Gilnahirk Updated

Aidan Campbell’s latest local history book is entitled ‘Gilnahirk Updated’

Aidan Campbell’s latest local history book is entitled ‘Gilnahirk Updated’. The story looks at the development of the area over the last century and much new material has been uncovered and added to ‘Gilnahirk’ which was originally published in 2009 but has been out of print for several years. Some extracts from the book follow brief preview of some of the content of the forthcoming ‘Ravenhill’ book.

artist’s impression of a new retail development at King’s Road
(Courtesy of Aaron McVitty from Belfast Telegraph)

The Belfast Telegraph carried this artist’s impression of a new retail development at King’s Road on 9th November 1965 and reported: ‘A £750,000 American-style shopping area – to be known as King’s Road Mall – is to be built at Knock, it was announced in Belfast yesterday. Giving details of the plan Mr Elwin C. Moore, a New York market research expert said… the Mall would be completed by Christmas next year’.

The shopping centre has been greatly extended over the years and is known now by the name of King’s Square containing in excess of twenty retail units including a few of my favourite destinations: Bells Newsagent, Roy’s Home Bakery and Cherryvalley Post Office at Supervalu.

Jackson’s shop came to the end of its life in the late 1970s. It had been a landmark building here since 1885 along with Fountainville Cottages to the right on Gilnahirk Road
(Courtesy of Stephen Jackson)

Jackson’s shop came to the end of its life in the late 1970s. It had been a landmark building here since 1885 along with Fountainville Cottages to the right on Gilnahirk Road. The site was ‘vested’ by the government via a compulsory purchase order and a letter was received by the occupants to say that the premises were to be demolished as part of a scheme to widen the King’s Road. The shop was closed on 30th August 1978 and the site cleared later that year. There is a warning sign in front of the oil-drums placed on King’s Road announcing the impending sad event. But notice how narrow King’s Road is compared with today. Eagle-eyed readers will also have spotted that there are no traffic lights at the Gilnahirk Road junction.

A view of Cherryvalley Filling Station in August 1980
(Photograph taken by Albert E. McAlpine courtesy of his son Philip – http://www.belfast35mm.co.uk)

A view of Cherryvalley Filling Station in August 1980 which has since been greatly expanded and modernised in recent times. Re-development included the acquisition of the bungalow to the right thus greatly increasing the forecourt size from only two petrol pumps. A good representation of the now-defunct British car industry includes popular models such as a Hillman Avenger, Vauxhall Viva and Morris Marina.

(Courtesy of Audrey Smallwood and Richard Whitford)
(Courtesy of Audrey Smallwood and Richard Whitford)

On the left is a be-suited Neville Haire wearing a shirt and tie, on board a gleaming Norton ‘Big 4’ motorcycle, with his young sister Audrey (Smallwood) in 1955. The Big 4 had a 633cc side-valve engine and was manufactured in various formats from 1907-1954. The location is outside their home at 4 Cherryvalley Gardens which is just to the left of the Belfast Corporation bus (above). The double-deck bus no.531 is a Daimler CWA6 on route 76 from Gilnahirk in 1965. I remember these old buses on the Ballygomartin route (73/74) with the draughty open-entrance doorway which were ex-London transport, introduced to Belfast in 1954 and withdrawn in 1970.

(Courtesy of Malcolm Murphy from the scrapbook of Mrs F.O. Best)

Malcolm Murphy plus Jimmy Strain and another are taking a well-earned rest on their shovels during the construction of (now defunct) Gilnahirk Tennis Club in 1948. The Rev F.O. Best and some willing volunteers from Gilnahirk Presbyterian Church include Stanley Cochrane, Dickson Patterson, Matt Morrow, Stewart Morrow and Robin Morrow, whilst John Stewart is driving the tractor which was provided by the Sheldons. The Rev F.O. Best, holding the mallet, is alongside another willing volunteer – the farm horse. Rev Best was very keen on the whole project and in fact it was Mrs Best who kept the scrapbook that these old photographs were taken from.

(Courtesy of Hillmount Garden Centre)

Trevor Mercer with wife Pamela and son Robin in the mid-1950s. By the 1960s John Mercer had left Hillmount to pursue other aspects of horticulture including as UTV’s gardening correspondent. Whilst Hill Mercer managed the garden nursery his younger son Trevor then developed the contracting and landscape maintenance side of operations and the Hillmount van became a common sight. There was further diversification in 1977 when a shop and tea room was opened thus setting the scene for the successful Hillmount business which operates on three sites in 2020.