Picture the scene….it is approaching Christmas day 166 years ago. On a cold winters evening the people of Coleraine and surrounding areas packed out the Town Hall. They were there to hear a lecture by Dr. Babington, his subject being, “The Town of Coleraine”. Dr. Babington tells of an often-forgotten history of the town and its inhabitants from ancient times to the present (being 1852). A wonderful insight into the life and times of the people who lived in Coleraine.
Dr. Babington’s lecture was recorded and printed in the Coleraine Chronicle dated 18th December 1852.
DR. BABINGTON’S LECTURE
ON THE TOWN OF COLERAINE
The second lecture of the season, in connection with the Coleraine Mechanic’s Institute, was delivered on Tuesday night last in the Town Hall here, by Dr. Babington. The Hall was crowded to excess. Sir H. H. Bruce, Bart., the President of the Institute, occupied the chair. Dr. Babington on rising was received with applause. He stated that the subject which he had chosen for his lecture was “The Town of Coleraine.” Having given the geographical position of this borough, he then proceeded as follows: -
Considerable differences exist amongst etymologists as to the origin of the name of the town of Coleraine; some derive it from Cuil Rathan, the corner of ferns, and this view is supported by the authority of an old work, the Trepartite Life, in which it is stated that our patron saint, St. Patrick, having arrived in this neighbourhood was hospitably entertained, and received an offer of ground to build a church, the site pointed out to him was on the northern side of the river Bann, on a piece of ground overgrown by ferns, and that in the year 540, Bishop Carbrens selected this place for his abode, and from these incidents the place was called Cuil Rathan, the corner of ferns, or the ferny retirement. Others derive the name from the Cuil Rathan, the fort on the corner or bend of the waters. To the latter, Mr. Sampson and Mr. Lewis incline, while that accomplished antiquarian scholar, Mr. Reeves, of Ballymena, adopts the former. We are also informed that in ancient times the town was called Banina, owing to the proximity to the river Bann. This town is of remote antiquity; it is always called the ancient and loyal borough, and in old times the greater part of the town was situated on the west side of the river Bann. In the year 540, there was a priory of canons regular at Coleraine, and Saint Carbrens, a disciple of Saint Finian, was the Bishop or mitred Abbot. In the year 930, Armidius, who was then Abbot, was murdered by the Danes. It must be very clear to all who have inquired into the history of this locality, that the Danes or Northmen held at one time considerable sway here. In 795, they had possession of Rathlin Island. In 1008 Magnus, King of Norway, crossed by the Orkneys, Hebrides, and Isle of Man to Dublin, overran the island, and was defeated in a battle with the people of Ulster.
In the year 1171, the priory was attacked by Manus McDunlade and in 1213, according to the old masters, al the houses in the town and other buildings, except the church, were pulled down by Thomas McUchtry and the English, for the purpose of building a castle at Coleraine.
It is supposed by many that the site of the old Abbey is now occupied by the shambles. You may all recollect that considerable quantities of bones were dug up when excavating for the foundation of that handsome range of buildings erected by Mr. C. Know, at Hanover-place and Bridge-street. I do not incline to the idea that there was a burying-ground there, as the bones were not found lying in any order, but were all heaped together.
There was also a monastery west of the town, founded....
Use the link above to explore the Historical Maps available at PRONI.
....in the 5th century by one of the O’Cathan family, and there is reason to believe that in 1244 there was a Dominican friary at Coleraine, on the west bank of the river. The farms belonging to this body were surrendered to James 1, or his commissioners, and were granted to the London Society. Shane O’Boyle was the last prior of this monastery. It is recorded that from that foundation, two Bishops, two Authors, and eight Martyrs were sent forth.
There can be no doubt that Coleraine and the whole district surrounding it, and adjacent on both sides of the river was the scene of many of these engagements, more especially of the battles with the Danes; witness their Raths, moats, and encampments, in the vicinity of this town, the Giant’s Sconce in Dunboe, Mountsandel, the very perfect forts of Ballycairn. Ballyvenox, the Glebe of Dunboe. And all these so disposed, as well for strenghth as that fires kindled on one may be seen to the next on either side. From this we may conclude the communication by telegraph is not of very modern date.
