Comber in the 1920s
The first annual meeting of Comber Branch of the Ulster Farmers’ Union was held in February in the Andrews Hall, presided over by John Ritchie, chairman. It was recognised that the UFU had accomplished much for the benefit of farmers, and an appeal was made for more members. The Branch had sent a considerable sum of money to headquarters. Mr T W Brown MP had promised to do all he could to prevent the Summer-time Act coming into force this year. Resolutions of disapproval on the matter of administration of anaesthetics to cattle had been forwarded to members of Parliament, and the scheme had been withdrawn. Reference was made to steps taken which led to an increase in the prices of flax, pork and potatoes. There was opposition to an approach from the Irish Farmers’ Union for amalgamation with the Ulster Branch. Thomas McDowell, general secretary of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, and David Wright JP, Belfast, addressed the meeting.
Comber Presbytery held a conference to consider the General Assembly’s resolution to double stipends paid to ministers in 1914. It was resolved that congregations be urged to implement this proposal.
Comber District Nursing Society held its annual meeting on 8th April, chaired by the Marchioness of Londonderry. Nurse Kearney had paid 2,647 visits to 263 cases, and her salary was substantially raised. Reference was made to a previous nurse, Nurse Finlay, who had recently died. The bank balance was down due to rising expenses and more energetic collecting was called on. Dr Henry spoke highly of Nurse Kearney and said it would be impossible to imagine Comber without a District Nurse. Miss Harvey, a Deaconess of the Established Church of Scotland, spoke on missionary work in India.
An early morning goods train crashed through the crossing gates on the Ballygowan Road. The driver did not notice that the gates were closed.
On 17th April two residents of Comber, Thomas Patton and Robert McKnight of Bridge Street, cycled to Greyabbey where they bought a boat. They decided to row home across Strangford Lough, placing their bikes in the boat and were spotted in the evening on the Killinchy side of the Lough. However, after that they disappeared, and nothing more was heard of them until the body of Thomas Patton was found floating in the Lough near Island Reagh on 12th June.
Names to be included on Comber War Memorial were exhibited in Mr James Niblock’s window, Castle Street. Relatives were asked to ensure that all was correctly inscribed and that no name was omitted.
The Twelfth was held in a field outside Comber, which was suitably decorated for the occasion. The procession was nearly two miles long, and included lodges from Saintfield, Holywood, Comber, Lecale, Ballynahinch and Bangor. Proceedings were chaired by Bro. Dr Robert Henry. Speakers included Bro. D.D. Reid MP and Bro. J M Andrews.
North Down retained cricket’s Senior Challenge Cup when they defeated Cliftonville at Ormeau by 10 wickets.
On 11th September the children of 2nd Comber Sabbath School, headed by Comber Amateur Flute Band, proceeded to the field of Hamilton Coulter at Carnesure for their annual fete. After tea, games and sports were indulged in, and during the evening the parents came along.
Robert Kane, principal of Ballystockart School, was assaulted by three motor cyclists while cycling home from Dundonald. He was left unconscious in the ditch.
Two well-known dealers from Comber, Hamilton Coulter and James Milling, at recent fairs in Cavan and Kilkenny, were notified to quit the towns, as no dealings were wanted with the North men.
Orangeism was thriving in Comber, with 148 new members within the past year. In addition, a women’s lodge (Pride of Comber LOL No 46) was formed in September. Bro. George Horner presented to Comber White Flag a roll of honour of the Lodge members – many of whom served in the Great War, nine making the supreme sacrifice. With an active membership of 200, this was one of the largest Lodges in Ireland.
Comber Distilleries, entirely modernised following the fire of 1919, was taken over in October by Hollywood and Donnelly Ltd, wholesale wine and spirit merchants of Belfast.
A complaint was received by Newtownards Rural District Council with regard to the macadamising of the Comber streets, stating that it was difficult for horses to proceed on roads done in this manner. After some discussion, the matter was dropped.
In November a tablet was unveiled in 2nd Comber Presbyterian Church in memory of those of the congregation who had fought in the Great War. The service was conducted by Professor R J Semple, a former minister of the church, and extra seating had to be provided in the aisles and vestibule. Rev Breakey read the names of those inscribed on the tablet, including 22 who had made the supreme sacrifice.
Francis Dugan of Comber was charged with manslaughter after knocking a boy down with a motor car in Belfast.
A large Union Jack, subscribed for by the staff, was unfurled by Mrs J M Andrews at the goods shed of Comber Railway Station in December. Mr J M Andrews said there was no town better entitled to fly the Union Jack than Comber, because no town was more loyal. Dr Robert Henry said Comber was the first station in Ireland at which a Union Jack had been unfurled.
Samuel Stone of Barnhill died on 12th January. Mr Stone was highly regarded as a magistrate and as a member of St Mary’s Parish Church. He was well known in Unionist and Orange circles.
On 29th January a large Union Jack was unfurled at Comber Orange Hall by Mrs R Henry, wife of Dr Henry. It had been presented to the Orangemen of Comber by Royal Black Preceptory 186, while the flagstaff was the gift of John Miller Andrews. Prior to the ceremony, there was a parade of Comber by local and visiting brethren, accompanied by Comber Amateur Flute Band, Ballynahinch Pipe Band and Comber True Blues Flute Band.
Another Union Jack was unfurled on 5th February in the grounds of Comber Spinning Mill, presented by workers of the Mill itself. On this occasion several thousand people were present, including Sir Edward Carson and Sir James Craig. Sir James had just been elected as new leader of the Unionist Party. A procession of Orangemen marched to Maxwell Court, home of John Miller Andrews, where they met the Unionist leaders and their wives, and escorted them to the Andrews Hall grounds, where a massive demonstration took place. The flag was unfurled by Mrs Thomas Andrews of Ardara.
At the second Annual Meeting of Comber Farmers’ Union on 14th February, John Ritchie, chairman, said that farmers had passed through a difficult year with wet weather and one of the worst harvests on record, including that of flax. On top of this prices were still falling, yet farmers had been induced to plant thinking they would get a guaranteed price for their produce. It was not a good time to be a farmer. The Branch had been active over the past year in the campaign to improve facilities for marketing corn, potatoes and vegetables at Belfast Market and opposing the proposed increase in tolls there, as well as with questions relating to flax, wages, daylight saving and bank charges. There was also alarm at a proposal to remove the embargo on importation of Canadian cattle into the British Isles.
Second Comber Presbyterian Church held a social meeting on 18th February, at which Rev Breakey reviewed his first year as minister, thanking the congregation for their support. He had visited all their homes and believed there had been a steady increase in church attendance. Adoption of the Weekly Offering System had placed finances on a sure foundation.
A branch of the Ulster Unionist Labour Association was formed at a meeting in Comber Orange Hall on 19th February. The object of this organisation was to further the welfare of the working man.
A memorial pulpit and tablets were unveiled at 1st Comber Presbyterian Church on 20th March at morning service. These were in memory of members of the congregation who laid down their lives in the Great War. The pulpit was erected by Mr and Mrs James McCulloch of Gransha, who lost their only son in the War. In addition to members of the congregation, those present included the local branch of Comrades of the Great War, who paraded to the church behind the Comber Amateur Band. The local Boys’ Brigade was also there. The special preacher was Captain Rev J N Legate, who was assisted by Rev McKean. The memorials were unveiled by Major Hall Thompson.
North Down Hockey Club defeated Banbridge 1-0 in the final of the Kirk Cup at Blandon Drive, Belfast on 9th April.
