Comber in the 1930s
At Smyth’s School prize distribution on 10th January, the principal Alfred Hadden reported that a lot of money had been spent to brighten up the school, and the schoolyard had been tar-sprayed, making it suitable for games. At a recent inspection the school was said to be in a very high state of efficiency.
James Kirk from Ballywilliam, a pupil of Comber Spinning Mill School, shared first prize in a competition promoted by the “People’s Friend” for the best school attendance record. He had attended for 10 years, one month and nine days without a break.
About 500 children from the five Comber primary schools were entertained on 17th March to a musical programme in the Andrews Memorial Hall.
The new Ballydrain Primary School was officially opened on 3rd June by Viscountess Charlemont, wife of the Minister of Education. The school was built to accommodate 120 pupils, at a total cost of £4,000, and had three classrooms. It was the first three-teacher school in Northern Ireland to have central heating.
Samuel Davidson was fined for permitting his motor bus to be overcrowded.
A former North Down cricketer, Sam Turner, best known as a brilliant fieldsman, died following an accident at his home in Belfast.
The Belfast Fire Brigade dealt with a small fire at Ardara on 21st March. The blaze, which occurred in a front attic, was quickly brought under control. Help was given by the police and staff from the Mill until the Brigade arrived.
At the annual meeting of Comber Farmers’ Union, it was reported that practically all the farmers in the district had now joined, and that the branch was the second largest subscriber to the funds of the Ulster Farmers’ Union. Not much help for agriculture was expected from the British Government who wanted to get food as cheaply as possible from anywhere.
On 5th March an operetta entitled “The Armada” was put on by the church choir at 2nd Comber Guild.
At Second Comber’s Sunday School social, Maisie Cannavan was awarded a special book prize for twelve years’ unbroken attendance.
North Down Hockey team replayed their second round Kirk Cup match against Banbridge at Ards Lacrosse Grounds on 18th April, their own ground being unavailable as it was being prepared for the cricket season. Banbridge were 1-0 winners, but the game was remembered not so much for sport as for crowd trouble. There had been a few ugly incidents throughout, but five minutes from the end the Comber right back had to go to the touch-line with an injured head, which some of the spectators considered was deliberately inflicted by one of the opposition. A number of Comber spectators rushed on to the pitch towards a Banbridge player, who was only saved from attack by the Comber players crowding round. The pitch was eventually cleared and the match restarted. However, no sooner had the final whistle sounded than there was another rush of spectators on to the field, this time the object of their attention being the referee, some of whose decisions they did not agree with. Matters looked very ugly for a time, but officials of the Lacrosse Club managed to disperse the crowd and escort the referee to the pavilion.
The annual display of 50th Belfast Company of the Boys’ Brigade took place in the Andrews Hall on 18th April. The inspecting officer was Major Hall-Thompson MP, and the prizes were distributed by Mrs J T McMillan. The programme included physical exercises, club swinging, maze marching, and ambulance displays, as well as musical selections by the bugle band and Comber Amateur Prize Flute Band. The Company was under the command of Captain David Hunter, assisted by Lieutenants D Bridgett, G Strange, D Savage and T Morrow. Major Hall-Thompson complimented the Company on their high standard of efficiency. Miss McAlpin was presented with a gift in recognition of her services rendered to the Company for many years.
Dr Henry drew the Council’s attention to pollution of the river between Dundonald and Comber. He also referred to the discharge of gas water from the Comber Gas Works into the public sewer, causing an unbearable stench.
At the annual meeting of Comber District Nursing Society, Dr Henry spoke highly of the work of Nurse McCartney. He also said there was the lowest death-rate among babies and little children in Comber than in any other district in Northern Ireland. Lady Londonderry congratulated Comber Nursing Society on the good work it was doing.
First Comber held a sale of work on 10th May to help clear a debt for church renovations and to augment donations to the Mission Fund.
Sunday 11th May was a black day on the roads around Comber. John Watson of Ballyrussell was killed in a motor accident at Lisbarnett. He had been on his way from church to visit his fiancée, and was riding a motor cycle combination, when he collided with a car. The occupants of the car escaped serious injury, but the driver, John Wilson Sheppard of Bangor, was later charged with manslaughter. In a second accident Rev Ralph Stone, rector of the united parishes of Killinchy, Kilmood and Tullynakill, was thrown from his push bicycle after colliding with a motor bicycle on the Comber-Killinchy Road. He received some nasty cuts and bruises. And John Jamison of Ballystockart was thrown from his motor bicycle after colliding with a stray horse.
Mahee Island Golf Club’s nine-hole course was officially opened on 31st May. (It had been unofficially opened the previous June when still in a rough state, but had been extensively improved during the winter). The ceremony was presided over by Lady Margaret Stewart, deputising for her mother Lady Londonderry. Lady Margaret presented a club to Hugh Kelly, president of the Irish Golfing Union, with which to drive the first ball.
The death occurred on 29th June in Dublin of Mrs Nina Hind (nee Andrews) of Ardara, Comber. She had been visiting friends, when she was taken ill on the train, and died the following day. She was survived by 3 daughters – Eileen, Edith and Doreen.
On July 1st Major George Allen MC (son of John Allen of Unicarval) flew his “Gipsy Moth” from Oxford to Unicarval in 3 hours 52 minutes.
Several thousands were in Comber for the Twelfth demonstration. Five of the County Down Districts met there, comprising 71 lodges.
On July 11th Ellery Irving Garfield, chief tester for the Renault Motor Company was killed, and Charles Marcel de Wilde seriously injured, in a horrific accident on the Ards TT circuit. They were speeding along the Newtownards Road when a horse and cart emerged from Upper Crescent. The two were thrown from the car which did several somersaults.
In another accident, in August, a motor cyclist and pillion-rider were thrown on to the road after colliding with a car near Comber.
There was some suggestion made that Comber was opposed to practising for the TT Race on more than two days in the week. Dr Henry in particular was highly indignant, maintaining that the idea there could be any interference with market traffic was ridiculous as the last carts for the Belfast markets were clear of Comber before 6.30 am, so to say that practising from 10 o’clock would interfere with market traffic was pure nonsense. The race itself, held on 23rd August, was won by the Italian driver Nuvolari in an Alfa Romeo.
