50 years and counting for McGinn Park, Bessbrook

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Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
Current and former residents of McGinn Park, High Street came together this week to mark 50 years since ‘Aiken’s Row’ was demolished and the first residents moved into the newly built Bessbrook estate in 1965. mcginn parkTo acknowledge the occasion, Mrs Mary McGovern, its first resident and still dwelling in the estate, unveiled a commemorative golden jubilee plaque. Also in recognising the contribution of Patrick James McGinn, whom the Park is named after, two of his daughters were on hand to plant a tree in memory of his efforts on behalf of the wider High Street area. Speaking at the event, Pat McGinn, grandson of the late PJ McGinn stated that this was a proud day for the wider McGinn family and they were delighted to share in remembering the last 50 years with the Park’s Residents. Camlough Band were on hand to provide music at the event and it concluded with a Release of 50 Balloons by the children in attendance. Sinn Fein councillor Roisin Mulgrew and Mickey Brady MP also joined residents. Councillor Mulgrew said it was a great pleasure to be able to attend the event. “Events like this are a real testament to the thriving community spirit which exists in the High Street and McGinn Park area of Bessbrook. I wish to extend my congratulations to all those involved.” The history – Aikens Row to McGinn Park: Mid / Late 1800’s: James Aiken and Patrick James McGinn (Senior) were great friends. They arrived in the mid 1800’s and settled in the area to take advantage of the work on offer to skilled Tradesmen. James Aiken went on to build Aiken’s Row in the mid to late 1800’s, while Patrick James McGinn (Senior) went on to build up the family homestead in High Street. Early 1900’s: Patrick James McGinn (Senior) died in the early 1900’s, while James Aiken also passed away around this time, but with his son Frank Aiken having headed South in the early 1920’s, much of their land was then sold off. Patrick James McGinn (Junior) born 1885, bought from them, adjoining land to expand the High Street farm as well as the Aiken’s Row Houses. 1950’s: The houses were occupied by proud tenants, but by the mid/late 1950’s they were in a bad state of repair, (Limited/No Sanitation). The then Councillor Patrick James McGinn Junior, aware that there were no grants as such to repair the houses, agreed to sell Aiken’s Row to the then ‘Newry No.2 Rural District Council’. The deal was struck in 1958 for £1000 pounds, on the condition that where possible, the existing Aiken’s Row tenants would be offered first refusal of the new houses that were to be built on the site. Once a deal had been reached between Basil McGinn (son of PJ) and Frank Aiken on Ground rent, the sale was then able to go through. Construction got underway in the early 1960’s with Contractors ‘H&P Campbell’ from Rostrevor undertaking the build. 1960’s: At the start of the build, ‘Wright’s Row’ (Owned by Dawson’s) of 4 houses were knocked down (Where No’s 1 & 2 McGinn Park now stands) to allow access to the rear gardens area, in behind the actual Houses of Aiken’s Row. With building works ongoing in 1963/64, tenants started moving into the houses over the course of 1965 and the final demolition of Aiken’s Row was then able to take place and this allowed the building of the final McGinn Park Homes, No’s 7, 29 and 30. It was therefore very fitting that with the first residents ready to move into the new estate by early 1965, that the Council made a decision to call it ‘McGinn Park’ in memory of Patrick James McGinn (Junior) and all the tireless work he had undertaken on behalf of the High Street people over many years. Passing away in March 1965, he had lived to see the transformation from Aiken’s Row to the modern houses of McGinn Park and more importantly the resettlement of the community of which he was so proud to be a part of. 1965 – 2015: Over the last 5 decades there have been countless families and individuals who have come and gone. Over the whole of the 50 years, there are still a number of families who still have some present/representation in the Park: McGovern / Sheridan / Quinn / Moore / Sarsfield / McKeown / Crossey. In recent years, with older families having grown up and moved away, the child-minding of grandchildren and settlement of young families particularly from Europe, has brought with it a new found laugher and energy to the park, that has being missing for many years. As McGinn Park looks to the next 50 years it remembers not only the happy memories that it has given to many, but makes a special mention to all those who are no longer with us, both young and old, for whom this little bit of Bessbrook was home.
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