At the AGM of Comber branch of the North Down Women’s Unionist Association on 14th April, the resignation of Mrs H P Andrews as president was accepted with regret. Mrs Thomas Andrews of Ardara was elected in her place, with Mrs T J Andrews as vice-president.
A mass meeting took place in the Andrews Hall on 13th May, when the six Unionist candidates for the first election to the Northern Ireland Parliament addressed the meeting. These were John Miller Andrews, Sir James Craig, Thomas R Lavery, Robert McBride, T W McMullan and Harry Mulholland. Prior to the meeting the candidates assembled at Maxwell Court and paraded to the Hall, escorted by a large contingent of loyalists and the Comber True Blues and Comber Amateur Flute Bands, the latter winners of a recent competition at Bellevue.
Polling day was 24th May. All six members were elected, and John Miller Andrews was given the post of Minister of Labour in the first NI Cabinet. A complimentary dinner was held in his honour in the Andrews Hall.
Two Orange banners were unfurled at Comber on 2nd July by Mrs Andrews of Ardara, following a parade of the town. The gathering was rather more than an unveiling ceremony; it was also a monster demonstration to celebrate the recent Unionist victory in the elections. One of the new banners was for the Comber Goldsprings Lodge 1037, while the other was a Belfast lodge (Thomas Junior Memorial LOL 1321), composed mainly of shipyard workers.
There was criticism of spectators at cricket matches in Comber at a meeting of the Northern Cricket Union on 18th July. Mr Willie Andrews said the North Down Club was doing its best to stamp out misconduct, for instance doubling the admission price at Ulster’s visit in the Cup to keep out undesirables. The trouble was caused by about half a dozen individuals, to whom he had spoken and hoped this would have a beneficial effect. Unfortunately two very bad decisions had been made against North Down by umpires, which didn’t help. On occasion the language used was disgraceful. One umpire said he would never again officiate at Comber. An instance was given of a player being yelled and jeered at when going for a catch, and there was a story that one of the opposition had to take a catch with youngsters running round him. The Club were written to pointing out that if such conduct continued it might be necessary to close the ground and suggesting the appointment of stewards. Despite these difficulties North Down managed to win the Senior League and reached the final of the Cup, when they were defeated by Waringstown.
John Miller Andrews resigned from the Board of Directors of the BCDR, citing lack of time now that he had taken on the duties of Minister of Labour.
On 29th September Comber Farmers’ Union protested against the high rates imposed by Newtownards Rural District Council. They also expressed their appreciation of John Miller Andrews and the ministerial honour bestowed on him.
Mr Robert Ardill, brother of Mrs T J Andrews, was drowned in Strangford Lough on 30th October when proceeding by motor boat to meet his old friend James G Allen. It happened at Duck Rock, Island Reagh, when Mr Ardill was transferring from the boat into a punt which capsized. A monument was later erected in memory of Robert Ardill on Mahee Island. The walls on the causeway are also dedicated to him.
A poteen industry was uncovered by the police on 10th October at premises in Bridge Street, formerly occupied by the late Matthew Kerr and his son Bobbie. They were now let out to a Mr F Harkness, who set up a grocery store as cover for the illicit operation. Sergeant Hamilton and his men carried out a raid and found a still in full working order, along with barrels of liquid in various stages of fermentation.
On 27th October the members of the North Down Cricket and Hockey Clubs met in the Masonic Hall to honour one of their players, Mr. J Niblock, who had recently been married.
George Thompson of Brownlow Street died on 5th November after falling a considerable distance at Harland & Wolff’s shipyard in Belfast.
Comber Farmers’ Union, at their meeting on 8th November, discussed the failure of the Imperial Parliament to complete Land Purchase in Ireland, with the result that many farmers were paying higher rents than their neighbours.
Around 6 o’clock on 22nd November a bomb was thrown at a tram in Corporation Street, Belfast. The tram was transporting shipyard workers home. The bombing of trams by the IRA was supposedly in retaliation for Loyalist attacks on Catholics. There were 3 fatalities, including 2 young Comber men. The funeral of James Rodgers on 24th November to Comber Cemetery was one of the largest in the town for many years. James was only 18, the son of an ex-RIC sergeant, and worked in the engineering department of Workman Clark. His mother had died just a fortnight before. Rev Breakey of 2nd Comber conducted the graveside service. The second victim was William Cairnduff, a member of 1st Comber, who left a wife and 5 children. Members of the Plumbers’ Shed of Workman Clark marched four deep behind the hearse. At first it had been thought stones were being thrown at the tram and passengers had lain down to evade them. Cairnduff fell on the bomb, and in so doing probably saved the lives of others. The town came to a standstill on the days of both funerals.
In January a deputation from Comber Unionist Labour Association met with Comber Gas Light Company about the high price and poor quality of gas. The directors assured the deputation that they would consider these matters.
Over 250 people attended the AGM of Comber Farmers’ Union, open for the first time to members and their lady friends. The Secretary reported on a difficult year with the Government clamouring for greater food production, promising guaranteed prices. In reality prices had fallen. During the year the Branch had approached Newtownards District Council about high rates, with the result that in the coming year there would be a very considerable reduction.
At their meeting on 6th March the farmers were protesting against British Summer Time and its unsuitability for farming operations, especially during hay time and harvest.
The death took place in April of Hamilton Coulter of New Comber House, a man widely known in the cattle trade. Samuel Bruce, former owner of Comber Distilleries, died in September, aged 86.
In May a demonstration was given at the Andrews farm at Ballywilliam of ploughing, harrowing and road haulage by Fordson tractors.
The wedding took place on 17th May in Spettisbury Parish Church, Dorset of Lord Justice James Andrews and Mrs Cyril Haselden, widow of Captain Haselden. The bride was born Jane Lawson Ormrod, a sister of John Miller Andrews’ wife Jessie. On 30th June a large dinner party was held in the Andrews Hall in honour of James Andrews.
Comber Amateur Prize Flute Band organised a bazaar and sale of work in the Andrews Hall on 27th May to raise funds for new instruments.
A farmer, Thomas Edgar of Longlands, was charged with taking shots at Bessie McBurney and Hugh Jamison with intent to cause them bodily harm. He was discharged on bail to keep the peace for 12 months.
Archaeological excavations were carried out at Nendrum by Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society. The site was cleared of bushes and brambles and the walls of old buildings, including that of the church, exposed to view. A number of Old Irish Crosses and other ancient stones were unearthed, including two with Runic inscriptions.
On 23rd April a memorial tablet was unveiled in Comber Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in memory of those in the congregation who had laid down their lives in the Great War and in honour of those who had served with the forces. It was unveiled by Mrs L A Hind after morning service. As well as Rev Glynn Davies, the former minister Rev Dunkerley was present. Major J M Henderson, Craigavad, read the names of the fallen.
On 30th September a tablet was unveiled in St Mary’s Parish Church commemorating the names of those who fell in the Great War, and those who served and returned. The dedication was carried out by the Bishop of Down and Connor and Dromore at morning service. Over 70 ex-servicemen marched to the church, headed by the Comber Amateur Band.
Comber Farmers’ Union held a social in the Andrews Hall on 2nd February. It had been decided this year, owing to the restrictions of Curfew, to make this a separate function from the Annual General Meeting and so shorten the length of the evening. The AGM was on 5th March, when the Secretary reported on the various activities of the Branch, including an educative campaign entailing the reading of papers on farming topics at the monthly meetings. They had also combined with Dundonald Branch to go on an excursion in the summer. Rates were now decreasing as a result of the Union’s lobbying. It was thought that the Imperial Government must redeem its promise to have all land in Ireland bought out by the tenant. In the face of low prices for farm produce, the members remained loyal with the payment of their subscriptions.
