Edited by Adrian Hanna GI0SMU. www.sixgolds.com.
Comber Historical Society


Two very successful events took place last weekend in Comber, marking the centenary of the late Mr Norman Nevin MBE. Norman, a keen local historian, was perhaps best known as Headmaster of Comber Primary School and Major of the local Army Cadet Force.

In recognition of Norman’s life and work, Comber Historical Society has organised a programme of events which kicked-off last Saturday with the launch of an exhibition in Comber Library. The Mayor, Jim Fletcher, officially opened the exhibition, remarking that much of Comber’s history would have been long forgotten had it not been for the work of Norman Nevin. Other special guests included Mr John Andrews, Mr John Russell (a nephew-in-law of Mr Nevin) and Mrs Mary Bradley from Library Headquarters in Ballynahinch.

The exhibition - which will remain in place for the month of May - contains various displays looking at archaeological finds, Comber’s schools and churches, and the life of Norman Nevin; while aerial photographs of the town give a fascinating overview of how our streets have changed over the years – maybe not always for the better. Other rare items on display include Castle Espie pottery, two bottles of Old Comber Whiskey (one kindly lent to the Society by Paul Allaway), an 18th century jug and various books and linen-related items. Two local schools, Comber Primary and Andrews Memorial, submitted artwork to the display; while Nendrum College lent some artefacts unearthed during the recent building works. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the exhibition - and leaf through the photograph albums - during Library Opening Hours.


The weather was somewhat changeable on Sunday – from hailstones to sunshine - but nevertheless there was a very pleasing turnout for a guided historical walking tour of Comber. More than 150 people gathered at St Mary’s Church Hall in the Square where Desmond Rainey began the tour with an overview of Comber’s Cistercian past. Inside the Parish Church, items of interest included the new Cistercian window, an ancient Mediterranean font, and a tablet to the memory of three York Fencibles killed at the Battle of Saintfield during the 1798 Rebellion.

Back outside in the Square, Desmond outlined the life and exploits of Major General Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie - who, for once, did not have a seagull sitting on his head - before walking up High Street to visit 1st Comber Church where everyone admired the beautiful interior and the commemorative Norman Nevin stained glass window. Reverend Wilson must have been astonished at the procession of people, umbrellas and even one small dog!

At the foot of Braeside, Desmond gave an overview of Andrews Spinning Mill and the Andrews Memorial Hall; before the group returned to Windmill Hill and visited the Non-Subscribing Church where Reverend Gilpin made everyone welcome. Those on the tour were particularly interested in the Andrews family stained glass window – and also hearing the story of how the church’s opening was postponed when the top of a windmill blew through the roof following a big storm in 1839.

The walk concluded back at St Mary’s in the Square with tea, biscuits and an opportunity to chat to members of Comber Historical Society and find out more about their work.

Throughout this week, the ‘historical’ theme will continue with local schools finding out more about the town’s history; and the grand finale of the celebrations will take place on Monday 11th May when members of the public are invited to a talk in Comber Primary School. Desmond Rainey’s lecture will look at the History of Comber, based on the work of Norman Nevin. Seating is limited in the school so please come early to avoid disappointment. The talk will begin at 8.00pm.

Postcard and poster produced for
Norman Nevin's Centenary.

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