Comber (from Irish: An Comar, meaning "the confluence") is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies 5 miles south of Newtownards, at the northern end of Strangford Lough. It is situated in the townland of Town Parks, the civil parish of Comber and the historic barony of Castlereagh Lower. Comber is part of the Ards and North Down Borough. It is also known for Comber Whiskey which was last distilled in 1953. A notable native was Thomas Andrews, the designer of the RMS Titanic and was among the many who went down with her. It had a population of 9,078 people in the 2011 Census.
|Population||9,078 (2011 Census)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||Northern Ireland|
The confluence of two rivers, which gave the town its name, is that of the Glen River and the Enler River which meet here. There is believed to have been a church here since the time of St Patrick, while a Cistercian abbey was founded around 1200 on the site of the present Church of Ireland church, a site likely chosen to take advantage of the good access to Strangford Lough. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1541, the abbey fell into ruins and its stone has since been used in other buildings.
During the influx of Scots in the early 1600s (see Plantation of Ulster), a settlement grew up at Comber, although it was focused about a mile further south than at present, in the townland of Cattogs, and there is evidence that the settlement was a port used by traders and fishermen. By the 1700s, however, the focus of the town had moved to the area of the present main Square and Comber became established as an industrial centre with several mills.
The Andrews family made Comber a centre of both linen production and grain processing by the second half of the 1700s. Whiskey distilling was a prominent industry by the mid-1800s, the most prominent of the distillers being John Miller, uncle of William James (Lord) Pirrie and Eliza (wife of Thomas Andrews Snr.). One member of the Andrews family, Thomas, rose to fame as designer of the ill-fated RMS Titanic, although he tragically lost his life when the ship sank in 1912. By 1841 the town had 1,400 inhabitants. The 20th century saw Comber lose much of its industry but re-establish itself as a commuter town for the Belfast urban area, swelling in population from 4,000 in 1961 to 8,933 according to the 2001 Census.
In Comber's Square, you cannot fail to see the statue of Major General Rollo Gillespie. Gillespie was a local war hero from the 19th century, famous for his heroic exploits in India. It was constructed under the oversight of John Fraser, the first County Surveyor of Down, and was unveiled on 24 June 1845 (St. John's Day). Fifty lodges of the Masonic Order were present, in what is believed to be the biggest Masonic gathering in Irish history. It was calculated that 25,000 to 30,000 people crowded into the town to witness the ceremony. The column is 55 feet high. At the foot of the column are many Masonic symbols and his famous last words "One shot more for the honour of Down". The Square is also the place where you will find a memorial to those who perished on Titanic, which has strong links to the town. The town even has its own "Comber Titanic Audio Trail which guides you to special places of interest throughout Comber that relate to the Titanic story."
The Enler River in Comber has also flooded many times in past years. As a result, the Comber flood wall was built along the river through the town which has held the water back since.
On Sunday 3 June 2012 at 8:05am the Olympic Torch passed through the centre of the town on its way to Stormont.
Comber grew as a market town with many family run businesses, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, however a recent increase in more well known shops has taken place. For example, Tesco Express has recently opened up on the square. Shop4you has also opened up after taking over the old Strickland Brothers Garage. Other big stores in nearby Newtownards have also opened leading to a decline in the traditional and independent shops. This has led to some parts of the town becoming derelict and run down. Despite this the town has started to become increasingly popular with tourists and this has led to an upsurge in craft shops, art galleries as well as numerous cafes proving to be very successful in the town. Some would even say the Square has become a hub for a new sense of café culture. There were also calls for comber market to be reinstated after years without one. Despite being turned down by Ards Council for support, a monthly Farmers’ Market in Comber will open on Thursday 3 July 2014 in St Mary’s Parish Church car park beside the Square, Comber. From 9.00am – 1.30pm. The artisan food market which has been pioneered by Councillor Deborah Girvan and supported by the Comber Regeneration and Community Partnership (CRCP) will give local food producers and growers an opportunity to sell their produce at market value prices to a wide range of customers. The market recently received a grant of almost £10,000 from the Big Lottery’s Awards for All programme and plans to buy stalls and promote the market have swung into action.
