Anyone looking for information on Strabane, whether they are still a part of the town fabric or of the wider Strabane diaspora spread throughout the globe, usually arrives at Old Strabane & It’s Memories.
The popular social media group, known for sharing photographs and stories on Strabane’s bygone era as well as assisting in family tree queries, celebrated its tenth birthday recently.
Having gone from strength to strength since its inception, what began as a small project for displaying pictures has blossomed into an essential hub for those keen on learning more about the area.
The group’s original admin (and still going strong), Sean Crawford, explained its origins.
“I’m a keen photographer and it was pointed out to me one day by my friend Noleen Leahy, who is also an admin in the group, that I had loads of photos of Strabane and the surrounding area and putting them up on Facebook was suggested. They garnered a lot of interest so myself and Noleen came up with the idea of a group, and Old Strabane & Its Memories was born.”
Interest in the group soon caught fire, with Strabane people far and wide signing up to reminisce about the halcyon days through the medium of vintage photos of the town, highlighting shops and landmarks such as the town hall, Russell’s bakery and the old agricultural college – the site now populated by the Fir Trees Hotel.
Sean remembers the first photo he ever put up on the page of well-known local man, nicknamed ‘Ghandi’ who patrolled the streets in his cart, a makeshift wheelchair of sorts.
“I was delighted when membership reached a thousand, but never dreamt that, ten years on, over 16,000 people would be using the page,” Sean continued. “All our admins were from Strabane originally but we have at least one American-based admin in Desmond Doran and lots of members who currently live overseas, which only goes to show how important Strabane is to people who have left here. The diaspora never forgets home.”
Speaking of diaspora, an interesting by-product of the group has emerged, as relatives of those who have long since left the area are keen to research and connect with their family history.
“We get quite a lot of posts on the group from people looking to research their ancestors who would have been born in Strabane and you’ll find that, more often than not, if a post emerges asking for information, someone will know something. I’d say around 90-95 per-cent of those types of queries get answered. I think it gives members a great sense of pride when they’re able to assist someone with a family history query, making it all worthwhile. It’s also lovely when the admins receive a wee ‘thank you’ message for helping people with their queries.”
After ten years, the page has no signs of slowing down and Sean, who admits to not being overly ‘tech savvy’ has no plans to expand onto a website or anything of that nature but definitely wants to keep it going. That said, he has signalled the idea of a ‘social history’ class to take Old Strabane into the classrooms.
“I think it would be a lovely idea for a ‘social history’ class, maybe in the library, to give the children an insight into the town and district’s history so they can carry on a legacy while learning about where they were born,” he concluded.
Strabane’s Town Hall on fire.
One of the Adria chimnies seen from a distance.
The old agricultural college in Strabane where the Fir Trees Hotel now stands.
A photo of Porter’s Factory on Strabane’s Derry Road.
Strabane Railway Station before the local network was closed down.
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