FIVEMILETOWN CLOCK

Fivemiletown Clock  Photo: Heritage Lottery Fund

Fivemiletown Clock Photo: Heritage Lottery Fund

Fivemiletown’s historic clock which has been a distinctive local landmark on Main Street for over 100 years has been restored. The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £18,400 earlier this year for the repair of the timepiece . It was erected in 1903 to mark the coronation of King Edward VII and is one of the remaining physical links to the history of the village.

The refurbished Village Clock will be unveiled tomorrow, Wednesday 3rd December. To mark the occasion a celebratory event will take place in the Valley Hotel starting at 11am. This will consist of music song and dance by local artists. At 12.30pm the refurbished clock will be unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant for County Tyrone, Mr Robert Scott OBE. Everyone is very welcome to attend.

The intricately-wrought copper casing was made in Fivemiletown itself, making it a unique part of the local heritage. The funding enabled the clock to be returned to its former glory. A leaflet and education resource pack have also been produced.

It was one of five grants awarded by the HLF to smaller or more modest projects. The head of the HLF in Northern Ireland Paul Mullan said: “these grants really help local people to dig into their past to explore, record, or share their heritage. We are delighted to support this project in Tyrone which will preserve such an iconic local landmark. With HLF’s investment in Northern Ireland reaching a huge £184million for over 1000 projects, we are proud of our role in helping to protect and celebrate our heritage over the last 19 years and look forward to supporting many more local projects.”

Fivemiletown Clock before restoration Photo: Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce facebook

Fivemiletown Clock before restoration Photo: Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce facebook

Michael Callaghan from Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce added: “We are absolutely delighted at the news of this award. There is already a great deal of interest and enthusiasm among the people of Fivemiletown and we see it as a legacy project which will be a source of civic pride for future generations”.

A century ago, before everyone had a watch to synchronise or a mobile phone to swipe, the time piece above the old Petty Sessions building was a focal point in village life and a way of making sure you were on time. Its finely-wrought copper casing developed that distinctive patina, or verdigris, that comes from weathering, and its hands turned the hours faithfully, driven by the mechanism that was wound from inside the Petty Sessions building. As the years ticked by, it gradually fell into disrepair and eventually stopped working altogether.

Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Impartial Reporter describes how, at the time of the clock’s initial installation, a local copper-working class was thriving in the area. Mrs Mary Montgomery of the local Blessingbourne Estate

Copper Firescreen in Blessingbourne: Fivemiletown Arts & Crafts School

Copper Firescreen in Blessingbourne: Fivemiletown Arts & Crafts School

set up the class in 1891 through the Home Arts and Industries Association and initially taught the class herself in the Petty Sessions building. To begin with, they made items such as candlesticks, tea trays, fenders for fireplaces and newspaper racks.

These artisans became so successful that their work was shown at exhibitions in London, Dublin and St Louis.  in 1893, at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 and at the Dublin International Fair in 1907. It was these skilled craftsmen who made the copper casing of the clock, which was erected in 1903 to commemorate the coronation in 1902 of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Clogher Valley Railway train in Main Street Fivemiletown: from painting by Viktor Welch

Clogher Valley Railway train in Main Street Fivemiletown: from painting by Victor Welch

The mechanical works of the clock were made by Sharman D. Neill of Belfast and it is thought that the iron scroll-work was completed by Harland and Wolff. Another iconic feature of the era, the Clogher Valley Railway, was used to transport the raw materials and the finished artefacts. One of the best-known photos of the old railway is of the train in the Main Street, with the clock in the background.

For an update on the official unveiling of the restored clock see Julian Fowler’s report ‘Changing Chimes’ on BBC Newsline.

CLOGHER VALLEY RAILWAY

CVR train in Main St Caledon (TG4 photo)

CVR train in Main St Caledon (TG4 photo)

The picture shows a train from the Clogher Valley Railway in the Main Street of the border village of Caledon, County Tyrone. In the middle you can see the clock tower of the courthouse. The train is number 6, called Erne.  It was built by Sharp, Stewart No. 3374 of 1887;  0-4-2 tank. It was in service until the railway closed on December 31st 1941 and was scrapped the following year.  The other engines were Caledon (1), Errigal (2), Blackwater (3), Fury (4), Colebrooke (5) and Blessingbourne (7), built by Hudswell, Clarke & co.

Jack Johnston

Jack Johnston

The story of the railway was told at the restored Caledon courthouse this evening by Jack Johnston, who has written extensively about the history of the Clogher Valley. He illustrated the talk with slides, many of them black and white pictures of the operation of the railway which had been taken in the last century. Jack is also President of the William Carleton Society, one of five groups along with Caledon Regeneration Partnership, Donaghmore Historical Society, Killeeshil and Clonaneese Historical Society and South Lough Neagh Regeneration Association taking part in the EU Peace III-funded “Shared History, Shared Future” project.

