An Historical Walk Through Dromara

An Historical Walk Through Dromara

There have been many changes in Dromara over the past few years.

The following is taken from Chapter 1 of our book "Dromara - Links With The Past".

The following photographs are included in this section: 

  • Walk in from Hillsborough
  • Dromara from the East
  • Reformed Presbyterian Church Manse
  • Dromara Promary School
  • Masonic Hall/ Mzrket Hall
  • Orange Hall
  • Rathfriland Road - Police Station
  • Demolished Shops
  • T C Cairns
  • Tom Fee
  • Tom Murphy Pharmacy
  • Police Station
  • Village Grill
  • Walsh Brothers
  • Charlie Mc Minn
  • McKnight Bros
  • Dromar Bridbe - Banbridge Road
  • Temperance Hotel
  • Rita Hill's Shop
  • O'Reilly's
  • St Johns
  • Free Presbyterian Hall

This chapter talks through the Dromara Village, starting from the Hillsborough Road.  Where possible we have dated the photographs - if you can provide dates for any that are missing or provide additional photos, please let us know.

Here we have Dromara From the Hillsborough Road in 1924: 



Dromara  from Church Hill:

Dromara from East:


On the Hillsborough Road coming into the village from the Hillsborough direction the first building on the right is the Reformed Presbyterian Church manse.

At present this is occupied by the Rev.Allen and his family.


The next building is Dromara Primary School, which moved here from its original location on Begney Hill Road.

It was opened on 6 April 1939. 


Dromara School - 1925

Then we come to the Lagan Park Centre which is used by many groups, both young and old. This is the meeting place of the local History Group. Beside the Lagan Centre is a recently opened sports facility which includes an all weather football pitch and tennis courts. This makes a major contribution to life in the village.

Past the row of Pensioner’s bungalows is the Masonic hall or Market as it was originally called.

The Market House was built in 1770 but was destroyed in a great gale on 11thMay 1820. It was soon rebuilt by the Marquis of Downshire.

Until 1970 it was a rustic building with Georgian windows which had arches on the ground floor filled with Blackstone.

The Georgian windows have now been replaced with modern windows. The outside granite staircase has also been removed.

As well as being used as a Market House, this building was also where the Petty Sessions Court was held on the fourth Monday of each month.


The next building on the right is the Orange hall which was built in 1875.

There was living accommodation on the ground floor and people lived there until approximately the 1950’s.


One of the early families who lived there was the Roy family and Annie Roy later moved to Dromore Street to one of the mill houses connected to Chapman’s Mill. Another family was that of Mrs Fairley and her daughter. Mrs Fairley cooked meals for the school long before there was a school meals kitchen.

The last family to live there was that of Wilfred Johnston, who later moved to the Rathfriland Road beside the Police Station, which is now closed.



The other buildings on the right are the home of Jack and Vera Kerr. This was originally owned by Vera’s family the Hunters who ran a Restaurant and Boarding House.

Next came Rogan’s, butchers shop and there was also a Drapers shop run by Anne Sommerville and then a Mary Magill. 

Mrs Hatch, a dressmaker, also lived here, the very end house in that row was owned by Day and Mrs Johnston, Day was the groom for Michael O’Reilly. The next premises was Lavery’s on the other side of Lavery’s was another drapers shop owned by Mrs Johnston from Hillsborough, the late Fred Johnston’s mother.

Coming into the village, on the left hand side, a row of buildings have recently been demolished. These were formerly shops.



The first was owned by Mr Mc Auley who originally came from McAuley’s Lough at the Spa. This later became a private dwelling when Dick Crothers and his family came to live. The shop next door was a grocery businesses owned by Mr John Campbell JP. Mr Campbell’s daughter married Mr Bertie Dodd of the mill.

The shop was subsequently owned by Mr Walter Patterson and then Mr Thomas Cairns.


The last occupant was Mr Tom Fee.

The adjoining building was owned by Mr Sam McManus. 

This shop later became Tom Murphy’s Pharmacy .

The surgery moved to this location from the Rathfriland Road.


The original Police Station was sited beside the surgery before it moved to the Rathfriland Road. 

Next door, where Boots Pharmacy now stands, was the residence of the Police Sergeant and his family. 

The house was owned by the Gamble family and it then became Kate Doyle’s Sweet Shop. 

She was followed by Robert Lindsay and the Billy Beattie. What is now Lindsay’s on the corner of Begney Hill was owned by Mr Campbell and he was known as “Banker Campbell” as he cashed cheques for people. On the opposite side of the street was Rita Hill’s shop.

