The Freecrow Area of Lurgan
by Seamus Doran
Freecrow is an area of Lurgan which, like many areas of the town, hosted small houses and large families. It had a community spirit second to none.
The main employment of the area was the linen industry and the building trade. In those days everyone was in employment and everyone lived from week to week in a modest lifestyle. The original area of Freecrow was, Lower Brownlow Terrace, Kilmaine Street, Grattan Stret and Lower North Street. To many today, you enter Freecrow the moment you enter North Street! The area held strong roots with it’s faith, the impressive St, Peter’s church stands proudly in North Street since 1833, the adjutant St, Peter’s school was the learning facility along with the North Street National school which was sited where the car park is now facing Henderson’s fruit shop.
The local Gaelic football team, St Peter’s was founded by a man called Barber back in the 1940’s. “The Lily Whites” as they become known has went from strength to strength and their clubhouse and grounds on the site of the Windsor Laundry is a far cry from the wooden hut in the field in my growing up years. Many will remember St, Patrick’s hall. Sited beside Lily Magee’s shop, dances, parties and functions were held there over the decades. Many sporting events and gatherings found a home here including boxing and athletes. I recall the stage and the wonderful entertainment provided by artists like Nora Toman and Alfie Geoff
The area was peppered with small shops, converted from the parlour rooms of terraced houses. These included Kate McGrann’s in Mary Street, McConaghey’s, Maggie McCann’s in Kilmaine Street, Kitty Murray’s in Brownlow Terrace, Marie Green’s in Brownlow Terrace, Elish Lyness in Kilmaine Street and Marie McGeown’s in Mary Street . All run a weekly payment book and tick was there for all, as long as you settled your account on Friday nights.
The Parochial Hall was to the rear of St, Peter’s chapel, it was built by voluntary labour by the men of the area, it was the home the Knight’s of Malta, the body who looked after the faint hearted during mass and fair days. The fair was an annual event, held in the parochial field. The wheel of fortune, hobby horses, raffles, hoop la, donkey rides and much more was to be found during the days in which we socialised without the use of telephone and the internet.
This was an area in which everyone knew everyone, doors were left open and children played safely in the field and occasionally ventured over to the canyon beside the Windsor Laundry. There was no health and safety in those days, McKeown’s bottling works at the bottom of Mary Street could barely be seen behind the stacked palettes of bottles which covered the pavement and the road. The boys that worked here were Alfie Geoff, Lenny McCann, Gerard Toland, Noel Lennon, Davey Flannagan, Roy McCusker and Joe Douglas.
St, Peter’s football club bus often took the children of the area away on day trips, drivers included Gerard Moore, Sammy McKeagh and Brian Murphy.
It was an area with some great characters, Bobby Dummigan is one that comes to mind.
Sadly it is an area that has lost it’s heart due to absentee landlords and families that moved onto new developments. Freecrow will always remain the central hub of many families in the town as a proud heraldry of their roots.
Our thanks to Seamus Doran for his kindness in giving us permission to publish these stories here.