The Pound Loney/Belfast

I was born in the front bedroom of a house one Sunday morning in May, delivered by my dearest aunt Maggie, who like my Ma, used to say that the church bells rang out that morning for me. They also said a Raven tapped its beak on the window, frightening them both because of the connection to ‘The Morrigan’ and her gifts that are bestowed upon those she visits at their birth. Gifts, believed to be double-edged, and therefore one must always be careful what one says out loud, lest she hears. Not that she is mischievous, no, she is just being helpful in her own way to those she has chosen to love.

That old family home was in the Pound Loney, an area that started as a little lane,(a loney), that ran off Divis Street to Durham Street, ending at the side of Barrack Street’s old ‘Animal Pound’ hence the name. The ‘Pound Burn’ or ‘the burn’ was the name of a little stream that ran along one side of that animal Pound, which was one of many tributaries of the river known as ‘the farset.’

In later years, streets of working class two up and two down ‘mill-houses’ were built on the west side of the ‘burn’ creating a boundary for an area that were Divis street, Albert street, and Durham street, encasing an area that became known as the Pound Loney. Some of the street names in the old district were, English Street, Derby Street, Albert Place, Ross Place, bread street, Alexander street west. Dysart street. Milford street, Christian place, Currie Street, Irwin Street, Nail Street, and Jude Street. There were a lot more. Some of the main buildings in the district were, St. Peter’s Pro-Cathedral, and Barneys Mill, the latter, a huge flour mill situated in Divis Street, owned by te legendary Barney Hughes a Belfast baker who invented the famous bap which became known as the Belfast Bap, a cheap bread cob. Hughes’s colleague was John Alexander, who made the land available; Hughes as the middle man, for the St Peter’s Catholic church to be built, and Alexander street at the side of the church was named after him.

The photo of the young girl is from the 1960s, and the long street is actually a road; Cullingtree road, which ran all the way to the Grosvenor road, (and its real name was Grosvenor street), confusing, I know. The poem below – The Litany of the Streets, concerns St Peter’s parish, consisting of the Loney, the Lower falls, and the Jewish quarter.

The body of the parish lies stretched below the tower,
Its main arteries are weakening and dying by the hour.
There are clots of bricks and mortar in the little veins of streets,
And the talk is all of ‘ flitting ‘ with everyone one meets.

So from Albert Street and Alma Street and Abercorn Street North,
Ardmoulin and Abyssinia Street, the people must go forth;
From historic Alexander Street, already well gone west,
Will go Baker Street and Boomer Street and Bow Street and the rest.

Bosnia Street and Bread Street, Brooke Street and Belgrade,
Will be with Boundary Street and Balkan Street in Balaclava laid;
Cape Street, Cyprus Street, Currie street, and Crane
Will with Christian Place and Cullingtree fade into a lane.

Conway Street and Cairns Street, further up the Falls,
With Dover, Divis, David and Derby lose their walls.
Then Dysart Street and Dunville, Dunlewey, Devonshire,
Will share the fate of Durham and fade into the mire.

English Street, with Elizabeth and Frere Street must go,
With Granville Street and Garnet Street, the pace will not be slow.
The fate of poor old Gilford Street, we already know.
But Grosvenor Road and Grosvenor Place will have a later show.

Gibson Street and Getty Street with Irwin Street will fall,
And Inkerman with Leeson Street will soon receive a call.
Lincoln Street, Lemon Street, Lady, Lower Clonard,
With Mary and Merrion will go the way of Milford.

McDonnell and McMillan will go with Marchioness,
With Milliken and Milan that will be some hundreds less.
Nail Street, Norfolk Street, Northumberland, North Howard,
And Osman, Odessa and Ormond will be ploughed.

Knocking down Pound Street made the senses reel,
And this will happen also to Plevna and Peel,
While Panton Street and Percy Sreet will fall with Quadrant,
And Ross Street and Raglan Street will be reduced to sand.

Roumania Street and Ross Place with Sevastapol will cease,
And Scotch Street and Sultan Street with Spinner see decease,
Sorella Street and Servia Street with Theodore and Ton,
Will disappear with Varna, now the work is nearly done.

Already Whitehall Court has disappeared from view,
There may be some I haven’t mentioned, streets, and people just as true,
But I’m sure that in the future, whatever ill befalls,
The glory of St Peter’s will still shine around the Falls.”

The above poem, listing some of the streets in St Peters parish, Belfast, comes from a wee book, called, St Peters Cathedral, Church of Down and Connor,1866-2005. It’s basically an extract from a priest known as Fr Crilly, where he explains – ‘Before that multitude of streets was swept away to become of interest only to some historian poring over an ancient history of the city in years to come, I felt that I ought to compass them in a garment of verse.’

I hope this piece brings brought back fond memories to all those exiles of St Peters parish, and in particular, the Pound Loney, living in places, like England, Australia, and Canada.

I intend doing some more articles on Belfast when time permits…

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