uring lockdown, many of us made the pilgrimage back to our family homes – and rediscovered them through fresh eyes. Part guide, part love letter, “Home towns” is a new series in which we celebrate where we’re from. After all, it could be a while before we can go anywhere else…
Before the Troubles began, Lurgan was a quiet, unassuming town – the kind of place people passed through on the way to somewhere else. It was best known for its curiously broad main street – one of the widest in Ireland – and out-of-proportion urban park, the largest in Ulster, and second only to Phoenix Park in Dublin on the island. Lurgan also gave birth to the idiom “a face as long as a Lurgan spade” (although this is hardly a selling point).
When the bad times arrived, the town could lay claim to another superlative: its railway station was the most bombed in the country. Lurgan was by then mainly known as a terrorist stronghold, where Protestants and Catholics were kept apart by that wide main street. Along with the derided new town of Craigavon and neighbouring Portadown, our patch became known as the murder triangle of Northern Ireland.
Living on the town’s suburban edge, my house would shudder when yet another bomb went off. There was, however, an upside to the frequent bombings: you could pick up a bargain in a “bomb-soiled” sale. I bought a beautiful red corduroy jacket for a snip, undamaged but reeking of smoke.