On the 26th August five people had a remarkable escape from serious injury on the TT course at Ballystockart when the car in which they were travelling swerved to avoid an approaching vehicle. It struck the hedge and overturned.
North Down cricketers retained the League championship, winning their final match by default when Armagh were unable to raise a team.
At a special meeting of Comber Farmers’ Union on 8th September, members supported the agricultural policy outlined by the Executive of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, to the effect that home production should be safeguarded and encouraged.
There was opposition from the Ladies’ Committee of Comber District Nursing Society to the suggestion that the nurse add to her duties by taking on work in Kilmood dispensary district.
A dance was held on 7th October in the Andrews Hall in honour of Mr and Mrs R W Alexander, home on holiday from New Zealand. Mr Alexander had been a well-known hockey player for North Down, and had emigrated many years ago. He was presented with a silver-mounted blackthorn stick.
Mary Jane Withers of the Square was killed on her way to a church service at Second Comber. She was knocked down at the junction of the Killinchy and Newtownards Roads by a car driven by Wm Murdock of Mount Alexander, who was also going to the service. A verdict of accidental death was returned, with Mr Murdock exonerated from blame.
A report stated that Comber Technical School had been extensively remodelled. There was great demand for instruction in domestic economy, with an additional class having to be formed. There was also commendation for teaching of the commercial subjects. In the building trades course, classes in mathematical and applied science subjects had fallen away, and only the woodwork class was holding up in numbers. The work done was quite good and the teacher was conscientious, but instruction lacked clearness of speech, precision of phraseology, and was too formal and uninteresting.
In another serious motor accident on 24th October a 4½ year old boy named Frank Bailie of Lower Crescent was knocked down and killed, after receiving a fractured skull. He ran out in front of a car from behind a steam roller parked in Bridge Street.
Newtownards Rural District Council summoned the New Comber Gas Company for having caused a nuisance by the discharge of exhaust gases from the plant. Rev Davies of the Non-Subscribing Church had complained that the gas had nearly suffocated him. Work to prevent the problem was said to be under way, and a nominal penalty was imposed.
Comber’s Orange lodges commemorated the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot on 5th November with a dance in the Andrews Hall.
St Mary’s Parish Church held a bazaar in the Andrews Hall on 8th November for the church repair fund.
At the annual dinner of Comber Branch of the British Legion on 14th November, Sir Charles Wickham (Inspector-General of the RUC) said he thought there would probably be another war, and the army and navy must not be allowed to become too small. He was concerned that young men were not joining the forces and thought this was because they did not like to be subjected to discipline. Willie Andrews, the commandant, regretted that so many ex-Servicemen were unemployed.
Miss Alice Riddell of High Street, a retired schoolteacher, died after being knocked down by a car in the Square on 26th December.
Victor Houston, aged 15, son of the Rev J S Houston of St Mary’s, was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital after being knocked down by a bus. Rev Houston complained to the Newtownards Board of Guardians about the absence of a nurse when the ambulance arrived. The Board replied that it was not their practice to send a nurse when the ambulance was being hired to remove private patients.
At the meeting of the North Down Harriers on 17th January, Major Hall Thompson MP, recently retired as Master of the Hunt, was presented with his portrait in oils (by Harry R Douglas). The presentation was made by John Miller Andrews.
At the annual Prize Distribution of Comber Spinning Mill School, Willie Andrews spoke of his regret at the delays since application had been made for a new school in Comber. He was pleased to say, however, that a site had now been approved.
Sarah Hiles of Braeside died on 21st January after falling from an upstairs window which she had been cleaning.
Viscount and Viscountess Craigavon attended a meeting of the Ulster Women’s Unionist Association in the Andrews Hall on 26th January. Lady Craigavon gave a lecture on her recent visit to Australia and New Zealand, while the Prime Minister condemned the attitude of those people of Ulster who belittled their own province. He also paid a glowing tribute to the members of his Cabinet, and held out the hope that they would be able to make the Ulster Tourist Trophy Race a permanent fixture in Ulster. On 23rd February Viscount Castlereagh was the guest speaker. He was the candidate for the next Westminster election, and this was part of an electioneering tour of County Down.
Mr H Cinnamond, son of the former manager of the Northern Bank in Comber, was seriously injured on 18th February. Working for the police in Nairobi, East Africa, he was attacked by a native and almost lost his eyesight.
In March First Comber got new elders. Frank Shaw was installed, and John Crossan, Wm Davidson JP, Hugh Gabbey, Dr Robert Henry JP, John A McKee, Wm Pollock, David Quinn JP, John Robb and Wm Shaw were ordained.
Ballykeigle Accordion Band, just recently formed, gave a concert in the Andrews Memorial Hall in March.
The death occurred in April of Mr W T Graham, a former North Down cricketer, who had been on a cupwinning team no fewer than nine times. He was also at one time chairman of the Irish Hockey Union, and a well known Rugby player.
An innovation at the dance held on 10th April in the Andrews Memorial Hall in aid of the forthcoming Unionist fete, took the form of a race game run on the lines of the Grand National. There was a cardboard course on the floor, a dice moved, and six chosen couples danced up it. Another innovation was a statue dance in which the music suddenly stopped, the dancers were required to stand stationary, and the prize went to the couple who had the most effective position. The Prime Minister and Viscountess Craigavon were present.
The RUC Barracks moved in May to a new home in Killinchy Street.
A pillar in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, was named in memory of Edmund De Wind VC.
2nd Comber re-opened on 14th June after extensive renovations, including the installation of a new pipe organ. The dedication ceremony was performed by the Moderator, Right Rev J G Paton, and the dedicatory prayer was offered by Dr Taylor, senior minister of the congregation.
John Miller Andrews, Minister of Labour, together with Viscount Charlemont, Minister of Education were involved in a car crash at Carryduff on 23rd June. Neither man was seriously injured.
It was planned that Comber be connected up to the electricity grid, and on 23rd June the Ministry of Commerce wrote to the Council asking them to prepare a scheme for distribution in the town. It was proposed that the distribution scheme would be by means of overhead lines. In September the site of the transmission station and the lines of the poles was approved. The Council refused to commit themselves to street lighting.
