Makeover for Old Barracks

What a transformation took place when the old Military Barracks at Linenhall Square in Newry was converted into the modern, well-designed Mourne View estate, some 40 years ago.

And the image of this once-deprived area has recently been enhanced, as the ornate Historic Archway was refurbished, as part of an attractive environmental project, with the assistance of the Peace and Reconciliation Partnership.

Also, the Linenhall Square Re-Union of ex-pats, sponsored by the Newry Millennium Company, was held as a build-up to the 2000 Celebrations in the frontier town.

Organising Chairman, John McCabe explained that the area traced its origins back to 1783, when the Ulster Linen Hall was launched. When it closed, a few years later, the site was converted into a military barracks and Fire Station. Then, in 1923, when the British Army pulled out, the living quarters became the housing estate known as Linenhall Square.

Charlie Casey’s father, John, who was Caretaker during the changeover, stated: “Many of to-day’s population throughout the expanding town of Newry area can trace their origins back to `the Barracks.’

“The only thing wrong with the people of Linenhall Square was that they were never given a chance. We would have worked, if we had got the chance. There was a factory close by, which employed mostly men. But I don’t remember anybody from the `Barracks` ever getting a job there.

“I couldn’t understand many people’s attitude to this area. It was socially deprived and much maligned,” the late Mr Casey added. His wife became the oldest native of the estate, dying recently at the age of 91.

Many prominent personalities were born or lived there, including Newry Housing chief, Jim Bagnal; former Council Chairman, Pat McElroy; Chairman of Newry Sinn Fein, Charlie Casey; President of Newry AOH, Eugene Farrell; poet and impresario, Joe Guinane; the legendary Lottie McKeown; founder of Glasgow Celtic, Willie Maley; Down GAA hero, Tony Hadden; while the great Peter McParland also spent part of his youth there.

A host of familiar figures also lived here, such as the Henry, Green, Morgan, Jones, Loy and McAteer families. Des McGennity, Mr Pools was another popular resident.

Indeed, sport of all kinds was very popular, especially Card Schools, Pitch and Toss, as well as street football. The proximity of the St John Bosco Boys Club also provided facilities for boxing and other indoor games, while the Handball Alley was very much in use.

Talented sportsmen and women there were galore. Robert Casey is Captain of Newry Town; Marty McCabe has been on the Down GAA and Newry Shamrocks squads; Willie “Mousey” Fitzpatrick got a trial with Liverpool; Joey Larkin had a spell with Chelsea, while Adrian has played for Newry Town.

Artie Green was in the Newry United squad, which had an historic victory in the Irish Junior Cup; his brothers, Martin and Eddie played for Newry Celtic, while Tommy McCabe was captain of Dam-Tex. Michael Ruddy, who died recently was a referee in the Carnbane League. Nor can we forget John Lundy, the Man United fanatic, who starred as a goalie and free-scoring forward.

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© Fabian Boyle 2001-2008