CVR Coat of Arms

CVR Coat of Arms

The 3ft gauge Clogher Valley Tramway was incorporated on 26th May 1884, the second project under the terms of the 1883 Act.  It opened for traffic on 2nd May 1887 linking Tynan in County Armagh and Maguiresbridge in County Fermanagh, both on the broad gauge Great Northern Railway, a distance of 37 miles.  The route covered the Clogher Valley in County Tyrone serving the towns of Caledon, Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Augher, Clogher and Fivemiletown.  The railway followed public roads for much of its length and ran down the main streets of Caledon and Fivemiletown.

The railway had a dismal financial performance throughout its lifetime, belying the glowing picture of returns painted in its prospectus.  Nevertheless the Company had extremely ambitious plans for expansion aimed at providing access to the port of Newry and connections with the Cavan and Leitrim line.  None came to fruition however and the CVR remained a local line.

The Clogher Valley Railway lay within the six counties of Northern Ireland when partition occurred in 1922.  The new government in Belfast recommended the takeover of the CVR by the broad gauge Great Northern Railway.  The GNR refused to do this and the CVR retained its independence.  In 1927 however the directors were replaced by a Committee of Management appointed by Tyrone and Fermanagh county councils.

Clogher Valley Railway (TG4 picture)

Clogher Valley Railway (TG4 picture)

The Committee did much to revitalise the line with more and speedier services.  In 1932 a pioneering articulated passenger diesel railcar built by Walkers of Wigan was delivered, along with a diesel tractor unit which could tow a coach or a few wagons.  These were successful in cutting costs and speeding up the service but could only postpone the inevitable end of the basically uneconomic line. For almost all of its existence the railway made a loss and it needed a subsidy from local ratepayers. The greatest profit ever made by the company was in 1904, only £791.

Plaque on ceremonial wheelbarrow: cutting first sod in 1885.

Plaque on ceremonial wheelbarrow: cutting first sod in 1885.

It was around this time that my great-grandfather John McCann J.P., an auctioneer in Aughnacloy, became a director of the railway. He served on the board for a number of years, under the chairmanship of Hugh de Fellenberg Montgomery of Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, I still have a season ticket belonging to him.

CALEDON AND ITS REGENERATION

Caledon Courthouse

Caledon Courthouse

For many years during the troubles in Northern Ireland the border village of Caledon in County Tyrone looked shabby, with many derelict and unused buildings along the main street. It looks very different nowadays, as the restored courthouse building testifies.

In 1984 the village was designated as a Conservation Area and six years later, this was reviewed and the boundary extended. DoE (NI) Planning Service produced a Conservation Area Guide to accompany the original designation, which included design guidance intended to help protect the historic fabric of the village.

Caledon Estate Office

Caledon Estate Office

The Caledon Regeneration Partnership was formed in 1994 to take forward a planned social, economic and environmental regeneration strategy for the County Armagh village. It is made up of representatives from the local community, local authority and Caledon Estates Company, which has an office in the main street.

Beam Engine House, Caledon

Beam Engine House, Caledon

One of the projects being undertaken is the restoration of a beam engine and engine house. Last year a total of £220,000 in funding was secured to finance the first phase.  It is hoped that the engine will eventually be restored to a fully operational state, and become a tourist attraction for the area. The unique piece of equipment dates back to the early 1830s and is one of the earliest surviving steam engines in Ireland. It was once used to power the Caledon Flour Mill and then Caledon Woollen Mills.

Beam Engine House, Caledon

Beam Engine House, Caledon

William Beattie of Caledon Regeneration Partnership said he believed the beam engine is unique in these islands:-  “There are only about eight beam engines in Ireland, and this one is the only one which has a housed engine, making it a very important piece of industrial archaeology. This is the only relic remaining of Caledon’s once famous mill industry, which produced quality woollen garments until the 1930s. The mill, which was built in the early 1800s, was demolished in 1985. During the summer, wood and coal was used to power the beam engine, when the water-flow was not strong enough to move the wheel. The hope is to get the engine functioning again, and to create a viable tourism attraction which will also faithfully record the history of the village”, he said.

In addition a Grade B listed property, a former worker’s building on the Caledon Estate, which has lain derelict for years, has received funding worth £30,000 under the Historic Buildings Grant-Aid Scheme.

Caledon estate was bought from the seventh Earl of Cork for £94,400 in 1776 by James Alexander (later first Earl of Caledon), an East India Company Nabob. The Earls of Cork and Orrery had only acquired the estate by marriage from the Hamilton family in 1738, but during the forty years of ownership, they had made it into a by-word for fashionable landscape design, complete with a gate lodge decorated with statues and Latin epigrams, a hermitage and a bone house.

Gate Lodge Caledon Estate

Gate Lodge Caledon Estate

Sphinx Statue at Gate Lodge

Sphinx Statue at Gate Lodge

Detail on Gate

Detail on Gate

Pediment Relief: Coat of Arms

Pediment Relief: Coat of Arms

Caledon Regeneration is one of five groups taking part in the “Shared History, Shared Future” project under the Peace III programme run by Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council. On Thursday evening (25th April) at 7pm, the historian Jack Johnston of the William Carleton Society will give a talk on the Clogher Valley Railway. The narrow gauge line ran through the main street of the village until its closure in 1941.

CVR train in Main St Caledon (TG4 photo)

CVR train in Main St Caledon (TG4 photo)

.