Coleraine was at one period the principle town of the county, and the district which we now designate the county of Londonderry was called the county of Coleraine. In the year 1569, having sworn allegiance in 1559, Shan O’Neill raised a most formidable rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. O’Neill was the head of the powerful Septa in Ulster, he gained some advantages over the Queen’s forces, but was finally vanquished by Sir Henry Sidney. He fled to Scotland and was there assassinated. The Queen, with worse judgement than policy, made O’Neill’s nephew, Earl of Tyrone and he, in grateful return for the honour conferred on him, fomented fresh disturbances, stirred up a new revolt in Ulster, and after reverses on both sides the Earl of Mountjoy were successful.
Modern Image of Mountsandel Fort
Image courtesy of Luke Watson.
In these conflicts, Sir Henry Dowerah ably assisted the English and took the Castle of Derry from O’Doherty. Notwithstanding many favourable occurrences, as the landing of the Spaniards at Kinsale, and other things, O’Neill was obliged to surrender. The rebellion was terminated, and Ulster was forfeited to the crown. The Queen soon after died. The town of Derry and Coleraine, and a large tract of country were waste, almost depopulated, and the remaining inhabitants were attainted of high treason. About this time the Earl of Salisbury, Lord High Treasurer, suggested to King James 1. The project of establishing an English colony on the forfeited estates, in Ulster. King James had formally a plan of a similar nature for the Highlands of Scotland. And, he now saw how the plantations in Munster and Ulster as attempted in the late reign, had failed – this experience served to guide him. He sought the advice of men of experience, but at first was not very fortunate in his choice. He first consulted Lord Bacon, who wrote a treatise on the subject, but his views did not exhibit great knowledge. The Lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester, joined to considerable abilities and high attainments a knowledge of the country which Lord Bacon had not. He had the counties surveyed – Donegal, Tyrone, Coleraine, Fermanagh, Cavan, Armagh, comprising 511,465 acres, drew up descriptions, pointed out sites for building country houses and castles, and reported generally on the habits of the people.
The scheme was taken up by the city of London, the corporation of which accepted large grants in this county. They agreed to expend £20,000 to build the cities of Derry and Coleraine, and the King was so proud of their co-operation that he declared, when his enemies should hear that the famous city of London, had a footing therein they would be terrified from looking into Ireland, the back door to England and Scotland.
Use the above link to learn more about the Plantation. Image courtesy of PRONI.
After many preliminaries it was finally determined that for the better management of the plantation in the North of Ireland, a company should be formed in London, consisting of a governor, a deputy governor, and twenty-four assistants, to be elected by the city of London and King James the 1. By letters patent, dated 29th March 1613, incorporated this body by the name of the governess and assistants of London of the new plantation in Ulster. That body we call the Irish Society. At a court of common council, held 8th November 1613, a report was made by certain parties who had been sent over to view the lands, that the county should be divided amongst the twelve London Companies, except the city of Derry, and 4,000 acres, and Coleraine with 300 acres, with the ferries and fishings, and license was granted to the twelve companies to take and hold said lands.
The estates were conveyed to the several companies, the city of Londonderry and the town of Coleraine, the lands attached thereto, the woods, ferries and fishings, not being susceptible of division, were retained by the society, who receive the rents and profits therefrom.
The first agents are Sir Tristram Beresford and Mr. Rowley. All these letters patent were repealed and cancelled by King Charles 1., were afterwards regranted in the protectorate and confirmed by Charles 11., on the 10th April, 1663, and by this charter the name of the county was changed to the county of Londonderry.
Use the above link to learn more about the Honourable Irish Society.
Previously a charter had been granted to the town of Coleraine by James 1., and it’s inhabitants were incorporated by the name of the mayor and alderman, and burgess of the town of Coleraine. The corporation consisted of twelve aldermen, twenty-four burgesses, and one chamberlain. Sir Tristram Beresford was named in the charter as first mayor, John Wilkinson recorder, Thomas Casey town clerk and chamberlain. The corporation then returned two burgesses to Parliament, and the Irish Society gave them an annual allowance. At the time of the Union the number was reduced to one, and the right of election remained in the corporation till the passing of the Reform Bill, when the franchise was extended to persons occupying houses valued at £10 a year.