On 21st February Comber branch of the Ulster Unionist Labour Association wrote to Newtownards Rural District Council asking them to appoint a gas examiner to test the power and quality of gas being produced by the Comber Gas Light Company. The Council, although sympathetic, decided that they had no power to comply with this request.
A combined choir of over sixty voices from Second Comber and Conlig Presbyterian Churches presented the cantata “The Good Shepherd” in Second Comber on 29th March.
At Comber Point-to-Point Steeplechases on 31st March a 20 to 1 outsider, Mr J McRoberts’ Camp Stone, won the Farmers’ Race. There were, unfortunately, a number of casualties, with three horses having to be put down after falling. Over 50 horses took part in the five events. Elizabeth Magee of Winetavern Street, Belfast, was fined for selling stout at the Races without a licence.
The unveiling of the Comber & District War Memorial took place on Saturday 14th April at 3 PM, and on that day all businesses in the town closed. Prior to the ceremony, the local ex-servicemen paraded through the streets to the Square, headed by the Comber Amateur Flute Band. A large crowd had gathered round the Memorial, and despite a torrential downpour during the latter part of the ceremony, they remained until the conclusion of proceedings. A stand had been erected beside the Memorial, which was covered with the Union Jack. Amongst those on the platform were Lord and Lady Londonderry, Viscount Castlereagh, John Miller Andrews, Mrs L A Hind, Mrs T J Andrews, Sir Charles and Lady Wickham, Rev Canon Manning, the clergy of the town, and a number of mothers who had lost their sons in the War. Lord Londonderry chaired the proceedings, which opened with the singing of the hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past”, led by the North Down Choral Society. After some moving words from the Chairman, the Monument was unveiled by Mrs Hind (sister of John Miller Andrews, whose husband Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence Hind had been killed at the Somme in 1916). Canon Charles Campbell Manning (former rector of St Mary’s who had served as an army chaplain with the 13th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles in France) then paid a glowing tribute to all those who fought and to those who fell. The names of the fallen were read out by John Miller Andrews, who also spoke on behalf of his sister, who had that day represented all those who had suffered bereavement during the War. Following the playing of the “Dead March in Saul” by the band, Canon Manning offered the prayer of dedication and “The Last Post” was sounded. Floral tributes were then placed at the foot of the Memorial by relatives of the deceased. The ceremony ended with the playing of the National Anthem and the sounding of "Reveille".
A German field gun was also placed in the Square, presented to the town by the Government in recognition of the heroism of Comber’s VC – Edmund de Wind. It was obtained from the War Office through the good offices of Lord Londonderry.
Archaeological excavations resumed in May at Nendrum monastic site, where a wilderness of brambles and bracken had been removed to reveal the foundations of a number of ancient buildings. Dangerous corners on the roads to the site had now been made safe, and the end of the road widened to allow cars to turn. A new tea house was being erected for visitors. The ancient bell of the monastery was discovered in June, while clearing debris from the foundations of the walls. Mr H C Lawlor, who was in charge of the excavation, made an appeal for funds from the public. The response was initially disappointing, but after a further appeal several generous subscriptions were received, including £60 from Lord Londonderry.
At Comber Petty Sessions on 28th May Alex Simpson of Killinchy Street was fined for selling alcoholic drink outside the licensing hours. And James Young of Mount Alexander was in court for climbing on to the German field gun in the Square, which had just been newly painted, and causing damage. He had been spoken to by the police, but later repeated the exploit. Mr Young had been a gunner in the War.
At a meeting in June Newtownards Rural District Council decided to ask for houses for ex-soldiers to be erected in a number of towns, including Comber.
Comber Boys’ Brigade organised a sports day on Saturday 23rd June to raise funds for a pipe band. The sports were held in the Ormiston Football Ground on the Killinchy Road, lent for the occasion by Mr Hamilton Coulter. Before the meeting a procession of young ladies formed into a “copper line” along the road asking for a toll of one penny from everyone. They collected over £7, in addition to the gate money. A Fancy Dress Cycle Parade started from the Square and made its way through the town before proceeding to the sports ground. The winner was Mr George Wilson, dressed as an early Victorian lady, complete with crinoline. Other events included a one-mile cycle race, 100-yards flat, wheelbarrow race, long jump, high jump, 440 yards, half mile and mile events, relay race, obstacle race, veterans’ race and ladies’ egg and spoon race. There was also a five-a-side football match and darts. Two bands played throughout the day - Comber Amateur Prize Flute and 15th Belfast Company BB Prize Pipe.
Comber "True Blues" Flute Band decided to sever its connection with the True Blues Lodge, owing to lack of interest and support. It was renamed Comber Flute Band.
On 3rd July Comber Presbytery carried out a visitation to Second Comber, congratulating the minister and congregation on a healthy state of affairs. Attendance at worship, especially in the mornings, was good, and giving had increased by over 140 per cent since the last visitation. However, they felt that numbers taking Communion could be improved upon. There were also four new elders on that date - William Keilty (installed), James Hunter, David Macdonald and Thomas Ellison (ordained).
5th July saw the wedding at St Mary’s Parish Church of Miss Louise May Andrews, elder daughter of the late H W Andrews of the Old House, and William Andrew Miller from Ayrshire. The reception was at Ardara.
The County Down Black Demonstration was held at Comber on Saturday 25th August, attended by the 88 Preceptories of the County. The main speaker was the Right Hon. John Miller Andrews MP, Minister of Labour. Due to the very bad weather, proceedings were held under cover in the Andrews Memorial Hall.
The 1.42 pm train from Newtownards to Comber on 16th October came off the rails somewhere between Hyle’s Hill and the Vennel (High Street). Nobody was injured and little damage was done. It was thought the accident had been caused by thoughtless boys putting a stone on the line.
The first Armistice Day service at the new Comber War Memorial took place on Sunday 11th November before a large crowd. Tributes to the fallen were paid at all the morning services, and in the afternoon Rev Robert Kelso preached to a packed congregation in First Comber.
The first annual dinner of Comber branch of the B Specials took place on 30th November in the Comrades’ Club Rooms. District-Commandant Barbour spoke of the general efficiency of the Comber detachment, and referred to their recent success at a shooting competition.
Also on 23rd December, a Christmas Cantata called “Bethlehem” was performed in Second Comber by the church choir, augmented by the choir of Cliftonville Presbyterian Church.
On Sunday afternoon 23rd December two memorial windows were dedicated at Comber Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. The first of these was erected by the members of the congregation in memory of the late Thomas Andrews who died on 17th September 1916. The upper portion bears figures representing Courage and Humanity, while the lower window shows the Angel of Peace receiving a sword from a kneeling warrior with rival armies in the background. In the sky are depicted the dove and the olive branch, which formed the late Mr Andrews’ crest. The second window was presented by Mrs Thomas Andrews of Ardara (widow of the Thomas mentioned above) in memory of her mother Eliza Pirrie (died 21st April 1895) and her uncle John Miller (died 13th January 1883), one of the founders of the congregation. It shows figures representing Hope, Faith and Charity. The windows were unveiled by Miss Niblock and Mrs Andrews, and were dedicated by Rev Glynne Davies, minister of the church.
A mission took place from 13th to 18th January, held jointly by 1st and 2nd Comber Presbyterian Churches (Sunday to Tuesday in 1st, Wednesday to Friday in 2nd). Attendances were good, and the special preacher was the Rev Knowles of Tullylish.
The death occurred of Dr James Steele of the Square, following a three year illness. Dr Steele was a native of Ballymena, but had practised as a doctor in Comber for some 30 years. He was buried on 31st January in the little churchyard of Kirkinriola outside Ballymena.
