Places & People

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Shankill Road Mission & Townsend Street Church

Maureen Sands

Maureen Sands was born 17th August 1924,the family lived in Kirk Street off Ainsworth Avenue. Her father David was a commercial clerk in the office of Ross’s mill, Odessa Street and he spent his working life there, Her mother Harriet originally from Carnalea moved to Belfast and began attending Shankill Road Mission. It was here that her parents met and then married. David was the Sunday School superintendent for many years at the mission.

Maureen went to Mayo Street School, which was connected to the City Mission. The School used the premises during the week and Mission hall services were on Sundays. As this was a junior school, it educated to third standard and pupils then moved on, most would go to Glenwood School. The Headmaster spoke with Maureen’s father and said he would strongly advise him to send her to the Model as she would receive a very good education there and have every opportunity.

David Sands duly enrolled Maureen at the Model a Public elementary school which was then located on the Cliftonville Road, (the former home of John Herdman). The school had begun at Divis street but was burned during the troubles of 1922. Model schools were set up to act as a “model” to other schools and also for the training of teachers.

Maureen worked hard at school and from a young age had wanted to become a teacher. Her parents knew she would have to win a scholarship if she was to go to a grammar school as they could not afford it. There were two types of scholarship, a city and the pupil-teacher, which Maureen won and went to Methody, from there she went on to Stranmillis teacher training college.

During her school years Maureen’s father paid for piano lessons,  he regarded this as an investment as she would be able to play for the Sunday School, because she enjoyed it so much she earned a diploma in music.

When the teacher training ended she was offered a post at the Model which she accepted, it was still a primary school, the move to Dunowen Gardens changing it to a Secondary School. Miss Craig was Headmistress at this time and Maureen settled into her new role of music teacher. Teaching at the model was an enjoyable experience. The reputation of the school attracted good teachers and many will remember the charitable works that the Model was committed to.

Throughout her education and training she still regularly attended Shankill Road Mission with her family, when upwards of 500 people went to evening service. She has childhood memories of the Rev. Henry Montgomery coming to Church, wearing a top hat! The Mission played a major role in the life of the Shankill as Maureen explained, “before the welfare state, there was real need on the road. people relied on the Church and for some it was the only holiday they had, Rev. Montgomery was a man before his time and had tremendous foresight.”  she was appointed organist and led the choir when Arthur Martin retired a role she held until the Mission sadly closed its doors.




Murray Andrew Townsend St Church
Mr Andrew Murray Townsend Street Presbyterian Church

Andrew Murray

Born in 1928 & is a Member of Townsend Street Presbyterian Church.

Andrew Murray may have been born in Ballymena. But he classes himself as a Shankill Road man.

Growing Up

As a child Andrew moved to & lived in East Belfast’s, Hornby Street, where he remembers playing with hoops & kites etc in the street. At 12 years of age & with the coming of the war he was sent back to Ballymena to his grandparent’s home & away from any danger. Just like the thousands of other children who were being evacuated at that time. Having met Billy a like minded friend on his return to Ballymena Andrew spent the next 4yrs walking, cycling & fishing, among other interests. Andrew states himself that other than seeing the flashes & lights at night of Belfast he had a quiet war.

Working Years

His first serious job was at the age of 14 & it was for the Braid Manor Water Company in Ballymena. However at 16 years of age he headed back to Belfast & into a job at James Mackie & Sons as an apprentice fitter. He says Mackies had over 6000 staff at this time & if you worked there it could be a job for life. Andrew tells us about an uncle of his, an outside erecter for Mackies, and how he just made it out of Czechoslovakia at the beginning of the War. He tells us of another friend who was posted to Lille in France. Jim Allison, a fitter, was in charge of a group of fitters on the continent. All of Jim’s family were born in France. He himself made it to Paris, Dusseldorf and Lille to name a few places.  Andrew tells us that most people enjoyed working in Mackies & jokes about the amount of pokers that were made there & the amount of green paint taken from there & used in Highfield. When asked about tea breaks he sits up a shakes his head. Oh there were no tea breaks. He then does however go on to say that although there was no recognized tea brake. Every worker was able to find a way to have their tea. Andrew loved his job that much that he stayed for 40 years. After his first year there Andrew applied for a Trade Scholarship & graduated in Turning, Shaping, Filing, & Metal Work. He then changed his mind and moved into the Plastics department, becoming a Draughtsman. Here he stayed, making it to a manager’s position. Andrew says that those at the top of the company never feared work & witnessed directors with their sleeves rolled up working under machinery. Mackies sold their machinery to many countries around the world, sending groups of experts out to each country to show those who bought the machines how to use them. Countries like China began to make the machines, and the need for Mackies declined. At 63 years of age he left when Mackies work began to slow down. He spent the remainder of his working life with Denroy Plastics in Co Down. The boss & owner of this company was in fact his boss from Mackies, who knowing him assured him that there would always be a job for him there. Andrew says that the Troubles here never stopped him from going to his work. Stating the fact that there was indeed more Protestants working in Mackies. But also that he had Protestants & Catholics working for him & had no problems from any of them. Only once in his whole career was he unable to get into work. And that was the day of Internment.


Andrew, having moved back to the Shankill in his teens attended Townsend Street Presbyterian Church from 1935. This was a time when a thousand plus people flocked threw the doors of the church. His father, who attended the church from 1928, was a tailor by trade before war came in 1914.  He & his brother, Andrews Uncle became members of the Ulster Division. His dad received an arm injury in the Battle of the Somme & his uncle Bobby, a dispatch rider, won a Military Medal.

In the second war Andrew’s parent’s home was damaged by bombing. His father was offered the job as caretaker of Townsend Street church & delighted he accepted. They moved into a house at the back of the church.

Andrew met his future wife at this church. Edna was a Shankill Girl. Her maiden name was Skillen & she came from Boundary Street.  They married in 1954 & had 3 children. Andrews daughter still plays her role within the church. Running the B.B. Andrew & Edna bought their first house in Westway & this is where the family is until this day.  His wife though has sadly passed away.



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