The town is also set to benefit from a £2.4 million public realm scheme. The scheme encompassing High Street, The Square, Bridge Street, Bridge Street Link, Killinchy Street and Castle Street will reinvigorate Comber, creating a unique and uniform identity for the town centre. The design concepts were developed in partnership with Ards Borough Council, and, community and business representatives. Making the announcement, Minister McCausland said: “This represents a significant investment by the Northern Ireland Executive and Ards Borough Council. The scheme has been designed to bring the maximum benefit to all of Comber’s residents and to make the town centre much more attractive to visitors. This scheme is a fundamental part of the strategy ‘Envisaging the future of Comber’. “I know from the success of public realm schemes in other towns, that this investment will make a significant contribution to improving the fortunes of the town centre. This funding demonstrates my ongoing commitment to the regeneration of Comber.” Mayor of Ards, Councillor Stephen McIlveen, welcomed the confirmation of funding. He said: "This investment by DSD and the Council will transform the visual appearance of the town centres, enhancing their appeal as places to visit and shop, with the associated positive economic impact. I look forward now to seeing the designs developed and finalised and to work beginning."
Like the rest of Ireland, the Comber area has long been divided into townlands, whose names mostly come from the Irish language. Over time, more rural townlands have been built upon and they have given their names to many roads and housing estates. The following is a list of townlands within Comber’s urban area, alongside their likely etymologies:
Comber also has the benefit of The Comber Greenway, a 7-mile (11 km) traffic-free section of the National Cycle Network, in development along the old Belfast-Comber railway line. The cycle path starts on Dee Street in Belfast and finishes at Comber. Now completed the Greenway provides an eco-friendly cycle path with views of Stormont and Scrabo Tower. This attracts many cyclists into the town which helps benefit the local economy. The current route of the Greenway was originally used as the route for the Belfast and County Down Railway. The railway was in use from the 1850s to 1950 when it was permanently retired. Throughout the 1950s the track was lifted in stages and infrastructure, including bridges, removed. Local activists and politicians have proposed plans to extend the Greenway into the town centre directly which they say would benefit the local businesses even more.
Castle Espie is a wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) on the banks of Strangford Lough, three miles south of Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland. It is part of the Strangford Lough Ramsar Site. It provides an early wintering site for almost the entire Nearctic population of Pale-bellied Brent Geese. The Castle which gave the reserve its name no longer exists. Castle Espie was officially opened as a Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre by Lady Scott on 4 May 1990. The site had previously been a limestone quarry, and also had a brickworks, pottery and lime kilns for producing lime from limestone, as well as part of a farm.
In September 2007, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £2.96 million towards a major wetland restoration project at Castle Espie, the largest investment in biodiversity in Northern Ireland. At the heart of the project, costing £4m in all, will be the restoration and improvement of intertidal and freshwater habitats along the shores of Strangford Lough to encourage more species and greater numbers of waterbirds to feed, roost or breed at Castle Espie, as well as restoring important habitats. A new ecologically sustainable visitor centre would also be constructed, and other improvements would be carried out to hides and observatories.
Comber railway station on the Belfast and County Down Railway, opened on 6 May 1850, but finally closed on 24 April 1950. Comber also has a good public transport network with buses travelling to Belfast and Newtownards everyday on a frequent basis.
In 2003 'phase two' of the Comber bypass was officially opened for traffic. This new section starts at the end of the dual carriage way from Newtownards and links up with the existing section via a roundabout on Killinchy street. Comber is also connected by a direct cycle route to Belfast. Known as the Comber Greenway, this traffic free cycle path runs for 7 miles along the old railway track bed.
One of the three local primary schools is Comber Primary School which operates under the headmaster, Chris Logan. There are 15 teachers at the school. Notable alumni include Northern Ireland footballer Stephen Craigan.