Mr J G Allen JP died on 7th February at his residence in Comber Square. Mr Allen carried on an extensive business as a steam road rolling contractor, and introduced the more efficient oil rollers into Ireland. In 1908 he visited Cuba where he discovered a goldmine. During the First World War he saw service with the Navy, and after the War was one of the founders of the Comber Comrades of the Great War. Mr Allen was also Commandant of the Comber B-Specials. He was a well known figure in hunting circles, being Deputy-Master of the North Down Harriers Hunt, and served on the Magistrates Bench of Comber Petty Sessions. He was interred in Comber Cemetery.
Comber branch of the Ulster Farmers Union had been campaigning for reduced fares on the trains on market and fair days. At their meeting in 11th February the secretary was able to report that they had been successful in this and that fares on certain trains to and from Belfast would be cut. It was also reported that the road at Lisbarnett had now been repaired and was once again safe for horse traffic. The Branch held their annual social on 9th March and their AGM on 7th April. During the year they had campaigned for the promotion of land purchase by tenants in Ulster and the training of farmers in first aid for sick animals on farms, also against the establishing of a hospital in Newtownards at a cost of £20,000-£30,000. This latter would have burdened the rates which the Branch had been using its efforts to bring down, and as a result of their efforts the scheme was considerably modified. Monthly lectures on farming topics had continued throughout the year, and in July there had been an excursion to the Glens of Antrim.
James Berkeley of Nurseryville, Comber, was appointed manager of the Wolfhill Spinning Mill in Belfast. Mr Berkeley had held similar positions in Cork and in the Andrews Mill in Comber.
A pipe band was formed in connection with Comber 50th Boys’ Brigade Company, and on 11th March an entertainment was held in the Andrews Hall in aid of a fund for instruments etc. The entertainment took the form of a movie show organised by Mr R J White. It was hoped that the band would be ready for parade in a month or so.
On 26th March William James Brown, secretary of the Comber branch of the Ulster Unionist Labour Association, protested on the Branch’s behalf at the unjust treatment by the Ministry of Home Affairs in removing John Nixon from his position as District Inspector of the RUC, and also at the transfer of four RUC members from Brown Square Barracks in Belfast to the country. These men were all members of an Orange lodge, of which Mr Nixon was Worshipful Master.
A couple of innovations were a feature of the Comber point-to-point races on Saturday 5th April. Firstly, the enclosure for bookmakers was roped in, which was greatly appreciated by the public transacting business. Secondly, a number board was erected on the gable of the weighing-out room which meant that the results of the races could be clearly seen. Forty horses took part in a total of five events. But it was not a day for the favourites, with only one (Ethel’s Essay) justifying its rating. The ever popular Farmers’ Race was won by Mr McRoberts’ horse Rockfield, ridden by Mr P Nugent. Unfortunately, in the fourth race of the day, Mr Murland’s horse Albert Bridge had to be destroyed after falling and breaking its back.
On 14th April Robert Fisher of Carnesure and John Crichton of Killinchy Street discovered a soldier’s cap and tunic along the bank of the Comber River at the “long hole” at Cherryvalley. There was no sign of the owner and they alerted the police. The following morning, when the tide was out, a body was discovered in the river. It was that of Private Alexander Martin of the Royal Sussex regiment. A suicide note had been found in his tunic.
Another unfortunate drowning occurred soon afterwards. The three children of Constable Brownlee were playing on the banks of the Comber River when one of them, James, fell into the water. His brother and sister rushed off to tell their father, but when he arrived there was no sign of his son. The body was discovered some 300 yards away after a search. Captain Smith, a chemist of Mill Street, tried artificial respiration, but to no avail. The boy was dead. He was only six years old and was a twin of his sister.
In May a representative of the Imperial War Graves Commission asked the Clerk of Newtownards Rural District Council for permission to erect headstones at five war graves in Comber Cemetery. Permission was granted. The Council also agreed to keep the graves in order.
On 15th June Rev Glynne Davies of Comber Non-Subscribing Church referred to the death of Lord Pirrie, who had close associations with Comber and with that church, being a brother of Mrs Thomas Andrews of Ardara. In his early days he had actually worshipped there, and four years previously had sent a generous donation to the Repairs Fund.
There was a sensation caused at Comber Railway Station on Saturday 5th July when the 9.45 pm train arrived from Newtownards. A man staggered out of one of the carriages covered in blood, and bleeding from a number of head wounds. His name was John McIntyre, a professional singer from Lisburn, and he was assaulted by half a dozen men in the carriage who asked him to sing. It seems that he chose to sing a party song, and no doubt chose the wrong one. His wallet was also stolen.
On 8th July over 100 members of the Comber branch of the Farmers’ Union had their annual excursion, travelling in motor buses to the Mournes.
Also in July the Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) made a brief stop at Comber Railway Station on their way from Newtownards to Belfast. The station was suitably decorated for the occasion, and tremendous cheering greeted the arrival of the train from the public, who lined the platforms. The Comber children had been accommodated on the long and spacious far platform to avoid the crush. Captain Morrison was in charge of the police, who had the difficult task of keeping the crowds back. The Duke and Duchess, accompanied by Lord and Lady Londonderry, alighted from the train on to a thickly carpeted part of the platform. Mrs Thomas Andrews presented a bouquet of white roses to the Duchess. Also introduced to the royal couple were John Miller Andrews, Lord Justice James Andrews, Mrs T J Andrews, Mrs John Andrews, and Miss Stone. Dr Robert Henry presented the Duke with a blackthorn stick, mounted with a gold crown and six gold stars representing the Six Counties. It bore the inscription “His Royal Highness the Duke of York, from the inhabitants of Comber. July 1924”. As the train moved off to the loud cheering of the crowd, it was almost impossible to hear the strains of “Rule Britannia” played by the Comber Amateur Flute Band.
North Down were once again victorious in cricket’s Senior Challenge Cup, winning it for a record fourteenth time. They defeated Waringstown by one wicket in an exciting final.
The newly formed Comber Bowling Club travelled to Ards on 2nd August and lost narrowly.
On 6th August Lord Justice Andrews was presented with a silver salver by the Ulster Jury Commission, of which he was chairman, in recognition of his services.
31st August saw the death of Lady Wickham, wife of Sir Charles Wickham, Inspector General of the RUC. The funeral was in London on 4th September, but at the same time a memorial service was held in St Mary’s Parish Church, Comber.
Another death was that of Margaret (Maggie) O’Neill of Ballyglighorn, a warrant for whose arrest had been issued when she failed to turn up at Comber Petty Sessions when summoned by the Rural School Attendance Committee. Shortly after the police had arrested her on 30th September, she took a weak turn at the side of the road and died. She had been in poor health for some time.
In October Comber Nursing Society applied for financial aid from the Newtownards Board of Guardians. They were very keen to retain the services of their excellent nurse, who was being paid nearly £100 a year. It was decided to approach the Ministry of Home Affairs about this.
William Drennan Andrews died at his home in Dublin on 3rd December at the age of 92. A son of John Andrews JP, who built the Spinning Mill in Comber, he had been one of the most celebrated judges in Ireland. He retired from his position at the end of 1909.
A new Orange Lodge was formed in Comber. This was Comber Ulster Defenders LOL 100, an ex-Serviceman’s lodge, the warrant being granted at a special meeting in the Andrews Memorial Hall on 15th January. Special guests at the meeting included Rt. Hon. Edward Archdale, Grand Master, and Bro. J M Andrews. The warrant was presented to Captain Harry McCormack, the first Worshipful Master. The first lodge meeting took place in the Orange Hall on 4th February.
