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My place, my people: In week four we look at County Down

Published 17/02/2016

Scrabo Tower in Newtownards, Co Down
Scrabo Tower in Newtownards, Co Down

This article has been specially written for those thousands of schoolchildren who are doing the Belfast Telegraph Newspapers in Education project, My Place My People. Over the six weeks of the project we will be looking at each county in Northern Ireland. Today we consider Down and some of the county’s most treasured monuments and influential people.

County Down borders Antrim and Armagh and is located in the south east of Northern Ireland.

The famous and much admired Mountains of Mourne are found in Newcastle and as the song about them says, 'they sweep down to the sea'.

The River Bann and River Lagan, Northern Ireland's two main rivers, rise in the Mourne Mountains which are a spectacular sight as is Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland's highest peak.

Down is renowned for its beauty, history and tourist attractions.

Extremely popular with all ages is Castle Espie in Comber, with its large collection of ducks, geese and swans, while Pickie Funpark in Bangor is loved by children.

Other places of interest for the family include the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum near Holywood and the Exploris aquarium in Portaferry, which will reopen in the summer after fears that it would be closed down permanently due to financial issues.

Legananny Dolmen, on the slopes of the mountain Slieve Croob and near the village of Leitrim, is also worth visiting. A dolmen is a megalithic tomb dating from ancient times and this one in County Down is one of the most famous in Northern Ireland.

Scrabo Tower in Newtownards is well known too. It can be seen for miles around and was built above the town in 1857 as a memorial to Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, who was one of the Duke of Wellington's generals.

Another major historic point to note is that Saint Patrick is said to be buried in Down Cathedral in Downpatrick.

Down is renowned for fishing, and towns such as Kilkeel, Portavogie and Ardglass are heavily involved in the industry while Strangford Lough, in the county, is the largest sea lough in the British Isles.

A further interesting fact about Down is that Patrick Bronte, the father of writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne was born at Emdale, between Banbridge and Rathfriland. The river valley from Banbridge to Rathfriland is called the Bronte Country.

A Special Person

Daire McLaughlin: P6, St Joseph's PS, Killough

My special person is my soccer coach at Coney Island FC, Tony McIlhone. He is special because he encourages me all the time and plays me in my favourite position. Tony makes me laugh and I think that he is the best coach in the Under 11 Youth League. He is very kind to me and my team mates as he always gives us lifts to matches. I think Tony could coach Barcelona instead of Luis Enrique as he is that good!

After games Tony sometimes buys us McDonald's and we really appreciate this. When I'm cold he tells me to run around the pitch to keep warm. When I'm thirsty he gets me a drink.

Tony is really good at tactics. He instructs us to go backwards and forwards. He makes sure we are at training and matches on time. Tony tries to organise friendlies for us but sometimes it isn't possible because Dunleath Park is usually flooded!

I respect him and he respects me.

Influential people from County Down

Hans Sloane:

Killyleagh man Hans Sloan, who was born in 1660 and died in 1753, was a successful physician and collector of objects from around the world.

His collections were the foundation for the British Museum. He is also credited with introducing chocolate to these islands from Jamaica.

Frank Pantridge:

Professor Frank Pantridge from Hillsborough was a cardiologist who invented the portable defibrillator, a device that has helped save millions of lives across the world.

Known as the 'father of emergency medicine', Pantridge was born in 1916 and passed away in 2004.

Rory McIlroy:

Rory McIlroy is one of the world's most famous sportsmen. From Holywood, McIlroy has so far won four major golf tournaments, including the Open Championship, and a host of other events. He has also been the world's number one golfer.

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