Lottie McKeown

To leave the subject of Linenhall Square personalities without reference to the ubiquitous Lottie McKeown would be a travesty.

No matter which area of Newry she settled in, she was immediately to the forefront of community life there.

Yet Charlotte (her real name) hailed originally from Randalstown, County Antrim. The family moved first to Seapatrick, Banbridge before settling here.

Their first home in Newry was in Cecil Street (The Valley) where her father worked in the local Wilson‘s Mill. After leaving St Joseph‘s Primary School Lottie got a job in Bessbrook Mill. Conditions were harsh: the girls had to work, from eight in the morning till six at night, barefoot in wet and humid conditions, for eighteen shillings a week. The tram terminus was just round the corner in Edward Street but still she’d sometimes miss it and have to run all the way to Bessbrook. Lottie recalled light-hearted banter journeying home in the open bogey. (By the way, the decaying hulk of the last of these can still be seen in a field on Sturgan Brae, just opposite Ballinalack Road).

In those early days, without television, entertainment was provided with dancing at the Federation Hall in Catherine Street or at the AOH Hall in The Mall. Occasionally they’d catch the train to Warrenpoint on Saturday afternoons to attend the dance in the local INF Hall there.

Girls would wander out the Belfast Road, sometimes pursued by a few boys. One night Lottie and a girlfriend were confronted by a couple of young fellows who ran after them. A few nights later, they met the same boys and the two parties joined up. Lottie was paired with Owen McKeown. They later became man and wife!


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