The bustling town of Portadown sits astride
the river Bann, it is sometimes called The 'hub of the north', referring
to its geographical position in the center of Ulster. In the past the town
was a center of engineering with two Iron Foundries, there were
also several factories connected with the linen industry, there
are now industrial estates on the outskirts of the town, catering
for the diverse requirements of the local area and Beyond
Portadown's name comes from Port-ne-doon
or Port an Dúnáin "Port of the fortified eminence,"
from a castle of the M'Cann's, who occupied this important Station,
commanding the pass of the river Bann, it is thought the Mac Cana
occupied this area since the 13th century, they were a sept of the
Uí Néil who were the overlords of Ulster
From 1594 until 1603, the Uí Néill
and an alliance of other clans fought a Nine Years' War against
the English conquest of Ireland. This ended in defeat for the Irish
clans, and much of their land was seized by the English.
In 1608, James I of England began the Plantation
of Ulster, the confiscated land was distributed between English
and Scottish undertakers who were loyal to the crown. They became
known as undertakers because they undertook to plant their land
within a specified time with a number of English settlers and to
build a fortified house.
In 1610, the lands of Portadown were granted
to a William Powell. In the following year he sold his grant of
land to a Reverend Richard Rolleston, who in turn sold it in two
portions to Richard Cope and Michael Obins.
Obins built a large tower house and bawn
and settled about twenty English tenants on the land around it.
This was in the area of the present day People's Park. Today this
park is bounded on either side by Obins Street and Castle Street,
both of which are reminders of "Obins' Castle". Cope had
his estate at Loughgall not far from
In 1631, Obins was granted a licence for
a "fair and market", which led to the building of the
first bridge across the River Bann shortly thereafter.
For over two hundred years from 1742 the
town witnessed the passage of barges along the river Bann, carrying
coal from the mines at Coalisland to Dublin, the river and the canal
met a little to the south of Portadown. In 1842 the railway
from Belfast reached Portadown, this was the precursor to the slow
decline of the canal system.
In the late 1950's an
unusual sight sometimes seen about the town was Mary Ann McCartan.
Mary was a lady of advanced years, and would appear in town, with
her donkey and cart to do her shopping, accompanied by a collie.
One story relates that once while Mary was in a shop the donkey
got bored and decided to go home, on its own. The donkey duly arrived
home and was spotted by some local lads who decided to play a prank,
they unhitched the donkey and cart, put the shafts of the cart through
the gate and harnessed the donkey to the cart. No doubt Mary was
perplexed and probably not amused, after her long walk when she
arrived back to her little farm at Bluestone.