It appears that at first the planters did not proceed very energetically to perform the trusts reposed in them, for in 1615 Sir Josias Bodley was appointed to inquire and report to King James on the slow progress of the citizens in accomplishing the purposes of the plantation, and subsequently in 1618, a new officer, Captain Nicholas Pynnar, was appointed in his room to take a general survey of the works of the society on their estates.
It had been ordered that Coleraine should be built on the abbey side; that 100 houses should be built thereon, and room left for 200 more. Captain Pynnar tells us how that was carried into execution.
A passing word on the ecclesiastical antiquities. He mentioned that the O’Cathan family had founded a monestary to the west of the town in the fifth century. In 1244, this was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was subsequently taken possession of by the Dominican Friars, and in 1644 was erected into a university. In the Hibernica Dominicana you will find an account of a miraculous victory which the image of the Virgin Mary obtained over the English Bishop of Derry, Dr. Brutus Babington, and all his attendants, churches, and burying grounds attached. There was also near the Bann, a celebrated monastery, founded by St. Congal, in 580, the site of which is now occupied by Camus burying ground, and the only remains are a curious pillar. At Macosquin, (the Plane of the Rabbit’s Foot) there was an abbey of the Virgin of the Clear Spring, founded by the Cistercian Monks, in the year 1172. Coleraine is remarkable as being the birth place of Dr. Vesey, Archbishop, who suffered such persecution, also for its salmon. And for it’s “Beautiful Kitty,” &c., &c. I before alluded to the Forts and Raths as relics of Danish warfare. As to Mountsandel, we learn that in 1215, John granted to Thomas De Galweya, Earl of Athol, Kilsaultan, with the Castle of Cuilrath, or Coleraine, and the ten Knights’ fees adjoining said castle on the Bann. It is considered that this name of Kilsaultan has passed into Mountsandel, as the Inquisition of 1605 finds that Kilsaultan alias Mountsandel was among the priory lands of Coleraine.
Use the link above to visit 'Coleraine Historical Society' where the Bann Disc's have a wealth of historical information concerning Coleraine and surrounding areas.
In the year 1641, Coleraine was again the scene of warlike operations. Sir Phelim O’Neill again stirred up a rebellion. Others imitated his example, as O’Hanlan, at Tandragee;Sir Conn Magennis, at Newry; Maguire, in Fermanagh; O’Reilly, in Cavan, and within a few weeks the rebels were masters of Tyrone, Monaghan, Longford, Leitrim, Fermanagh, Cavan, Donegal, Londonderry, and part of Armagh and Down. A few forts with the towns of Londonderry, Coleraine, Enniskillen, Lisburn, and Carrickfergus were defended by the English settlers. It is said that a strong body of rebels passing the soldiers in the garrison of Coleraine, asked “If the rogue the King were not dead, and said they were the Queen’s soldiers?” It appears afterwards that in 1642, Coleraine was specially garrisoned by a portion of the Scottish force of 10,000 which was sent over.
In 1641 there was a battle at Coleraine, between Sir Phelim O’Neill’s rebels and the King’s troops, when 200 of the people of Coleraine defeated 1,000 of the insurgents.
Coleraine was again the scene of a battle and was attacked in 1688, when King James’s forces were successfully repulsed.
I have, perhaps, in somewhat too lengthy terms dwelt on the past history of Coleraine, and I feel I have but imperfectly laid it before you. I shall now descend to the more interesting period, and in so doing, briefly advert to the municipality of the town, the trade, it’s connection with the agriculture of the district, the educational establishments, and the prosperity which your town now enjoys, and to the still greater measure of prosperity which I think and hope is yet in store for it.
From the time that Coleraine was granted to the London Society, when it was ordered that Coleraine be built on the abbey side, that one hundred houses should be built, and room left for two hundred more, till the present day, the town has been increasing. In the year 1102 the population of Coleraine was about 3,000, and at the census of 1841, the number of houses in the town was 1271, and the population was 6,255. I have not had access to the returns of the last census, but I have reason to believe that in the town of Coleraine we will find no decrease in the population from either of the causes which have decimated Ireland – famine with all its fearful concomitants, and emigration with its many benefits.
