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Ballyclare Town Hall.jpg
Ballyclare Town Hall
Ballyclare is located in Northern Ireland
Location within Northern Ireland
Population9,953 (2011 Census)
Irish grid referenceJ312903
• Belfast13 miles (21 km)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT39
Dialling code028
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
NI Assembly
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°45′04″N 5°59′56″W / 54.751°N 5.999°W / 54.751; -5.999Coordinates: 54°45′04″N 5°59′56″W / 54.751°N 5.999°W / 54.751; -5.999

Ballyclare (from Irish: Bealach Cláir, meaning "pass of the plain")[2] is a small town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It had a population of 9,953 according to the 2011 census.[3] It is located within the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area.

It sits on the river Six Mile Water. The town probably owes its origins to its being a crossing point of the river, the strategic importance of which is shown by existence of a small Norman motte on the south side of the river and presently located in the War Memorial Park. The broad main street dates from the 17th century. In the centre of the town is the Market Square with the Town Hall. The town grew in the 19th century with the coming of the railway and it became an important industrial town with a large paper mill in the South West of the town and a large Linen Bleach Green. These factories gave their names to the roads leading to them, the Mill Road and the Green Road, but have been closed for some time. It is now a local service centre with a significant dormitory role in relation to Belfast. It is the main focus within the rural area for shopping, education and recreation.[4] To the north is the remnant of Craig Hill, which once provided a wooded backdrop but is now covered with modern housing. Much of the Craig Hill has been quarried for its basalt.


People have lived in Ballyclare for six thousand years. The earliest evidence of people in this area is a hoard of flint arrow heads found when houses were being built north of the river in November 1968. There were a total of thirty-nine flints discovered – some perfectly finished and others are blank indicating an 'industry' and trading here near the river crossing over four thousand years ago.

When the Normans built the castle at Carrickfergus they placed a line of outposts along the river which was then called the "Ollar" – River of the Rushes. In time the soldiers making the journey from Carrickfergus to Antrim reached the river at this spot when they had travelled six miles so began to call the Ollar the Six Mile Water. One of these mottes is close by the river in the War Memorial Park in Ballyclare. There are two on opposite sides of the river at Doagh and one at Antrim. The village grew after the Plantation of Ulster and was granted permission by King George II in 1756 to hold two fairs each year making it an important market centre.

At the same time as the Pilgrim Fathers landed in what is now the United States, Ballyclare was settled by Scots planters. Jonathan Swift preached in Ballyclare and it was from the town that the families of Mark Twain, Sam Houston and General Alexander Macomb left for America. The people of Ballyclare and the surrounding villages played a part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and fought in the Battle of Antrim. At the beginning of the 20th century Ballyclare was a growing industrial town with an urban district council and became the largest paper producer in Ireland.


On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 9,953 people living in Ballyclare (4,039 households), accounting for 0.55% of the NI total,[3] an increase of 13.5% on the Census 2001 population of 8,770.[5]

Of these:

  • 21.64% were aged under 16 years and 14.89% were aged 65 and over;
  • 52.16% of the usually resident population were female and 47.84% were male;
  • 85.72% belong to or were brought up in a 'Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related)' religion and 5.36% belong to or were brought up in the Catholic denomination;
  • 77.35% indicated that they had a British national identity, 32.53% had a Northern Irish national identity and 4.45% had an Irish national identity (respondents could indicate more than one national identity);
  • 37 years was the average (median) age of the population;
  • 15.03% had some knowledge of Ulster-Scots and 1.91% had some knowledge of Irish (Gaelic).

The population has grown significantly over the last 40 years from 1,999 in 1971 to 8,654 in 2001 and 9,953 in 2011, an increase of 398%.[3][4]

Notable Buildings[edit]

  • The Town Hall developed out of the old Market House which was a 3–bay, 2–storey building built about 1855. It was later extended and developed with a clock tower being added. The clock has only three faces, with no face on the western side.
  • The oldest buildings in the town are the Old Presbyterian Church (established 1642) in the Main Street and its former Manse on the Mill Road ( a private dwelling since 1979), the Old Manse had experienced use as a school during the 1800s as well as having the church lawn tennis court located behind it. The Manse had been remodelled at times in its history retaining some Georgian interior detailing, mainly in the hallway. However renovations in the 1990s revealed that the stone building retains some early worked woodwork including joists dating to possibly the 17th century.
  • The current Ballyclare Primary School building was originally built in 1880 and has been vigorously extended ever since.

It includes three stages: the 1880 school house, the 1923s extension, the 1950s extension, the 2006 mobile classrooms addition. There are two large Post Primary Schools, a grammar school on the Rashee Road and called Ballyclare High School and a state Secondary School with access from the Doagh Road and Avondale Drive.


Visitors to Ballyclare have a choice of accommodation, 3 Star Dunamoy Cottages & Spa, Greers Cottage and The Five Corners Guest Inn. Ballyclare activity trail, comprises ten locally based tourism and day tripper business within a 6-mile radius.

