Having previously been the home of George Chichester, 2nd Marquess of Donegall, a road was first built in 1815, when it was known more commonly as the New Ballynafeigh Road before eventually taking on the name of the Ormeau Park. (The Ravenhill Road used to be the Old Ballynafeigh Road.)
Areas of the Ormeau Road
The Markets is a mainly residential area close to Belfast city centre. The area is based around Cromac Street, a thoroughfare that leads into the Ormeau Road and also forms part of the A24, and the historic St George's Market. The area was substantially redeveloped in the 1980s with more money earmarked for further regeneration.
A working-class nationalist area, Cromac Square (a now demolished thoroughfare that led through the area) was the scene of a large scale riot in 1966 when Ian Paisley decided to lead a parade through the street. Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Terence O'Neill considered banning the march but feared an open confrontation with Paisley, who was emerging as a strong rival to his leadership, and so allowed the march to go ahead. In the end Paisley and his followers came under sustained attacks from local residents, with several injuries. A few days after the riot the Ulster Volunteer Force shot and killed two Catholics on the Shankill Road.
In the early part of the Troubles the Markets became something of a stronghold for the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA), with leading figures such as Joe McCann active in the area. McCann's killing in 1972 weakened the movement as a whole and saw the area become more open to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). Four members of the INLA have their deaths commemorated in a plaque in the area. Thomas 'Ta' Power, a veteran of both the OIRA and INLA and one of the four names on the plaque, was a native of Friendly Street in the Markets area.
The area's proximity to the city's defunct music halls led to a number of performers staying temporary lodgings in the area's Joy Street, with Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy amongst the leading names to have lodged there.
The area was also the birthplace of snooker star Joe Swail and home to Belfast 'hard man' Silver McKee. Mickey Marley, a well-known Belfast "character" whose carousel was a feature of the city's streets for several decades, was born in the area, although he spent most of his life in the Grosvenor Road, which links the city centre to the Falls Road.
Start of the road
The area at the start of the Ormeau Road is not known by a single name but contains a number of features. Close to the Markets is the Belfast Gasworks, built between 1887 and 1893 by such leading Belfast industrialists as Robert Watt, James Stelfox and John Lanyon. It remained open for its original purpose until 1988. The area has been substantially redeveloped under the Laganside Corporation and now includes a number of office buildings for companies such as Halifax The Gasworks is also home to the Radisson Blu Hotel Belfast.
Donegall Pass faces the Gasworks and represents a loyalist interface between the republican areas of the Markets and Lower Ormeau. It leads on to the Donegall Road. From 2004 onwards Donegall Pass has been the location of for many racist attacks on Chinese and Polish communities who have settled in the area. Combating this growth has been one of the areas of concern of the Donegall Pass Community Forum, founded in 1996. It is the only residential area of this part of the Ormeau Road.
Other features include the headquarters of UTV plc, Havelock House, which has been situated beside Donegall Pass since the station first went on air in October 1959. The headquarters of Belfast CityBeat are situated very close to Havelock House, just over the Havelock Bridge (which crosses the main Belfast to Dublin railway line which runs under the Ormeau Road).
The Lower Ormeau is regarded by those who live there as the main nationalist–republican area of the Ormeau Road and includes the Belfast South constituency offices of both Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) who hold the South Belfast seat at Westminster.
The area suffered a number of attacks during the Troubles when both Protestant and Catholic residents were killed. On 2 May 1974, six Catholic civilians were killed and 18 injured when the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) exploded a bomb at the Rose and Crown pub. Two gunmen attacked Sean Graham's bookmakers on 5 February 1992, killing four men and a fifteen-year-old boy in the shop. The attack was claimed by the "Ulster Freedom Fighters", a cover name used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). Popular opinion in the area blamed Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder, two leading UDA members from the nearby Annadale Flats, although it has since been claimed that, whilst Bratty and Elder were involved in planning the massacre, the gunmen were actually brought in from east Belfast. Bratty and Elder were both killed by the Provisional IRA on the Ormeau Road on 31 July 1994. The Upper Ormeau UDA was also responsible for the murder of Theresa Clinton, a housewife who lived on Balfour Avenue during the same period. Bratty and Elder were widely suspected of involvement and their killing by the IRA led to celebrations amongst ordinary Catholics in the area. The gang, which they led, were responsible for a numerous murders in the area. On 19 January 1998, Catholic taxi driver Larry Brennan was shot dead by the South Belfast UDA as he sat in a car outside his company premises on the Ormeau Road. His shooting was in retaliation for the assassination of Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader Billy Wright by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) less than a month earlier inside the Maze Prison.