The former minister of Comber Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, Rev Thomas Dunkerley, died on 18th January at his home in Stamford, Lincolnshire. After resigning from Comber in 1915, he had gone to live in Glasgow to be near his son. When his son moved to Lincolnshire, Rev Dunkerley followed him there. Rev Dunkerley’s wife, a relative of Lord Pirrie, had died four months previously. He himself was cremated and in April 1926 his ashes were returned to Comber for interment.
Comber Branch of the Ulster Farmers’ Union held its Annual General Meeting on 23rd March in the Andrews Hall. During the past year the Branch’s representations had been rewarded with the passage of a Land Purchase Bill through the Imperial House of Commons; and as a result of their appeal to the Ministry of Agriculture to provide farmers with some elementary knowledge of prevention of diseases in farm animals, a veterinary surgeon had been appointed to give a series of lectures over the Six Counties on this matter. The Ministry had also promised to establish a Research Station.
The six Unionist candidates for County Down were returned unopposed at the election to the Northern Ireland Parliament. A meeting was held in connection with this on 25th March in the Andrews Memorial Hall, at which two of the MPs were among the speakers (T R Lavery and J M Andrews). Attendance was small on account of the fact that there was no contest.
John Dunn, who sat for many years on the Bench at Comber Petty Sessions Court, died on 14th April at his home in Belfast. He formerly resided at Mossbank, Comber, and had been chief representative for Ireland of Messrs Barbour’s Mills, Lisburn.
Renovations were carried out to Comber Orange Hall, 50 years since the foundation stone was laid. Various fundraising events were held, including dances, a whist drive and a sports meeting, culminating in a 2-day bazaar held in the Andrews Memorial Hall on 18-19th September.
Lord Justice Andrews and Lady Andrews gave a garden party at their residence Eusemere on 11th June. Many leading dignitaries of the day were present.
Comber Methodist Church was re-opened on Sunday 14th June after undergoing a complete renovation. Special collections were taken for church funds at the afternoon and evening services.
A 3,000 year old burial urn found at Comber by the late Guy Stone was presented to the Belfast Museum by Bessie Stone of Barnhill.
The banner of Comber Ulster Defenders LOL 100 was unfurled in the Square on 1st July. On one side were the portraits of three Comber men who died in the War – Major J G Bruce, Second Lieutenant E De Wind and Second Lieutenant T McRoberts. The reverse depicted the attack on Thiepval on 1st July 1916 taken from a painting by James Beadle which hangs in Belfast City Hall. Mrs McRoberts (mother of T McRoberts) unfurled the banner, while Miss De Wind placed a wreath on the War Memorial.
The Twelfth was held at Comber on 13th July. The main speakers were J M Andrews, Minister of Labour, and Harry Mulholland MP.
Sammy Davidson, who was based in Killinchy Street, began to run buses between Comber and Belfast in September 1925. His buses had names e.g. Iona and Myona.
At the AGM of North Down Hockey Club on 22nd September, J M Andrews was elected President in place of the late W D Andrews.
A reunion, consisting of tea and a musical programme, was held on 25th September in 2nd Comber schoolroom to celebrate the recent marriage of the minister, Rev J C Breakey to Miss Constance Macdonald, a member of the congregation. Mr James Berkeley, who presided at the meeting, said that during Rev Breakey’s six years ministry in Second Comber he had made great improvements, with increased membership and a much larger attendance at the Sabbath School.
At a meeting of Comber Branch of the Unionist Labour Association on 15th October, it was thought that there should be a playground for the children of Comber. A deputation was appointed to wait on Dr Robert Henry JP, who made suitable arrangements. On 19th November it was announced that Newtownards Rural District Council had passed tenders for building labourers’ cottages in Comber.
The body of a Belfast publican, John Matier Firth, was found lying beside the river at Unicarval on Sunday morning 18th October. An inquest found that he had been poisoned by hydrochloric acid, self-administered while temporarily insane.
An issue relating to the slippery state of the roads for horse traffic was raised by Comber Farmers’ Union. The system of pitch macadam introduced from Great Britain had not been a success and farmers were being forced to make long detours along by-roads rather than face the slippery slopes on the main roads. One speaker found it strange that someone hadn’t invented a rubber horseshoe to solve the difficulty.
A branch of the British League of Unitarian and Liberal Christian Women was formed in Comber Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church. Mrs Glynne Davies, wife of the minister, was elected President.
Mrs Booth, wife of the Salvation Army leader, along with her son, was a guest of Mr and Mrs J M Andrews at Maxwell Court. Mrs Booth was the daughter-in-law of William Booth, who founded the organisation.
A serious fire occurred on 1st December at Carnesure Dairy Farm, owned by the reps of the late Herbert W Andrews. Soon after flames were spotted coming from a hayshed and the stables, Sergeant Collins and the local police, along with other willing helpers were on the scene. The brand new fire engine from Newtownards caused some excitement on its arrival. There was, however, an insufficient supply of water, and the hay served as ready fuel for the flames. A number of prize fowl were saved, but the horses were not so fortunate, and three valuable animals perished in the flames. The entire building was gutted.
On 21st December Second Comber School held its prize distribution. Mr Alfred Hadden, the principal, spoke of the high attendance rate since the new Education Act came into force. Efficiency had been maintained, with the school being awarded a special diploma in needlework. Rev Breakey congratulated Mr Hadden and his assistants, Miss Dunlop and Miss Murdock, on the splendid work achieved.
Thomas Quinn of Brownlow Street lost part of his arm in an accident at the old Manor Mills, Mill Street, Newtownards on 23rd December.
James McCracken of Ringcreevy died on Christmas Day, aged 60. He was one of the best-known agriculturalists in the district, specialising in market gardening, particularly potatoes.
Comber Distilleries issued a booklet to mark the occasion of their centenary. Within the past few years the still-house, tun-room and grinding mill of the Upper Distillery had been rebuilt with Scrabo stone at a cost of £50,000. It was described as the most up-to-date distillery in Ireland. Electric light had recently been installed in both distilleries.
A special chair was presented by Mr J A Gibson of Ballynichol to Comber District LOL No 15 at their installation of officers on 5th January. Apparently King William III had been medically treated on it during his march to the Boyne. The chair had originally belonged to Surgeon Sandford, an officer in William’s army. After spending 200 years in Derry, it came into the possession of Mrs Gibson of Magherafelt, a member of the Sandford family. On her death it became the property of Dr J A Smith of the Shankill Road, Belfast, and then descended to Mr H C Smith who had emigrated to New Zealand. It had been in Mr Gibson’s care for the past 8 or 9 years. Dr Robert Henry, the District Master, received the chair on behalf of LOL No 15.
Sergeant R J Parker of the RUC was transferred from Comber in January after 12 months’ service in the town. His new post was at the Silent Valley. He had come to Comber from Rostrevor.
On Tuesday 2nd February a four-year-old boy called John Hiles, a grandson of the crossing keeper, was killed after being struck by a train at the level crossing in Killinchy Street. The boy’s great-grandmother was killed at the same spot in 1877.
A branch of the Workers’ Union was formed in Comber at a meeting in February in the Thompson Hall. A resolution was passed protesting against the proposed increase in rents of labourers’ cottages in the Newtownards Rural District.
Mr W S Kingan, former Master of the North Down Harriers Hunt Club (from 1919-25), was presented with his portrait in oils on the occasion of a meet at Maxwell Court. The portrait was by James S Sleator, a well-known Ulster artist. Mr Kingan’s successor as Master was Major Hall-Thompson.