  • Open Coffee Ballyclare[6] is an informal business network that meets monthly in the area. It is open to all entrepreneurs and other professionals in the area.
  • A business and community linked website – ‘Ballyclare, it’s your town’ was created by Ballyclare Chamber of Trade to provide people (local and across the world) with an insight on 'what has gone on in Ballyclare' and 'what is going on in Ballyclare'. The site provides a gateway into stories of how Ballyclare has played an influential role; not just locally but across the globe and also informs shoppers of incentives to make Ballyclare a place to shop. The Chamber also created a 'Ballyclare, it's your town' Facebook page to promote the town.
  • A dedicated Facebook page 'Love Ballyclare' was launched in August 2013 to celebrate and promote the history, people and culture of the town.



Archibald McIlroy's novel When Lint Was in the Bell is a light-hearted, lightly fictionalised chronicle of life in 19th-century Ballyclare. A Ballyclare native, born c. 1860, Mr. McIlroy was lost in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915.


Two musical ensembles have represented the town on the regional, national and international stage: the Ballyclare Male Choir[7] since 1933, and the Ballyclare Victoria Flute Band[8] since 1919. The Major Sinclair Memorial Pipe Band is based in the town and is regular in parades and RSPBA competitions. Ballyclare is birthplace to Andy Cairns, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist from the alternative rock band Therapy?.

The May Fair[edit]

The Ballyclare May Fair occurs on a Tuesday in May every year, and is part of a week of festivities.[9] The tradition stems from a grant by King George II to hold two yearly fairs, although only the May Fair now survives. The event began as a local horse fair, but representatives of cavalry regiments came from all over Europe to buy there as the reputation of the fair spread. The fair's heyday ended with the First World War, but it is still a well-loved event in the town.[10]

The May Fair is one of the few horse fairs now left in the country.[citation needed] The Main Street is sanded down and given over to horse selling for the day. There is, however, now a variety of modern amusements in the square. Other events include the Mayor's Parade, followed by sports, street events, concerts and exhibitions. Local shops compete for the best dressed window, and children take part in fancy dress competitions and the duck race. A May Fair queen is chosen to represent the town over the next year.

Notable people[edit]



The road network in Ballyclare is centred on Main Street, North End and Market Square in the Town Centre. A number of roads lead into the Town Centre including the Hillhead Road from the south, the Doagh Road from the west and the Rashee, Ballyeaston and Ballycorr Roads from the north and north east. Car parking available in the town centre ranges from surface-level parking to free and paid on-street parking.[4]


Ballyclare had a narrow gauge rail link to Larne and a broad gauge connection to Belfast. Neither of these have been in use since the 1950s. Ballyclare railway station on the narrow gauge Ballymena and Larne Railway opened on 24 August 1878, closed to passenger traffic on 1 October 1930, closed to goods traffic on 3 June 1940 and finally closed altogether on 3 July 1950. The station on the broad gauge Northern Counties Committee railway line opened on 3 November 1884, closed for passenger traffic on 1 January 1938, closed for goods traffic on 2 May 1938 and finally closed altogether on the same date as its narrow gauge counterpart in 1950.[12] The building was demolished altogether in 2004 and was replaced with a similarly shaped and styled building. The old engine shed, however, remains and is now part of Modern Tyres and is visible from the Hillhead Road.



  • Ballyclare Ladies Hockey Club – currently have 4 senior teams, 2 junior teams & a mini hockey section.
  • Kings Moss Cycling Club established in 1922 by the Whittley family in Kings Moss, Ballyrobert. They compete at open and closed road racing, time trials, hill climbs, MTB and CX events. Affiliated to Cycling Ireland in 2011 as well as the CTC.
  • Ballyclare Comrades F.C., based at Dixon Park plays in the NIFL Championship.
  • Grange Rangers FC, based at Foundry Lane, plays in Division 3 of the Ballymena & Provincial Football League.
  • Ballyclare Rugby Football Club play out of the Cloughan found on the Doagh road.
  • Ballyclare & District Pool League (currently dormant) had teams over the years, and is affiliated to the Northern Ireland Pool Association. Many players from the town have represented Northern Ireland in major pool championships, including local Publican Tyler McConnell.
  • Templepatrick Cricket Club also plays at the Cloughan.
  • Ballyclare Colts Football Club was founded in 2003 and has teams ranging from U11 through to U15, plus a mini soccer programme for boys and girls aged 10 and under.
  • East Antrim Harriers AC.


  1. ^ Kallen, Jeffrey L. Focus on Ireland. p. 190.
  2. ^ Place Names NI
  3. ^ a b c "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Ballyclare Settlement". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Ballyclare". Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015. Archived from the original on 6 December 2008. Retrieved 14 December 2007.
  5. ^ "Census 2001 Usually Resident Population: KS01 (Settlements) - Table view". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). p. 1. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Open Coffee Ballyclare". Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  7. ^ Ballyclare Male Choir website. Archived 30 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Ballyclare Victoria Flute Band website. Archived 17 May 2006 at
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 May 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Jonathan Rea Six Time Champion". Jonathan Rea clinches sixth World Superbike championship BelfastLive. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  12. ^ "Ballyclare station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2007.

External links[edit]