Modern Image of Coleraine Town
Image courtesy of Luke Watson
Coleraine had a population of 24,634 people in the 2011 Census.
I mentioned before, that Coleraine was governed by a mayor and corporation which continued to exist till the Municipal Reform Act came into operation, on the 10th August, 1840. In the wisdom of the legislature of the day, Coleraine was deemed undeserving of having its civic honours preserved, and the borough was placed in Schedule C, and the corporate property became vested in the Commissioners, erected under the 9 Geo. 1V. commonly called the Lighting, Watching and Cleansing Act. In consequence of this change very considerable funds were placed at the disposal of the Commissioners. They entered into possession of the rents of the lands formally held by the Corporation and of the tolls and customs of the markets, encumbered with a debt which had been incurred for the purpose of erecting these markets. As trustees for the public at large, and for the rate payers of the borough, it has been the object of these Commissioners to expand the funds, of which they had become the administrators for the benefit and welfare, comfort and convenience of the inhabitants of this borough.
Since they have become the proprietors of the rents and customs, they have flagged the principle streets of the town; they have commenced an extensive system of sewering; they have lighted the town with gas; and have, to a certain extent, improved the supply of water in different parts of the town, and have considerably increased the accommodation for the markets. They have in contemplation other extensive improvements, and hope to have a full supply of water to every house in town, from....
....a reservoir to be constructed on a field of which they have a lease in perpetuity for the Worshipful the Clothworkers’ Company granted at the annual letting rent on the kind recommendation of their agent, without any charge for the right of water or springs.
I need scarcely add the Commissioners are 21 in number, elected triennially by all persons who occupy houses rated at £5 per annum and upwards, and that they administer the fiscal affairs of the town under the solemn obligation of an oath.
The rent roll of the town property last year was £670 16s 8d, and the amount received for customs for the year ending 3d November, £757 8s 11 ½ There is no secrecy in this matter. The meetings of the board are open to all rate-payers. The accounts when audited are published for inspection and examination and every shilling expended is subjected to the most rigid scrutiny.
Image Courtesy of Robert French, The Lawrence Collection held at the NLI.
The trade of Coleraine next demands our attention. The Irish Society, at one time, took considerable interest in the trade of this place; and in April, 1729, they opposed a project for making Ballycastle a port, and again, 1730, when the subject was brought before the Irish Parliament, they again opposed the proposition. The trade of Coleraine consists chiefly in the importation of timber, flaxseed, sugar, teas, salt, coals, iron, herrings, Indian corn, and foreign wheat. Our exports are flax, eggs, butter, oats, oatmeal, barley, and cattle, fat, and for store purposes, sheep and lambs; and in summer, large quantities of salmon. The trade of Coleraine is carried on chiefly by the harbour at Portrush and has considerably increased within the last twenty years. In the year 1831, 132 vessels entered Portrush harbour and the Bann, their total tonnage being 6,575 tons. In 1851 seventy sailing vessels came to Coleraine, and to Portrush 4 93 sailing vessels and steamers, making a total of 563, with a tonnage of 77,803 tons. That the trade of the town is considerably obstructed, by the difficulties attending the navigation of the river, is acknowledged by all; and much as it is in the fashion to despise Portrush harbour. It must be evident that, only for the accommodation therein afforded, we would have little or no trade.
The obstructions at the mouth of, and within the river, both above and below the bridge, have, at different periods, commanded public attention; and, so far back as 1782, the Corporation of Coleraine sent a memorial to the Irish Society on the subject of removing obstructions on the river Bann, and improving the navigation, and the Society entertained the subject. And Mr. Sampson, in his statistical survey of the county, gives an estimate, by Mr. Whaley, for making the river navigable from Coleraine to the bridge above portglenone. It is only of late years this work has been undertaken. Considerable improvements have been made, and are in progress, under the superintendence of the Board of Works, which, when completed, and the navigation opened upwards to Lough Neagh, it is to be hoped that our trade will receive a considerable extension. From Coleraine to the sea the river, to a certain extent, lies idle and unproductive. The obstructions by way of shoals, and the bar at the mouth of the river, remain unremoved. Surveys have been made, engineers consulted, and plans procured for the execution of the works recommended for the improvement of the navigation from the bridge to the sea. Perhaps something may be done in this direction in the coming spring. It behoves you to be up and doing. The iron horse is at your door, and is approaching you on both sides of your town, and if exertion is not made your export trade will be carried into channels that might not be agreeable or profitable.