First Comber Presbyterian Church paid a glowing tribute to their minister, Rev John K L McKean, at a social meeting on 5th March. Mr William Pollock read out an address to Rev McKean, who had now almost completed 10 years’ ministry at First Comber. He was presented with new pulpit robes, also a gold watch and a handsome cheque.
At the monthly meeting of the Committee and Trustees of the Andrews Memorial Hall in April, Lord Justice Andrews presented to the committee a portrait of Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie.
Comber Central signal box was built on the station platform in 1926. This made redundant the North Box (above Middleton’s garage) and the South Box (at the junction).
The remains of the late Rev and Mrs Thomas Dunkerley, which had been brought over from England, were laid to rest in the graveyard of the Non-Subscribing Church after morning service on Sunday 4th April. Rev Glynne Davies paid a glowing tribute to Rev Dunkerley at the service, and also conducted devotions at the grave.
The course was altered for this year’s point-to-point races in April, owing to the fact that part of the normal course was under tillage. This led to an increase in the length of some of the races, taxing the staying power of the horses. Close finishes marked the majority of the contests, and especially notable was the victory of Mr John Patton’s horse Cookery in the Farmers’ Race, which came from behind to win after the jockey remounted following an early fall.
Dr Robert Henry recommended in a report in April that steps should be taken to prevent food intended for human consumption being exposed outside premises where it was liable to contamination.
In May Messrs Hobart & Heron, architects, submitted an estimate to Newtownards Rural District Council for the erection of 66 labourers’ cottages in Comber. Meanwhile, a Government Inquiry was under way in connection with the need for new houses. Dr Henry reported that the present accommodation was too small – one house contained a small room 6 feet by 8 feet which had to accommodate nine people; a second had one room for ten people; a third had a room and kitchen for nine; a fourth had a room and kitchen for ten. The Government inspector thought a lot of the old houses should be pulled down, and Dr Henry agreed. However he emphasised that, when someone moved out of a house which was condemned, no one else would be allowed to occupy it. Applicants for the new houses were interviewed in June. Dr Henry thought the applicants would all be suitable, and they could really do with another 20 houses on top of the 66 planned.
First Comber was the venue for a Masonic service on Sunday afternoon 13th June. The brethren assembled at the Masonic Hall in Castle Street and marched to the church, which was filled to capacity, many of the general public being unable to gain admission. In the Masonic ranks was William Thompson, who had been initiated into the Order way back in 1861. The preacher was Rev Marshall of Maghera Presbyterian Church, assisted by Rev Glynne Davies of Comber Non-Subscribing Church.
On 11th July Rev Breakey, minister of Second Comber, received permission from the congregation to travel to the USA for a few months as a deputy of the Temperance Board of the General Assembly.
John Smith, a farmer, was brought up at Comber Petty Sessions charged with stabbing a farm labourer called William John Black. The incident took place on 12th July when the two were travelling together by pony and trap towards Ringcreevy. There was a disagreement and a fight ensued, during which Black was stabbed. Smith was fined and bound over to keep the peace for twelve months.
On the night of Tuesday 17th August Captain Patrick McLaughlin, a veterinary surgeon practising in Comber, was killed while motor cycling at Glassdrummond Hill, outside Ballynahinch. It seems that the motor cycle and sidecar overturned at a dangerous bend in the road. Henry Brown, a farmer from Ballyaltikilligan, a passenger in the sidecar, was not seriously hurt.
On Tuesday 7th September the victorious North Down cricket team returned to Comber after defeating N.I.C.C. by 270 runs in the Ulster Senior Cup final. This was the fifteenth occasion they had won the Cup. The team paraded the streets of Comber, headed by Comber Amateur Prize Flute Band, and proceeded to Ardara, home of Willie Andrews, the captain of the side. In addition to the 1st eleven winning the Senior Cup, the 2nd eleven won the Junior Cup. On 14th October the club held a reunion dinner of past and present members in the Andrews Hall to celebrate their victories.
Another team that paraded to Ardara, this time behind Comber Temperance Flute Band on 10th September, was Ardara Star Football Club. They had just won the Ards Summer League after defeating Model Rangers by 3 goals to 1. The competition was for boys under 17 years of age. At Ardara, Master W Cannavan, captain of the side, presented the cup to Mrs Andrews and asked her to keep it. On 30th September the club held a dance in the Andrews Memorial Hall.
A garden fete was held at Eusemere, the home of Lord Justice and Mrs Andrews, on Saturday 11th September. Proceeds were in aid of the Diamond Jubilee Fund of Dr Barnardo’s Homes.
On 8th October a packed bus travelling from Killyleagh to Belfast collided with the post of the railway crossing gates in Killinchy Street. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, although there was considerable damage to the vehicle. The driver was later fined at Comber Petty Sessions for dangerous driving.
Another accident occurred at a level crossing on 30th November, this time on the Newtownards Road. A car carrying the driver and six passengers smashed into the gates which were closed at the time. The passengers were soldiers from Ballykinlar Camp. The driver was fined and had his license suspended for three months at Comber Petty Sessions on 27th December.
Thomas McQuade senior of Mill Street died at Ards Hospital on 21st November after apparently getting a skelf in his finger while at work. An inquest found that death was due to septicaemia caused by a septic finger.
Mrs James Andrews opened a sale held in the schoolroom of the Non-Subscribing Church on Saturday 4th December. The sale was in aid of a fund for distressed aged ministers and their widows and dependents.
Robert James Boal, youngest son of Mr and Mrs Matthew Boal of Ballyaltikilligan, was tragically killed on 22nd December after accidentally discharging his shotgun while out shooting rabbits.
Just before the Christmas break, Comber Spinning Mill School had its prize giving. The prizes were, as usual, provided by Mrs Thomas Andrews of Ardara, but on this occasion her health did not permit her to be present. Her granddaughter, Miss Hind, presented the prizes in her place. Willie Andrews, manager of the school, referred to the high position held by the school in the district and congratulated three pupils who received silver watches for 5 years unbroken attendance.
In January the case of a North Down hockey player was discussed by the Ulster Branch of the Irish Hockey Union. The referee reported that he sent J O’Prey off for deliberately driving the ball at a spectator. A member of Council, who was present at the match, said he thought O’Prey drove the ball to the touchline to waste time, and at no one deliberately. It was decided to severely caution the player.
Hard times at 2nd Comber meant that a cut had to be made in the givings towards certain missions for that year.
The new Roman Catholic priest for Newtownards and Comber was Rev A J Kennedy from Ballintoy. He succeeded the late Rev J F McCauley.
Brown and Poulson Ltd gave a series of cookery demonstrations in the Andrews Hall in March. A feature of the demonstration was a home baking competition with prizes for the best cakes.
The Ministry of Home Affairs agreed to the erection of 257 labourers’ cottages by Newtownards Rural District Council. This included 66 labourers’ cottages in Comber.
The course was relaid for Comber point-to-point races held in April, giving a much better view of the racing. A large attendance included the Duke of Abercorn (governor of Northern Ireland) and the Duchess, as well as the Prime Minister Viscount Craigavon and Lady Craigavon, who presented the prizes.
The body of George Herron, originally from Ballyhenry, a dock labourer, was recovered from the River Lagan in Belfast after being missing for nearly three weeks. He must have fallen into the water unobserved during the unloading of a steamer at Queen’s Quay.
Comber Recreation and Athletic Association was formed at a public meeting in May chaired by J M Andrews. A field had been secured behind the Upper Distillery, to be used as a children’s playground, football field and for the playing of any other games sanctioned by the association. A collection to raise money for this was organised from the townspeople. A large hut was erected to be used as a pavilion by the footballers and as a shelter for the children in wet weather.
