There was an autumnal feel for the unveiling of the signage on the William Alexander Davis Garden on Monday 12th November 2018 but there were smiles on the faces of everyone involved. Volunteers and staff from Clanrye Group and members of Newry 2020 came together for the erection of the sign naming the garden as the ‘William Alexander Davis Garden’.
Back: Judith Poucher (Clanrye Group Deputy Manager), Connor McClorey, James Thompson, Lee Kearney, Amy Moore, Jonny McCullagh (Newry 2020), Adam Boswell
Front: Jackie Campbell (Regener8 Co-ordinator), Dara O’Hagan (Manager of Youth and Family Service), Tony McAteer (Regener8 Co-ordinator), Shannon Laffin, Liam Devine (Manager Clanrye Group), Caoimhe Quinn, Leah Stuttard (Admin), John McCullagh, Garry McElherron (Newry 2020), Shane Smith (Tutor).
Local historian John McCullagh, who provided the inspiration for the naming of the garden, described the effects of the ‘Great Famine’ in Ireland 170 years before when the destitute flocked to Newry Workhouse. The conditions for the poor in the workhouse were forbidding with the only positives in the records of the time about William Alexander Davis who championed nutrition and health for the inhabitants of Newry Workhouse.
There is a stark difference in the before-and-after photos of the old subway steps at the junction of High Street and North Street. The steps had been closed off for decades and left derelict by the DfI/Roads Service. In an effort to improve the eye-sore, Newry 2020 members Garry McElherron and Jonny McCullagh obtained funding from Newry BID and ‘Live Here, Love Here’ to transform the steps into a terraced garden.
Difficulties in bringing the garden to fruition included challenges with ownership, permission, insurance and ultimately the difficulty in finding building expertise to complete the project within the budget.
The Clanrye Group volunteers (pictured here) led by Tony McAteer exceeded all expectations within the tight budget to produce a pleasant garden admired by many passers-by. The subway is a busy route for pedestrians from the car park on North Street to shops on Hill Street.
The success of this small project would not have been possible without the support of Newry BID and local retailers. Speaking about the project Eamonn Connolly described “the pride of Newry people in ensuring a vibrant environment to work, shop and live”. Nicola Fitzsimons of ‘Live Here, Love Here‘ described the funding of the project as demonstrating “the Adopt-A-Spot concept, taking something run down and making it into something beautiful … the group have demonstrated incredible tenacity with this project to overcome every barrier”.