Development of Greenisland Estate

The biggest change to Greenisland came in the mid-1950s when the ‘Upper Estate’ was built, partly to house workers for Courtaulds factory, which was being extended, and partly to rehouse people from Belfast which was overcrowded and had a lot of substandard housing. The Northern Ireland Housing Trust was set up in 1945. Financed by the government, its main function was to provide housing accommodation for workers in co-operation with local authorities. The Trust initially planned for 900 new homes to be completed in Greenisland by 1957/58.

Knockfergus Park entrance to the estate Knockfergus Park entrance into the 'upper estate' can be seen opposite the drive in which the car is parked

“The first Housing Estate in Greenisland was built in the mid 1950s by James Logan & Sons, Ballyclare with the second phase being built by Laing & Company from Newcastle, England.

I had the dubious distinction of being the concrete-mixer driver for the second phase of the estate and was there for the complete development. In those days there was little mechanical assistance and all the foundations were dug by hand and foot by Tommy Major and his two associates. To all they were known as the ‘founds squad’.”

Although jobs were plentiful in the Carrickfergus area houses were difficult to find and housing lists were long.

“I was married in 1954 and we had our name on the housing list for 3 years. We had been with my mother and then with my sister before we got a place of our own. When our son was born we had to move because we couldn’t have a baby in the house. I didn’t care where I went as long as I got a house. We were interviewed by Mrs Brown and offered a flat in Greenisland. This offer was changed to a house when she heard that we were paying the same rent for rooms as we would for a new house and we had some furniture.”

“You had to have your name on a waiting list for a house so we lived with my parents. Our baby was about 3 months old when we finally got a flat in the estate (1957). We were on the waiting list a couple of years. When I was expecting my second child I was moved from a flat to a house, also in the estate.”

“We came in 1960. My husband had relatives in the Housing Trust so we got the house.”

Most people who moved into the estate loved Greenisland.

View of Rossmore Green (1957) Photograph taken from Glenkeen Avenue showing the development of Rossmore Green (1957)

“When I came down to Greenisland (1960) to Knocksallagh Park I couldn’t get over it. Four bedrooms, a sitting room, a living room, electric and a bath. For a week I was up and down the stairs and out and in the garden thinking – ‘is this my house?’ The house still looked empty, the bits and pieces I had brought with me would hardly have filled one room.”

“It was great, there were tiled floors. The lady that was there before me had the bathroom done – black wallpaper with fishes swimming - and on the fireplace wall in the living room was black paper with fishes swimming because she must have had some left over. It was there for a quare while because I couldn’t afford anything else. My house was beautiful and I loved it from the day and hour I went into it.”

View of Rossmore Green (1959) Photograph taken from Glenkeen Avenue showing the development of Rossmore Green (1959)

Some however, especially those from Belfast, thought it was too quiet.

“This was 1967 and we had been looking for a house from 1965. Greenisland came up and we hadn’t a clue where it was – I said it doesn’t matter – we are taking it. We were offered one in Carrick at the same time and we took the cheapest rent, which was Greenisland. When I came down here I hated the place – I thought it was the back of beyond. I said, 'this is godforsaken country out here’.”

“Our neighbour had lived in a two up two down – she had a husband, six children and one on the way. They rehoused her to Greenisland but she never liked it – she found the open spaces were too open!”

View of Rossmore Green (1964) Photograph taken from Glenkeen Avenue showing the development of Rossmore Green (1964)

Not all the “old Greenisland” residents were pleased at the building of the estate and the influx of outsiders.

“They didn’t like the estate when it got started – they said things like –don’t let the riff raff in.”

“There was quite a bit of snobbery in Greenisland [in 50s and 60s]. There were the Top Road and Shore Road people – people who had businesses - , the Station Road people and the Estate people when they came.”

In 1963 ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries)opened in Carrickfergus and Carreras, part of Rothmans, set up a pilot manufacturing plant in 1965. Soon after Carreras opened, the building of the ‘Lower Estate’ began with enough space left between the two estates for a motorway through to Carrickfergus.

Knockleigh Drive c 1958 Knockleigh Drive c 1958

“My dad suggested we go to see the estate. He parked the car in Moyard Gardens which was still very much like a building site. A woman, who was cleaning out each house after the builders finished told us to pick any house to look through, we did and it seemed so bright and roomy compared to our wee kitchen house.