In the mid 1990s the Ormeau Road became associated with political controversy as a result of parades by bands from Ballynafeigh Orange Lodge. As well as the general opposition of the community to the parades, claims were also made that members of the Lodge had demonstrated triumphalism over the murder of five men in Sean Graham's bookmakers by the UDA. In 1996, the dispute spilled over into conflict between the Lower Ormeau Residents' Action Group and the Royal Ulster Constabulary after widespread rioting led the police to effectively seal off the area for two days. The Parades Commission initially supported the marchers in the dispute although since 1999 parades have been banned from the area, even leading to the Orange Order briefly using the Ormeau Park as its meeting place instead of Edenderry.
Until 1999, the North of Ireland Cricket and Football Club's home stadium – one of the earliest international rugby venues in Ireland – was in the area, although, following a series of perceived sectarian arson attacks, the club's merger into the Belfast Harlequins has seen the demolition of the stadium, which has been redeveloped as housing, known as Lavinia Square and Mews.
Middle of the road
A number of local buildings and services, such the Community Development Association, the Post Office and the Orange Hall, use the name Ballynafeigh after the electoral ward, although the wider and older townland of Ballynafeigh also includes much of the lower Ormeau and Holyland. The Ormeau Bridge links the Lower Ormeau to the rest of the road, crossing the River Lagan. Work began on the bridge in 1815 and was completed by 1818 or 1822. The bridge was demolished as unusable however and was not fully rebuilt until 1863. The Lagan forms the boundary between County Antrim, encompassing the inner-city districts, and County Down, lying to the south-east.
The Ormeau Park is across the bridge from the Lower Ormeau. It is the city's oldest municipal park, dating back to 1871 and stretches from the Ormeau Road to the Ravenhill Road. It is also the home of Ormeau Golf Club. Outside the Park a cycle path has been added to the road. The park was considered as an alternative venue for a new multi-purpose sports stadium, although First Minister Ian Paisley vetoed the plans.
Ormeau Park has been used for all sorts of social and communal gatherings from the start of the twentieth century. It was the scene of the first meeting of the Ulster Vanguard on 18 March 1972 when William Craig called on his followers to attend following his decision to leave the Ulster Unionist Party. Joined by an estimated 100,000 followers Craig made a controversial speech in which he stated that "we must build up a dossier of the men and women who are a menace to this country because if and when the politicians fail us, it may be our job to liquidate the enemy".
The Ormeau Bakery was the home of Ormo bread, formerly the largest independent bakery in Ireland. Robert Wilson set up the Ormeau Bakery in 1875, revolutionising the way that bread was made and distributed. At one time, the Ormeau Bakery owned two dairy farms in Northern Ireland and a flour mill in Malta. The Bakery buildings were opened by Robert Wilson in 1890 and thrived under three generations of the Wilson family, the exterior of the building changing little over the years. The company celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2002 but was then bought out by Mother's Pride, leading to a closing of the site. The bakery has been redeveloped as upmarket, luxury apartments with roof gardens and other decorative touches according to designs by Diarmuid Gavin.
The Ormeau Bakery is situated between the loyalist Annadale housing estate and the middle class area around Park Road, North Parade and South Parade. Cooke Centenary Church, a Presbyterian place of worship that faces the Bakery, is unique on the road as having no number in its postal address being simply Ormeau Park, Belfast.
Ballynafeigh Orange Lodge is situated on the Ormeau Road and is the main centre for Orangeism in the area. The Lodge was formed in 1887 according to the plaque above the door. An Apprentice Boys of Derry flute band is affiliated to the Lodge.
