Town hall room name change urged over link to slave owner

The Larne community is being urged to consider changing the name of a room in the town hall after its link to a slave owner was highlighted.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 15th June 2020, 5:14 pm
Larne Town Hall. File photo.
Larne Town Hall. File photo.

The  McGarel Hall, within the town’s main civic centrepiece, is named after Charles McGarel , a slave owner, whose wealth financed the building, Magheramorne House and McGarel Cemetery.

The issue was brought to the fore on social media through a personal post by Patrick Corrigan, who is NI programme director, Amnesty International UK.

Mr Corrigan said he believed it was important to “highlight the debate” and let local people decide on whether a name change may be appropriate or not.

Commenting on Charles McGarel’s contribution to the town, Mr Corrigan said: “Ultimately, his wealth came off the backs of people enslaved.”

The issue was given prominence after protestors in England tore down a statue of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston during a protest against racism following the death of African American George Floyd during police arrest in Minneapolis.

In 2015, a university project by University College London examining the legacy of slave ownership highlighted that slave wealth of Charles McGarel was used to fund the building of local landmarks.

The record highlights the role of  Charles McGarel, who was born around 1788 in Larne.

According to the archive, McGarel was opposed to the abolition of slavery. In the 1830s, the partners in Hall, McGarel were major beneficiaries of slave compensation, receiving almost £100,000 for nearly 1000 slaves.

A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Council said: “The building is named Larne Town Hall; within the building, the larger room is called the McGarel Hall. There are no plans to change the name.”