This building was originally where Johnny Gamble carried on his business in days gone by. He had a grocer shop but was involved in many other trades. He bought eggs from farmers who originally brought them into his shop but in later years he had a van and he collected the eggs from the farms. When Johnny retired his son-in-law Albert Galway carried on the business and there was a time when people even gathered blackberries and took them into Albert’s shop where he bought them. I think they were used to make dye.

Albert sold out and bought the Plough Bar now’ Square One’. Rita moved from her premises beside the Plough Bar to the premises previously owned by Albert and there she remained until her retirement after fifty years in Dromara.

Beyond Rita’s on the left a room belonging to Pat Braniff was used as an agency of the Ulster Bank Ballynahinch. Staff from the Ballynahinch Branch came out once a week to staff this agency. A similar operation was carried out by the Northern Bank Ballynahinch two doors up where Griff and Ann Morrow live. Their home was originally Rodger’s pub and then it became the home of a Mr Murray who was involved in the cutting of Ballykeel Hill and later became the home of Hugh and Mrs Newell and their daughter Muriel.

Turning right before the square there was a little close of three houses. A Mrs Moore lived in one Dan McVeigh in another and in the third one Felix Jess had a shoemakers business.

The next house was occupied by Jane Barr and next to her lived James Barr an auctioneer, we don’t know if they were related. Minnie Gamble owned the next building which was later the home of Mrs Sophie Walsh wife of Jackson Walsh. The next building was where Mickey Murray had his barber shop and this was later where Gregg and Mrs Wilson had their shop which sold confectionery ice cream and minerals.

Next we have what was Miss Steele’s where Eva sold groceries and newspapers this was also where the first telephone was installed in Dromara. Eva’s father was a tailor   And it is said that at one time made a suit for Al Capone. In the end house a Jewish man lived his name was Bertie Millar he was a photographer and also framed pictures.

This row of dwellings has almost all been demolished and this is where the ‘Village Grill’ and the Anne’s hairdressers now operate from.


Next door is the garage where Walsh Bros had their business they moved there from across the street between 1929 and 1932 and this was the first filling station in the village.

In later years it was run by Jackson Walsh helped by his wife Sophie. They sold motor and cycle accessories and also did vehicle repairs.

In more recent times, the garage was run by the McKnight family

Charlie Mc Minn was one of the mechanics and when Jackson stopped doing car repairs Charlie moved across the street and carried on the business until his retirement.

It is interesting to note Charlie was the grandfather of David McKibben who now owns the ‘Village Grill’. The next row of houses on the right was owned by Chapman’s of the mill and these are now privately owned. William Wilson and his family lived in one as did William Stafford and his family and as previously stated Annie Roy.

On the left hand side of the street was where John Wilson the coach builder lived and worked and where his son Robert ran his joinery business from. Where the two garages now stand were two houses one of theses was owned by a family named Bothwell. Next came Cunningham’s bicycle shop and Mrs Cunningham made the meals for the school when Mrs Fairley stopped.

Next was a blacksmiths shop owned by Jackson Walsh an uncle of the garage owner. This was later run by Jimmy Campbell. Next we have the ‘Laganview Arms’ known as Coburn’s pub. This had been owned by Sam Barr over ninety years ago before he moved to the corner of the Leavalleyreagh Road where Jim Annett now lives. Sam had a sale yard at the back of the pub. We believe this building was also owned by people named Potts and also Mc Kinney’s at some stage.

Where the ‘Cornmill’ housing development has now been built was where after the corn mill disappeared the ‘Elizabeth Alexander’ and later the Himac factories were. This area of the village was known as shough (pronounced as in plough). People named Thompson lived here Lena Thompson married Jim Moore’s father and Martha married Sam Walsh. Maggie Thompson was a midwife and a shoemaker named Jess also lived, here he was the father-in-law of Sam McManus who had the business on the Hillsborough Road.

The house that stood between the Banbridge Road and the Moybrick at the bridge was owned by Miss Dodd.

The District nurse lived in part of this house, in another part of it lived a Louise Murray who was knocked down by a bicycle and killed as she returned from Mass at St Michael’s Finnis. David and Evelyn Dwyer also lived in this house at a time.

On the Square to your right, where Mrs Esme Carlisle lives now, was once the Temperance Hotel.

This was owned by Robbie and Minnie Johnston who also had a shop next door.