The other local primary school is Andrews Memorial Primary School, operating under the headmaster, Ralph Magee, which is of a similar size and as part of the school buildings includes the Andrews Memorial Hall, which was built by the citizens of Comber in memory of Thomas Andrews, the shipbuilder of the RMS Titanic.
The third primary school is St. Mary's Primary School, which is much smaller in size.
Comber is classified as a small town (i.e. with a population between 10,000 and 18,000 people) by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).:11
On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 9,071 people living in Comber (3,811 households), accounting for 0.50% of the NI total. Of these:
Comber is classified as a small town by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (i.e. with population between 4,500 and 10,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 8,933 people living in Comber. Of these:
For more details see: NI Neighbourhood Information Service
The Ballydrain Harrier and Athletic Club was founded in 1932 and originally trained from The Old Schoolhouse, Ballydrain. For many years it was one of the most successful clubs in Northern Ireland, but went into decline, and by 2010 had only a few members left. A move to training at the North Down Cricket Club brought about a resurgence in membership, continuing to grow quickly with members training and racing weekly.
From 1928 to 1936, the RAC Tourist Trophy (TT) motorcar races took place on a (closed) road circuit encompassing Newtownards, Comber and Dundonald in County Down, run in a clockwise direction. The pits were still visible up until the 1960s. Industrialist and pioneer of the modern agricultural tractor, Harry Ferguson, was instrumental in setting up the race, which was known as the Ards TT.
At the time it was Northern Ireland’s premier sporting event, regularly attracting crowds in excess of a quarter of a million people. Although it was a speed event, the entries were handicapped in order to allow cars of very different sizes and capabilities to race against each other on supposedly even terms over 30 laps (35 laps from 1933) of the 13.7 mile circuit. On 5 September 1936, in wet conditions, local driver Jack Chambers lost control of his Riley and crashed into the crowd, killing eight spectators. This tragedy brought an end to nine years of racing over the Ards road circuit.
One of Comber's finest sporting moments came on Christmas morning 1991 when local amateur football team Comber Rec., managed by Mervyn Boyce, overcame favourites Brantwood to lift the Steel and Sons Cup for the first time.
Comber is also the home of one of Ireland's oldest and most successful cricket clubs, North Down, which has played its home matches at the Green since 1857. It has won the NCU Challenge Cup a record 30 times, the NCU Senior League outright on 17 occasions and the Irish Senior Cup 3 times since its inception in 1984.
The club was formed by members of North Down Cricket Club in 1896 and is one of the founder-members of the Ulster Hockey Union. The first reported Club match in Ulster was played in Comber against Cliftonville on 7 November 1896, with North Down winning 8-0.
In 1899-00 North Down won their first two trophies. In the only year when the Keightley Cup for the Ulster Senior League was played for on a knock-out basis, Antrim were defeated 3-2 in the final and in the Kirk Cup Final Cliftonville were beaten 4-2.
The men's section fields six adult teams, with the First Eleven competing in the Ulster Senior League One. There are boys youth teams at under-12, under-13 and under-15 levels.
The ladies section field four adult teams, a veterans team and girls teams at under 11 and under 14 levels.
North Down Hockey Club is based at The Green in Comber, home of North Down Cricket Club. The first hockey pitch was at the Castle Lane side of the ground on the cricket outfield. A celebration game against Cliftonville as part of the Centenary was played on this same pitch.
In 1994 the decision was taken to play all first team games on the artificial turf pitch at Glenford Park, Newtownards. In 1999 the team returned to Comber and now play at Comber Leisure Centre. The Club still uses the synthetic pitch at Glenford Park and also at Nendrum College, Comber so that all home games are played on synthetic surfaces.
The A21 is a road in County Down in Northern Ireland. The route commences in Bangor, passing through Newtownards, Comber, and Ballygowan, and finishes on the northern outskirts of Ballynahinch.