A Newtownards man was fined and lost his license for an offence which took place in October 1926. Ronald Ferris had knocked down Andrew Geddis and William Niblock in Bridge Street while driving a motor cycle under the influence of drink.
A new pavilion was opened on 25th June at Castle Espie tennis club, which had been formed in 1924. Mrs Stack of Carnesure, who performed the ceremony, was presented with a silver key from the members of the club as a memento of the occasion. In another ceremony, Miss Primrose Purdy unfurled the club flag.
Mrs Rose Yendall was committed to Downpatrick Asylum after a tragedy at Ballyaltikilligan in July, when she poisoned her 3½ year old son William John with strychnine before trying to take her own life.
Also removed to an asylum was John Connolly from Newtownards who created a sensation in Comber graveyard when he drew a rusty table knife from his pocket and threatened to take the life of James Stevenson, son of the caretaker.
A cricketing league and cup double for North Down. In August they defeated Holywood at Ormeau in the Senior Challenge Cup final, while victory over Armagh in September clinched the League title. On Monday 19th September a parade carrying the trophies in triumph and headed by Comber Amateur (Prize) Band ended up at Ardara, the home of Willie Andrews, captain of the team. This had been planned for the Saturday but had to be postponed owing to the League trophy not being sent to Comber on time.
Rev James Carlyle Breakey left 2nd Comber after a call to Abbey Church, Dublin, where he was installed on 27th September. [Rev Breakey later became minister of Fitzwilliam in Belfast. He was elected Moderator in 1955. He died in 1970].
Mrs T J Andrews resigned as secretary and treasurer of Comber District Nursing Society after many years service. She was presented by Lady Londonderry with a crocodile leather bag at a special meeting held at Barn Hill on 5th November.
Rev James E Jones of Lurgan, assistant of McQuiston Memorial Church, Belfast, was ordained to the ministry and installed as minister of 2nd Comber on 15th November.
Commandant Willie Andrews presided at the well-attended annual dinner of Comber Branch of the British Legion, held in the club-rooms on 18th November. The Chairman, in proposing "Our Fallen Comrades", said they remembered that evening men who had given their all, and that it was their duty to continue their efforts on behalf of those dependents who sorely needed practical help.
Mr T McDowell, secretary of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, addressed Comber Branch at their reunion and dance held in the Andrews Hall on 25th November. He spoke of the enormous quantity of Danish butter imported every year and said that something would have to be done to compete against foreign competition.
Rev David A Taylor preached his jubilee sermon in 2nd Comber on Sunday 11th December. He had been ordained minister of the congregation in 1877, but had retired from active duties there in 1896. He continued, however, as secretary of the Orphan Society, and in 1899 was elected Moderator of the General Assembly.
The tower of St Mary’s Church, from which patches of the cement coating had fallen, was stripped and then finished in roughcast. Whist drives were a popular means of fundraising, and a concert took place in the Andrews Hall on 23rd March.
James McCulloch of Gransha, a well-known agriculturalist and magistrate at Comber Petty Sessions, died on 17th February. His only son John was killed in the War.
The new labourers’ cottages at Comber had now been built and were let to tenants. The street was named Upper Crescent.
John Murray retired as principal of the Spinning Mill School on 29th February. He had been appointed in 1890 when average attendance was 60. Now that had risen to 200. Willie Andrews expressed his appreciation and said Mr Murray was the best teacher he had ever met. There were also speeches from assistant teachers Mrs Morris and Miss Wright, and from James Kirk, a pupil who had attended 9 years without missing a day. Another pupil, Annie Campbell, presented Mr Murray with a canteen of cutlery and a silver matchbox. Mrs Murray got a pair of silver candlesticks. The following day Mr Andrews introduced the new principal to the pupils – Mr W J Taylor from Crumlin. The Londonderry School in the Square also got a new principal, Mr J L Northmore, formerly at Crom, Co Fermanagh, appointed in April.
An operetta called “The Penny Show” was performed by the children of 2nd Comber Sunday School as part of their annual reunion on 30th March. The queen was played by Vina Stewart, and the king by William Nelson, the soldier was Matthew Wilson, the sailor Kenny Boyd, the tinker Sam G Boyd, and the clown William Coey.
28 runners took part in 5 events at Comber point-to-point races on 7th April. Comment was made that not one horse was given the number 13.
John Lawson Ormrod Andrews, only son of J M Andrews, married Elaine Maynard James in Newport, Monmouthshire. The couple spent their honeymoon in Paris and Switzerland.
Mr John Ritchie of Cullintra, treasurer of 2nd Comber for many years, was presented with a gold watch and a cheque at his home on 17th May. His wife received a cut-glass salad bowl.
Empire Day was celebrated in the Londonderry Schoolhouse on 24th May, the birthday of Queen Victoria. After singing “Land of Hope and Glory”, the children were addressed by the Rev Houston. Samuel Adamson was awarded a prize (a book on Queen Victoria) donated by Miss Stone of Barn Hill for the best essay on Empire Day. Miss De Wind spoke to the children, who marched past the Union Jack, saluting it and then singing the National Anthem.
Dozens of tiny red fish were found on the roof of a bungalow on the farm of James McMaster at Drumhirk and on the ground nearby on 29th May. Prior to the discovery there had been an exceptionally violent thunderstorm with heavy rain. There was a theory that the fish had been lifted from the sea in a waterspout. Bushes and trees close to the bungalow had every appearance of being struck by lightning during the storm. Prof. Gregg Wilson of Queen’s University, interviewed on the subject, said that frequently fish are carried in the air by a strong wind or whirlwind and deposited in strange places. He said there had been numerous occurrences in Great Britain, but was unaware of anything of the kind having happened in Ireland.
The Rev J Glynne Davies of Comber was elected Moderator of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in June.
On 5th July a hay loft at the rear of Millings’ premises in the Square was destroyed by fire. The Newtownards and Belfast fire brigades were promptly on the scene and ran a hose from the Distillery dam. However, the flames had got a firm grip and all that could be done was to prevent the fire from spreading. Fortunately the horses, which normally occupied the stalls underneath the loft, were all away at the Killyleagh Show, but a number of pigs were rescued, and a lot of harness and farming implements removed to places of safety.
The first Ards TT Race took place on 18th August. The course consisted of 30 gruelling laps over a 13½ mile circuit, starting at Quarry Corner, Dundonald, passing through Newtownards and Comber, then back to Dundonald. The Butcher’s Shop Corner in Comber (corner of Castle Street and High Street) would become an infamous black spot on the course. The Council wanted two foot bridges to be erected in Mill Street for the Race. In the end only one was put up, at the Pound Bridge, with the cost borne by the Ulster Automobile Club. The race was won by Kaye Don in a Lea-Francis.
Robert Anderson from Belfast was killed on 7th July at Longlands after falling off the back of a lorry on to the road.
North Down retained cricket’s Senior Challenge Cup when they defeated North of Ireland in the final at Ballynafeigh by seven wickets. This was the third cup win in succession by North Down. The cup was paraded round the town behind Comber Amateur Prize Flute Band, calling at the houses of the members of the victorious team.
The first flower show organised by Comber Horticultural Society was held in the Andrews Memorial Hall on Saturday 15th September, the opening ceremony being performed by Miss Elba Andrews, daughter of the late Thomas Andrews, shipbuilder. There were over 200 entries of flowers and vegetables, all grown by people residing in Comber and district and confined to those who had never previously won a prize at any show. An exhibit by Messrs William Hamilton and Co, Arthur Street, Belfast, staged on the platform, was a great centre of attraction.
