A history of our local policing

With Ballymoney’s new PSNI station opening officially later this week, local historian Alex Blair has taken a look back at the history of the old site on Charlotte Street.

“The system of trial by jury was a Norman notion and in 1770’s Ballymoney the Market House, now the Masonic Hall was the site for the the Court Leet of Ballymoney,” explained Alex.

“There was a jail at the west end of the Market House, also called the Bridewell and known to the locals as “the Black Hole”. The magistrates were prepared to punish wrong doers with stocks at the south side of the Market House tower. By 1822 there was an Ulster Constabulary with a barrack in Ballymoney.

“It is thought these Ulster Constabulary policemen were stationed in Townhead Street. They still used the Bridewell at the Market House as their prison but conditions were poor. In the late 1820s it was condemned as unfit for human habitation and the County authorities had to provide new premises in Charlotte Street.

“In the first half of the twentieth century, and with an established station on Charlotte Street, Ballymoney RIC and later RUC went “all out” to deal with illegal distilling of poteen, which was prevalent locally.

“If seizure took place, the equipment used was confiscated and usually gave rise to a photograph in the local paper.

“When the IRA launched their War of Independence against British rule in Ireland after the First World War, the police were often at the coal face of the conflict.

“Ballymoney Station had to deal with a number of incidents and the sub-station at Loughgiel was burned down twice – firstly on 11 October 1920 and, after re-building, was burned down again on 04 February 1921. To help with the Troubles a detachment of “Black and Tans” was billeted in Ballymoney and meted out rough justice, curfew breakers being especially afraid of them.

“In 1922, the police force was named the Royal Ulster Constabulary, now the RUC George Cross. The thirty years of the recent troubles were years of great courage as well as of tragedy and death for the RUC.

“There was hardly a police station in Northern Ireland which was not touched by the murder of some of its officers. Ballymoney was no different with the deaths of Reserve Constables Constable John W Moore and John McFadden at the hands of the Provisional IRA. Reserve Constable Samuel McKane was also gunned down having just returned from duty.

“Another sad event was the murder of Constable Robert Gregory Taylor by a loyalist mob in Church Street in 1997.”