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Ballyclare ( ) is a small town in the Six Mile Valley, County Antrim, Northern Irelandmarker. It had a population of 8,770 people in the 2001 Census. Under the reorganisation of Northern Ireland local government in 1973, Ballyclare lost its urban district status and was absorbed into the Newtownabbey Borough Councilmarker area.

It is situated in the north west of the Newtownabbey borough, on the lower slopes of the Six Mile Water Valley, with Craig Hill providing a wooded backdrop to the east. Its medieval origins can still be seen in Ballyclare Motte to the south of the town. The street layout, with its broad main street, dates back to the 18th century. A clock tower is a central focus within the town and the old mill marks the industrial district on the south east developed along the Six Mile Water. It is a local service centre with a significant dormitory role in relation to Belfast. It is the main focus within the rural area for housing, shopping and commerce, industry and employment, education and recreation.


People have lived in Ballyclare for five thousand years. Invaders included Vikings and Normans. The earliest evidence of people in this area is a hoard of flint arrow heads found when houses were being built north of the river in November 1968. There were a total of thirty-nine flints discovered — some perfectly finished and others are blank indicating an 'industry' and trading here near the river crossing over four thousand years ago.

When the Normans built the castlemarker at Carrickfergusmarker they placed a line of outposts along the river which was then called the "Ollar"- River of the Rushes. In time the soldiers making the journey from Carrickfergusmarker to Antrimmarker reached the river at this spot when they had traveled six miles so began to call the Ollar the Six Mile Water. One of these mottes is close by the river in the War Memorial Park in Ballyclare. There are two on opposite sides of the river at Doaghmarker and one at Antrim. The village grew after the Plantation of Ulster and was granted permission by King George II in 1756 to hold two fairs each year making it an important market centre.

At the same time as the Pilgrim Fathers landed in Americamarker, Ballyclare was settled by Scots planters. Jonathan Swift preached here and it was from here the families of Mark Twain, Sam Houston and General Alexander Macomb left for America. The people of Ballyclare and the surrounding villages played a part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and fought in the Battle of Antrim. At the beginning of the twentieth century Ballyclare was a growing industrial town with an urban district council and became the largest paper producer in Irelandmarker.


Ballyclare is classified as a small town by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (ie with population between 4,500 and 10,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 8,770 people living in Ballyclare. Of these:
  • 21.5% were aged under 16 years and 18.9% were aged 60 and over
  • 48.3% of the population were male and 51.7% were female
  • 8% were from a Catholic background and 92% were from a Protestant background.
  • 3.3% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.

For more details see: Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service

  • The population has grown significantly over the last 30 years from 1,999 in 1971 to 8,654 in 2001, an increase of 433%.

There is also another Ballyclare in Co. Offaly, a townsland adjacent to Ferbane town.

Buildings of note

  • Ballyclare Market House is a 3–bay, 2–storey building built about 1855 currently used as a shopping centre.
  • The old cinema, near the river on main street, which is currently used as a toilet block.
  • The current Ballyclare Primary School building was originally built in 1880 and has been vigorously extended ever since.
It includes three stages: the 1880 school house, the 1923s extension, the 1950s extension, the 2006 mobile classrooms addition.

Culture in Ballyclare


Archibald McIlroy's novel "When Lint Was In The Bell" is a light-hearted, lightly fictionalized chronicle of life in 19th century Ballyclare. A Ballyclare native, born c. 1860, Mr. McIlroy was lost in the sinking of the RMS Lusitaniamarker in 1915.


Two award-winning musical ensembles frequently represent the town on the regional, national and international stage: the Ballyclare Male Choir since 1933, and the Ballyclare Victoria Flute Band since 1919. The current guest conductor of the Flute Band is Glen Houston.

The May Fair

Ballyclare May Fair occurs on a Tuesday in May every year, and is part of a week of festivities. The tradition stems from a grant by King George II to hold two yearly fairs, although only the May Fair now survives. The fair began as a local horse fair, but representatives of cavalry regiments came from all over Europe came to buy as the reputation of the fair spread. The fair's heyday ended with the First World War, but it is still a well-loved event in the town.

The May Fair is one of the few horse fairs now left in the country. The Main Street is sanded down and given over to horse selling for the day. There is, however, now a variety of modern amusements in the square. Other events include the Mayor's parade, followed by sports, street events, concerts and exhibitions. Local shops compete for the best dressed window, and children take part in fancy dress competitions and the duck race. A May Fair queen is chosen to represent the town over the next year.

A recent attempt by local traders to uproot the traditional fair from the town's Market Square has sparked outcry and protest amonst the local residents.




  • The road network in Ballyclare is centred on Main Street, North End and Market Square in the Town Centre. A number of roads lead into the Town Centre including the Hillhead Road from the south, the Doagh Road from the west and the Rashee, Ballyeaston and Ballycorr Roads from the north and north east. Car parking available in the town centre ranges from surface-level parking to free and paid on-street parking.


  • Ballyclare had a narrow gauge rail link to Larne and a broad gauge connection to Belfastmarker. Neither of these have been in use since the 1950s. Ballyclare railway station on the narrow gauge Ballymena and Larne Railway opened on 24 August 1878, closed to passenger traffic on 1 October 1930, closed to goods traffic on 3 June 1940 and finally closed altogether on 3 July 1950. The station on the broad gauge Northern Counties Committee railway line opened on 3 November 1884, closed for passenger traffic on 1 January 1938, closed for goods traffic on 2 May 1938 and finally closed altogether on the same date as its narrow gauge counterpart in 1950.
The building was demolished altogether in 2004 and was replaced with a similarly shaped and styled building. The old engine shed, however, remains and is now a carpet sales room.



See also


  1. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency website.
  2. Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information website.
  3. Ballyclare Male Choir website.
  4. Ballyclare Victoria Flute Band website.

External links

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