Miss Flo Milling of Comber, well-known in horse-jumping competitions, was thrown from her horse at the Dublin Show, and sustained a broken collar bone.
North Down defeated Ulster by 146 runs in the final of cricket’s Senior Challenge Cup played at Ormeau in August.
John McLean of Belfast was killed when his motorcycle combination collided with a lorry on 21st August on the Ards TT course at Ballyloughan.
William Scott of Magherascouse, the driver of the lorry, was charged with manslaughter.
The death occurred in August of Mrs Thomas McRoberts, proprietress of a shop in Castle Street.
The Ards TT Race, held on 22nd August, was won by Norman Black driving an MG Midget.
A twelve mile cycle race and endurance test took place in September. The competitors had to cross a river and overcome many other obstacles. A secret check was kept at various points along the course to see that the conditions of the race were observed. The first man home was Sam Hiles, Killinchy Street.
Rev James E Jones of 2nd Comber was married on 23rd September in Bloomfield Presbyterian Church to Miss Margaret Jane (Gretta) Frackleton. A reception was held at the Midland Station Hotel.
Norman Nevin of Court Street, Newtownards was appointed as an assistant in First Comber Public Elementary School.
Fines were imposed on Wm Scott of Magherascouse and David Minnis of Lisbarnett who were charged with the possession of a quantity of wash for illegal distillation purposes at Drumhirk.
Samuel Simpson, aged 26, a farmer’s son from outside Saintfield, was killed following an accident at Upper Crescent on 12th November. Mr Simpson’s motor cycle collided with a push bike at the same spot where a Renault car crashed just before the 1930 TT Race.
A dance was arranged in the Andrews Hall in January to raise money for the Ulster TT Race Fund. The arriving guests were confronted with an MG car similar to that with which Norman Black won last year’s race. At the wheel was a goggled, life-like figure in racing kit – made of wax! The hall was decorated, and newspaper photographs of the race were displayed. Mr Costigan of Armagh won the ballot for two seats on the RAC grandstand at the 1932 race.
Ottilie Patterson, the famous jazz and blues singer, was born on 31st January in Carnesure Terrace, the daughter of Comber man Joseph and his wife Julia Jegers, a Latvian.
At the annual meeting of Comber Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, steady progress was reported. However, the Treasurer’s report showed a small deficit owing to abnormal expenditure incurred in extensive repairs to the property.
Second Comber’s meeting on 22nd March also heard of an expensive year during which a pipe organ had been installed, the interior of the church had been decorated and the heating system had been overhauled. Sunday services were showing increased attendance, particularly in the evenings, while the Bible Class was also thriving and had been discussing the major problems of life.
In April the Nurseryvale cross-country running team, although only in existence for two years, won the Fawcett Shield, the most important event run by the Northern Ireland Amateur Athletic Association. The football club won the Comber and District Summer League later in the year.
Also among the trophies were North Down Hockey Club, winners of the Senior League.
Hugh Humphreys, Comber’s long-serving postman since 1886, retired on 16th April. A presentation was made to him in the Andrews Hall in June. At another ceremony at Comber Post Office in September Mr Humphreys received a long service medal.
It was proposed to switch the lighting of Comber from gas to electricity. This was a blow to Comber Gas Company, who submitted a revised tender for supplying gas. This was rejected by the Council who proceeded with the installation of electric lights.
The people of Comber asked the Council to investigate a one-way system in Comber Square. And they requested street name signs to be put up as visitors were unable to find their way about. A site in Distillery Lane (Park Way) was obtained for a new dumping ground.
A sixty-mile motorcycle road race at Ballydrain in July was won by T Graham on a 490 Norton at an average speed of 54 miles per hour.
As from August 1st the bus service owned by Samuel Davidson, who owned 4 buses, was taken over by the Belfast Omnibus Company.
The International Tourist Trophy Race took place on 20th August and resulted in another victory for British cars, three of which secured the first three places. The winner was C R Whitcroft in a Riley.
Another cricketing double for North Down. After defeating Armagh in August in the Cup Final at Ormeau by five wickets, they added the league championship in September.
Ballydrain Harrier and Athletic Club was formed in August at a meeting in the Old Schoolhouse. Mr W J Faulkner was elected chairman, with Tom McKeag as vice-chairman. Mr McKeag had been mainly responsible for the formation of the club. The first cross-country took place on Saturday 1st October. The club quickly became a great success.
The wedding took place on 6th September in Comber Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Miss Josephine Miller Andrews, daughter of John Miller Andrews, and Mr Savell Ormrod Hicks of County Dublin.
Also in September, Comber Methodist Church Sunday School journeyed by train to Donaghadee, where they witnessed the dedication of the new lifeboat.
St Mary’s Parish Church was reopened and rededicated on 4th November by the Bishop of Down and Connor and Dromore (Right Rev C T P Grierson). Various gifts were also dedicated at the impressive service. Improvements included the widening of the entrance to the churchyard, with the pillars taken down and re-erected two feet further back to allow for wider gates. New steps were placed at the entrance to the porch, the floor of which was laid in terrazzo. A baptistery was formed and new pitch pine seats put into the nave. Electric lighting was installed and the church painted.
An old-age pensioner called Matilda Bailey died in November in a fire at her home at Red Row, Castle Espie. Sergeant Collins and the Comber police made valiant efforts to save her, but were driven back by the flames. The fire spread over three houses until it was eventually extinguished by the Newtownards Fire Brigade.
In December dense smoke issuing from a building in Comber Square led to people thinking the place was on fire and summoning the Newtownards Fire Brigade. There was in fact no fire, the smoke being caused by the burning of feathers that had been plucked from Christmas fowl.
On 21st December at the Mill School prize distribution, Willie Andrews expressed disappointment that no progress had been made regarding a new united school in Comber, even though a site had been selected by the Down Regional Committee, and approved by the school managers in 1930. The Committee had afterwards reversed their decision and rejected this site in favour of one which was unanimously opposed by the managers. As a result the scheme would not be further considered by the Committee until the year 1936/37.
