Supplied town with gas for 140 years

The staff of Lurgan Gasworks in 1987. INLM4212-226
The staff of Lurgan Gasworks in 1987. INLM4212-226
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THE end was in sight for Lurgan gasworks early in 1987.

It was decided that the William Street site would be closed down in October after keeping the town well lit and warm for 140 years.

Saddest of all were the 25 employees who would lose their jobs.

Everything, according to gas manager Denis Johnston, was going according to the government blueprint that was bringing down the curtain on part of Lurgan’s industrial heritage.

At the end of June the gas taps were to be finally turned off and October was the planned rundown completion date.

The rundown was on the cards long before when a feasibility study carried out in the mid seventies suggested closure.

The longest serving employee at the gasworks in1987 was Queen Street man Edmund Hollywood who had been with undertaking for 43 years.

When he joined the payroll town gas was at its zenith as an energy source for lighting, heating and cooking.

“The 50s was a boom time for gas,” said Edmund. “At one time we had something approaching 8,000 consumers and provided gas for 95 per cent of the homes in Lurgan.”

With the construction of Craigavon the company was busier than ever for miles of mains had to be laid to ensure that a supply was on tap for the hundreds of new homes being built.

“We had to call in a contractor from England because there were so many mains to be laid,” said Edmund. “There are times when he would install a dozen meters and cookers in a day.”

In the early 1970s Lurgan Gas could boast a clientele of some 6,700.

But the writing was on the wall as soon as the first doubts were cast about the future. The customers dropped off gradually and at the start of the rundown process only 2,500 remained.

Early in 1987 the current figure was just 600.

“It is a sad time for the workforce and me,” said Denis Johnston who joined the gas undertaking in 1970.

“With 140 years behind it there is a strong sense of history within the Lurgan gas industry.

“Many people worked all their lives here and there was always a great camaraderie.”

The Lurgan gas company had come into operation 140 years previously and celebrated the occasion by giving a fortnight’s supply of free gas.