On 2nd October Bishop Grierson unveiled a mural tablet in Comber Parish Church in memory of George Victor Donaldson, a schoolboy who had died aged 13, elder son of Mr and Mrs B A K Donaldson, Wistaston, Comber. The boy had shown much promise in his college career and had resolved to enter the Church. The tablet depicts the face of the boy, and was sculpted by Morris Harding.
On 17th November two cars collided at the junction of Castle Street and the Square, with the result that one of the cars was overturned. Neither of the occupants, Samuel McKeag of Carnesure nor Mrs A C Hamilton of Ringcreevy was injured.
At the annual reunion of Comber Farmers’ Union on 30th November Rev A J McIlmoyle gave an address on the importance of educating the youth in agricultural matters, the urgent necessity of increased cultivation of land in order to reduce the importation of foreign foodstuffs, and greater attention to the marketing of home produce. Mr J M Andrews gave an assurance that the Ulster Government would continue to do everything possible to assist and encourage the farmer.
A protest meeting in Comber Orange Hall on 30th November voiced concern about the proposed action of the Government to create a monopoly of road passenger transport in Ulster. Mr Thomas McClements pointed out that the agreement, brought about by the two big bus companies, would result in stifled competition and increased fares. Bus owners were being persecuted. A small owner could no longer sell his licenses but had to surrender them to the Government. “He might as well hand his buses over free as well”, said Mr McClements, “for who is going to buy them without the licenses”. He thought that the people would not accept the agreement. Correspondents, including Dr Robert Henry, later contended that the meeting was a complete fiasco with no more than half a dozen bus users attending.
The Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt. Rev T A Smyth, opened a Christmas Fair at 2nd Comber on 15th December, organised by the Girls’ Auxiliary. Part of the proceeds were earmarked for missions, and part towards the repainting and redecorating of the church buildings.
The year began with a flu epidemic in Comber, and the schools were closed for several weeks as a precaution. Not long before this they had been shut down by measles.
Comber Petty Sessions in March were told of the practice by young hooligans of taking lamps and pumps from bicycles while their owners were shopping.
The death took place on 10th March of Mrs Thomas Andrews of Ardara in her 84th year. She was the widow of the late Thomas Andrews and sister of the late Lord Pirrie. One of her sons was John Miller Andrews, Northern Ireland’s Minister of Labour.
John Ritchie, president of Comber Farmers’ Union, intimated at the annual meeting of the Branch that he wished to step down, as he had now occupied the position for ten years. However, this was not accepted and he was re-elected. Reports were presented by Mr A Hadden, secretary, and Mr Wm Shaw, treasurer, indicating the Branch to be in a healthy condition. However, Mr Ritchie felt that initial enthusiasm had diminished somewhat over the years, because farmers had not gained all the benefits they had expected. Farming was in a bad way, a state of affairs not confined to agriculture. During the past year cropping and tillage had shown a distinct falling off, and more sheep and cattle were being raised.
At the Easter Vestry at St Mary’s, votes of thanks were passed to Mrs S Gracey for her gift of an oak prayer desk and screen, and to Miss A M De Wind for a hand-worked kneeling mat for the sanctuary.
Many converged on Comber by road and rail for the point-to-point races, held at the end of March in summer-like weather. As well as those intent on enjoying the races, however, there were a number of unrecognised bookies, giving good odds but vanishing when the time came to pay up. James McDougall from Glasgow was one such, rescued by the police sergeant from a crowd of angry punters, pursuing him for their money, and later arrested for illegal betting.
North Down won hockey’s Kirk Cup in April after defeating South Antrim 2-1 in the final.
The Unionist candidates for County Down for the Westminster Parliament (Mr D D Reid and Major-General Simms) attended a meeting in the Orange Hall on 22nd May. The Labour and Liberal leaders Ramsay Macdonald and David Lloyd George were lambasted, and the only safety for the Province was believed to be in their trusted friend Mr Baldwin, the Conservative leader. John Miller Andrews, who chaired the meeting, thanked those present for his recent unopposed return to the Northern Ireland Parliament as MP for Mid-Down.
Robert Milling died on 24th May. Along with his brother James, he carried on a large grocery trade in Comber, as well as being extensively engaged in the horse business.
Rev J Glynne Davies of Comber was once again elected Moderator of the Non-Subscribing Church in Ireland.
Several men were up in court in June, charged with assaults at two recent football matches in Comber where fighting had broken out between supporters of the opposing teams. About 1,500 spectators were present when Dundonald played Ballygowan on 1st June and if the police had not been present the situation would have been very serious. There was a repetition on 15th June, at the back of the Dundonald goal. The men were fined and bound over to keep the peace.
The new banner of Comber White Flag was unfurled on 6th July by Sir Edward Archdale MP, Imperial Grand Master. The ceremony took place in a field beside the Andrews Memorial Hall.
The Council discussed what action could be taken to prevent children from Upper Crescent trespassing upon Mr Milling’s field. The numbers of children using the field as a playground had resulted in the frightening of horses and cattle from the drinking trough situated near the houses. One suggestion was that the Council should take over part of the field and set it aside for a children’s playground.
David Thompson of High Street was fined for assaulting Constable McNeice with a hatchet on 14th July after his wife had made a complaint against him and sought police protection.
The Ards Tourist Trophy Race took place on 17th August, and was won by the German R Carraciola in a Mercedes Benz. Cars representing six different nations – Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Austria and America – took part.
James Blackstock of Bridge Street was the driver of a lorry on 2nd September when it went out of control and plunged into the Musgrave Channel, Belfast. The lorry sank immediately, but the occupants all managed to scramble ashore.
First Comber was completely renovated and re-decorated, and on 8th September, after five weeks in the schoolroom, services returned to the church building. The special preacher on the occasion was the Rev J S Pyper of Portaferry.
North Down cricketers may not have won the cup this year, but they captured their ninth Senior League Championship title.
Matthew Munn took over the public house in Bridge Street previously owned by Mary Niblock.
Hugh Strickland of Upper Crescent got a month’s jail with hard labour for assaulting Agnes McKnight on 31st August. Strickland had entered her house late at night demanding the address of his daughter, who was also Mrs McKnight’s niece. When she refused to give it, he struck her with his fist and threatened to wreck the house. He was eventually persuaded to leave the house by the police.
At the annual meeting of Comber Branch of the British Legion it was reported that a plinth and chain were being placed round the War Memorial.
On 4th October the Newtownards Fire Brigade received a call to Comber, where a motor car belonging to Dr Murphy had been set alight by a flash of lightning. When the Brigade arrived the flames had been extinguished, but the roof of the garage had become ignited, and the firemen soon put the fire completely out. Later in the month two cow houses were destroyed in a fire at Maxwell Court dairy farm. 38 cows had been removed for milking shortly before the outbreak.
On 22nd October the cutting of the first sod of a new school at Ballydrain was performed by Senator J Hill Dickson, a member of the County Down Regional Education Committee. The foundation stone was laid on 27th November by Viscountess Bangor.
A school bus from Comber to Newtownards was organised in November for pupils attending Regent House and the Model Schools.
Second Comber held a Christmas fair on 7th December in aid of the repair fund. And on Sunday evening 22nd December a choir of 35 voices conducted by Alfred Hadden performed a cantata entitled “The Messiah’s Coming” in aid of St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers and Sailors.
At the annual prize distribution at the Spinning Mill School, Mr Willie Andrews intimated that an application had been sent from the managers of the Protestant schools in Comber to the Ministry of Education for a central school to take the place of the existing schools.
If you have any comments about what you have just read
then please contact
We will be pleased to hear from you.