Miss Harte who had been a teacher in Second Dromara School also lived in this area. She was renowned for her ‘big stick’ which would not be acceptable today. Mrs Beck had a dressmaking business in this row for many years. Jimmy Doyle ran a sweet shop where the hairdresser is now located. On the other side of the Plough was an egg store owned by Bell’s of Hillsborough. Perry Johnston later ran a butchers shop in these premises. This was later used as an office for the Ulster Farmers Union.

Next door was where Rita Hill ( Mc’Avoy) opened her first shop in Dromara .

Next door was Hart’s and it was from here that Mrs Hart ran her catering business.  She catered for dances, ploughing matches, parties and weddings, in fact any event that was happening locally.

On the left side of the square was O’Reilly’s dam filled with water from Begney Lough. This often froze over in the winter and local folk skated on it.

The next building on the left is O’Reilly’s Bar and restaurant and it is one of the most well known buildings in Dromara.

It is believed that O’Reilly’s had been used a coach house when the coaches ran between Carrickfergus and Dublin.  

Michael O’Reilly came to Dromara in the 1920’s and he was quite an entrepreneur - he ran several businesses and was a was a publican, undertaker, postmaster and he also operated a transport service between Dromara and Ballynahinch.

His premises were used for all types of meetings, inquests, the Dromara and District Ploughing Society, Ulster Farmers Union and many other groups. Many famous people visited his premises and on one occasion, the famous film star, Errol Flynn called in. Errol was to act in “The charge of the Light Brigade “and as he could not ride it was suggested by Rosemary Heron niece of Doctor Heron that he contact Michael O’Reilly so that is how he came to be in Dromara.

When O’Reilly’s was eventually sold, the post Office moved across to premises that had once been a garage, built in the 1950’s by Matt Bailey in Hart’s stack yard. This was later sold to the McCracken Brothers.   When they closed the garage, it was converted into a shop which is now the Mace and Post Office.

‘Woodvale House’ down the avenue was owned by the Baxter Family who lived there 1n the 1700’s and 1800’s.

This came to light when we were looking at headstones in St John’s graveyard.


The last of the Baxter’s was Elizabeth who was wife of Rev.Samuel Frackelton, late rector of Magherahamlet and Tamlagh O’Crilly Co Londonderry. Elizabeth died on 24th August 1914 and was buried in St John’s. The headstone book records that her sight was undimmed she was an intellectual and her bodily functions were mostly intact. I am quite sure such records are not recorded anymore. We have been told that a Dr Campbell lived in ‘Woodvale House’ at a time he was the local Doctor before Doctor Heron. It is thought Doctor Campbell went to Ballycrune before Doctor Kilpatrick’s time but we have no other details regarding this.Mr and Mrs Tommy Ervin also lived in ‘Woodvale House’.   Mrs Ervin was the sister of Robert Jones who lived on the Croft road. Mrs McManus also lived in a bungalow on the right going down the Avenue.  She was the lady who had previously had a draper’s business on the Hillsborough Road. The land belonging to ‘Woodvale House’ is now the new ‘Woodvale” housing estate.

The shop which is now a Chinese restaurant was once owned by William Spiers who had a shop and meal business on the site. His two daughters Mrs Margaret Best and Mrs Joan Ervin still live in Dromara. Opposite this is the site where the Belfast Omnibus Company had their garage and this is still used by Translink today. Further along the Rathfriland Road on your right is the ‘Apprentice Boy’s hall. This was the old Methody House.   A Methodist Church was built there in 1835 at the cost of £70. A Miss Sommerville taught the Sunday school here. When the Church closed the building was used as a Technical School until it was purchased by the Apprentice Boys in 1969.

The next building is the Free Presbyterian Hall which was previously The Christian Worker’s Union Hall which had been opened in 1948 by Rev. W.P. Nicholson.

The Christian Workers had previously met in the Orange Hall and the person who was responsible for the running of this was Mr William Stafford. 

It is above the Free Presbyterian Hall that the ‘Rock Mill’ stood.


On the right hand side of the Rathfriland Road there had been a well in days gone by and it was known as King’s well. Children going home from school often stopped to drink from it. This area is now a housing development.

Further up the Rathfriland Road above where the first Dispensary House is ‘Slate Quarry’ House which is a ‘B’ Listed building. The house was originally owned by the Mc Kenney family and came into the ownership of the O’Reilly family in the 1920’s. The slate quarry was mentioned in Harris Topographical Atlas- Co Down in 1744 but it may have been played out about 1920.

As you approach Finnis known as Massforth we cross the Toberdoney Bridge.  The Toberdoney River is a tributary of the Lagan.

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