There are two dual carriageway sections; between Bangor and Newtownards, and between Newtownards and Comber. The second of these passes near the northern shores of Strangford Lough through some of the best agricultural land in Ireland in the vicinity of Comber. This section also passes within 2 miles of Scrabo Tower.A22 road (Northern Ireland)
The A22 is a road in County Down, in Northern Ireland. Its route starts in Dundonald and runs to Comber, forming the main transport corridor connecting Belfast and Comber, a commuter town situated 8 miles outside of the city. After bypassing Comber town itself, the route continues along the eastern shores of, though not directly adjacent to, Strangford Lough. The route passes through Lisbane, Balloo (near Killinchy), and Killyleagh, terminating in Downpatrick.Balloo, County Down
Balloo (from Irish: Baile Aodha, meaning "Hugh's townland") is a small village and townland near Killinchy in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is 5 miles south of Comber on the A22 road to Downpatrick. It is situated in the townland of the same name, the civil parish of Killinchy and the historic barony of Dufferin. It lies within the Ards and North Down Borough. It had a population of 189 people (83 households) in the 2011 Census. (2001 Census: 159 people)Ballygowan
Ballygowan (from Irish Baile an Ghabhann, meaning 'the town of the blacksmith') is a town and in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is within the Ards and North Down Borough. The town of Comber is a short distance to the north-east, the town of Saintfield to the south, and the city of Belfast a further distance to the north-west. It is situated in the townland of the same name, the civil parishes of Killinchy and Comber and the historic barony of Castlereagh Lower. Ballygowan is a busy commuter bypass and is said to border the 'Greater Belfast City District' providing excellent travelling distance to Belfast City Centre. Ballygowan is said to one of the most wealthy districts of County Down (based on household income), similar to that of North Down (Northern Ireland's most affluent borough). It had a population of 2,957 people in the 2011 Census.Beach Comber
Beach Comber (designated as "Pigeon – NPS.41.NS.4230") was a Canadian war pigeon who received the Dickin Medal for bravery in service during the Second World War.
On 19 August 1942, Beach Comber arrived in Britain, despite hazardous conditions, from Dieppe, France carrying a message from the Canadian Army alerting commanders of their landing there, marking the start of the Dieppe raid. As a result, on 6 March 1944, the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals awarded Beach Comber the Dickin Medal. Beach Comber remains the only Canadian war pigeon ever to be awarded a Dickin Medal, and one of only three Canadian animals ever to be so honoured.Beachcombing
Beachcombing is an activity that consists of an individual "combing" (or searching) the beach and the intertidal zone, looking for things of value, interest or utility. A beachcomber is a person who participates in the activity of beachcombing.
Despite these general definitions, beachcombing and beachcomber are words with multiple, but related, meanings that have evolved over time.Church of the Little Flower (Coral Gables, Florida)
The Church of the Little Flower is a Roman Catholic church in Coral Gables, Florida founded in 1926. The church's domed 1951 building was constructed in Spanish Renaissance style, in keeping with the Mediterranean Revival architecture for which Coral Gables is noted.The church members have long been conspicuously upscale. But whereas in the 20th century its members were predominantly Irish-American, political liberals who voted the Democratic ticket, by the end of the century the majority of members were Cuban-Americans known for being politically conservative and voting Republican. Both of the Floridian contenders for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, attend Little Flower with their families. The Rubios were married in the church.Comber Earlies
Comber Earlies, also called new season Comber potatoes, are potatoes grown around the town of Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland. They enjoy the status of protected geographical indication (PGI) since 2012 and are grown by the Comber Earlies Growers Co-Operative Society Limited.The term applies to immature potatoes harvested between early May and late July in the area surrounding Comber. This area, sheltered by the Mourne Mountains and Ards Peninsula and protected from frost by the saltwater of Strangford Lough, has a distinctive microclimate, allowing an early potato harvest and a distinctive sweet, nutty flavour. Comber Earlies are not a variety of potato, they can be of many varieties, but are named solely after the location at which they are grown.Comber Recreation F.C.