Modern Image of the Lower Bann Estuary
Image courtesy of Luke Watson.
A word about the Bann. This river, the second in size and importance in the county, rises from the Deer’s Meadow, in the Mourne mountains; runs through Rathfriland to Portadown; falls into Lough Neagh at the ferry called the Bann Foot. This part of the river is about thirty miles long. The lake may be looked upon as a broad expansion of the river, which, again narrowing at Toome, passes between the counties of Derry and Antrim, till it reaches the Cutts, passes Coleraine, and empties itself into the sea about four miles below the town. It is said that the Bann, at one time, ran due north, and entered the sea by a channel different from the present one. Giraldus, in his history (1187), gives us a wonderful account of Lough Neagh and the Bann. He says – “There is an extensive lake in Ulster, Lough Neagh, from which the river Bann takes its rise, of which it is reported that the ground it covers was once a fertile and populous district, remarkable, however, for the extreme wickedness of its inhabitants. There was a fountain in the land, with a lid and fastenings; and an old prophecy stated that, some day, the well would be left uncovered, and the water would overflow the whole country, and drown the inhabitants for their crimes. It happened, at last, that a woman went to draw water; and, just as she had filled her jug, and was preparing to fasten the lid of the well, she suddenly heard her child crying at a distance. In her haste to fly to its assistance she forgot to fasten the well, and, when she would have returned to supply the omission, she beheld the water overflowing in every direction; and it continued thus flowing and flowing until the whole of the devoted district had disappeared under the smooth surface of Lough Neagh; and the fishermen on the lake declared, as a proof of the authenticity of the story, that often, when the waters of the lake were tranquil, they could see at the bottom the lofty round towers so peculiar to Ireland, which had belonged to the wretched people who had merited so heavy a judgement by the enormity of their crimes.”
Modern Image of the Cutts on the River Bann, Coleraine
Image courtesy of Luke Watson
The fisheries of the Bann demand our notice. The original right to these fisheries appears to have been vested in the ancient monasteries within whose precincts they lay; and, on the suppression of these. The Bishop of Derry laid claim to them, he being successor to the ecclesiastical rights. In the instructions to the Commissioners for the Plantation, it was a direction that the fishings in the loughs and rivers were to be allotted to the proprietors next adjoining. Thence arose a dispute between the London Company and the Bishop of Derry. The Lord Bishop of Derry claimed one day’s fishing in the Bann, each year, on the first Monday after Midsummer. This was called Bishop’s Monday; and Mr. Sampson relates that, in 1800, there was living in this town a man, named Andrew Irwin, who recollected this right having been exercised. He also said he was fishing at Black Point, near the Cranagh, on the day of the battle of the Boyne; and that, during the whole war, the fishing was unmolested. This claim of the Bishop was purchased for an annuity, paid by the London Company, of £250 per annum, and for which a special Act of Parliament was passed – the 3rd and 4th Queen Anne.