In March the body of Joseph Berkeley JP was found hanging from a beam in a barn at his farmyard in Ballyloughan. He had taken his own life. Mr Berkeley was a member of both the Newtownards Board of Guardians and Newtownards Rural District Council, as well as being Clerk of Session at Second Comber Presbyterian Church.
On 31st March James Prentice, a farmer at Drumhirk, was knocked down and killed by a lorry in his own farmyard.
On 10th April a serious fire broke out in Smyth’s School at Second Comber, destroying practically the whole of the roof. The outbreak was discovered at 10 AM and 120 pupils were speedily evacuated by Mr Hadden and his assistants, Miss Murdoch and Miss Ritchie. The police under Sergeant Thomas Collins, along with nearby residents, formed a line from the Distillery Dam, passing buckets of water along this to persons on the roof. Both the Newtownards and Belfast Fire Brigades arrived on the scene, and were able to prevent the fire spreading to the church building itself.
John Ritchie of Comber was elected president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union for the ensuing year.
Another great season for North Down Hockey Club who retained their Senior League title.
About 5,000 Juvenile Orangemen from Belfast, Whiteabbey and Carrickfergus held a demonstration in Comber on Easter Tuesday. The field was provided by Mr Hamilton Coulter, Carnesure where, among other things, a sports competition was held.
The body of William Coey of Ballydrain was washed up on a beach near Greyabbey on 17th April. He had been missing since 7th March, when he set out in his boat on Strangford Lough. The empty boat had been recovered on 9th March.
Street lighting in Comber switched from gas to electricity, the total installation consisting of 67 lamps. The old gas lamps were sold to a firm in Dungannon.
A garden fete was held in June at Maxwell Court, organised by Mrs James Andrews and Mrs John M Andrews. The object was to assist the Ulster Division Patriotic Fund for the relief of ex-Servicemen and their dependents. Among the guests were the Prime Minister, Lord Craigavon and Lady Craigavon. Activities included the usual stalls, as well as a dog show, tennis tournament and a concert in the Andrews Hall. £200 was raised.
New traffic regulations were introduced in Comber. “Drivers on approaching the Square from Market Street must not proceed towards Newtownards except by the road bounding the Square on the west and north sides. On approaching the Square from Bridge Street drivers are not to go towards Killinchy except by passing through the Square on the east side of the monument”.
There were discussions about a scheme to supply water from the Belfast and District Water Commissioners conduit system to Saintfield, Ballygowan, Comber and Bangor.
Dr Henry praised the Council for the recent cleansing of ashpits and yards in Comber, thereby removing a potential breeding ground for germs.
The International Tourist Trophy Car Race, held on 2nd September, was won by the Italian Tazio Nuvolari, driving an MG Magnette.
New elders were ordained in Second Comber in December. They were Hugh Dickson, Alfred Hadden, David John Johnston, John Murray, Alexander Smyth and James Smyth.
On 16th December Robert Watson of Railway Street, aged 70, was found dead in a cul-de-sac off Movilla Street in Newtownards. He was found sitting on the ground against a low wall, with his overcoat over his head, and with a bowler hat lying beside him, a walking stick against the wall, and a bottle about three-quarters full of wine nearby.
The New Year got off to a bright start at Comber Unitarian Church with the installation of electric light. This was largely through the generosity of Lord Justice and Mrs Andrews.
Comber Picture House opened in January, converted from the former stables of the Old House in Castle Street. The first feature film was King Kong – a roaring good start!
Alex Orr of Ballystockart won the Draughts Championship of Northern Ireland for the second time. He had previously won in 1930.
The Council ordered residents of Upper Crescent to remove their gas cookers from below the stairs as this was a fire hazard. Comber Gas Company accordingly removed most of the cookers to new positions, but there was concern that in some instances they had been transferred upstairs into bedrooms, which was also undesirable. And there was a problem with a few consumers who had nowhere else to put them. There was talk of building outhouses at the rear of the houses, although this would mean a rent increase; also some might switch to electricity, which would be more expensive. In April a series of electric cookery demonstrations was held by the Electricity Board in the Andrews Hall.
It was suggested at Council that public conveniences should be provided at Comber Cemetery.
John Allen JP, born at Unicarval, died in February in England where he had lived most of his life. He was 77 years of age. He acquired the Oxford Steam Plough Company and was recognised as a specialist in agricultural machinery. During the First World War he had assisted the Ministry of Agriculture in a scheme for increased food production.
William Keilty, caretaker of the Andrews Hall for 20 years, died in April. That same month John Murray passed away. He was former principal of the Mill School and treasurer of 2nd Comber Presbyterian Church. He was 66 years old.
Eileen Andrews died in May at her home at Inla in Railway Street where she lived with her brother Percy. She took a deep interest in Comber affairs and was secretary of the Women’s Unionist Association. She had also recently been appointed secretary of Comber Nursing Society.
In May a Lurgan lady called Elizabeth Gilpin was killed near Comber when the car in which she was travelling collided with a bus. Her husband, who was the driver, was severely injured. And in June Robert Watterson of Upper Crescent was knocked down by a motor cycle when crossing the Newtownards Road. He died shortly after admission to hospital. William Gibson of Maxwell Court, an old age pensioner, was knocked down and killed by a bus at the hairpin bend, Dundonald in December.
Samuel Swindle, aged 19, of Railway Street was drowned in July while bathing with three other youths at “Coulter’s Pier”. He had been swimming back and forward to a rock, when he suddenly disappeared under the water.
Dr Robert Henry was honoured at a meeting held in the Andrews Hall, when he was presented with an illuminated address, a canteen of cutlery, and a wallet of notes, the presentations being handed over by the Marquis of Londonderry. These were tokens of appreciation of his professional and public services rendered to Comber and district for over fifty years. He was succeeded as medical officer of Comber Dispensary District by his son, Dr Brian Henry.
Another presentation took place in the Methodist Church, Comber when Rev F H Scott Maguire received a clock from members of the CE Society and Sunday School.
North Down once again won cricket’s Senior League and Cup double. The cup final against Woodvale at Ormeau was a long drawn-out affair which they eventually won by 131 runs.
