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Quarry Lane Crossing
1938 the residents of Dundonald took on the might of the Belfast & County
Down Railway Company in a dispute over the right of way across “Quarry Lane
picture below was taken at the
This Photograph was taken by
map left shows the crossing in 1902. (The station is about 500 ft the right
of the quarry).
shows that Quarry Lane Crossing was built as an ordinary farm accommodation
crossing. It was originally put in place in 1850 for the owner of the land
severed by the railway as it wended its way from Knock to Dundonald. The
crossing was known at the
crossing was situated at the end of a laneway which ran from a farm on the
Old Dundonald Road to a Quarry and some Workmen’s cottages near the Railway.
On the other side of the railway a footpath ran down to the Comber Road, and
then up to the school, churches and centre of Dundonald village.
crossing itself consisted of two farm gates, one on either side of the
tracks. The gates were in the distinctive rising sun design used by the Company.
Beside the gates were two stone stiles, one on either side of the line.
the years between the wars, the population of Dundonald doubled. Many of the newcomers were ‘townies’ from the ever expanding city of
Belfast. By 1937 the population numbered 1,664. Many new houses were built to
accommodate the rising demand. The railway encouraged growth in the south of
the parish. Middle-class villas were built along the Old Dundonald and Comber
Roads, whilst less grand dwellings of tin and wood sprang up on Quarry Lane
and the Gransha Road. The areas locally becoming known as ‘Tin Town’ and
‘Timber Town’ respectively.
people living south of the Railway there were two routes for crossing the
railway lines to get to the village. The first was to go via the road bridge at
the station. The second and more direct route for many was to go down Quarry
Lane, across the tracks and down Grand Prix Park. As more and more people
used the crossing the Railway Company began to take notice.
June 1938, the General Manager, Mr. W. F. Minnis reported to the Board:
recently a new road named Grand Prix Park, has been constructed from the main
Comber Road up to the Railway Crossing on which quite a number of villas have
been erected, with the result that the accommodation crossing is now being
used by a number of residents on both sides of the line.”
Board ever mindful of the risk of legal action arising from an accident
agreed that the stiles at the crossing should be removed “in order to
counteract any suggestion that their being there was an invitation to the
public to make use of the Crossing.” This was in accordance with legal advice
given to the Company in 1923 that all such stiles should be removed.
fact of the matter however was that the route down Quarry Lane and Grand Prix
Park offered a substantial short cut for many living south of the railway, if
they wished to go to the village (a short cut which is still used by locals
to this day). We must remember that motor cars were not in such abundance as
today and most people had to walk to attend school, to visit the shops or to
worship at their church.
Company Engineer arranged for the stiles to be built up. If necessary, keys
for the gates would be supplied to the residents of the workmen’s cottages
adjacent to the crossing, though only if they could prove they had right of
way to cross the railway. The local residents didn’t take this move lying
down! No sooner had the stiles been blocked up than some firebrand residents
knocked the work down again. The company blocked them up again, and again the
work was knocked down. This continued for four consecutive days from the 22nd
June to 25th June.
photograph reproduced from the Weekly Northern Whig Newspaper June 1938 shows
the crossing from the Quarry Lane side looking across the railway towards
Grand Prix Park and Dundonald Village. The rubble from the demolished attempt
to block up the stile can be seen strewn about the ground.
final demolition occurred on the 25th June prior to a protest meeting
which was attended by over 100 people. They assembled on either side of the
line where they were separated by the stone and earth walls built up by the
Company. Using a plank of wood as a battering ram, some of the men in the
crowd knocked down the walls. With the way cleared, the crowd merged for the
meeting at the top of Grand Prix Park.
Wright the principal of Dundonald Public Elementary School addressed the
crowd. He stated that 65 school children used the crossing everyday and that
since the way had been barred school attendance had been affected. Perhaps it
was more a case of any excuse for a day off school! The photograph to the
right shows the ‘new school’ built in 1923. A path led to the school from the
Comber Road directly opposite grand Prix Park.
police also attended the scene but did not interfere, seeing the matter as
one for resolution by the residents and the Railway Company. A petition to
Mr. Andrews, Minister of Finance, M.P. for the area and BCDR Director, was
signed on behalf of the local Presbyterian Church,
result was that the place was left quite open and the Company felt obliged to
post Watchmen until the matter could be resolved. At first they turned to the
Police. They, however, were completely uninterested in getting involved,
stating it was a matter for agreement between the residents and the Company.
Perhaps it was that the local constabulary had some sympathy for the
residents’ case. Not to be deterred, the Company turned to the law. The
Company’s solicitors Messrs. E & R. D. Bates advised application for an
Interlocutory injunction to restrain the local inhabitants from “further
interference with the Company’s property”. This was to be pursued against the
six men who the Company believed had done the damage.
residents of Dundonald responded with a deputation to the General Manager.
This consisted of the Rev. James McQuitty (Presbyterian), Rev. John Cotter (Church
of Ireland), Messrs. Bossence, Fullerton (Methodist minister), J. W. Porter
and Stanley Wright (Primary school principal). These gentlemen were anxious
that something be done to provide a footbridge. The Company, however,
continued to pursue its legal action.
The case came before Mr Justice
Megaw at the Chancery Court of the Royal Courts of Justice at 11 a.m. on
Wednesday 22nd March 1939. (Picture courtesy of St. Andrews
University Library). The Company’s injunction was not defended as the six men
in question had no means of meeting the legal expenses. The Courts granted
the Company’s injunction and awarded costs against the defendants, William
Jamison, labourer, Old Dundonald Road; William Collins, labourer, Wilmar,
Quarry Lane; Andrew Walsh, electric welder, Quarry Lane; William McGuffin,
electrician, Quarry Lane; Ernest Martin, labourer, Hill Crest, Old Dundonald
Road, and Thomas Moore Sen., labourer, Quarry Lane, Ballybeen, Dundonald. No
compensation was applied for or allowed. The Company decided not to pursue
the matter of costs as the defendants were all working men and there appeared
to be no prospect of their being able to pay. Mr. Justice Megaw said the
crossing had been used by a great many members of the public by reason of the
non-interference of the Company. It was, no doubt, a great convenience.
Overhead or underground accommodation would be of value, but the Company did
not feel justified in incurring the expenditure. The stiles were again built
up and the Watchmen withdrawn from the area.
the court case the Board considered closing all stiles at accommodation
crossings to avoid any further trouble like that which had taken place at
Dundonald. In 1939, it was es
residents formed the “Dundonald Right of Way Association” and continued to
lobby for passage across the railway tracks at Quarry Lane. They asked the
Company if they would be prepared to dispose of the metal Footbridge at
Tillysburn and move it to Quarry Lane. This Halt had been closed since 1931
and the bridge was unused. This, however, never came to pass and it can only
be assumed the costs involved proved to be too high and the matter was
abandoned. Soon the nation was to be plunged into war and minds no doubt were
occupied by more important matters.
The view down Grand Prix
Park in 2013. The Comber Greenway has replaced the railway; pedestrians most