The town of Coleraine was once intimately connected with the linen trade, and was the centre of a large weaving and bleaching district. The linen trade was at one time the staple of Londonderry county, and especially of the Aghadoey district, near Coleraine. No branch of manufacture has undergone a greater change than this. The flax was then spun in the locality where it was grown, and not bought up and sent away to the dark lands of Leeds and Manchester, where the groanings of the steam engine have usurped the hand labour and industry of our farmers’ wives and daughters, and the busy music of their spinning wheels. The weaver then purchased the yarn, wove his web, and brought it to the public linen market for sale. The flax was then spun at an average of from three to four hanks to the pound. It might be drawn out to seven or eight hanks. Four-hank yarn sold from 2s 9d to 3s 6d, sometimes 4s a spangle. Four-hank yarn was generally useful for the weft, three hank for the warp. For a web 52 yards long, and ¾ wide, 9 ½ hanks of four hank yarn were required for the weft, and nine spangles of three yank yarn for the warp. The weaving cost about one guinea, and if well made, and of good colour, such a web sold for 2s 2d to 2s 4d a yard. The finest fabrics were made near Coleraine, hence all the fine linens made and sold in other places were called Coleraine. The weavers considered these good times. The trade is different now, the flax when scutched is sold for exportation or for being spun. It is returned made into yarn to parties who either sell it to the weaver or hire the weaver to weave at so much per yard, to be finished within a certain time. I am told the linen trade is very brisk. It is giving as immense quantity of employment by giving out these yarns to be woven; for instance, the Richardsons of Lisburn, the Barklies of Aghadoey, the Hempills in Aghadoey, and Mesers. Bennett and Adams, have all large numbers of persons weaving in this way, and in our town, Mr. Gribbon, has with praiseworthy enterprise, established a weaving factory, and is giving employment very extensively. Notwithstanding all this business of trade and competition amongst capitalists, I believe the weaver is not able to make remunerative wages. According to Sampson, in the year 1802, there were 58 bleachers in the county Londonderry, the price of bleaching was then 6s 6d, a piece of 26 yards long; in 1784, it was 3s 9 ½ d; in 1809, 7s 6d. It is now 4s 4d.
Use the link above to see how the 'Old Flax Mill' is used today.
There is very considerable employment afforded to the female population of the town and neighbourhood, by the introduction of the sewed muslin work, flowering, and shirt making. If the females were properly instructed in this branch of manufacture they would be able to earn much larger wages than they do at present. For the better executed pieces of flowering and embroidery, and for highly worked collars, very handsome prices are given by the agents; that the trade is extensively carried on in this locality well known by you all, and considerable sums of money are thus weekly expended all over the country, I am well aware. I know of an agent in Coleraine who pays weekly about £80 for sewed muslin work and embroidery; and I believe, conducts his business with integrity both to employers and employed. I know that another has long been distributing above £1000 a year for such work. It should be taught in all our schools, and should, I think, be extensively introduced into and taught in the female schools of our union workhouses. It has been introduced into some of them, and I read in the paper last week that Mr. Lyndsay of Belfast, sends work from that town to Fermoy workhouse, within twelve miles of Cork, and expressed himself highly pleased with the manner in which the work was finished.
Use the link above to discover more information concerning Coleraine Workhouse.
Coleraine is the centre of a large and important agricultural district. It affords a good market for the sale of all agricultural produce. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, mangold wurtzel, wheat, oats, barley, rye, beans, flax, butter, pork, and live stock find every week a ready sale in our market place, and vegetables and poultry are carried from door to door; our shambles are well supplied with meat, and generally with fish. It is generally considered that we are improving in agriculture. In the year 1802 Mr. Sampson gave but an indifferent account of the state of agriculture, and gave the following as the rotation of crops-:
....-ment of some fields adjacent to the town, and this is chiefly on the Ballyaghron road. But in the cold, soft grounds towards Spittle-Hill and Portrush the fences are naked mounds, the surface is disgraced with rushes, fogging, and a beggarly cropping of oats instead of grouses and clover. He again says, as to the gentlemen farmers towards Coleraine and Killowen, “I understand from some, and learn from others, that there is nothing very regular in their methods. Indeed the greater part of the district is very ungenial, and the residents are as industriously and meritoriously engaged in the staple trade of our country that is to be wondered how they have had time to dress their lands so well. To these gentlemen this naked and rugged district owes everything, and when they fail to exhibit rich carpets of green they display a snowy mantie of bleached linen.”
He values potatoes at £19 an acre, barley £15, oats £5 10s to £6, flax £21 12s.
