Blue plaque first for Ulster father and son

Ulster History Circle will commemorate Charles Blaney, civil engineer, town surveyor of Newry and pioneer of social housing

Two distinguished Newry-born men will become the first father and son pair in Ulster to both be awarded a blue plaque for their historical achievements.

Charles Blaney will be commemorated by the Ulster History Circle today in the same location as a plaque marks his son Max’s act of bravery during the London Blitz.

Max Blaney was awarded a posthumous GC for his bravery in the London Blitz of 1940

The second of the two blue plaques at Charles Blaney’s former home at 65 Bridge Street will be unveiled by his grandson Michael Blaney.

The historical signage will recognise Mr Blaney for his contribution as a civil engineer, town surveyor of Newry and pioneer of social housing.

He was born in 1877 at Rosnakill on the Fanad peninsula in Co Donegal and later graduated in Dublin as a civil engineer.

On November 1902, aged 25, he began what was to become a lifetime of dedication to his job – and the people of Newry – as the town’s surveyor.

The blue plaque for Max Blaney which will be joined today by one for his father Charles

Alone he set out to improve the water and sewage services as well as drainage.

In later years when excavations for works were being carried out, the Blaney Drain (as it became known) was uncovered.

Long before perforated concrete pipes came into vogue, Mr Blaney moulded perforated earthenware pipes which were laid on fine clean stones with rougher stones on top.

Newry’s port, railways, bridges, streets and lighting all had the hand of Charles Blaney upon them, and his dedication to improving life for the people of Newry for 57 years was invaluable and incalculable.

In 1954, he received the MBE for his services to the town. He died on March 1, 1975 aged 98, having retired at 82.

Some 42 years after his death, his former home at Bridge Street is owned by the Habinteg Housing Association who at this location work in partnership with the Simon Community.

Today’s ceremony makes the Blaneys the first father and son to be awarded blue plaques on the same building in the nine Ulster counties.

On December 7, 2013 Charles’s son Max was commemorated for his bravery in the London Blitz of 1940. He was a bomb disposal officer who died whilst disarming an unexploded bomb in Romford Road in the East End. For his work during the blitz he was awarded the George Cross.

Chris Spurr, chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said: “Charles Blaney, as town surveyor for over 50 years, is acknowledged in having changed the face of Newry, where he is acclaimed as a pioneer of social housing.

“In a distinguished double, the Ulster History Circle is delighted to celebrate this exemplary public official with a blue plaque on the same building where his son Max Blaney GC is already commemorated.”

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