Belfast Telegraph

100 special years at Falls Road Library

(L-r) DJ Doran, Donna Doran, Colette O'Neil and Henry O'Neil at the celebrations
(L-r) DJ Doran, Donna Doran, Colette O'Neil and Henry O'Neil at the celebrations
Liam Parker, former assistant chief librarian, recounts the history of the Falls Road Library

By Lauren Mulvenny

Residetns of all ages, past and present staff and local politicians gathered last week to officially mark the centenary celebrations of the Falls Road Library.

Officially launching the celebrations with an old fashioned bell ringing, chief librarian Katherine McCloskey said: “I want to welcome you all here today to this iconic building at the heart of the Falls Road.

“It's great to see so many people who presently use the library and have used it in the past back today to celebrate with us.”

All through 2008 events have been organised to mark this special year in the library's history.

Members of the public were able to enjoy an exhibition looking back at the library's past 100 years.

Harpists from St Dominic's High School and a choir from Gael Scoil na Bhfal entertained the crowd.

Current branch manager Anne Maxwell said: “I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the programme we have planned.

“I especially want to thank the public, without them the library would not have remained as popular as it is today.

“This is going to be a fantastic year. We are going to try and fit in as much as possible.

“There is an extensive programme of events already in place but this is not all that is planned. Residents should keep a look out for extra events that will be advertised.”

Celebrating the importance of the library was a family affair for the O'Neil family. Henry and Colette O'Neil attended the event with their daughter Donna Doran and grandson DJ Doran.

“I have many happy memories here,” said Mrs O'Neil. “Especially as a child, it was such a beautiful library.

Ms Doran continued: “As a child I was brought to the library and then as an adult I worked here for two years.

“It was a lovely place to work, there was always a great atmosphere.”

A colourful history

The extensive history of the Falls Road library was briefly recounted by Liam Parker, assistant chief librarian throughout the 80s and 90s.

The library was built following a donation from the American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and opened on January 2, 1908. Mr Parker quoted Mr Carnegie as saying: “In a public library men could at least share cultural opportunities on a basis of equality. Through the library all could educate themselves.”

Mr Parker pin-pointed many memorable events including:

  • During the first two days of opening the library attracted almost 10,000 visitors and in its first year 48,220 books were issued;
  • During the 1920s the RIC and British soldiers were stationed in the building. The British army were again stationed in the library during World War Two;
  • During the 1940s, 50s and 60s under the librarian Joe Fitzsimons the building became a meeting place for authors;
  • The library was damaged numerous times as a result of petrol bombs, explosions, burning vehicles and riots; and
  • The only time the library was forced to close was during a protracted dispute around the raising of a tricolour on the roof in August 1980.


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