Comber Recreation Football Club (or more commonly Comber Rec.) is an intermediate, Northern Irish football club based in Comber, playing in Division 1A of the Northern Amateur Football League. The club was founded in 1950 as Comber Youth Club. Its home ground is located at Parkway in Comber. The team is managed by Phil Mcdonagh. In addition to its first XI, Comber also fields two reserve teams and four youth teams. The 2nd XI currently play in the Amateur League Division 3A while the 3rd XI are in the 3rd Division of the Newcastle and District Football League having joined it in the season 2015/16. At the end of their first season, they gained promotion to Division 2. In 2005, Comber's youth teams started playing in the East Antrim Youth League and then in 2012 the under-14 team moved to the lisburn youth league while the under-15 and 17 teams moved to the South Belfast Youth League.Comber Whiskey
Comber Whiskey was an Irish whiskey distilled in Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland. The whiskey was last distilled in 1956. However, some reserves were discovered and bottled in the 1980s as "Old Comber" and some of these bottles occasionally come up for sale.
Comber Distilleries was established in 1825. At the time of its closure, it was the last pot still in Northern Ireland. The Comber Tandoori Indian restaurant on Killinchy Street in the town occupies the last remaining Comber Distilleries building.Han Suyin
Rosalie Matilda Kuanghu Chou (Chinese: 周光瑚; pinyin: Zhōu Guānghú) (12 September 1917 (or 1916) – 2 November 2012) was a Chinese-born Eurasian physician and author better known by her pen name Han Suyin (simplified Chinese: 韩素音; traditional Chinese: 韓素音; pinyin: Hán Sùyīn).
She wrote in English and French on modern China, set her novels in East and Southeast Asia, and published autobiographical memoirs which covered the span of modern China. These writings gained her a reputation as an ardent and articulate supporter of the Chinese Communist Revolution. She lived in Lausanne, Switzerland, for many years until her death.J. M. Andrews
John Miller Andrews (17 July 1871 – 5 August 1956) was the second Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.Jonny Kane
Jonny Kane (born 14 May 1973) is a professional racing driver who has competed at various levels of motorsport. He currently drives for Strakka Racing in the Le Mans Series.
Kane, who was born in Comber, Northern Ireland, began his career in karting and Formula Ford. In 1994 and 1995 he raced in Formula Vauxhall and Formula Opel where he was the 1994 British winter champion and the 1995 overall British champion. He then spent two years in British Formula 3 driving for Paul Stewart Racing where he captured 6 wins and won the 1997 championship. He made four starts in Formula 3000 in 1998 with marginal results, then came to the United States and raced in Indy Lights in 1999 and 2000, winning two races and finishing 4th in series points in 1999 for Team KOOL Green. He was a test driver for the Arrows Formula One team in 2001, then moved to sports cars, driving in the Le Mans Series and American Le Mans Series with amongst others Aston Martin. In 2005 he made his FIA GT debut and has driven for TVR and Spyker.Since 2006 Kane has competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a best finish of 5th overall at the 2010 event which was also a LMP2 class victory in the HPD ARX-01C for Strakka Racing. Since 2008 Kane has completed in the LMP2 class of Le Mans Series for a number of teams including Embassy Racing and Strakka. At the 2010 1000 km of Hungaroring Kane, made history by winning the race outright in a LMP2 car co-driven by Danny Watts and Nick Leventis. This was the first time that a LMP2 car has taken first, both in qualifying (pole position) and the race.Lakeshore, Ontario
Lakeshore is a town on Lake St. Clair, in Essex County, Ontario, Canada. The town was incorporated in 1999 by amalgamating the Town of Belle River with the townships of Maidstone, Rochester, Tilbury North, and Tilbury West. It is part of the Windsor census metropolitan area.
