A Lurgan Spade

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter V (2) - Start of Chapter

When any person is in a serious mood or very depressed they are said to “have a face on them as long as a Lurgan spade.” The writer has been unable to find any trace of spades having ever been made at Lurgan, the town and district being devoted to the production of handkerchiefs and hand-woven damask. Several explanations have been offered, the most feasible of which is that the land of the district around Lurgan is of a rather light description and easily laboured, consequently a much longer spade could be used than in heavy clay land. Therefore a spade of this description was specially made to suit the requirements of the district in bygone days, when this implement was much more largely used in agriculture than at present, hence, when a purchaser wished for a spade of this kind they asked for “a Lurgan spade.” At the time when spade husbandry was in vogue Lurgan was known as “little England.” This arose from the district being planted by English colonists whose manners and customs and houses and gardens resembled a part of an English county rather than Ireland. The handkerchief town had another appellation eighty or one hundred years ago:—“Lurgan, No Surrender!” The loyalty of Lurgan was formerly proverbial and gave rise to the once oft repeated but now unused expression.

Another rhyme taking in a wider district is:—

“Keady for kittens, Armagh for old cats,

Dungannon for pigeons and Newry for rats,

Drunken Portnorris, blackguard Mowhan,

Cursed Markethill, starved Hamiltonsbawn.”