Charles Blaney (1877 - 1975):
Charles Blaney was born in May 1877 in Rosnakill on the Fanad peninsula in County Donegal. His parents Michael Blaney and Sarah Deeney were small farmers and like so many of his generation, he left County Donegal and became a graduate of the National University of Dublin in civil engineering. By 1898 he was working for the Belfast Corporation and residing as a boarder in Castlereagh Place in Belfast.
In 1902 Charles Blaney applied for the position of Town Surveyor in Newry and was deemed from nineteen applications for the post, as the best candidate and took up the position, based in the Town Hall on 1st November 1902. He held this auspicious post for the next 57 years until his retirement on health grounds in 1959 when he was an incredible 82 years old.
So began Charles Blaney’s long career with the town of Newry – a man who was a very capable and efficient official who performed at the highest level but who was also a very unassuming man shunning the limelight and preferring to credit others instead. In 1902, Newry was like so many other towns and villages in Ireland – poor housing, sanitation and living conditions as described by the public health officer for the town at that time, Hugh O’Neill, as "not fit to accommodate pigs". Charles Blaney’s imposing Georgian residence in Bridge Street was near the homes of inhabitants whose housing was often flooded, overcrowded and with a high level of deaths. He alone set out to improve the water and sewage services and drainage throughout the town. The ‘Blaney Drain’ as it became known was in later years often found during excavations for municipal works. Long before perforated concrete pipes came into vogue Charles Blaney was moulding perforated earthenware pipes which were laid on fine clean stones with rougher stones on top.
Charles Blaney was the key to having many housing estates built in Newry. Housing in John Mitchel Street and Gardens, Dromalane, O’Neill's Avenue, Connolly Park, Michael Malin Park. One of the first major schemes that Charles Blaney presided over was the conversion of the former military barracks to social housing in 1923 when the British Army vacated the site. The army had accommodated 600 soldiers and 30 medical staff and the Council purchased the redundant barracks. The social housing was named Linenhall Square and served the Newry residents until demolition in early 1960’s. In the early days of the housing improvements, Charles ensured that only local materials were used especially Newry limestone bricks. Blaney Crescent is named after Charles.His remit was immense with his duties as Town Surveyor and Civil Engineer, incorporating the total infrastructure of the town. Improvements to the port with reconstruction of the quays on the western side of the Albert Basin, to the replacements of the four swing bridges and the widening of the roads were all undertaken during Charles Blaney’s tenure and the improvements to the town of Newry and the life of its people was invaluable and incalculable.
His remit was immense with his duties as Town Surveyor and Civil Engineer, incorporating the total infrastructure of the town. Improvements to the port with reconstruction of the quays on the western side of the Albert Basin, to the replacements of the 4 swing bridges and the widening of the roads were all undertaken during Charles Blaney’s tenure and the improvements to the town of Newry and the life of its people was invaluable and incalculable.
Charles Blaney married Alice Catherine Flood on 18th November 1908 and had four sons and two daughters. One son, Max, was killed whilst defusing a German bomb in the London blitz on 13th December 1940. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross for saving many lives in the area and like his father an avenue in the East End of London is named after him.
In 1954 Charles Blaney was bestowed with an MBE for his services to Newry and its people. He died on 1st March 1975 at the grand age of 98 and is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Newry, County Down. In 1954 Charles Blaney was bestowed with an MBE for his services to Newry and its people.
|Died:||01 March 1975|
|Ulster History Circle|
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