now Davison’s row is up on my right hand,
And the left, down to Gihon’s under Christy’s command.

And see where I’m standing, the brewery lane,
And Gihon’s and Dickey’s grand engines again;
Through this ward lives some people that lives by their labours,
All friendly together, and very good neighbours;

Smithfield

I’ll bid them farewell, but, I hope, not for ever,
I’ll go up, light my cutty, with Mistress McKeever-
An honest old Christian, her whiskey is good;
But Smithfield’s in view, and I’m just in the mood.

I remember when Smithfield was a nice garden fair,
And berries, and flowerets, and fruit trees grew there;
And forty years ago, when Miss Harrison was young,
Many a sweet rose round its borders has sprung;

But, now, the great ox, the lamb and the sheep,
Is killed; while McCleary’s great dog does watch keep;
And fish men, and eel-men. and pullen, and trout.
And thatch rods, and baskets, in order laid out;

And you’ll see round the walls, friends, if I’m not mistaken,
Thirty stands set in order, with plenty of bacon;
And the herring wives’ barrels all stand in a row,
And furniture, new and old, here a fine show;

But, reader, forgive me, I’ve further to go.
Here’s a whole range of sheds, for McCleary and others,
They slaughter together as friendly as brothers.

There is men from the country comes here to sell beef.
There is some of it middling, but here I’ll be brief;
Mr. Briggs’s grand office I see from the gate.
And some nice young females so trig and so neat;

God bless the young females, their names I don’t know:
So, cross to friend Ganley’s, for a bumper, I’ll go.
Mr. Young’s yellow balls, sad Miss Farrel’s I’ll name,
And turner, James Lamont, I write to his fame;

Mr. Raephel’s new building on the old Shambles’ shade,
And plumber Magee, too, a worker of lead;
Messrs. Madden and Sands sell good whiskey and beer,
And friend Mcllwain, the pawnbroker, lives here;

And here’s the great weigh-bridge, success to McBride,
And his uncle, friend Nelson, I say it with pride.
Bryan Cooney’s old houses, I have now on my eye,
There is some people there and I must pass them by:

Mr McCart is a dandy shoemaker,
Also, Mr. Conway is a ginger-bread baker;
And poor Robert Cooney has very sore feet.
And Kidd, the reed maker, is dead from this street,

But here is the bank, where there’s liquor in store,
And plenty of riches, three thousand and more.
Success to kind Robert, and William, and John,
My journey’s not ended, I must ramble on

George Street – Dickey’s Mill

To George Street; first the great tunnel I’ll view.
Across the broad line, where the water comes through.
This water-course feeds Dickey’s engines and mill.
From Glenafferty river, bound at Todd’s hill.

Now down the mill row I do know but very few,
But old Molly Dunce is alive, yet in view;
And old Hughy Hardy is dead and away,
But John, and his family, is there to this day;

And Steel and McAuley’s large fine timber yard,
I wish them good luck, and happy reward.
See in Mr. McAuley’s what nice work is hero,
All done the head of his mistress dear.

John Wasson, the blacksmith, bought houses from Wray,
And he’s to America, I hear people say ;
Robert Tinsdale makes excellent boots and strong shoes.
But the factory, now, is more work for the muse;

And Mr. Steers house and his mistress so kind,
And poor house relief, just next door, you can find.
There’s ponderous hammers, you’ll bear them ding dong,
And workmen, all busy, a very great throng:

I only can say just success to them all,—
I see the new hotel. I’ll give it a call.
This hotel and court-house was builded right well
Well McAulev and Steel, I can publicly tell;

But Mr. Adair was at all the expenses—
I’ll pray for his welfare as I’m in my senses
And as I come up, Mr. Kelly lives here,
In the old tan-yard mansion, I wish him good cheer;

And these new walls do cover, what none will deny,
The whole of the grounds of old Neely McKay.
But Killen’s new buildings, on McCleary’s old ground
Their beautiful view does my fancy confound—

Stone-finished and painted, in elegant style,
When I come round this corner it makes me to smile.
None but Captain Stoney I know in this place,
But all these grand buildings gives our town a true grace:

The Reverend Fleming, I know him right well—
I am proud, in my version, his praises to tell.
Mr. Gihon’s kind office clerk, good Mr. Kerr,
I think it but justice to give him a share

But friends, on my ramble, I am happy to tell it-
I am now at the buildings of kind Mr, Jellet.
Just on to the bridewell, his buildings look well.
And in splendour he lives in his own grand hotel:

Mr. Beggs’ new cloth room, adds more to bis fame;
But the Bridewell and gate is a part of my theme.
I’ll turn a while to I come to Mill Street,
Some fancy, kind reader, we’ll instantly meet;

Sure Mr. Christy’s man of both credit and fame,
His beautiful dwelling with pride I will name—
Stone finished and grand, and his men at their trade;
To employ them and pay them he is not afraid.

I wish him success, he’s a sportsman likewise,
It warns me, Christy to characterise;
But the pump and the factory, and all this whole square.
Is nearly too much for my muse I declare.

But I’ll rest awhile, friends, for sometimes I tire,
I’ll go in, take a seat, at Mistress Rab’s fire—
Now I’m warm and rested, the Mistres was kind;
Tis a blessing when rambling that friendship we find.

I am just coming to that place of renown,
Called Mill Street, but first I will call with Miss Brown—
I don’t know the people along this whole row.
To Mr. McNiece’s so onward I go:

Good morrow, friend Henry, you seem to be busy,
I have travelled the town till my head’s getting dizzy—
With the sight of Kirk’s office there’s more in my view:
Here’s young Mr. Christy, but steady and true

Well skilled in the law, and I wish him success,
But Atkinson’s buildings is next I confess:
And a great hardware store and whole set of toys.
All placed up for sale to good girls and boys.

Now I’m back to the square and I’m filled with delight
Up street I behold such a beautiful sight;
But first I’ll go in to Kirkpatrick’s, once more.
These ladies are kind, and has plenty in store—
David Lindsay lives well, and can fit to all sizes,
With beavers, or pilots, and the best of good frieses.

Next door to the Doctor there’s more clothes for sale,
And friend, Mr. Nesbit, sells spirits and ale ;
But I am past Nicholl, and that is not fair—
A saddler of skill, and of trade gets a share.

But now, on my word, here’s young friend McCann,
Well skilled in the clothes trade—a clever young man;
Dr. Hay’s a subscriber, and wished me good speed,
And young Mistress Knowles has a fine shop indeed;

But, reader, friend Bradshaw has meal, flour, and bran.
And the finest of tea—a respectable man,
Misses Lindsay sells cotons, delf, china, and toys,
Mr. Getty stamps webs for the weavers, (poor boys)

But his strong ardent spirits is honest and pure—
Brave hatter McGrogan is dead I am sure;
But I hope not for ever, there’s mercy in store,
With the Great King of Glory, for both rich and poor;

My own loving comrade, kind Woodburn, dead,
And now Mr. Wallace remains his stead.
My friends, if you want a good staunch pair of shoes,
Of any description, come in here and choose—

Friend Telford’s a man that is much in repute,
And Alexander McConnell sells clothes here to boot.
Robert Eager makes new clothes and keeps a small shop,
Now into Hugh Colvill’s with speed I will pop;

Now turn to Ledley’s great full yarn store.
And the farmer’s hotel, too, I wish to explore.
And next, I must give my own friend a short call,
And sing of the merits of brave Dan McFall;
And brother McDowell has a good glass I know—
My respects to McDowell, and let no-one say no.

Success to young Sayers, may his knowledge increase,
And good Mr. Sloan, who stands at this place;
But reader, don’t blame me, I cannot help this,
My words on the widow, don’t take it amiss!

