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Comber

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  Summary  

Comber is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies 5 miles south of Newtownards, at the northern end of Strangford Lough. It had a population of 8,933 people in the 2001 Census. Comber is part of the Borough of Ards. It is also known for Comber Whiskey which was last distilled in 1953.

  History  

The confluence of two rivers, which gave the town its name, is that of the Glen River and the Enler River which meet here. There is believed to have been a church here since the time of St Patrick, while a Cistercian abbey was founded around 1200 on the site of the present Church of Ireland church, a site likely chosen to take advantage of the good access to Strangford Lough. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1541, the abbey fell into ruins and its stone has since been used in other buildings.


During the influx of Scots in the early 1600s , a settlement grew up at Comber, although it was focused about a mile further south than at present, in the townland of Cattogs, and there is evidence that the settlement was a port used by traders and fishermen. By the 1700s, however, the focus of the town had moved to the area of the present main Square and Comber became established as an industrial centre with several mills.

The Andrews family made Comber a centre of both linen production and grain processing by the second half of the 1700s. Whiskey distilling was a prominent industry by the mid 1800s, the most prominent of the distillers being John Miller, uncle of William James Pirrie and Eliza . One member of the Andrews family, Thomas, rose to fame as designer of the ill-fated RMS Titanic, although he tragically lost his life when the ship sank in 1912. By 1841 the town had 1,400 inhabitants. The 20th century saw Comber lose much of its industry but re-establish itself as a commuter town for the Belfast urban area, swelling in population from 4,000 in 1961 to 8,933 according to the 2001 Census.


In Comber's Square, you cannot fail to see the statue of Major General Rollo Gillespie. Gillespie was a local war hero from the 19th century, famous for his heroic exploits in India. It was constructed under the oversight of John Fraser, the first County Surveyor of Down, and was unveiled on 24th June 1845 (St. John's Day). Fifty lodges of the Masonic Order were present, in what is believed to be the biggest Masonic gathering in Irish history. It was calculated that 25,000 to 30,000 people crowded into the town to witness the ceremony. The column is 55 feet high. At the foot of the column are many Masonic symbols and his famous last words "One shot more for the honour of Down".

The Enler River in Comber has also flooded many times in past years. As a result the Comber flood wall was built along the river through the town which has held the water back since.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Comber", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.