The seventh International Tourist Trophy race over the Ards circuit resulted in a victory for C J P Dodson, driving a MG Magnette, who crossed the finishing line 17 seconds ahead of E R Hall with his Rolls Bentley. During the afternoon of the race Comber was visited by a heavy thunderstorm.
In October what was described as a whirling platform (another name for a roundabout) was installed in the grounds of the Andrews Hall beside the swings there.
It was announced that Comber’s police sergeant, Thomas Collins, was to be transferred to Belfast. He was replaced by Sergeant D H Bethel.
David Hamilton of Trench House died in February after receiving a kick from a horse.
The need to build more labourers’ cottages in Comber was raised at a Council meeting. It was claimed that in some instances up to fourteen people were living in one room. There was one case of three families living in the same house and people of different sexes were occupying the one room. Old houses not fit for occupation were being lived in, some by people from Belfast who had moved in and were paying rent for these old hovels. Young people getting married couldn’t find a home. When a vacant cottage became available in May there were nine applicants, and Comber’s representative, Mr Quinn, asked the Council to put the names into a hat and pick one out, because he wasn’t going to stand the abuse of those who were unsuccessful. The Council decided to write to the Government asking them to consider an urgent housing scheme. Later in the year agreement was reached on this.
At 2nd Comber’s annual meeting in February the church was reported to be flourishing. However, Mr MacMillan reported that Session were not satisfied with attendance at Communion. Rev Jones added that too many people regarded the Sabbath as a half-holiday and stayed away from the united evening service with 1st Comber. An afternoon Sabbath school under Thomas Calvert was being held in addition to the morning one superintended by James Hunter, and these were both flourishing.
Members of the Post Office staff met on 22nd March on the occasion of the retirement of the postmistress, Miss Patterson after 35 years service. She was presented with a barometer as a token of esteem. Miss Patterson, who was recovering from illness, asked her sister Mrs Smyth, the new postmistress, to express thanks on her behalf.
Robert Kane retired from Ballystockart School on 29th March, after 42 years as principal. He and Mrs Kane were presented with tokens of esteem from present and past pupils. There had been some question over the future of the school, but the Ministry of Education gave it a reprieve and decided to continue grants for the present. They indicated, however, that the situation could change over the next few years with reorganisation of schools in the area.
Nathaniel Ferguson, one of the leading farmers in the area, died at the age of 79.
A Ford motor-car belonging to a Belfast gentleman went on fire in Castle Street in April. Nearby residents tried to put out the fire with buckets of water, but the interior was almost gutted before the outbreak could be got under control.
North Down Hockey Club won the Senior League Cup with the splendid total of 22 out of a possible 28 points.
The Silver Jubilee of King George V on 6th May was declared a public holiday. Houses and businesses were decked out in flags and emblems of red, white and blue. In the morning Mr McDonald of Comber Cinema gave a free show to the schoolchildren of the town, while in the evening a Jubilee entertainment took place in the Andrews Hall, where 700 schoolchildren enjoyed a Punch-and-Judy show, conjuring tricks, and humorous items by professional artistes. Each child received a souvenir tin of toffee. A procession with bands left the Square at 10 pm and marched to Mr Shaw’s field at the top of the Glen Road, where there was a bonfire and fireworks display.
Fire broke out at the Gasworks on 14th May. Pending arrival of the Belfast and Newtownards Fire Brigades, local police kept the flames in check, and when the firemen arrived it was soon brought under control. The chief anxiety had been to keep the fire from approaching the holder of the gasometer and a large underground well of tar.
Robert James Fisher, aged 68, of High Street, took his own life when he cut his throat with a razor.
On 22nd June Mrs J L O Andrews unfurled a new banner for Comber Goldsprings LOL No 1037. Samuel Anderson of Cherryvalley, an old member of the lodge, had defrayed the entire cost, and as a result had his portrait painted on one side of the banner, that on the other side being a representation of Oliver Cromwell. After the unfurling the various lodges paraded the town accompanied by Comber Amateur and Comber Temperance Flute Bands.
Ten thousand brethren attended the Twelfth demonstration in Comber. The chair at the platform proceedings was taken by David Quinn, Deputy District Master of Comber, due to the indisposition of the District Master, Dr Robert Henry. Another absentee was John Miller Andrews, who had not yet recovered from a nasty accident in June when he slipped on a pavement and struck his head against a pillar. And on the last Saturday in August Comber was the venue for the County Down Black demonstration.
A man and a woman were calling with householders, informing them they had been selected by a certain tea company to receive ten lbs of tea, for which they would have to pay £1 18s 4d. At the same time they left with the householder a box containing 24 pieces of cutlery, with the information that in a few days another representative would call with a presentation of £2. That second visit never took place. It was all a scam.
North Down cricketers defeated Cliftonville by an innings and six runs in the final of the Ulster Senior Cricket Cup held at Ormeau. This was the twenty-first time they had won the trophy, with Willie Andrews captaining the winning side for the 15th time. The Club held a sports meeting and fete at the cricket grounds in September. This was preceded by a fancy dress parade round the town, headed by Comber Amateur Prize (Flute) Band.
Freddie Dixon in a Riley won the Tourist Trophy Motor Car Race on the Ards circuit on 7th September.
Samuel Dunbar, aged 30, of Brownlow Street was killed in an accident when unloading a lorry at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard.
Dr Robert Henry, one of Comber’s best known personalities, passed away on 26th September. He had held the position of medical officer of the Comber Dispensary District for fifty years. He had also been District Master of Comber Orange Lodge for 20 years, and was secretary of Comber branch of the North Down Unionist Association.
At a meeting of Comber District Nursing Society on 4th December, a travelling clock was presented to Nurse Meeke who was leaving the district to take up other work. She had been appointed in 1933.
A police boxing tournament was held in the Andrews Hall on 19th December. There were 15 bouts arranged, mostly at lightweight, with some juvenile contests. A number of Ulster champions took part.
