From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Not to be confused with Hollywood.
For other uses, see Holy Wood (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 54°38′10″N 5°50′42″W / 54.636°N 5.845°W / 54.636; -5.845

Irish: Ard Mhic Nasca
St Colmcille's church, Holywood, County Down.jpg
St Colmcille's church on High Street
Holywood is located in Northern Ireland
 Holywood shown within Northern Ireland
Population 12,131 (2011 Census)
District North Down
County County Down
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town HOLYWOOD
Postcode district BT18
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament North Down
NI Assembly North Down
List of places
Northern Ireland

Holywood (/ˈhɒliwʊd/ HOL-ee-wuud) is a town and civil parish in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies on the shore of Belfast Lough, between Belfast and Bangor. Holywood Exchange and Belfast City Airport are nearby. The town hosts an annual jazz and blues festival.


The English name Holywood comes from Latin Sanctus Boscus, meaning "holy wood". This was the name the Normans gave to the woodland surrounding the monastery of St Laiseran, son of Nasca. The monastery was founded by Laiseran before 640 and was on the site of the present Holywood Priory. The earliest Anglicized form appears as Haliwode in a 14th-century document. Today, the name is pronounced the same as Hollywood.

The Irish name for Holywood is Ard Mhic Nasca meaning "high ground of Mac Nasca".[1][2]


In the 17th century, Ulster ports began to rise in prominence. In 1625, William Pitt was appointed as Customer of the ports of Newcastle, Dundrum, Killough, Portaferry, Donaghadee, Bangor and Holywood.[3]

In the early 19th century, Holywood, like many other coastal villages throughout Ireland, became popular as a resort for sea-bathing. Many wealthy Belfast merchants chose the town and the surrounding area to build large homes for themselves. These included the Kennedys of Cultra and the Harrisons of Holywood. Dalchoolin House stood on the site of the present Ulster Transport Museum, while Cultra Manor was built in 1902–1904 and now houses part of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

The railway line from Belfast to Holywood opened in 1848, and this led to rapid development. The population of Holywood was approximately 3,500 in 1900 and had grown to 12,000 by 2001. This growth, coupled with that of other towns and villages along the coastal strip to Bangor, necessitated the construction of the Holywood Bypass in the early 1970s. Holywood today is a popular residential area and is well known for its fashionable shops, boutiques, arts and crafts.

Holywood Priory

The Old Priory ruins lie at the bottom of the High Street. The tower dates from 1800, but the oldest ruins date from the early 13th century. The Priory graveyard is the resting place for many distinguished citizens including the educational reformer, Dr Robert Sullivan, and the Praeger family. Robert Lloyd Praeger (1865–1953) was an internationally renowned botanist[4] and his sister, Rosamond Praeger (1867–1954), gained fame as a sculptor and writer. "Johnny the Jig", one of her sculptures, is situated in the town. Praeger House at Sullivan Upper Grammar School is named after the family. Bishop Robert Bent Knox is also buried there.

On 17 June 1994, Garnet Bell, a former pupil bearing a grudge, entered an assembly hall at Sullivan Upper School and used a flamethrower to attack students taking A-level examinations. Six pupils were injured; three of them seriously.[5]

On 12 April 2010 at around 12:24am, a car bombing occurred near Palace Barracks, a British Army barracks on the edge of the town centre. An elderly man was blown off his feet and treated in hospital. The bomb was allegedly driven towards the base in a hijacked taxi.[6] The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the attack.[7]


Holywood Urban Area is a medium town within the Belfast Metropolitan Urban Area (BMUA) as classified by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency[8] (i.e. with population between 10,000 and 18,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 12,037 people living in Holywood. Of these:

  • 19.9% were aged under 16 years and 20.6% were aged 60 and over
  • 50.6% of the population were male and 49.4% were female
  • 68.6% were from a Protestant background and 23.0% were from a Catholic background
  • 3.0% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.

