In the wake of progress

Vol. 3 No. 2 - 1976

In the wake of progress

by Kieran Clendinning

Long before the new city of Craigavon, greedy for growth and status, sprawled out - with a certain degree of indiscrimination, some feel - over the 100 odd miles of its designated boundaries, one of the most familiar sights was the weavers' houses around the picturesque southern shores of Lough Neagh.

Houses of this truly traditional style are familiar to us all; they are long, low buildings one storey high, rectangular in plan and thatched with grey-brown straw. Today alas, this unique type of building is rapidly disappearing as the new city project marches on. Perhaps the only opportunity children of the up and coming generation will have of getting a real glimpse of this aspect of rural architecture will be at the Ulster Folk Museum?

An almost perfect example of a journeyman weaver's cottage. This house was built in the early 17th century.

Despite the fact that these houses were built of mud they were good, solid buildings. They have stood the test of time and stand today, in sorely diminishing numbers, as silent testimonies to the craftsmen of yesteryear.

Larger houses consisting of four-five rooms can be found further inland from the lough - like the two-storey weaver's cottage belonging to Mr. Gregson at the head of the Mill Road, Waringstown.

Over the past score of years, prosperity and, to quote one old timer, "money from America" has had its own impact on many fine examples of traditional building. The thatched roof has been capped with harsh corrugated iron and the whitewashed walls have been given a veneer of pebble dash.

Not only does the disappearance of the thatched roof take away an outstanding feature of the Ulster landscape but it has sounded the death knell of the rural craftsman. The skill of the thatcher is, indeed, a dying art.

A rural craftsman plies his craft at the roof of an Antrim homestead near the hamlet of Aghagallon close to the south eastern shore of Lough Neagh.