A Stroll through Limavady

Readers are advised that this little stroll took place some fifteen years ago.  A few buildings have gone and Main Street in particular has changed somewhat.  An update is under consideration.


We may as well begin our little stroll at the top of Main Street, just outside the former cattle market. This extensive and potentially lucrative plot was once a very contentious piece of real estate and the stage of a drama involving the council, hard-nosed property developers, at least one nice old lady and even national television. All has calmed down and the former Market Yard is now one of those lingering building sites patiently waiting for something to happen. However, we are keen to get going so we won't hang about.
Limavady Court House
As we look down Main Street we notice Benevenagh in the distance - a calm and noble mountain. Our more immediate surroundings are dominated by what looks like a driver's free-for-all. Even though the place is coming down with double yellow lines and various other kinds of traffic symbolisms, drivers abandon their cars anywhere and anyhow they like. Those with a perverse streak of humour park so that their vehicle blocks one or even two empty legal parking spaces, which forces the next driver to triple park just beside a delivery lorry that is blocking the rest of the street. Drivers actually on the move - mainly the ones looking for an empty parking space - navigate around all these obstacles in a slalom-like manner with great speed and nonchalance. Nobody seems to mind the chaos - not even the police - and most drivers are polite and good natured, unless, of course, you complain about their parking!

The first interesting building we pass is our rather nice little Court House. Notice the remarkable pagoda tower - unique in the town. The ugly little security abode at the front left is a recent addition with a hopefully short life span. It is my personal opinion that its architect also designed the Northern Bank, Brian Brown's prize winning "who needs windows?" office block and that strange bus terminal, which we will meet later on. There are moves afoot to close the court house for courting and the solicitors in town - preferring Limavady to the big place down the road - are very angry about all this. We of course, couldn't care less and move on.

The Alexander Memorial - front elevation - in LimavadyFurther down the road we come across the strange erection on the left.

Is it a building? Is it a monument? Is it a ruin? Who can say!

It is in fact what is left of the old Alexander Memorial Hall - front elevation. This used to be the town hall but - as is quite evident - the actual hall has been removed.

Because the council forgot to ask for the proper planning permission the place can't be rebuilt any time soon. In the meantime we are left with this rather dangerous looking monument. After the shock of looking at the only hall-less hall in town we are obviously ready for a drink.

We walk down the street and halt opposite a strange, dry fountain. It was donated to the town in 1909 and has only recently been returned to this, its original site. The structure used to grace the entrance to the Market Yard we have just left behind. When they moved it, the builders unfortunately forgot to install either running water or a drain, thereby converting a useful civic amenity into a rather peculiar ornament. This is what it says:


Old Fountain in Limavady This fountain
is placed here
in memory of
SAMUEL STIRLING
born May 15th 1838
died Oct 4th 1908
Town Commissioner
1878 --- 1888
He was a man
who loved Limavady
and always tried
to promote its interests
His kindness of heart
and honesty of purpose,
gained him the affectionate
esteem of all who knew him
1909
As they say around here: "If you believe that, you believe anything!" Where else in the world would one come across a waterless fountain close to a hall-less hall?

All this wondering and walking is very exhausting and we are seriously thirsty again. I suggest that we have another couple of quick ones in the bar of the "Alexander Arms Hotel" a few steps down the road. It is in much better working order than this honourable, but rather murky looking well.

Main Street is suddenly very busy: there must be a parade in town! Let's run for the bar before everyone else gets there. Some time later we leave the place suitably refreshed and admire the scenery.

Alexander Arms Hotel in Limavady
Main Street, Limavady The crowd has gone and all is back to normal, i.e. everyone is either driving like mad or parking their cars all over the place.

More or less opposite the hotel we spot the house where Jane Ross once lived. 'twas she who pinched that famous melody "The Londonderry Air" i.e. "Oh Danny Boy" from a blind fiddler called Jimmy McCurry.

The blue plaque reads: 
Jane
ROSS
1810 - 1879
who recorded the
folk tune
"THE LONDONDERRY
AIR"
LIVED HERE

Jane Ross House in Limavady
Not a word about blind Jimmy. I sometimes wonder who the fiddler was, Jane or poor Jimmy.

Enough of these philosophical reflections. Let us continue down Main Street. Various shops line both sides of the road. The right hand side of Main Street is changing so rapidly that we don't show a picture.

There seems to be lots of money about and the town is being regenerated at an alarming rate.

Owen's pub in Limavady We cross to the left in order to take a closer look at Frank Owen's pub, another favourite - indeed famous - drinking place in town. F O's is popular with those who like a nice quiet pub with no noisy music, hence it is a favourite with some of the students who populate - you've guessed it - the nearby Technical College. The entrance to that enlightened place of learning is just a few yards down the road.

We know the boy who is doing the paint-job and join him in for some refreshments. Some time later we stagger on.
Down the road and to the left is Christ Church. Limavady has nearly as many churches as it has pubs, and this particular example of the genre was built in 1743. You will no doubt have noticed that not only are the grounds very beautiful, boasting some fine old trees, but they also harbour Limavady's only means of military defence.

It is a somewhat sobering moment when you realise that the barrel points straight at the town!