Encompassing the areas of Rosetta and Galwally, the Upper Ormeau is a largely middle class area. It is served by local schools including Rosetta Primary School, Wellington college, Aquinas Grammar School and St Joseph's College (the latter having been formed in September 1992 by the amalgamation of St Monica's girls' school and St Augustine's boys' school). The area is also home to the Rosario Youth Club, whose senior soccer team Rosario YC F.C. play in Division 1A of the Northern Amateur Football League. The club's teams, which compete in a number of age groups, are based at the Ulidia playing fields, opposite the Orange Hall. Bredagh GAC, a local Gaelic Athletic Association club, play in the nearby Cherryvale Playing Fields on the Ravenhill Road. The Gate Lodge, a historic building within the grounds of the Good Shepherd Church at the Ormeau/Ravenhill Road roundabout, restored in 2009, is now home to the Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust.
The Ormeau Road begins with the merger of Cromac Street and Ormeau Avenue (which contains the headquarters of the BBC in Northern Ireland. The road continues to Church Road where it merges into the Saintfield Road.
The Ormeau Road is part of the Belfast South and so has Alasdair McDonnell of the Social Democratic and Labour Party as its Member of Parliament as well as one of its MLAs. Serving with him in the Belfast South Assembly constituency are Conall McDevitt, Anna Lo, Alex Maskey, Michael McGimpsey and Jimmy Spratt. Within Belfast City Council it is part of the Laganbank area which is represented by Pat McCarthy and Kathleen Mullan of the SDLP and Christopher Stalford of the Democratic Unionist Party, Catherine Curran of the Alliance Party and Deirdre Hargey of Sinn Féin. The area formerly lent its name to the Belfast Ormeau Parliament constituency which was represented by Thomas Moles from 1918 to 1922.
- Belfast South (Assembly constituency)
- Belfast South (Northern Ireland Parliament constituency)
- Belfast South (UK Parliament constituency)
- Havelock House, Belfast
- Ormeau Golf Club
- Ormeau Park
- Rosario Youth Club F.C.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ormeau Road, Belfast.|
- Let us take a 'walk' round Ballynafeigh
- St George's Market
- £1/2m Makeover for the Markets Area of South Belfast – 7 April 2004
- Gary MacEoin, Northern Ireland: Captive of History, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1974, pp. 81–82
- Dedication of an INLA memorial in the Markets from the Irish Republican Socialist Party website
- Fallen Comrades of the IRSM – Thomas "Ta" Power Assassinated by IPLO on 20 January 1987
- Cobblestone cantata: music of May Street
- New murals chart rich heritage of the Markets
- Silver McKee & Stormy Weather – By Joe Graham
- "The roundabout stops for Mickey", Daily Ireland, 29 April 2005
- The Gasworks Belfast
- Laganside Gasworks page
- Shared History Project
- Images of Havelock House
- Chronology of the Conflict: February 1992, CAIN
- H. McDonald & J. Cusack, UDA, Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2004, pp. 222–224
- P. Taylor, Loyalists, London: Bloomsbury, 2000, p. 231
- The UTV news report of the killing of Bratty and Elder described a 'jubilant attitude' on the lower Ormeau, see UTV news, 31 July 1994
- For a full list of their victims, see Lost Lives, (Ed, Feeney, McKetterick) Index; reference, Ormeau Rd
- "Wright retaliations were 'necessary evil'". UTV News. 14 September 2010
- Orangeism – making triumphalist sectarianism respectable
- Protest: Lower Ormeau Road 1996
- Parades Commission Determination on Ormeau Road March 13 July 1998
- Lower Ormeau Road 1996
- See references to Ireland's matches against Scotland from 1877 to 1889: Ireland v Scotland – Head to Head Statistics
- D. Sharrock, 'Goodbye to all that, as the Belfast sporting club where W.G. Grace swung his bat uproots for Protestant sanctuary', The Guardian, 13 August 1997, p. 6. Cited in Cronin, M. (2000), "Catholics and Sport in Northern Ireland: Exclusiveness or Inclusiveness?", International Sports Studies, Volume 22, Number 1, 2000. Available at http://www.la84foundation.org/SportsLibrary/ISS/ISS2201/ISS2201d.pdf
- Clanmil Housing site
- NICI campaigning
- Paisley says no to Ormeau stadium
- P. Taylor, Loyalists, London: Bloomsbury, 2000, p. 96
- Mother's Pride to buy Ormo bakery
- People flash the dough for Ormeau
- Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys Flute Band
- Wellington College
- Aquinas Grammar School
- St Joseph's College
- Rosario website
- Bredagh GAC Homepage
- Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust contact details
- Laganbank area councillors