Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Ancient and historic Lisburn is pointing the way ahead

STEVEN KING (Belfast Telegraph, March 20), writing as "an adopted Belfastman", obviously disagrees with the award of city status to Lisburn and Newry. Quoting three of the qualifying factors which the Lord Chancellor indicated that Ministers took into account in advising the Queen - historical (including royal) considerations, regional significance and a forward-looking attitude - Mr King avows that neither Lisburn nor Newry meet those criteria, nor have they any "special characteristics," nationally or regionally.

STEVEN KING (Belfast Telegraph, March 20), writing as "an adopted Belfastman", obviously disagrees with the award of city status to Lisburn and Newry. Quoting three of the qualifying factors which the Lord Chancellor indicated that Ministers took into account in advising the Queen - historical (including royal) considerations, regional significance and a forward-looking attitude - Mr King avows that neither Lisburn nor Newry meet those criteria, nor have they any "special characteristics," nationally or regionally.

No doubt, others will speak for Newry but, as a lifetime citizen of the borough and a former mayor of Lisburn, I feel compelled to ask where this "adopted Belfastman" has been confined during the past 20 years, when nine miles up the road from his adopted city, the ancient and historical borough of Lisburn, seat of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Connor, has been expanding and flourishing at a phenomenal rate, educationally, culturally and socially and in the provision of leisure and recreational facilities to such an extent that, in population and rateable valuation, it is the second largest borough in Northern Ireland.

The merits of Lisburn were set out in the excellent brochure issued by Lisburn Borough Council in its applications for city status and which were endorsed and conveyed in letters to the Queen and to the Home Secretary by council and citizen contributors, including myself.

Historically, Lisnagarvagh (or Lisburn) was an established settlement from the late 16th Century and attracted the attention of successive monarchs from Queen Elizabeth I and King James I through the Commonwealth Period, when the citizens rejected Oliver Cromwell, to the Williamite years when the town and district hosted the Prince of Orange's army at the end of the 17th Century.

After his Restoration to the Throne in 1660, King Charles II granted a Royal Charter raising the parish church to the status of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Connor and according parliamentary representation to the burgesses.

Throughout 16 royal reigns, citizens of the borough have served the Kingdom, the Empire and Commonwealth with loyalty and distinction.

In the field of economic development, the Sprucefield Centre is recognised and officially designated as a regional centre of shopping and retail services. Lisburn also plays a leading role in educational provision with its 32 schools and colleges.

I can assure Mr King that Lisburn people are very aware of our historical and geographical uniqueness. Politically and militarily the people of the borough have been at the centre of British and Irish history from the Battle of Moira in 637 to the Second World War.

Lisburn's aristocratic families - the Conway-Seymours (Marquises of Hertford), the Hills (Marquises of Downshire), the Rawdons (Marquises of Hastings) - played key roles in the history of the United Kingdom and the US, as statesmen, ambassadors and entrepreneurs.

Lisburn, the linen capital of Ireland, was foremost in the local development of the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th Centuries, which marked the transition from cottage industry to the large-scale factory organisation of the Coulsons, Barbours and Richardsons.

Being conscious of the "distinctness" of Lisburn, we sought and were granted borough status in 1964. It could be argued that borough status granted in 1660 was restored in 1964.

I can assure Mr King that Lisburn has a distinct sense of place and that pride of place is evidenced in the borough council's construction and development of civic buildings during the last 20 years and particularly in the last ten years.

Has he not seen or heard of the new Island Civic Centre opened by the Queen last November? Is he not aware of the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum, another architectural asset which has won 11 awards for design? Has he not visited the second-to-none Lagan Valley LeisurePlex with its state-of-the-art facilities?

I invite Mr King to come to Lisburn soon and we will show him why the Queen agreed with our submission that our ecclesiastical, civic, and economic history; our geographical location; our industrial and economic development; our regional shopping facilities; our recreational and leisure provision; our education and health services; our forward-looking attitude and vision; and our proud record of service to Crown, Kingdom, Empire and Commonwealth merited comparison with any other aspirant municipality in the Queen's realm.

SAMUEL SEMPLE (Dr),

Lisburn, Co Antrim.

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