The BBC broadcast a radio programme live from Comber Unitarian Hall on 13th December. “Provincial Journey No 9” was introduced by Lady Andrews, standing in for her husband Lord Justice Andrews who was indisposed. Gwen Gracie recited “Gillespie”, C V R Blackwood and J Spence discussed Old Comber, Sam Munn talked about Cummer Ann and James Milling about Ulster-bred horses. Alex Kirk, who made violins, and Willie Graham, who made blackthorns, were also featured. Willie Andrews and James Macdonald spoke about the cricket club. There was singing by Mrs Murphy, Miss Mary Hamilton and Mr D J Murray, while John Donnan played the violin.
The Northern Ireland senior cross country athletics championships were held at Carnesure in March, the venue granted by Hamilton Coulter of New Comber House. The individual winner was A Workman of East Antrim, who also took the team honours.
Another sports meeting was that organised in May by Maryland Wheelers and held at North Down Cricket Ground. There were various cycling and running races featuring many leading athletes. Local interest centred on the mile handicap with runners from Ballydrain and Nurseryvale vying for honours. M Thompson of Nurseryvale came out the winner.
In March Lord Craigavon, the prime minister, and Lady Craigavon were guests at a film show given in Comber Unitarian Schoolroom.
Bessie Stone of Barnhill unfurled a new banner for Comber Old Standard on 4th July. Miss Stone’s portrait was featured on the banner, along with King William crossing the Boyne. Many lodges in the district were present and four bands took part, including Shankill Road Ladies’ Accordion Band, whose smart turnout in blue and white drew favourable comment. After the unfurling the lodges paraded the town.
An archaeological team from Harvard University carried out excavation work at the Mesolithic site on Rough Island. They discovered a midden or refuse heap consisting largely of oyster shells which shed light on the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Belfast Junior Orangemen held their annual excursion to Comber on 1st August. After parading to the field, sports were held. John Miller Andrews, who presented the prizes, expressed the hope that a Junior Lodge would soon be formed in Comber.
The British Legion complained to the Northern Ireland Transport Board about the placing of petrol tins etc beside the War Memorial.
It was a tremendous season for North Down Hockey Club who won the Senior League for the fourth time in five years. Shortly afterwards they defeated Wanderers in the final of the Kirk Cup by two goals to nil. In addition J L O Andrews was elected President of the Ulster Branch, while James Macdonald captained Ireland for the first time.
Also double winners were North Down Cricket Club. After defeating Woodvale by 5 wickets in the final of the Senior Cup at Cliftonville, they made sure of the league with victory over Lisburn in September.
John MacMillan of Ballygraffin House died in July, aged 80. He was for many years an official of the North British Insurance Company. His interest centred on the work of Second Comber Presbyterian Church, and during his lifetime he held the offices of congregational secretary and treasurer, and took charge of the Bible Class. At the time of his death he was clerk of session.
Another member of 2nd Comber Session passed away on 2nd July. This was David J Johnston, aged 52, who was Comber’s station master. Margaret Murdoch, a teacher in 2nd Comber school, married Samuel Johnston, David’s brother, who also became station master. A presentation was made to her by the school.
Freddie Dixon and C J P Dodson shared the winning car in the 1936 Ards TT Race. Unfortunately the race is best known for the tragic accident in Newtownards when Jack Chambers lost control of his car and crashed into a crowd of spectators, killing eight people and injuring fifteen. The race was subsequently banned for future years by the local authorities.
Following on from last year’s success, a boxing tournament was held in the Andrews Hall in November. This included a number of those who had recently won titles at the championships in Belfast. Jimmy Magill, the RUC champion, and Constable McNeill, the heavyweight champion of Ulster appeared in an exhibition bout. Local interest centred on a lightweight bout featuring J Dodds of Comber who defeated his opponent. The tournament secretary was Constable McNeice of Comber.
Comber got a new police sergeant when Sergeant Edwards replaced Sergeant Bethel.
There was a lot of interest in the beauty contest, run on 22nd January by Star of Bethlehem RBP No 688. The winner was Miss Frances McClements of Comber.
Mrs Agnes Young, aged 45, of Millview, was the victim of a tragic accident. While working around the fire in her home, her clothes caught alight, and she later died of burns received.
Killynether Castle was presented to the National Trust by Miss J H Weir.
Over 500 guests attended a guest tea in the Andrews Hall on 19th March. This was organised by the trustees of the Hall Committee of Comber Orange District No 15 to help pay for a new heating system and other minor renovations.
North Down Hockey Club repeated their League and Cup double of the previous year, despite losing their captain James Macdonald to serious illness during the season. Both trophies were presented to them in March after their victory over Lisnagarvey in the Kirk Cup final.
Miss Mary Ann Dempster of Castle Street retired in March after being continuously employed 64 years in the Andrews flax spinning mill. She started in the spinning room, and after many years moved to one of the preparing departments.
A presentation of a gold watch was made to William Henderson, manager of Comber Distillery, at a social evening organised by the workers to show their appreciation to him.
Following the bad TT Race accident in Newtownards in 1936, the Council decided to ban the race. A proposal was now put forward that a road be built to bypass Newtownards so that the race could continue in comparative safety. Asked how the problem affected Comber, Mr Rogers (chairman of the Local Race Committee) said that based on a plebiscite taken by the County Council there was a two-thirds majority in favour of the race on the understanding that no person occupied a position on the footpath.
Miss Edith Hind was married in April at Comber Unitarian Church to Mr Redmond Thibeaudeau Taggart.
John Miller Andrews transferred from Minister of Labour to Minister of Finance.
Comber celebrated the coronation of King George VI on 12th May. A holiday had been declared and the town was decorated with flags and streamers. The main activity was in the evening, commencing with a children’s entertainment of conjuring and ventriloquism in the Andrews Hall. The King’s Speech was broadcast and school children received souvenir Fry Coronation beakers with chocolates. Later a procession, headed by the bands from the town (Comber Amateur, Comber Temperance and Milling Memorial), proceeded from the Square to Frank Shaw’s field on the Glen Road. Following the firing of a rocket, the bonfire was lit by Mr Harry McCormick. A fireworks display was organised by the British Legion.
The Council recommended that a lavatory be provided at Comber Cemetery. Plans were also under way for a public convenience in the Square, but this proposal ran into trouble over the question of who should bear the cost of it.