Places of interest[edit]

The Maypole and Ned's Bar
  • Holywood is famous for its maypole at the crossroads in the centre of town. Its origin is uncertain, but, according to local folklore, it dates from 1700, when a Dutch ship is said to have run aground on the shore nearby, and the crew erected the broken mast to show their appreciation of the assistance offered to them by the townsfolk. The maypole is still used for dancing at the annual May Day fair.
  • Nearly as famous, is the adjacent Maypole Bar,[9] locally known as Ned's or Carty's. It was first licensed in 1857, and remarkably, from then until 2006, it has had only 3 proprietors. County Donegal native, Ned Carty, bought it from Mick O'Kane in the late 1960s. It had been owned by O'Kane since 1908. It is now run by Ned's son, Brian Carty.
  • There is a Norman motte in the town which may have been constructed on an earlier burial mound.
  • The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum illustrating the way of life and traditions of the people of Ulster is nearby, at Cultra.

Notable people from Holywood[edit]

  • Mari Jackson, singer/songwriter, recording artist, events organiser & business woman was born and raised in Holywood. http://www.jacksonsoul.co.uk
  • Bap Kennedy, renowned singer/songwriter and record producer
  • The former BBC security correspondent Brian Rowan was born and raised in Holywood.
  • Davy Sims broadcaster and writer, former head of BBC Northern Ireland New Media was born and raised in Holywood
  • Professional rugby player Darren Cave playing for Ulster Rugby and helped Ireland U20 lift the 6 nations Grand Slam in 2007
  • Michael Smiley, comedian, writer and actor was born and raised in Holywood.
  • Sir Desmond Lorimer KBE FCA DSc, Former head of the Northern Bank, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Northern Ireland Electricity and Ulster Garden Villages Limited resides in Holywood[citation needed]
  • Robert 'Bob' McCartney QC, Leading Barrister and ex-UK Unionist Westminster MP for North Down (1995–2001) resides in Holywood
  • Desmond Boal QC, Leading Northern Ireland Barrister and former Stormont MP resides in Holywood
  • John Edward Regan (Born: August 1926 – Rocktown, Bellaghy, County Londonderry – Died: April 2007) lived most of his life in Holywood. He was best known as managing director of Regan Demolition and of John Regan & Sons Limited.
  • Breandán Mac Giolla Choille (1921–2006) was an Irish scholar and historian who was born in Holywood as Brendan Woodman; he later changed his name to the Irish equivalent. He was Keeper of the State Papers for the Government of the Republic of Ireland, and edited Éamon de Valera's personal papers.[11]
  • Eamon Nancarrow, singer and author. Raised in Holywood and writes about the town in his autobiography 'Holywood Star: The life and times of a rock and roll misadventurer'.[12]
  • Jonathan Bramley, television producer, Bafta winner.[13]
  • Ken Heaven, musician and trencherman. Raised in Holywood and features heavily in 'Holywood Star: The life and times of a rock and roll misadventurer'.[12]
  • David Jeffrey, former footballer of Linfield FC, Ards FC and Larne FC. Currently manager of Linfield FC was born and raised in Church Road area of Holywood.


The first section of the Belfast and County Down Railway (BCDR) line from Belfast to Holywood, along with Holywood railway station, opened on 2 August 1848. The line was extended to Bangor by the Belfast, Holywood and Bangor Railway (BHBR), opening on 1 May 1865, and acquired by the BCDR in 1884.[14] Holywood station was closed for goods traffic on 24 April 1950.[15]


The Crosslé Car Company, a manufacturer of racing cars is based in Holywood.[16][17]




Holywood Cricket Club is amalgamated with the Holywood R.F.C. Cricket may have been played in Holywood as early as 1860 but the present club, as we know it, was formed as a result of a meeting held on Monday, 28 March 1881. In the first season games against Ballynahinch, Enfield, Lurgan, North Down and Sydenham followed the opening game against Wellington, when the team was captained by Joe Ross.

The club's first home was at Kinnegar where the club President and Benefactor for many years gave use of part of his land to the club free of charge. The members worked hard to turn the area into a cricket ground and by 1883 had secured sufficient money to erect a new pavilion.

North Down Borough Council has provided HCC with a new home at Seapark. "Seapark Oval" was finally ready during the 2005 season, after 8 years of using the pitch at Sullivan School.

The club had been forced off the Belfast Road grounds it occupied for 100+ years due to the GAA upgrading the pitch it leases from the Down and Connor Roman Catholic diocese. This meant that with the playing surfaces of the two sports pitches being at different levels, cricket could no longer be played at this venue unless the ground was raised to the same level as the GAA pitch.

