History of Doagh

Few places in Northern Ireland of comparable size have as rich a history as the village of Doagh in the Sixmilewater valley of County Antrim. The district has produced some remarkable individuals, including the pioneer of education William Galt and the mechanical genius John Rowan. In the 1790s many of the people of Doagh supported the United Irishmen and took part in the 1798 rebellion. In the nineteenth century the construction of a large flax spinning mill led to Doagh taking on the character of a mill village.

The 1901 census enumerated over 500 people in Doagh as a whole. This broke down as 225 in ‘Doagh Town’, 152 in ‘Doagh Mill’, and 239 in the rest of the townland. Nearby at Cogry another mill community had grown up beside the spinning mill there. The population of Doagh remained at a similar level for the rest of the first half of the 1900s. In 1933 the narrow gauge railway line to Ballyclare, which had opened in 1884, closed.

The construction of a new housing development in Doagh in the post-war period led to a rise in the village’s population. In his history of Kilbride, first published in 1959, Rev. R. R. Cox made the following observations on Doagh:

During the past few years it has taken on a new look. Where once there were open fields in the normal crop rotation – potatoes, corn and grass, a new housing estate has grown. Television aerials on roof tops appear now in ever increasing numbers. The old thatched cottage with its half-door is a thing of the past. Even the village pump has passed into an honourable retirement with the installation of piped water mains.

In the half century since Rev. Cox wrote those words, the village had witnessed even greater changes. Today Doagh has a population of around 1,200.

In the early nineteenth century the Doagh Hunt was formed by the Marquess of Donegall and other members of the south Antrim gentry and aristocracy. Its meetings generated considerable excitement in the surrounding countryside and large crowds gathered to watch the members of the Hunt in action. Though the original hunt folded around 1840, the tradition continued in the area with the East Antrim Hunt which continued to excite much local interest.

For the most part those interviewed looked back fondly on growing up in and around Doagh. Wilma McVittie, who was raised at Kilbride in the 1930s and 1940s, spoke for many when she said, ‘There were hard times, but there were good times’. She also felt that ‘there wasn’t the same devilment or badness then.’ In highlighting the sense of neighbourliness where he grew up, James McAdam from Hunterstown commented, ‘Everybody helped each other, no doors were locked then’. Mary Moore has lived in the Doagh area for over 80 years. In looking back to her childhood she reflected on the fact she had ‘the best of neighbours … helpful neighbours’, adding, ‘At night folk would have gone to each others’ houses. You never knew who opened the door and came in, just for a yarn.’

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