Handball in Lurgan

by Jim McIllmurry

A Tragic Accident

If there is one sport that has been associated with Lurgan for many years, it is handball. Especially in the Shankill area.

It has been played in Lurgan for well over 200 years, on the Grand Jury map of Lurgan from the early part of the 19th century, there is a handball alley at the top of the Pound River, at the top of what is now Edward Street at the rear of McKeagney’s Chemist.

There is another one marked at Ivy House, before it became an R.I.C. barracks in 1890.

To most of us, two handball alley’s come to mind, the one that used to be at ClanN Eireann, and Willie John Thornbury’s in Shankill Street, sited near the Brigget. Where the Brigget got its name has been a question posed here for a while, after much research, I have found the answer. “Brigget” is a Scottish vernacular for bridge which takes its name from a standing stone which marked the crossing point of the Pound River to Claytown in ancient times.

An interesting point about Claytown is, in 1798 before the battle of Antrim, the Westmeath Militia were bivouacked in Caytown and one of their men is recorded as being drowned in the Pound River.

Claytown is a variation of ancient place name, Átha Cliath or Aghaclay, meaning; Átha, a ford Cliath a hurdle, like the original hurdle ford that gave the same name, Átha Cliath Hurdle ford to Dublin.

The Shankill handball alley opened in 1932, the alley was built by the McGrath Brothers for the Shankill Working Men’s Club.

Before it was officially opened, it was inspected by the chairman of the Irish Handball Association, William Fay from Dublin, who said it was one of the top three alleys in Ireland.

The official opening of the Shankill alley was performed by Father Fegan of Derrymacash and Tom Keville headmaster of St, Peter’s school.

Our thanks to Jim for his kindness in giving us permission to publish these stories here.

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