The cricket club now share the Seapark grounds with a bowling club and Holywood Football Club, the latter hoping to secure new grounds at Spafield in the near future. There are also plans for a new club house at the Seapark grounds.


Holywood is the home of the Royal Belfast Golf Club, the oldest in Ireland, dating from 1881. The club's present course was designed by architect Harry Colt in 1926. The town also features the Holywood Golf Club, which was founded in 1904; this course is where 2011 US Open, 2012 US PGA and 2014 British Open champion Rory McIlroy learned his golf, and the champion still calls it his home course.


The first Gaelic Athletic Association club in Holywood was organised in 1927. It was called St Colmcille's. The team's strip was made up of black shorts and black shirts with white collars. This early club team also sponsored a handball team and a drama club. Although successful in the early days, the club lasted only ten years. It was revived in 1948 under the title of Holywood's Patron Saint, St. Laiseran, by John Regan, Davy McCoy and Paddy McNally, and lasted until it withdrew from the League in 1956.

  • The successful Thomas Russell Gaelic Club was formed in 1962 and soon earned the name "the Holywood Giant Killers". It played on a notoriously uneven pitch in the 'Convent Fields'. But early success did not continue – the club struggled on until 1976 when it withdrew from the Antrim League.

The next milestone in the story is the foundation of the St. Paul's Gaelic Football Club in 1979: an amalgamation of the Holywood, Bangor and Newtownards clubs. It operated under a deal with Holywood Cricket Club which maintained the Gaelic pitch in return for using a small section of the lower pitch as part of its 'out-field'.


Holywood F.C. was formed in 1983 following the amalgamation of two Northern Amateur League teams, Loughview Star (1961–83) and Holywood Town (1972–83). These two clubs had not been very successful, though Loughview had caused a sensation when they reached the Clarence Cup final while still a Second Division club, losing 2–0 to Lisburn Rangers in 1964–65

Loughview won Division 2B in 1981–82 and after the amalgamation, the new club finished runners up in 2b in 1992–93, but were soon relegated again. The club's biggest day came when they won the IFA Junior Cup final in 1989–90, beating their town rivals Holywood Rec. in the decider.

The club has enjoyed even more success in recent years, by winning the 2a title and the Cochrane & Corry Cup in the 1999–2000 season. As a result the club were promoted for the first time in their history to intermediate status in Division 1B.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland
  2. ^ "Ulster Place Names, County Down". Ainm:Journal of the Ulster Place-name Society. 1987, 1988. Retrieved 22 August 2007. 
  3. ^ O'Sullivan, Aidan & Breen, Colin (2007). Maritime Ireland. An Archaeology of Coastal Communities. Stroud: Tempus. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-7524-2509-2. 
  4. ^ Praeger, Robert Lloyd (1969). The Way that I Went: An Irishman in Ireland. Dublin: Allen Figgis. pp. 10–12. ISBN 0-900372-93-1. 
  5. ^ "Flame-thrower case man 'did not mean to hurt pupils'". London: The Independent. 20 June 1995. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  6. ^ Sharrock, David (12 April 2010). "Car bomb explodes near MI5 base in Belfast". The Times (London). Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "Real IRA admits NI MI5 base bomb". BBC News. 12 April 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  8. ^ Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)
  9. ^ Maypole Bar
  10. ^ Swann, Yvonne (31 July 2009). "Me and my school photo: Dermot Murnaghan remembers the political and religious unrest growing up in Northern Ireland". Daily Mail. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  11. ^ RTÉ
  12. ^ a b Nancarrow, Eamon (2009). Holywood Star: The Life and Times of a Rock and Roll Misadventurer, Showcase UK, Southampton. ISBN 0-9563900-0-5.
  13. ^ "Holywood producer wins Bafta". London: Times online. 18 April 2005. Retrieved 26 October 2009. 
  14. ^ "Belfast and County Down Railway". Irish Railwayana. Retrieved 1 September 2007. 
  15. ^ "Holywood station". Railscot – Irish Railways. Retrieved 28 August 2007. 
  16. ^ "Dr Feargal Sharkey: It's going to happen". Londonderry Sentinel. 29 January 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  17. ^ "The Crosslé Car Company Limited – Contact Information". Crosslé Car Company. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 

External links[edit]