Lakeshore has a significant concentration of French Canadians and is one of only three communities in Southern Ontario (excluding Eastern Ontario) in which more than 5% (the provincial average) of the population is francophone. The others are Welland and Penetanguishene). In the 2011 census, 7.7% of the population reported French as their mother tongue, and 17.2% reported knowledge of both official languages. Lakeshore also has a historic black community, along the Puce River, made up of descendants of refugee slaves from the South in the United States who emigrated to Canada for freedom.Mark Rowsom
Mark Rowsom (born 1959 in Comber, Ontario) is a Canadian former pair skater. With his skating partner, Cynthia Coull, he became the 1986 World bronze medalist, 1986 Skate Canada International champion, and a three-time national champion (1985–1987).Moneyreagh
Moneyreagh or Moneyrea (from Irish: Mónaidh Riabhach, meaning "grey bog or moor") is a small village and townland in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is just off the main road between Belfast and Ballygowan. It is situated in the civil parish of Comber and the historic barony of Castlereagh LowerMoneyreagh was officially named "The worst place in the world" as of BelfastLive's 2019 poll. Moneyreagh was reported to be disgusting, who's existence was down right carcinogenic to Northern Ireland. In other words, Moneyreagh is the cancer of Northern Ireland.
Moneyreagh is home to folk lore and urban myth figures including "The Moneyreagh Cat Strangler", "The Moneyreagh Ripper" and "Brendan the Bastard Badger". The village is a hot spot for 'dark tourists' seeking their thrills from night time scare tours, along the cobbled streets 'Brendan the Bastard Badger' took that fateful night when almost every milk bottle delivered during the early hours of the morning, was knocked on it's side. Much of the spilled milk was left to spoil on the doorsteps of Moneyreaghans causing the locals to shed a wild load of tears in utter despair. The village's mayor, Cllr Brother Cousins, released a statement which included reassurances to the locals that the badger would meet a terrible and dishonourable death and advised residents that they need not cry over spilled milk.
The village's Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church has a long history. The congregation dates back to the 18th century. The original meeting house was a barn-like building built in 1719. Beside the church stands the Richard Lyttle Memorial National School, which was in use from 1908 until 1961. Moneyreagh Primary School is on Church Road. Golfer Rory McIlroy lived near the village until March 2013.Tench-class submarine
Tench-class submarines were a type of submarine built for the United States Navy (USN) between 1944 and 1951. They were an improvement over the Gato and Balao classes, only about 35 to 40 tons larger, but more strongly built and with a slightly improved internal layout. One of the ballast tanks was converted to carry fuel, increasing range from 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km; 13,000 mi) to 16,000 nautical miles (30,000 km; 18,000 mi). This improvement was also made on some boats of the previous two classes. Further improvements were made beginning with SS-435, which are sometimes referred to as the Corsair class. Initial plans called for 80 to be built, but 51 were cancelled in 1944 and 1945 when it became apparent that they would not be needed to defeat Japan. The remaining 29 were commissioned between October 1944 (Tench) and February 1951 (Grenadier). The last submarine of the Tench class, as well as the last submarine which served during World War II, in service with the U.S. Navy was USS Tigrone (AGSS-419) which was decommissioned on 27 June 1975.Thomas Andrews
Thomas Andrews, Jr. (7 February 1873 – 15 April 1912) was a British businessman and naval architect. He was managing director and head of the drafting department of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland.
He is best remembered for being chief designer in charge of the plans for the ocean liner RMS Titanic, and perished along with more than 1500 others when his ship sank on her maiden voyage. His body was never recovered.Thomas Comber (dean of Carlisle)
Thomas Comber (1575 – 28 February 1653) was an English linguist. He was the Dean of Carlisle and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
He was born at Shermanbury, Sussex about the end of the sixteenth century, the 12th child of Sir Richard Comber, the Clarenceux King of Arms at the Herald Court. He was educated at Horsham and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was an expert linguist fluent in Greek and Latin, and familiar with several other languages. In 1623 on his return from travels on the continent, he was elected King's Chaplain and soon afterwards Dean of Carlisle. In 1631, he was elected Master of Trinity College and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. At the outbreak of the English civil war, he sided with the royalists and was hounded by the Puritans, who imprisoned him in 1642 until his death on 28 February 1653.Comber married Susan, a widow and daughter of Freston of Norwich. After Comber's death she married Thomas Sclater.
Places in County Down
Italics denote settlements that are classed as towns but also have city status