Dungannon: Ancient stronghold with a fresh vision of the future
DUNGANNON is one of the most venerable towns in Northern Ireland, yet its fresh spirit of reinvigoration is evident everywhere. This is a growing, go-ahead community of 12,000, where the legacy of the past is cherished by adapting it to the needs of the 21st Century.
For example, Moygashel Mills, one of the greatest names in the historic heyday of the Irish linen industry, has been given a new lease of life as The Linen Green, the craft, design and factory outlet centre which attracts customers from Ireland and beyond.
Another example is the tasteful transformation of an ornate church hall into a popular restaurant in one of the beautiful terraces which bear witness to the town's wealth in the Georgian and Victorian eras.
Now all this belongs to the mythical genre of history but is nonetheless a very valuable tradition. The story of the fort of Geannan would have been familiar to the O'Neills, who would have heard these tales recited by the bards and harpers.
It was associated with the Heroic Age and a sacred place to the druids and to an important family like the O'Neills. It would have done the O'Neills no harm at all to be associated with Dun Geannain. The dinseanchas was transcribed from the oral tradition at a much later date.
Dungannon was the main stronghold of the O'Neills from the 14th Century until the Plantation of Ulster. All trace of the O'Neill fort on the hill has gone but the name is recalled in The Fort bar in Scotch Street!
Dungannon has been a centre of ecclesiastical and educational excellence for centuries, The Royal School Dungannon dates from 1614; the bronze statue in front of the school is ex-pupil General John Nicholson, who died heroically in the 1857 Indian Mutiny.
Champions and celebrities
Today's local heroes are more likely to be sporting giants like golfing genius Darren Clarke, international rugby legends Jimmy Davidson and Jim McCoy, snooker ace Patrick Wallace and TV stars like Birdie Sweeney of Ballykissangel fame, Adrian Logan of UTV and, of course, Malachi Cush of BBC's Fame Academy.