Cinema


To provide entertainment for the workers at Cogry Mill, a cinema, known as The Picture House – was opened in 1919. This had seating for 400 people and included a stage for concerts. It proved hugely popular, not just with the mill workers, but with people throughout the district.

Florence Mary McDowell, who was a great singer, sang at the ‘silent pictures’ in the cinema. William Andrew recalls people thronging to the cinema. He also remembers a number of individuals dressing up in costume and travelling around the countryside promoting the films being shown. Growing up in Ballyeaston, Greta Milliken was aware of the cinema in Cogry as her music teacher, Mrs Moore – a sister of Mrs McDowell – who was blind, played the organ in it. The cinema at Cogry closed in 1932, though it continued to be used for concerts, some of which were organised by Florence Mary McDowell. There was, however, a cinema in Ballyclare which many people from Doagh visited.

William Andrew Turkington recalls the cinema at Cogry:

I mind one day I was going up to my mother’s and when I got to the Cogry picture house the big gate was open that let you into the yard and the two doors of the picture house itself were lying open. And I stopped a minute or two and I looked around and there seemed to be nobody about and I said “I’ll go in and have a look at what this place is like.” Wrecked it was and it was some picture house. There was a stage and in below the stage there were dressings rooms. And McMeekin has his wee box up nearer the roof. And they let it go like that. What I heard about it when I was a lad – it was built as a working men’s club … John Duncan was the projectionist. And on a Thursday night that place was packed – I saw them lined to the Cogry corners from Ballyclare and all over the place. ‘The Three Horsemen’ – that was the name of the film that was on. … Who done the wrecking of that place I could not tell you.

The picture house in Whitehead opened on Monday, 28 June 1937. The main film shown was Luck of the Irish and its star, Richard Hayward, made a personal appearance. Sheila Herdman’s father had complimentary tickets for the opening night of the cinema in Whitehead as he knew the man who had built it. A film viewing cost six old pence. ‘The cinema was terrific’, recalls Trevor Monteith, who remembers in particular Scott of the Antarctic, Ben Hur, and endless John Wayne films. He believes that not only was the cinema a big attraction, it was also a focal point for Whitehead. The cinema closed in the 1960s and, after a series of uses, was opened as the town’s community centre in 1981.

South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: