One of the oldest surviving businesses in the village of Glenavy is the post office. Within living memory, one of the surnames that had a long association with this business was "Ferris." In 1855 an Ann Jane Ferris was listed in a directory as a postmistress.
There are records in existence prior to this date referring to the postal system.
In the 1816 publication by the Rev. Edward Cupples (Parishes of Glenavy, Camlin and Tullyrusk) he refers to Glenavy as a post town. Miss Jane Quigley was listed as the Deputy post – mistress. John Ferris kept an Inn in the village at this time. A John Ferris is also recorded as a churchwarden at the Parish church.
In 1845 Thom’s Almanac and Official Directory lists Francis McAfee as the postmaster for Glenavy. The Dublin Mail arrived at 6.53 am and was despatched at 5.21 pm. Ten years later the Dublin Mail arrives at 4.27am and was despatched at 7.20pm.
The Ordnance Survey Memoirs in the 1830’s inform us that mail arrived in the village at 7.30am from Dublin and was despatched at 5pm. The mail at that time was conveyed in a taxed cart carrying only the driver.
The 1826 Applotment records for Glenavy show a John Ferris (approx 6 acres) and William Ferris (approx 98 acres) in the vicinity of the village.
William Ferris is mentioned in document D847 (PRONI) and had land totalling 99acres 3roods 33perches. The reference also contains a mention to a lease for the lives of Sarah Ferris from 1823. The lease was broken by ejectment and the following appear to have acquired the land – John Larmour, Arthur Armstrong, Rev. E.J. Smyth, Moses Atkinson and Joseph Dixon. There is no apparent date linked to this event but it would most likely have been between 1852 – 1885, the period in which the Rev. Smyth was the rector of the Parish Church. This land would appear to cover the area from Ferris’s corner to Glenavy Mill (Larmour/Lorimer).
In May 1866 Dr. Hume, Crumlin mentions the postal system in a letter published in The Belfast Morning News. The letter supports the use of the railway system in the area, and he praises the improvements it has brought to the area.
A few years ago, and long since I came to Crumlin to reside, the entire passenger traffic of the district was only able to support, and that badly, a single one-horse car, which ran from Crumlin to Belfast once a week – on Friday; while the mail from Lurgan to Antrim and back was carried in something like an inverted salt-box, on which the driver sat perched with the bags under him. Now we have a mail-car, carrying four passengers, running from Lurgan to Antrim and back, morning and evening …
We also find in D847 (PRONI) a further record where a George Ferris takes possession of 11aces 0 roods 21perches which had been in the possession of John Ferris.
Other records dating about 1877 show that George Ferris possessed 12a 2r 4a in the Glenavy area. At this time Anne Jane Ferris had a house and yard in the village. Her name is removed in the early 1880’s. In the early 1890’s the property in the possession of George Ferris is listed as a public house. He also appears to take over the property that was once in the name of Anne Jane Ferris.
George Ferris died on 8th March 1898 and the property passes to Sarah Ferris. George Ferris married Sarah Bell at the Parish Church on the 12th January 1856. They had 7 children, and 6 surviving in 1911.
The Lisburn Herald on 14th May 1898 reported the transfer of a 7 day license from George Ferris to Sarah Ferris, Glenavy on 5th May 1898. George had been listed in the street directories as a publican and farmer.
In 1901 census Sarah aged 76, a widow, spirit merchant and farmer resided with her daughter, Margaret, aged 43, the postmistress, son John aged 41, daughter Georgina and cousin Dora Jane Ferris aged 56, a seamstress and visitor. A farm servant called William Bell, aged 24 also lived there.
In the 1911 census the Ferris household remained the same, although William Bell was no longer residing there. Edward Johnston, visitor, aged 10 was listed in the household.
After the death of Sarah Ferris, the property would eventually pass to her daughter Georgina Ferris.
The Ferris homestead and public house were known to have cellars. There are those who can recall the Miss Ferris’s in the Post Office at Glenavy. They were affectionately known as Miss Ena and Maggie. They were both spinsters and dressed in black bonnets, black blouses, and similar black clothing, including black aprons, and boots.
One local lady who started her working life in the post office at the age of fifteen recalls the potato apple bread that Miss Ena baked at Halloween. The Miss Ferris’s were known to be careful with their money. When the Miss Ferris’s retired from the post office, they maintained an interest in the daily running of the post office. The business continued on their premises. In those times William John Christie and William Bell were two of the local postmen. The mail came in at 6 o’clock in the morning and was collected from the railway station by William John Christie, Fred Bell or William Johnston. It was sorted in the post office and then delivered by the postmen.
In February 1938, Glenavy postman James Lavery was honoured with the Imperial Service Medal. He had 34 years service with the post office.
One of the postmistresses in the village was Miss Jane Long. She was born on the 12th March 1895 to William and Jane Long from Cloone, Kinlough, County Leitrim.
Jane Long was one of eight children. George Henry, Robert Pye, Thomas Alexander, James, William, Margaret and Helena were her siblings. They would all go their separate ways in life. Her brother William, who was originally a teacher at Florencecourt, County Fermanagh, emigrated to Canada. He became a minister there and lived to be well over 100 years of age. James went to America, and Helena became a nurse and worked in Lisburn. Tragically she died in her late 20’s after contracting influenza.
Jane was required to assist at home with her remaining brothers. She would eventually leave the area with her brother Robert after George had married. Jane was in her early 30’s at this time. Thomas Alexander Long ,who had began employment as a GPO telegraphist, was now in a managerial position with the Post Office in the Lisburn area and he was able to find employment for his sister Jane.
She and Robert would eventually set up home in the Hillsborough area and later she would take up the position of postmistress in the village of Glenavy. During her time in Glenavy, she and her brother Robert resided in a house at Bolton’s Row, Main Street.
A niece of Jane’s recalls staying in the village with her aunt and she shares some of her memories of those times. She describes her aunt, know to the family as Jennie, as a very strict, upright person who was very prim and proper.
Jane was a devout worshipper amongst the congregation at St. Aidan’s Church of Ireland, where she was also a member of the choir. She was exceptionally strict with her niece and she would keep a "tight rein" on any boys that were coming into contact with the younger generation or showing interest in them. But of course, where there is "a will there is a way", and Miss Long’s niece would utilise her aunt’s attendance at the local confirmation class to her advantage, and "escape" for an hour or so, to other parts of the village.
Jane’s niece recalls going to her aunt’s house at Bolton’s Row to do her homework. At that time, there were dry toilets located at the garden area to the rear of the houses. In those times gas was used for cooking. She has fond memories of calling in at the post office and putting stamps onto the weigh scales and playing with them.
One of the post office assistants who worked Miss Long at that time recalls that there was a lead sheeting over the counter in the Post office. She holds this solely responsible for her first bout of chilblains! A post office assistant at that time was earning five shillings a week. They were required to work two early mornings each week.
Edward Johnston, a nephew of the Miss Ferris’s was a regular visitor to the premises. It was said that he and Miss Long were on the closest of terms for some time, although the relationship eventually ended.
In the post office it was imperative to have the bookwork correct and totals balanced. Officials could call in at any time for an inspection to check on both staff and bookwork. In Glenavy, the books were balanced once a week, in comparison to larger and busier offices, where it was a daily occurrence.
The turnover and profit from the village post office restricted Miss Long in her ability to offer attractive wages to her staff. My friend informed me that her wages as an assistant eventually went up to 10 shillings a week, but the attraction of 24 shillings and 6 pence per week at the Finaghy branch was the incentive to leave the Glenavy village branch. During her time in Glenavy she recalls that they sold stationary, envelopes and notepads. There was a desk with a lid located just inside the window of the premises containing the cash book. There was also a very old looking safe on the premises. At this time the post office operated a savings bank. Daily routines included the franking of letters and parcels and pensions were paid out, normally averaging about 5 shillings per week.
During the 2nd World War Miss Long had a suit case into which she would put the cash from the post office each evening. Despite Post Office regulations she kept this suit case in her own house at nights as she feared the premises could be destroyed during enemy bombing raids. Her brother Robert also worked at the Post Office. He was also employed elsewhere in the district and was often seen leaving the village on his bicycle setting off to work.
Miss Long was also a member of the Glenavy Branch of the Women’s Institute.
She left Glenavy post office in about 1958. She had managed to work on to the age of 63 to enable her to increase her pension. The extra few years enabled her to obtain an extra shilling in her pension.
Robert and Jane Long moved to 136 Moss Road, Lisburn. Robert died at the Lagan Valley Hospital on 8th October, 1970 and Jane died on the 2nd July 1986. Their brother Thomas who was residing at 141 Longstone Street, Lisburn died on the 24th September, 1961 and his wife Rebecca died on the 12th November, 1969.
They are all laid to rest at Blaris Cemetery, many miles away from their birthplace and the resting place of their ancestors at Kinlough, County Leitrim.
The following is an extract from The Ulster Star dated 30th September 1961 and appears with permission of The Ulster Star.
Mr. Thomas A. Long
Mr. Thomas Alexander Long, 141 Longstone Street, Lisburn, a former assistant head-postmaster in the town, died suddenly at his house on Sunday.
A native of Bundoran, County Donegal, Mr. Long spent his working life with the Post Office.
For 33 years he was attached to the Head Office, Lisburn, and retired from there in 1946.
Mr. Long was for some years secretary of the old Lisburn Chamber of Commerce and was a prominent mason. A member of the Church of Ireland he worshipped in Lisburn cathedral. For many years he served on the Select Vestry and was both rector’s warden people’s churchwarden, parochial nominator and convenor of the Freewill Offering Committee. He is survived by his wife, a brother and sister,who was formerly sub-postmistress in Glenavy.
The funeral took place on Tuesday to the New Cemetary, Blaris following a service in Lisburn Cathedral. The services were conducted by Canon R. Adams, assisted by the Rev. W.H. Lendrum and the Rev. J. Rooney.
Canon S.P. Kerr, a former rector of the cathedral, who is now in Coleraine, paid tribute to Mr. Long at the service in the cathedral. He said that they had known, admired and loved Mr. Long in the town and parish as a public official , a great churchman and a lotal friend. Tom Long, said Canon Kerr, said that he believed, whether or not it pleased, for he could not be a "yes" man. His judgement was sought and respected and they knew that where there was work to be undertaken Mr. Long would always be ready to take a lead.
The Ulster Star featured Glenavy Village on the 10th February 1962 and the Post Office was mentioned –
The Post Office in Glenavy is a family affair for Mrs. A. Harkness, the postmistress, is helped in the office by her daughter, Miss Olive Harkness.
Thanks to the members of the Long family for their assistance in the preparation of this article and for providing me with copies of family photographs.
Conveying Daily Mail between Banbridge and Antrim
The following extract is from the Belfast Newsletter dated 11th July 1843 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
For Mail Car between Banbridge and Antrim
Proposals will be received for conveying the mail daily, on and from the 6th October next, by a well-appointed car, drawn from one horse, with permission to carry four passengers, between Banbridge and Antrim, through Lurgan, Ballinderry, Glenavy and Crumlin,- the journey to be performed each way in four hours and a half, including Stop-pages.
Proposals must state the annual sum for the whole duty, and are to be addressed to me, at the General Post Office, Dublin, on or before the 1st of August next.
No tender will be considered unless it be accompanied by a certificate from two respectable gentlemen of the fitness and competency of the party offering to perform the contract.
P. Urquhart, surveyor of General Post Office. 1st July 1843.