Rothmans arranged and paid for removal vans for everyone and gave their workers time off work so they could get their families settled in.When we arrived we discovered the house we had been allocated was the same house we had chosen to view, so with our new home and great neighbours we loved Greenisland right away – and still do.”

Although now widely considered a Protestant estate many of the original estate families who came to work in the factories were Catholics.

“Housing Executive housing was the first housing really to be totally mixed – nobody asked what you were.”

“My husband came home one day and asked if I would like to live in Greenisland as new houses were being built to accommodate Carreras, Courtaulds and ICI workers. We talked it over and decided it would be a great opportunity to have our children grow up in a mixed community.”

“Community relations were good and we all supported dances and films in the Unionist Hall.”

“There was never any trouble here until the actual ‘Troubles’. Greenisland estate was well mixed.”

In the 50s and 60s rent was paid weekly to a collector who called at your door. Collectors were strict and used rent collection as an opportunity to inspect your property – inside and out.

“Rent in the 60s in Greenisland was 35 shillings a week. Miss McGuinness came round with a leather money bag. She came round on Tuesday. On Monday night you couldn’t have heard your ears for people cutting the grass. If she came round to lift your rent and the grass was long she sent a boy to cut your grass and added the cost onto your rent.”

“Mrs Brown [supervisor] came round on a Tuesday for the rent – I was terrified of her – I thought she could have put you out on the street there and then.”

Shops

In the early fifties, before the estate was built, Greenisland was a very quiet semi-rural area. Greenisland Primary School (then Greenisland Public Elementary School) had been opened in 1938 and there was the Presbyterian Church on the Upper Road and the Ebenezer Church on the Shore Road. Although there was Weir’s grocery store on the Shore Road, on the site of the current Russell’s Cellars, and Mr Watson’s Knockagh Cash Store on the Upper Road, which is now a computer shop, Greenisland life centred around the railway station.

Knockagh Cash Stores on the day it closed Knockagh Cash Stores on the day it closed

Mr. Clarke’s confectionery shop, formerly Mrs Boylan’s was painted bright red and usually referred to as the ‘wee red shop’. Adjoining Mr. Clarke’s was Sam McGookin’s, a real old style cobbler and beside him was a very old and large wooden building which housed McKirgan’s garage from where he traded petrol, coalbrick and paraffin. McKirgan’s was to be taken over by Billy Cooke who introduced car maintenance and repairs. Just above the Station was Mr Crymble’s Post Office, and Boyd’s Shop on the corner of Mullaghmore Park, now The Green Island.

“Old wooden ‘Drill’ rifles hung in the rafters of the garage; they had no metal or moving parts and were used for ‘drill’ purposes. I presumed they were a throwback to the WW2 days.”

Station Square 1957 Station Square 1957

Up the steps were old stables which were converted into a chemist shop by Mr Moore. It now houses a hair dressing salon.

“Across the road from the garage was The James Stores grocery shop. Mr Knight ran a very old style shop with peas, lentils and biscuits in shelved boxes. He weighed the amount out then placed it in thick brown paper bags. Not a plastic bag to be seen. As a reminder to his customers Mr. Knight had nailed to the counter a forged florin [10p] made of lead. At some time it had been spent in his shop and by nailing it to the counter it served as a reminder to him and customers that he would not be taken in again by a forgery.”

Original James Store Sign Original James Store Sign uncovered during refurbishment

Sam Knight’s shop was to be taken over by Mr. Jim Hainon and then Arnold Weir (Snr) who already owned the shop on the Shore Road and later owned an additional shop in the estate. His business was supplemented by two mobile shops which toured the Greenisland area.

As more people moved into the estate more amenities were provided.

Receipt from 1935 Receipt from 1935

“I found that most things were available as the basic shops were already here. Later the Housing Trust built several shops on the estate, which filled any gaps. We also had mobile shops; a fishmonger twice weekly, Weir’s grocery van daily, vegetable van, Jack the butcher who came alternate days, bread vans – Inglis, Ormeau and Kennedy - lemonade, library, fish and chip, and laundry vans and not forgetting Danny the coal man.”