There is little doubt that since the date of this report agriculture is much improved in the district, and within the last ten years greatly changed. With the loss of the potato, farmers are forced to turn their attention to the growing of other roots, and consequently turnips, carrots, and such crops, are becoming more general. They have done a good deal, but much needs to be done by way of improvement. Their lands require to be better drained, to be better cleaned, to be better weeded, to be cultivated with more energy and more industry, and on more scientific principles, particularly with attention to the chemical composition of the soil, the collection and preservation of the manures and such other matters, which were so fully, plainly, ?, and practically explained by the noble lord who kindly ? this place on this day fortnight; and I do think, that if the time that is spent by many in dreamy wishes of legislative exactment for their benefit, was spent on their farm in weeding and cleaning the soil, they would have better results. We have now good wheat growing in our neighbourhood, plenty of rye grass, hay, and clover, good pigs brought to market and commanding a high price without the ? and we have at present a flax trade very lucrative for the grower of crop.
There is every hope that this state of things will not only continue but improve; and you must all agree with me that whatever improves the state and prospects of agriculture must tend to the benefit of the merchants, the shopkeeper, the mechanic, the ? and members of all professions, so intimately ? and connected are all branches of the community.
Modern Image of the River Bann running through Coleraine Town.
Image courtesy of Luke Watson.
The educational establishments of Coleraine are of rather an ancient date. It is quite plain that the ancient Corporation of our town exercised a ? and control over the only school in the town.
In 1705, the society resolved to establish a free school in Coleraine.
In Dec., 1714, the Irish Society applied to the Corporation of Coleraine, for an account of the number of scholars in the school, how many free scholars, and other particulars, and whether the master diligently and carefully attended and discharged his duty; and whether the school was in a flourishing condition.
In 1715, the Society again inquired whether the Corporation had attended to these future ?, and whether a master had been provided, encouraged, and paid by them to teach reading, writing and arithmetic.
In 1728, the Society again interested themselves about the school, and desired their agent to withhold the masters salary. On the 11th November, the decay of the school was ascribed to the divisions among the inhabitants of the town.
On the 7th October, 1729. Mr. Ben. Every, the master of the school was dismissed. The school had fallen into decay from the mismanagement and incapacity of the master, and the gross negligence of the Corporation.
In 1733, an inquiry was initiated in the cause of the decay of Coleraine school, and the ? of neighbouring schoolmasters to keep school in Coleraine district.
On the 30th November, 1737, it was reported to the Society by the master that the school had totally declined, and on the 13th April, 1738, the master, the Rev. Richd Lloyd, receiving no encouragement from either town or Corporation, resigned his office as master.
On the 11th October, 1789, the society consulted Rev. George Cuppage, the rector, as the propriety of restoring the school on a different format, and on the 14th Nov., 1740, a school was established for teaching poor children gratis, to read, write, and comprehend accounts, and Mr. Joseph Young was appointed master, at a salary of £20 per annum. This school is still in existance at the Society’s institution, and has offered considerable benefit on the inhabitants of the place. This is the oldest school for education in the town. We have besides, for a higher class, the National Model School at Captain Street, where I believe there are capabilities and facilities for affording a good English education. We have also a classical and ?rastile school, under the superintendence of Mr. Goody. There are two educational establishments for the children of the gentler sex.
You would almost say we have the means of learning and knowing as much as our neighbours. We want the inclination, and we want, I think, another school. I think we require either an industrial school or a ragged school. Perhaps the latter. What are the numbers of wretched boys running around our corners, depending on the precarious earnings of fish carrying, and horse holding, learning? Learning nothing but swearing, lying, and all other profligacy. I think the inhabitants of Coleraine might turn their attention in this direction. I believe we could make such a school for such a class almost self supporting. We could do a world of good, we would prevent our dock being filled with youthful criminals at Quarter Sessions. We would make our men more orderly and decent. We would hear less of the profane remark, and the obscene jest, and we would perhaps, in some instances, bring a class who are careless and negligent, who fear neither God or sin, to redact this they have souls to be saved, and that as they now here they reap hereafter.
Use the link above to discover more history of the Irish Society School.