Mr David Young retired after 25 years from his post of Clerk of Comber Petty Sessions, and was replaced in May by Mr A J Kenny.
John Drennan Andrews died on 5th July. He was the eldest son of the late Mr John Andrews JP of Uraghmore. Then on 30th July his mother died in her 93rd year.
Comber Branch of the Ulster Farmers’ Union held a protest meeting on 14th July, severely condemning the Transport Act. A resolution was passed calling on the Government to withdraw the scheme in so far as freight services were concerned in rural areas.
Comber Bowling Club affiliated to the IBA. Their green had now been approved for playing matches in the Private Greens League following improvements made to it. It was officially opened on 1st May with the visit of a representative team from the League, a match which Comber won.
Mr Gordon Smyth, newsagent, stationer and tobacconist, moved from Castle Street into more commodious premises in the Square.
Island Hill Swimming Club was going from strength to strength with a membership of over 150. At a large gathering in August a programme of aquatic events was held, including a polo match, life-saving exhibitions and swimming displays.
In September David Thompson of Railway Street, aged 15, rescued from drowning a six year old girl named Ina Quinn, who fell into the “hot dam” at the rear of the Andrews Mill.
An unusual accident occurred in October at the railway level crossing on the Comber-Newtownards Road. It was late at night and the gates were closed against road traffic. A taxi driven by John Montgomery of Castle Street failed to stop in time and crashed into the gate, leaving part of the woodwork projecting on the line. A goods train then came along and collided with this, but without serious consequence. Mr Montgomery claimed to be dazzled by the lights of a car at the other side of the crossing.
At the AGM of Comber Branch of the British Legion in October, it was decided that the Branch should accept responsibility for the annual 1st July Service, which had in the past been organised by LOL No 100. Willie Andrews was persuaded to stay on as Commandant; it seems there was some criticism of a decision taken by the Committee in the past year, and he wanted to step down.
It was announced on 24th November that Lord Justice James Andrews had been appointed as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.
The Andrews Hall was once again packed to capacity for the RUC Boxing Tournament on 2nd December. An impressive bill of fifteen contests ranged from juveniles to heavyweights. Constable McNeice looked after the arrangements.
Comber Angling Club was formed at a meeting in 1st Comber schoolroom on 3rd December. Rev McKean, a keen angler, was appointed as President and it was arranged that he give a talk on “fly tying” at the next meeting. There was a discussion on restocking of the Comber River and it was reported that the Ulster Federation of Anglers would co-operate in this matter.
At a social meeting at Second Comber, a presentation was made to Mr Alfred Hadden, who had been in charge of praise in the church since 1914. He was now retiring from this position. James Hunter, Clerk of Session, made the presentation, which took the form of a mahogany sideboard.
A presentation of an electric fire was made to David Hunter, captain of the Boys’ Brigade, on the occasion of his marriage.
At the annual meeting of Comber District Nursing Society on 28th January, all stood in silence as a tribute to Mrs T J Andrews, who had just died. Mrs Andrews was a vice-president and former secretary of the Society which had formerly met in her house in the Square. Nurse Steele had left during the past year. Her replacement, Nurse Ferguson, was giving entire satisfaction.
The teacher’s residence at Second Comber was sold for the sum of £325. It was no longer required following the erection of a new school at Darragh Road.
A stained glass window in the North Transept of St Mary’s was dedicated on 22nd May by the Archdeacon of Down, the Rev C C Manning, former rector of Comber. This was a gift from the Allen family in memory of Mr John Allen of Unicarval. Previous gifts from the family included the east window of the church in memory of George Allen, and the Communion table dedicated in 1932.
William Withers, a grocer trading in The Square, died following an accident on the Comber Road outside Newtownards on 21st May. Mr Withers was an original member of the "B" Specials in Comber, and one of his favourite pastimes was rifle shooting. He was on his way to the range when his bicycle was struck by a car. His wife had also been killed in a motor accident some years previously.
Comber Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church celebrated their Centenary in July with special services, the preacher being the Rev E Savell Hicks MA, Moderator of the Non-Subscribing Church of Ireland.
Saturday 2nd July saw the opening of new tennis courts at Comber. These two hard courts replaced the original grass courts at the Andrews Memorial Hall and were in a special green colour. They were presented to Comber Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club by the trustees of the Hall. Following a speech by James Andrews, the Lord Chief Justice, Mrs Andrews served the first ball, after which Nancy Richardson, daughter of the hon. secretary, presented her with a box of fine linen handkerchiefs, each embroidered in the corner with a tennis racket and the letters C.L.T.C. Mr I Taylor, captain of the club, proposed a vote of thanks to Lord Chief Justice Andrews and Mrs Andrews, and also to the Trustees of the Hall for providing the courts, which he understood to be the best in Ireland. Play then commenced, the Lord Chief Justice being one of the first foursome who played on the new courts.
Comber Methodist Church re-opened in September after being cleaned, painted and re-decorated during the summer.
At the annual meeting of Comber British Legion in October, a complaint was made that the branch had been ignored in the selection of men to represent the Legion on duty in Czechoslovakia. A strong protest letter was subsequently sent to Headquarters. The club premises were in the process of being disposed of.
The new Public Elementary School was officially opened on Monday 7th November by the Right Hon. James Andrews, Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland. Children had been attending since the previous Thursday. This school was on Darragh Road and amalgamated four former schools – First Comber, Second Comber, St Mary’s and the Spinning Mill schools. Tributes were paid to these establishments. The new school, with accommodation for 600 pupils, was described as one of the finest in Northern Ireland. The schoolchildren formed up on each side of the avenue leading to the school, and when Major Workman, chairman of the Down Regional Education Committee, arrived, he was received by the managers of the former schools and members of the School Management Committee. Misses S McBratney, M Smyth, H Quinn and F Shaw (pupils) presented a bouquet of flowers to Mrs Andrews. The Lord Chief Justice and Mrs Andrews were then conducted to a platform, and the schoolchildren, under the direction of Mr Alfred Hadden, the principal, sang “Land of Hope and Glory”. The Lord Chief Justice then addressed the children. More speeches followed later in the assembly hall before a distinguished gathering. On the suggestion of the Lord Chief Justice, the principal agreed to the children having a holiday on Tuesday. Afterwards the visitors inspected the school and were entertained to tea, the catering being provided by Mickey White of Comber. The pupils had to sit on the floor for a couple of weeks until the furniture arrived. The choice of Alfred Hadden as principal was controversial. The decision was based on the fact that the former principal of Second Comber School was the senior by age. But he had moved house to Knock, and the rules stated that a principal had to reside within three miles of his school.
