It has been part of the Seagoe landscape for the past half-century. But the old factory chimney at the defunct Demag textile undertaking is no more, as it and the surrounding buildings bit the dust on Tuesday.
And what a difficult job it was, as the Portadown firm of Heatrick’s on Tandragee Road tackled the reinforced concrete structure with a veritable platoon of JCBs and a giant swinging demolition ball.
This wasn’t the usual spectacular sight of an old brick-built factory chimney being blasted and falling obediently on a chosen path. The men from Heatrick’s had to swing that ball consistently all morning while it tumbled in small chunks of concrete, stubbornly held together by the reinforcement.
But they changed tack around lunchtime, weakened the base of the mighty 50-foot structure, then pushed the crane hard against it – and down it crashed, with just a stump remaining, to be cleared away with the rest of the buildings.
Houses will, according to residents of Seagoe Park, be built on the site. And during the demolition, that film-video legend Fred Cooper – famed for recording the demise of Ulster’s railway network, air displays and TT races – trained his camera as the chimney finally submitted to the Heatrick pressure.
“I was wakened at about eight o’clock with the thud of the demolition ball against the chimney,” said Fred who has lived nearby in Seagoe Park for about 30 years. “It’s a tough job and the demolition men have their work cut out, swinging that ball from such a distance below.”
With him was nephew Leslie who actually worked as an apprentice on making the gates to Demag. “But that was a long time ago!”
They’re a team, with Fred focusing his movie lenses on all manner of historic happenings and Leslie taking ‘still’ photographs. Their library includes the end of the ‘Derry Road’ railway connection between Portadown and the north-west in 1965. And Fred recorded the demolition of the famous ‘Bridge 19’ at Annaghmore Station.
“But there won’t be any tears shed over this demolition,” said Fred. “The chimney has always been a bit of any eyesore and the new houses will be a welcome change.”
Fred’s work formed a large part of the recent ‘Moving Picture Show’ on BBC Northern Ireland, hosted by Gloria Hunniford, when it came to Portadown. And just this week, he provided much of the historic filming for the new series, which was in Rostrevor.
“It’s important to record these things,” he said. “Demag was once a valuable employer, but it suffered with the rest of the textile trade when production was moved elsewhere.”