By Amy Hamill
12 Dec 2013
The photos portray several sites within a three mile radius of my home where I grew up. They are of buildings, objects and roadways that were once vital to people, but now mean nothing and are left to crumble. I feel that they should not be forgotten, it should not only be the most famous or biggest historical sites that would be counted as "important", but the sites that local people would not have been able to function without.
The lane is from a house to the road and then carries on to what was once a high production farm. It is now almost completely unrecognisable from the road side, but once past the gateway of branches, it is clear to see that it was not demolished, or even slightly ruined by cattle or tractors-it still stands; two rows of stone with a flattened area between. To people who don't know the area, it is non-existant.
Beside said farm mentioned above, is a smaller house owned by a different man. He committed suicide decades ago and as such, his cottage was left to ruin. I always remember out on walks, going up to the cottage and sitting on one of the stones that jutted out from the broken down wall;the cottage was just a given, it was always there but the owner was someones son, perhaps someones father or brother or husband. It is a sad site to see that the inside is completely grown over by bushes and ivy.
Further on up the same road that the farm and lane are on, is the White Gates. They used to lead up to a castle which stood a couple of hundred years ago. The legend attached to them is that of the Headless Horseman. Squire O'Hara, who owned much of the land in Crebilly and who lived in the castle manor house, was apparently impaled and subsequently beheaded on the gates one evening when he argued with his wife and rode off on his horse in a rage. He was buried in the Church graveyard at the opposite end of the road, with a monument to his name. It is said that every Christmas Eve he would ride down the lane on his horse, leap over the gates, and ride to graveyard and disappear. This legend is an integral part of the history of Crebilly and to an extent, the wider area of Ballymena, so I felt it definitely needed to make an appearance. The gates used to be ornate iron, painted white. Although they were rusted and crooked, they were a symbol of what used to be there, however they were replaced by standard wooden gates a few years ago, and the lane hasn't looked the same since. There isn't the same eeriness or atmosphere when walking past them, there is no indication that the lane used to lead to a castle. In the image I wanted to show the gates in their entirety, as they are just wooden, no ornate decorations, no metal and no white paint. They also haven't been used in quite some time going by the amount of leaves and lack of car tracks on the ground.
About a mile further away, there is what used to be a mushroom factory. Asking around, people weren't absolutely sure how long the shell of a building has been there but everyone knew it was the mushroom factory. Going by what I was told, it seems to have been built in the early 1960's, now it stands without a roof, without doors and without any indication as to what it once was. The building is so decrepit that there is a crack which runs almost the whole way around the front entrance and around the side of the building. The barrels are just full of rain water and leaves, and I am not absolutely sure why there are 3 rows of large stones laid neatly to one side. I wanted to capture the dilapidation of the building, the crack with so many cobwebs but also the bare insides of the building.
Ballymena is known as the city of Seven Towers. Now however, only three remain. One which was accessible and I think the most contrasting was an old church tower that was consecrated in 1721. There used to be more of the church building but it has since fallen away or been demolished. At first, I was just going to take a picture of the tower, with the graves in the background, but decided that this image would show how old the yard is but also show the tower, which is still impressive over 250 years on. You need to get a key from The Braid Museum which is about 5-10 minute walk away, and then try and unlock the extremely rusted lock on the rusted gates in order to gain access to the tower. This is almost certainly why most people (me included) don't know about it. I didn't know where it was until i was doing some research on the Seven Towers. It is off a main street in the middle of the town, but cars are always parked in front of the entrance so it is quite difficult to see. The graveyard in general, apart from the front walk way, was extremely hard to navigate as there were gravestones and broken railings everywhere you stepped.
Tully Sabbath School is about a mile away from my house, and it was possibly the strangest site I visited. It looked like the people who were in it just abandoned it one day and never came back. There are cups in the kitchen, the piano is still in the main room and the sign is still over the front door. The reason I used two images is because I thought one didn't get the point across properly. The portrait image was mainly to show how damaged the building had become, with the natural light coming in through the windows, the mould on the floorboards and the decaying paint on the walls were softer looking, not quite as harsh as they looked while being there. The other image however, I chose to use the flash in because I think it showed the opposite end of the spectrum-it was an abandoned, neglected school which had not seen pupils in decades. The flash brings out the detail in the floorboards and the walls, and for a second it is almost easy to imagine there being a class in here, singing along to a teacher playing the piano. But, that passes when looked at closer, the floorboards are falling through, the piano is also very precarious looking.
My last image is of Squire O'Hara, or the Headless Horseman's, grave. The grave is surrounded by what was an iron railing, it is now crumbling and rusted and in some parts completely broken. He is buried with his sister, who has a smaller monument of a cross. I thought the contrast between old and new here was at its most prominent, as beside his grave is a gravestone which has been there since the 1960's-almost a hundred years newer than O'Hara's. It has a bright bouquet of plastic flowers, the gravestone is immaculate and the stone boundary around the grave is immaculate. Squire O'Hara once owned the lands I live on, the road is named after his sister-Lady Wardlaw. And yet, both of their graves are wasting away, with no one tending to them, and no one caring to.
These are just a small selection of sites within a three mile radius. Imagine how many there could be throughout Northern Ireland and the UK. It's staggering how many vital, necessary places can be forgotten and left to rot so easily and so often.