The monument behind the artillery piece commemorates the victims of a famine - not the famine but an earlier one. Unfortunately the inscription can't be read any more and nobody thought to copy it when it could still be read.

Christ Church, Limavady

Old Post OfficeWe march on and pass by a strange building which, until recently, housed the post office. It is massively big and built in a style unique in Limavady. Is it possible that the architect came from Amsterdam? Bus station in LimavadyFurther on you can find a fine example of the school of fully rounded architecture: the bus terminal. It stands opposite some fine old Georgian houses and a rather nice old red-bricked school donated in bygone days by the Ogilby family.
The bus terminal was built on the site of the old railway station. In times gone by Limavady was connected to the main Derry - Coleraine railway line via a spur and there was also a connection to Dungiven. The large dip in the road outside the bus station used to be spanned by a bridge, but it was taken town after the rails were removed.
The line reached the town along what is now the Back Burn. After the ironware had been removed, the Back Burn lingered as a dilapidated, stinking and rather muddy dump; a natural depository for old boots, broken prams and other unwanted household items.

Back Burn park in Limavady

Recently the place has been converted into a rather nice park where people can walk themselves and their dogs and where children play and enjoy the rainy weather.

From here you can walk all the way up to the Roe Valley Hospital; which, by a strange coincidence, is exactly what we are going to do. The task is a rather pleasant one and our destination is hardly ten minutes away, unless we meet someone we know, in which case all depends on the length of the obligatory conversation and on for how long the participants feel that they have to complain about the weather.


The Roe Valley Hospital in Limavady

Here is the former hospital. A splendid old place. It was built 150 years ago and is unique in all of Ireland as the best preserved example of a former workhouse. Workhouses were an early solution to the problem of the urban poor. Nowadays one would call such a place a forced labour camp. Luckily morals changed with time and the place was long ago converted into a rather nice and friendly cottage hospital.

In this new century morals have changed again. Hence the last patients were moved out some years ago and the place is now serving a different purpose. We, however, have to continue our walk. A last lingering look at the park and we head towards Irish Green Street. Another look at the park
Irish Green Street in Limavady You will notice instantly that Irish Green Street is not the nicest road in the area. The town planners must have been aware of this, because in an uncharacteristic fit of humour they allowed three of the largest schools in town to be built near this very spot. Twice daily, when parents deliver their unruly offspring or pick up what's left of them, thousands of cars descend from the surrounding countryside and jam into this small spot, competing with school buses, fleeing pedestrians, exhausted looking teachers and cursing drivers eager to find a parking space.

Recently, whilst in an equally witty mood, the council decided to build a roundabout right in the centre of all this chaos.

Now, Limavady drivers do not appreciate roundabouts. They tend to aim for the centre and assume that no one else has a right of way or indeed any rights at all. There are some traffic signs that say: "Give Way", but most people ignore this as an unwarranted infringement of their civil liberties. The result of all this determined traffic confusion can be quite astonishing and is well worth a visit on its own!

Council offices in LimavadyWe move on, avoid all that traffic and turn right into Connell Street. Here you can admire the police station, the council offices, the library and Limavady's only bronze statue. To find out more about the surprised looking gentleman in question, you have to study the History of Limavady. If you haven't the time: his name was Massey, and he emigrated to New Zealand some time ago where he became prime minister, no less. Massey memorial in Limavady Strangers in town can get tourist information at the council offices. Should you call outside office hours, not all is lost because there is a computerised information centre built into the front entrance.

The library is a very friendly and welcoming place and well worth a visit to while away a rainy day - i.e. about seventy five percent of the year. Some people in Limavady are very well read!

We continue our little stroll across one of the two central car parks. It isn't much to look at, like most car parks, but is in a class of its own.

Close observation will show you that the only people buying parking tickets come from outside the town. The natives just dump their cars and run. On certain days this stops, because a large man dressed in yellow walks around to check for parking permits. As Limavady people are very communicative this news spreads rapidly and hardly anybody parks their car at that time.

Notice that even in a carpark with empty spaces there is an illegally parked lorry quite happily enjoying the splendid afternoon sun. This is quite normal behaviour and is explained here. We just walk across, nearly get knocked down by some skate boarding kids and continue our walk along a connecting passage.

Yellow peril land
GCS2 in Market Street We are now at one end of Market Street - the throbbing heart of our town. A good fraction of the population will be promenading up and down the street and wondering what all the others are doing here. Surprisingly, everyone seems to know everyone else and there is nothing quite as informative as a good old fashioned high-powered Limavady yarn, which also explains the peculiar murmur you may have noticed ringing in your ears for the last few minutes.
Over there on the left we see Robert getting the shop ready for another sale of the century, the third this year. Further on you may bump into Alistair, chatting up the customers while John opposite is re-arranging the vegetables.

On a nice sunny day you may even have the chance to get your war paint renewed. The council provides this public service every once in a while and it is very popular with the younger people in town.

Face painting
Three galloping bar men Suddenly we have to jump out of the way because three galloping bar persons approach us, each carrying a tray with a very large glass. One of their customers further up the road must have suddenly found himself without a drink and they are responding to the emergency in true Limavady style!