I am nearly done. I would suggest very lastly indeed, for the improvement of our town, ourselves and posterity, that exertion be made to extend the trade and commerce of the town by incurring the navigation of the river, and connecting Coleraine more closely with the sea and the Port at Portrush. That our educational establishments be extended to meet the needs of all. That more enterprise and activity, ? with greater unanimity of sentiment than I hear we possess, be infused into our proceedings and deliberation for public improvement. I think, for the ? of employing the young population of the town, that the establishment of more manufactories is desirable. The ? state of the town requires attention, consideration and improvement, but this, I think, can safely be left in the hands of the Commissioners, and whatever we attempt for the public good, we should work to order, and go at it with heart and hand, and give a long puff, a strong puff, and a pull together.
Recent changes have now recognised an amalgamation of districts creating the title, 'Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council' rather than 'Coleraine Borough Council'.
Use the link above to read the Council report, on the process involved with altering the Armorial Bearings, to take this change into account.
In conclusion, I must apologise for the want of power with which I have handled so great a subject as the past history and present state of your ancient town, and can only say that I sincerely hope that the oldest person present may live to see the day when science shall have cut its way through the only opposing barrier to the complete prosperity of the town and trade of Coleraine, and when the mist which has so long ? heavily over the commerce of your noble river shall be dispelled by the brilliant rays of the rising sun of art, and expose to view, gently resting on its placed waters at your quay, steamers and sailing vessels accepted as belonging in your shores the inhabitants of neighbouring and the ? of far off countries, about to exchange their produce for your manufactures, and where you may ? goodly ships laden with the wealth of distant ? and the merchandise of foreign ports. But be assured that these golden dreams, which I hope and feel assured may yet be realised, will avail ? do you not want yourselves, in every way, to provide, under Devine Precedence, that system of education that will ? you it’s profit by this prosperity, and so to cherish it by ? – without which the blessings that Providence so lovingly heaps upon her children will prove but as the passing sunbeam, lighting the path for a ? but leaving a deeper gloom behind – I say you ? by industry cherish this prosperity, in order that, when the day of adversity – liable, at all times, to fall upon countries, nations, towns, alike as individuals shall ?, you may, by having well used the day of prosperity, be enabled to bow before that adversity till the storm be over? And finally to rise, bent, it may be, but not broken, by the weight of the chastening and which shall have taught you to bear with ? solidarity, as well as with thankfulness prosperity.
Use the link above and search 'Coleraine' for more wonderful images captured by Robert French, photographer, as part of the Lawrence Collection held at NLI.
Dr. Babington resumed his seat amid thunders of applause.
H.B. Mackay, Esq., then came and said, he had great pleasure on behalf of the respectable ? ? returning thanks to Dr. Babington for the highly interesting lecture to which they had just ? It was a lecture suggestive of much thought. Though he did not believe any of those present would live to see the bright visions, pictured by Dr. Babington in the end of his lecture, realised, yet, he had no doubt, before many years passed over, that noble ? which was at present flowing uselessly past their ? world because a great thoroughfare, and its ? ? dream would be enlivened by unmistakeable signs of surrounding prosperity and daily increasing traffic. (Cheers) He sat down by moving the thanks of the meeting to Dr. Babington.
The Rev. Mr. McMillin accorded the ? with great cordiality.
The Chairman having put the motion to the meeting, it was unanimously agreed to, said loud and continued cheers.
Dr. Babington briefly returned thanks.
Thomas Bennett, Esq., having been called to provide.
Dr. Carson proposed that the thanks of the meeting be given to Sir H. H. Bruce for his dignified conduct in the chair, and for his ? in contriving to be President of the Coleraine Mechanics Institute ever since its establishment in 1842. (Applause)
Sir H. H. Bruce returned thanks. He said he took shame to himself for having done so little for the institute; but that was practically owing to his necessary absence from this part of the country. He therefore hoped they would look out for some person among themselves who would preside over them, and who would always give them the benefit of his presence, which it was impossible for him to do in present circumstances. Having earnestly im? ? the young son of the place to avail themselves of the advantages held out by the Mechanics’ Institute, and the necessity of attending to their spiritual as well as their mental wellbeing, the hon. Gentlemen sat down amid loud applause.
The meeting then quietly dispersed.
Use the link above to discover more about 'Victorian' Coleraine.