Straid

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Straid (from the Irish: an tSráid) is a small village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, about three miles east of Ballyclare, and about six miles inland from Carrickfergus. It lies at the centre of the townland of Straidlands, in the Civil Parish of Ballynure within the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area, and in the former barony of Belfast Lower. The village has a congregational church, an Orange hall, and a primary school.

History[edit]

The village is of pre-Norman antiquity. Human habitation goes back in the area many thousands of years, and of great local excitement were the discovery of Bronze Age cist graves nearby. For an exhibition at the Ulster Hall in 1870, the Rev. James Bain of Straid Congregational Church contributed arrow-heads, spear-heads, flint and bronze tools, and ancient coins which had been found in the Straid area.[1] There are other pre-historic earthworks threatened by the expansion of the village.

The name of the village is an Anglicisation of the Irish Gaelic word Sraid, meaning "street", as it was originally just a street. The village has historically developed along Main Street, which contains many original buildings. In recent years development has been concentrated between Main Street and Irish Hill Road. Straid Primary School and Straid Congregational Church are in the village, the inscription on the church reads "Ebenezer, erected 1816, rebuilt and enlarged 1837" There is also a freemason’s hall.

The local river is called the Bryantang, meaning “the fairy-fort of the tongue.”[2] This may refer to a fort which was located close to Straid Dam (Straid Fisheries) in the middle of Bryantang townland. The existence of the rath (one of many in the area) was noted in the 1839 Ordnance Survey Memoirs on the land of James Boyd, but by 1875 it was said to have been destroyed.[2][3]

Note: The 'Bronze Age Cysts' discovery of 1990 was in Straid, Londonderry and not as suggested here, from the village of Straid, Ballyclare.[4]

19th century[edit]

Straid was the centre of the 1859 Christian revival under the then-pastor James Bain. Tom Shaw writes: "The cockfighting pit, which had been a place for vice of the worst kind, became a preaching point where many were won to Christ. Public bars began to close, and profanity and drunkenness, which characterized many lives, were set aside as the Spirit of God moved through the community."[5] James Bain describes a typical revival Sabbath: "Our Sabbath services are continuous, from nine in the morning until ten at night. We are engaged from nine to twelve in prayer meetings for the young, from twelve to two in public service, from two to four in prayer meetings, from five to eight in the evening service, and finally in our evening prayer meeting. The evening services at the church became so well attended that the only suitable place to assemble was outdoors. At one of these evening gatherings, some of the new converts gave testimony, and Bain preached two sermons. The whole audience was gripped with a sense of intense spiritual anxiety. Numbers cried for mercy, and not a single soul departed from that scene until morning."[6] In June 1859 3000 people gathered for an open-air service in a field adjoining the village.[7]

Contemporary description[edit]

STRAID is a village less than 212 miles east of Ballyclare, in the barony of Lower Belfast. It had a population of 111 in 1881. Bauxite mines are worked in the immediate vicinity. From Straid Hill there is a fine view of the surrounding country. The land is good for dairying. Crops: potatoes, oats, and some flax. Straid is in the postal district of Ballyclare. Letters should be addressed, Straid, Ballyclare[8]

Although a small village, it gave the name "Straidlands" to the "townland" of the area. Dominating the village is the "Irish Hill" named after an army camp. A mining village for many years, there is an outcrop of bauxite or Aluminium ore in Irish hill. The woods at the top of the hill have a distinctive gap where a hurricane in the early 1920s blew down part of the forest.

Recent history[edit]

In 2003 the village was expanded by 63 houses, creating a new housing estate at "village hill" - Irish Hill Road. For many years the only two shops in the village were a spirit grocer and Wilson’s shop and animal food stuffs. The spirit grocer (a precursor to the modern off licence) was shut when the only alcohol licence for the village was bought by the church to keep Straid "dry" - the nearest pub is slightly over a mile away in the neighboring village of Ballynure. There was culture in the form of Straid Art Gallery, until it shut. Now there is none.

Population[edit]

In the 2001 Census, Straid had a population of 312 people. In the 1881 Census the population was 111. The population has recently doubled with the building of a new housing estate.[citation needed]

Straid Primary School[edit]

Straid Primary School was recently commended in a government review for its "caring atmosphere, committed and hard-working staff, pleasant children who are willing to learn and co-operate... ...and the strong support of the community."[citation needed]

Farming[edit]

One of the main crops that made the area rich was flax. Cows are now a common sight in the area, as are sheep. Corn was ground in Straid Corn Mill which was built and operated by the Wilson family. In the 1860s there was also a kiln and flax mill on the site.[9] To the East of the village towards Carrickfergus, an important part of local heritage was recently destroyed with the demolition of the old flax mill to make way for new housing. This caused some controversy at the time. A famous local group that reflects the agricultural background of the area is "Straid young farmers" club.[citation needed]

Fishing[edit]

One of the big attractions to the area is fishing - Straid Fishery is one of the top rainbow trout fisheries in N.Ireland. Based on Straid Dam, which was man-made around 1824 to supply the nearby cottonmill, there are 3 lakes: 20 acre, 2 acre and .5 acre. Fly fishing on the two lake is complimented by a small coarse lake.