We watch in amazement, snatch one of the drinks and walk on.

We make a little detour to the right in order to examine Newtowne Square. Years ago all this space was occupied by the gardens of the houses in the centre of town, then it became a rather ugly car park.
Newtowne Square

Recently the council decided to give it the new name and put in some benches and a few small trees. Many new businesses have opened here but basically the place is still a rather ugly carpark.

A blocked passageMind you, it is amazing how many new and old businesses have opened shop here. You can eat in Lucilles, buy something in the animal charity shop, say "Good bye Sandra" walk past Sally's and buy a peacock (we haven't tried this) and go into the pooch cleaning shop to get its feathers cleaned. We haven't even mentioned singing in an annoyingly loud voice, joining the Roe anglers, breaking various kinds of glass or buying artistic materials.

We haven't the energy to do any of these things and decide to return to Market Street. This is easier said than done. Limavady shopkeepers know that advertising pays and hence they are very keen practicioners of the art. Unfortunately this tends to block the way for us poor pedestrians. We manage to squeeze through at the third attempt though.

The monument in LimavadyThe corner facing the "Oven Door" coffee shop at the end of Market Street is a rather important site in the town. Should anybody have only the slightest bit of serious loafing or hanging-about to do, he or she will head for this spot like a lemming.

If one has nothing much to talk about one can always engage in a spirited discussion about the meaning of the watery new monument that has been erected here. It is somehow connected with blind Jimmy and his famous tune because "from glen to glen and down the mountain side" is inscribed on the one side of the monument that can't be easily seen by pedestrians.

Catherine Street in LimavadyWe turn right and try to walk down Catherine Street. The first thing you notice is the over-abundance of traffic. Everywhere you look there are cars or taxis: Moving, double parked, abandoned, broken down or all of these.

A scientific study would quickly establish that anything on wheels in the town of Limavady must drive through Catherine Street at least twice a day.

The Thatch We approach - only just in time - another one of those much loved alcoholic Limavady landmarks. This one is called "The Thatch". Students of architecture will easily discern that this name's claim to reality is more likely to be a reference to the hairstyle of the owner of the establishment (or lack thereof), rather than to the condition of the roof.

However, we are past caring. All this monumental walking has made us very thirsty and we enter this haven of rest for some much needed refreshment.

The next building we look at is our fire station which was built in the famous late 1950's "What do you mean, imagination?" style of architecture. Limavady boasts two fire engines and before you get any silly ideas, the vehicle leaning against the computerised convenience on the right is not one of them. The Fire Station

Nowadays fire alarms are raised via radio. In days gone by a loud siren used to call Limavady's finest to duty. It is a pity that this has stopped, as it was fun to see the firemen break all the few remaining traffic rules as they made their hurried way to the fire station.

The first man to get there gets a bonus, hence the rush (in case you thought they hurried because of the fire). A repeated siren would also give one a good idea as to how many attempts it took to finally extinguish the blaze!

A narrow footpath in LimavadyWe tiptoe carefully along the footpath. Even though Catherine Street is the widest street in town and the footpath is suitably spacious, this is also the habitual hangout of street traders, who like to display their wares where no-one dares to walk anymore. Here you can buy flowers, fish, boots and all kind of other wares. All told there are only three traders, but they sure know how to make their presence felt.
The Bus stopWe continue the walk cautiously and approach the Northern Bank building, possibly the worst architectural crime ever committed in Limavady. If you want to see it, just take a look at the Limavady News Browser

because here our attention is instantly occupied with the Catherine Street bus stop.

This has been given a face-lift ...... and what a lift. It is without a doubt the most magnificent and elaborate bus-stop in the whole of Northern Ireland, boasting six huge twin street lamps, ten hanging flower baskets, an old fashioned looking shelter, three benches and a small garden.

Another problem with bus-stops in Limavady is that there generally is no room for the bus to stop, as the illegally parked cars take up all the available space. A solution to this problem has never been found.

Market Street To finish our little walk we head down Linenhall Street. As most of the traffic into the town has to do the same thing, the environment is noisy and not very nice to look at. Although some of the buildings are old and well built, nobody wants to be here because of the traffic and the narrow footpaths.

We walk a little faster, past the former Electricity Board offices - now neglected, and the Masonic Hall - recently renovated, and find ourselves at the starting point of our walk, the nice old court house.

Just one more look down Main Street. Nothing much has changed except that our walk is over. In the distance we can see a part-time teacher racing out of the Roebuck Inn, pursued by several studious looking characters. They nearly collide with a farmer who is double parking his wagon and bump into a policeman who was looking the other way. All else is quiet and as it should be.

We rest on the strange double bench outside the court house and take a well deserved breather.

Main Street

Those who still feel fresh enough and are possessed by a restless curiosity as well as a clear head and a good pair of legs, may want to join me on a stroll along the banks of the river Roe. Just use the link or click on any of the pictures below. (But be warned, the only drink you get there is likely to consist entirely of water.)  

Three views of the Roe
 
For those prospective visitors with an even more enquiring nature, I provide a small map of this historical tour of the town.

The streets of Limavady


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