The fourth annual Comber RUC Boxing Tournament was held in the Andrews Hall on 10th November.
Eason’s book stall at Comber railway station closed at the beginning of December. It had been a familiar sight for many years.
First Comber Presbyterian Church choir gave a very creditable performance of excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah” just before Christmas.
At the annual meeting of Comber Nursing Society, Lord Chief Justice and Mrs Andrews were thanked for providing an Austin Seven car for the use of the nurse.
John Bassett, aged 22, of Upper Crescent was killed in January in an accident on the Comber Road near Ards Airport. He and his friend were struck from behind by a car while walking to Newtownards.
A public meeting in connection with Air Raid Precautions in Comber was held in the Andrews Memorial Hall in February. Captain McCreight of the Ministry of Home Affairs dealt with the possibility of Ulster being a target for bombers during a war. They must be prepared. Dr Brian Henry spoke of the class he had organised 12 months ago, reporting that 45 had passed their examination in A.R.P. work and gone on to take a further exam in First Aid. Mr William Carlisle, A.R.P. Officer for Newtownards Rural District, gave an explanation on gases that could be used in war. He had established a report centre in Comber, and needed 50 air wardens, as well as first aid workers, fire-fighters, and other volunteers. Mr JLO Andrews thought it necessary for Comber to have some kind of fire fighting equipment, because at present there was no fire brigade. It was pointed out that a water supply was also needed. Mr David Quinn JP appealed to those present to fill in an enrolment form for A.R.P. work.
Presentations were made at a social meeting on 9th February in the Andrews Memorial Hall to four teachers who had taught in First Comber School - Mr Wm Pollock, Miss Proctor, Miss Hayes and Mr Norman Nevin.
Second Comber Presbyterian Church celebrated its centenary with special services on Sunday 26th March conducted by the Moderator, Dr W J Currie, and a social meeting the following evening in the Andrews Hall. Rev Jones gave a detailed history of the congregation on this occasion. Among the other speakers were John Miller Andrews, James Hunter (clerk of Session), Rev McKean of 1st Comber, Rev Glynn Davies of Comber Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, and Rev McLernon of Ballygowan, described as the father of the Comber Presbytery.
An A.R.P. demonstration was held at Comber on Saturday morning 9th April. A bomber swooped low over the assembled crowds during a mock air raid and over 500 workers were evacuated from the Andrews Mill in four minutes. Demonstrations included extinguishing clothes on fire by the use of chemicals and dealing casualties by a first aid detachment.
Comber Bowling Green had a narrow escape in April when a car leaving the Andrews Hall inadvertently reversed and ran down the grass bank into the iron railings surrounding it. These were badly twisted as the result of the impact. The green itself was undamaged.
A magnificent Union Jack was presented to Comber Public Elementary School by John Miller Andrews. The unfurling ceremony in May (on Empire Day) could not be held outside because of poor weather, but took place in the assembly hall. The pupils were told about the meaning of the flag and the greatness of the British Empire, after which Mrs J L O Andrews handed over the flag to Mr Hadden, the headmaster, and it was hung as a background to the platform.
Much excitement was caused in June when two cars collided in the Square, and one of them went on fire. Fortunately no one was injured.
A detachment of the East Lancashire Regiment visited Comber on 27th July and camped opposite the British Legion grounds. A number of the public enjoyed rides in the caterpillar trucks, which cleared away barricades. There was also a football match between the soldiers and a Comber team. Unfortunately heavy rain somewhat spoiled the day.
A siren was installed at Comber A.R.P. centre to warn of the approach of enemy aircraft, and a test took place 1st September. The signal was a two minute fluctuating wailing note, which would be augmented by air raid wardens’ whistles. The public on hearing the warning should immediately don their gas masks and get under cover until hearing the all-clear signal sounded by means of handbells. An indication of the presence of gas would be given by wardens, who would patrol their sectors sounding rattles.
The manning of public warning signals was discussed at a Council meeting in September, when it was indicated that the Andrews Spinning Mill would be used, and another warning signal would be erected in High Street. It would be necessary for men to stand by the latter signal from 10 pm to 6 am every night. Wardens would patrol from 10 pm until 2 am. There was concern about cost, and whether volunteers could be found.
On 1st September, Comber Tennis Club made presentations to Dr Brian Henry and Mr D Shields, who were shortly to be married. Dr Henry’s intended was also to become a doctor in Comber – Dr Muriel Gault.
John Sturgeon of Mill Street and William J Cooke of Ballyloughan were drowned when the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was sunk on 17th September off the Hebrides by a German U-boat. Ritson Petts of Castle Lane, serving in the RAF, was reported missing in October.
Second Comber Church Hall, the former schoolroom, was re-opened and re-dedicated in September following major renovations in connection with the centenary celebrations. The service of dedication was conducted by Rev Jones.
John Bell of Cattogs, Comber was killed in an accident on 26th September while working on a thresher on the farm of a neighbour.
A Comber and District Branch of the War Hospital Supplies Depot was inaugurated in October with Mrs Forrest as branch president. Mrs J M Andrews offered a room at Maxwell Court for work parties and distribution of materials.
At the annual meeting of Comber British Legion in October, it was reported that several members of the branch had again volunteered and were at present on service. It was decided to hold the annual dinner as usual, and this took place on 3rd November in the Andrews Hall. This was also the venue for the service of remembrance on 5th November, which was attended by a detachment of military as well as a fine turnout of ex-servicemen. Rev Cameron, senior chaplain to the Forces, conducted the service, which was followed by a parade of the town.
A juvenile Orange lodge was formed in Comber, named after the late Dr Robert Henry, and on 21st December office-bearers for the coming year were installed. Over 70 members were initiated.
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