Mistress Jack is a character I know right well—
Forty years, and far more, she in Mill Street did dwell;
Her husband sold spirits when I was a youth,
I remember his friendship, I’m telling the truth;

Mr. Robinson’s fame as a good woollen draper,
His goods are all sound, and there’s few that sells cheaper,
But oh, my kind reader, what grandeur I see,
This place for true splendour astonishes me;

In the woollen department, haberdashery, too.
I think that this place does many others outdo—
The owners, Greene & Sinclair, Greene & Sinclair, hurrah!
In justice may they always carry the day;

But, friends in my version, I think it no toil
To set forth the merits of Mr. James Boyle;
Mr. Collins is left us, his fortune to trace,
But now Mr. Boyle he enjoys the whole place.

And friend, James McAuley’s, appears very grand.
Near the Victoria house this kind worthy does stand
Cheap cottons, cheap cottons, fine ribbons and laces,
And nice artificials, for young ladies’ faces

Trudger

"I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

8 thoughts on “Old Ballymena Photograph and 1851 Poem

  1. I do like comparing these old photos with the current.
    (and I do love viewing your family photos, having a break from work, with the Massey Ferguson MF35 in the background).
    Ballymena has unfavourable memories for me. When my parents came back on leave from the tropics, I would be taken to the dentist (when dentists tended to create their big holes for their own reasons), and to the shoe shop for sandals (I still maintain I went bare feet until boarding school at 11).
    The poem IS quite a mouthful, do you think the author was angling for ‘preferential rates’? My mother originated from the Hamilton’s around Kells. Her family tree is turning out to be a never-ending labyrinth with other families, and there are sections in the poem where every name appears in her tree.

    1. Always great to get your comments, Barry. Delighted that you like the old photos. With recent advancements, in the past year, with AI image related software, it has been possible to salvage some additional photos from the archive. e.g. photos that before were tiny, now can be expanded with no loss in quality.

      Sorry to hear of your dentistry laden memories (and sandals) of Ballymena. I have similar early blood-spitting memories of Coleraine….post anaesthesia, and being led back to the car by my parents.

      Regarding the poem. Yes, when I came across it, in that local 1895 newspaper, I realised that this may be gold dust. The local would-be poet, from the mid 1800s, was recalling, on his imaginary walk, every street and person from the entire town, from way back in 1851.

      I took the liberty of substituing a ‘c’ for every ‘ in the surnames – thus, for example, M’Peake becomes McPeake – in order to allow viewers to more easily search for their family names.

      I managed to piece together, like a jigsaw, about two-thirds of the old poem, from various newspaper editions across May and June 1895. But with the sheer volume of work in transcribing and putting the poetry all together (over some 6 weeks), I was not too disappointed to have lost a third! But obviously should I come across, in the future, the missing newspapers, I will update the poem.

      Another little note – I encountered a few new names, for example, Gihon. I initially thought the surname must have been Gibon. But on further research, I discovered that Gihon was a surname that was around at that time, in this part of the world. It was a new one to me.

      Also – I hadn’t realised that the Town Hall had burned down in January 1919. It was fascinating to learn more about the Town Hall history.

  2. Hi, I am researching my Gt Gt grandfather. He lived and owned a shop in Ballymena and was laid to rest at old church in 1904. In the poem it mentions him for the shoes. He lived in Mount St and Church St Ballymena.

  3. Gary,
    I don;t know how much information you have, but for starters, there is a record of a John Wallace, died 18 Jan 1904, aged 82. He was married at the time of death, living in Bridge Street, a shop keeper. An Ann Getty was present at death.
    I can show you some of the websites where I’m sure you’ll be able to find further information. It doesn’t take long to build a basic history.
    I’m happy for my email to be passed on.
    Kind regards
    Barry Mulholland
    (mother’s family from Kells/Ballymena)

  4. Hi sorry for the late reply, he was Henry Gordon Wallace he had the shoe shop in church st in the middle to late 1800s, he died in the year 1904.

    I will email you later today,

    Regards Gary.

    Ps All of my fathers side are from Ballymena, Ballyclare and Carrickfergus.

  5. Ah, the history of Henry Wallace, a shoe maker, is much more interesting!
    Best to pass on details directly. I can get you started, much more exciting for you to make your own discoveries. The dates do tend to fall outside when other family events would have occurred, so there may need to be a bit of trawling for you to be able to link the generations.
    Best regards,
    Barry

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