“Travel was still by train though now that the big factories were paying better wages people were getting more affluent and cars were becoming more common. Eventually Ulsterbus provided a bus service from the estate to Belfast, Carrickfergus and Whitehead, which not only took the workers to their jobs but also pupils in secondary education to school.”

In 1968 a community centre,doctor’s surgery and library were opened in Glassillan Grove. This area, near to the shops soon became the new hub of Greenisland especially when the Post Office moved there.

Schools

Greenisland Primary School opened on 24 June 1938 with Mr Barbour as principal and the number of pupils rose steadily. On 15 August 1953 the Director of Education, Mr MacCormac was invited to attend a Management Committee meeting about the urgent need to expand the school. He was informed about the Housing Trust’s plans to build 900 new houses by 1958. The Director intimated he had no knowledge of this house building programme but said he would seek confirmation from the Housing Trust, and if necessary submit extension plans to the Ministry of Education as a special case. The building of this first extension of 4 classrooms, assembly hall and meals kitchen commenced in 1955. This coincided with the enrolment of the first new pupils from the estate.

The numbers on the roll continued to grow as more and more people moved into Greenisland. There was a further addition of 6 permanent classrooms and 6 portable classrooms and by January 1969 the roll had peaked at over 700.

Silverstream Primary School Aerial view of Silverstream Primary School 1969

In April 1969 Silverstream Primary School opened in Moyard Gardens in the ‘Lower Estate’. The vice-principal of Greenisland Primary Mr Young was appointed principal of the new school and teacher Miss J Magill became vice-principal. Approximately 250 pupils transferred from Greenisland Primary.

On the 23 August 1961 St Colman’s Catholic school was opened. The principal was Mr Owen Mulvenna and the school initially had a staff of three teachers and in 1969 was enlarged with five additional classrooms. By 1972 the school numbers had reached 329 with 12 teachers.

In 1981 Courtaulds and ICI closed with the loss of 4000 jobs and in 1986 Carreras factory closed with the loss of 850 jobs. The job losses and intimidation during the ‘Troubles’ led to a decline in the number of Catholic families in the estate. St. Colman's School was reduced to one teacher, Mrs Welden, but continued to educate children until 1992, when it finally closed. The site of the school is now the Old School Surgery.

Churches

"One of the first things people did when they came to Greenisland was find a church”.

Site of Methodist Church Site of Methodist Church

The interdenominational Ebenezer Hall and Presbyterian Church existed before the estate was built. In 1951 The Church of Ireland purchased a site with adequate space for a church and parochial hall. Within a few weeks of the purchase, the Housing Trust acquired the adjoining land for the ‘Upper Estate’. The Church of the Holy Name was consecrated on 4 September 1954 and a parochial hall dedicated on 7 September 1957. The Methodist Church was opened and dedicated on 6 December 1958.

St. Colman's Church was officially opened in October 1969. The previous year nuns had moved to the parish. The Sisters belonged to a French order called ‘The Daughters of Jesus’ and lived in Rathmore House. They visited homes and hospitals and had a close and active role with Beacon House for over 16 years. They gave strength and support to their Parish in their own quiet and humble way, they also provided rented accommodation to students from the Ulster Polytechnic. Sister Rose was well known as she went about ‘doing’ the gardens of pensioners in the estate as well as looking after the Convent Gardens.

St Coleman's School c 1963 St Coleman's School c 1963 (Michael O'Grady in foreground)

One Sunday night December 1996 St Colman’s Church was burnt and needed complete refurbishment. There was sympathy and encouragement given by the ministers and congregations from the other local churches. St Colman’s built a beautiful new church which opened on 23 November 1997.

The 5 Clergymen of Greenisland (Church of Ireland, Methodist, Church of the Nazarene, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic) had a music group led by Father Brian Mullan on guitar. They visited hospitals and entertained patients.

Housing for the Elderly

Knockagh Court, part of the James Butcher Housing Association, was opened on 24 March 1986 by Mrs Joan Tomlin. Initially no-one in Greenisland was familiar with this Association but through her dedication and hard work, Joan played a significant role in getting Knockagh Court built. Abbeyfield House was opened on 24 May 1990 by RT Hon Peter Bottomley MP.

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