Lecale and Downe Historical Society launches annual publication

Lecale and Downe Historical Society launches annual publication

27 November 2019

THE Lecale and Downe Historical Society launched its 36th annual journal at the Down County Museum last week. 

Lecale Review No 17, has proved to be another excellent mix of compelling articles of local interest, published just in time for Christmas. 

The latest annual charters the history of one of the oldest racecourses in the world outside Downpatrick. 

The story penned by Joan Magee, ‘Horse Racing At the Flying Horse’ tells how a handful of gentry held a horse race around 1650 but little else is known of the occasion. 

Within 30 years, the Earl of Ardglass and other noblemen petitioned King James II to set up a Royal Corporation of Horse Breeders within the county. 

All its members were to be known as Freemen and it had the power to meet in Downpatrick or some other Co Down town every Tuesday of Easter week.

As well as having permission to race, the corporation was also permitted to hold a horse fair too. 

Joan explains that a race transpired at the Flying Horse, Downpatrick, on March 16, 1690 and is especially significant as this race marked the beginning of what is one of the earliest flat racing courses in the world.  

The winner was Colonel Byerley, who fought at the Battle of the Boyne four months later against the plate’s donor – King James II.  

Another interesting article written by Colm Rooney charts the history of cinema within Downpatrick. 

Colm reveals that while Belfast had over two dozen cinemas, Downpatrick finally welcomed its first, the Pavilion Picture Theatre in St Patrick’s Avenue, at a glitzy opening ceremony on Wednesday June 21, 1916. 

It was a huge event for local entrepreneur, Downpatrick man, William Tweedie who watched as locals queued up to pay over one shilling to see the Prisoner of Zenda, the first movie ever shown in the cinema. 

The cinema later moved to Market Street in the early 1920s with the Breen family taking over the running of the business around 1926, which ran until the 1990s. 

Another article, Downpatrick by Gaslight, written by Andy Gilmore, reflects on the journey of natural gas over the centuries in Downpatrick. 

Andy points out that the use of town gas in Ireland dates back to 1764 when gas for lighting streets and homes began to be produced from coal.

However, it wasn’t until 1845, and a concerted effort by the townsfolk that led to the foundation of a gas company that brought the energy source to Downpatrick. 

A site on Market Street was agreed for the gasworks in 1846 and it opened later that year. The gasworks closed in 1953. 

There are many other fascinating stories contained in the latest edition of the Lecale Review. It costs £8 and is available from a number of local outlets.