Restrictions on future development[edit]

The Planning Service in Northern Ireland has listed the following key features which must be taken into account when developing the area of Straid:

The nineteenth century, formal, vernacular buildings in Main Street and the form of adjacent spaces; Straid House, an early nineteenth century two storey dwelling and shop with classical detailing, which stands at a bend in Main Street at the north end of the village, closing the vista from Seskin Road to form a village square; The Gothic inspired Straid Congregational Church (1816); The eighteenth century cottages located along Main Street, opposite the Church; and The cottages and two storey houses, along Seskin Avenue/Seskin Park, set in a mature landscape of gardens and rubble stone boundary walls[citation needed]

Film[edit]

There was a film called simply Straid made in the late 1980s, and a young local girl Gillian Sempey, is visible dashing across a background in a red cagoul. Her family has lived in the area for many generations.[citation needed]

Notable natives[edit]

Willoughby Wilson OBE (1923–2004), was a surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. He was awarded the OBE in 1983 for his dedicated work on mutilation injuries during the troubles. He was also the chairman of medical staff.[citation needed]

Willoughby was just one of several members of his extended family to distinguish himself in the medical profession. He and his sister, Dr Sarah Dorothy Wilson, graduated together from Queens University in December 1946 with degrees in medicine.[10]

Their cousin, Dr Hugh Gilmer Wilson, also of Straid, was one of fifteen successful candidates out of sixty-two entrants to achieve the degree of F.R.C.S. from the University of Edinburgh in 1933.[11] Hugh had started his career as an assistant to his uncle, Dr William James Wilson (1873-1937), a much respected general practitioner in Larne.[12]

A great uncle, also called Dr William James Wilson (1838-1918), was born in Straid, joined the Army Medical Division in 1861, and served in countries including Afghanistan (1880–81), Sudan (1885) and India (1887).[13] His younger brother Dr John Wilson (1846-1897) was also in the military, rising to fleet surgeon in the Naval Medical Service before retiring.[13]

Professor William James Wilson (1879-1954), an eminent bacteriologist at Queen’s University, Belfast, was born at The Mill, Straid, the son of Thomas Wilson (c1848-1879) and Elizabeth Dundee (c1852-1933), and grandson of John Wilson (c1801-1883) who ran the corn mill for many decades.[9][14] Professor Wilson was Chair of Public Health in Belfast for twenty-seven years up until 1948, and as a world-wide authority on public hygiene, was credited with having ensured the purity of the city’s water supply in the early part of the 20th century.[15]

Another one-time resident of The Mill House in Straid was the novelist Stephen Gilbert, who moved there with his wife in the 1970s when they purchased the farm from the Wilson family.[16]

Professor Thomas Wilson[edit]

Professor Thomas Wilson OBE (1916-2001) was a member of a select team of economists whose wartime work under Churchill’s scientific advisor, Lord Cherwell, provided the Prime Minister with the data upon which he based many of his most momentous decisions.[17]

Wilson was born on the family farm in Ballylagan, near Straid, to parents John Bright Wilson and Margaret Gibson Ellison.[18] As a research economist at the London School of Economics he attempted to enlist to the army early in the Second World War, but was instead sent to Whitehall where he was quickly recruited by Cherwell. His service on Churchill’s statistical branch of the War cabinet earned him an OBE in 1945.

After the war Wilson succeeded Harold Wilson to a fellowship at the University of Oxford where he remained for 12 years. In 1958 he was installed to the Adam Smith Chair of Political Economy at the University of Glasgow.[19] In 1963 Terence O’Neill appointed him economic advisor to the Government of Northern Ireland where he produced ambitious plans for the province, embracing a £900 million investment programme in motorways, growth towns and a second university.

Although no knighthood ever came his way, Professor Wilson obtained many academic honours and appointments, including Fellow of the British Academy 1976, Honorary Fellow of the LSE 1979 and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1980.[20] He was also in demand as a lecturer and visiting professor in Europe, the United States and Australia, where he spent a sabbatical in 1982. His publications included Fluctuations in Income and Employment (1941, revised 1947), Planning and Growth (1964), Ulster: Conflict and Consent (1989) and Churchill and the Prof (1995).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Belfast News-Letter, 21st May 1870
  2. ^ a b "Place Names of Northern Ireland". 
  3. ^ "An Historical Account of the Diocese of Down and Connor". 
  4. ^ http://www.jstor.org/stable/20568145?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  5. ^ Shaw, Tom. "The 1859 Revival in Northern Ireland". 
  6. ^ Bain, James. Bain Minute Books. 
  7. ^ "Ballymena Observer, 25th June 1859". 
  8. ^ Bassett, George Henry (1888). The Book of Antrim. 
  9. ^ a b "Valuation Books - PRONI". 
  10. ^ Larne Times, 26th December 1946
  11. ^ Larne Times, 28th January 1933
  12. ^ Larne Times, 9th October 1937
  13. ^ a b Clarke, R. S. J. (2013). A Directory of Ulster Doctors (who qualified before 1901). Ulster Historical Foundation. ISBN 978-1-909556-02-7. 
  14. ^ Rutherford, George (1995). Old Families of Carrickfergus and Ballynure from Gravestone Inscriptions, Wills and Biographical Notes. Ulster Historical Foundation. ISBN 0-901905-52-6. 
  15. ^ Larne Times, 13th May 1954
  16. ^ "Ballylagan Farm History". 
  17. ^ "Professor Thomas Wilson: Obituary". The Telegraph
  18. ^ "Larne Times, 16th August 1945". 
  19. ^ "Thomas Wilson: Biography". University of Glasgow. 
  20. ^ "Professor Tom Wilson: Obituary". The Independent

Coordinates: 54°45′22″N 5°55′27″W / 54.75611°N 5.92417°W / 54.75611; -5.92417