Lisburn ( or ) is a city in Northern Ireland. It is southwest of Belfast, on the River Lagan, which forms the boundary between County Antrim and County Down. Lisburn forms part of the Belfast Metropolitan Area. It had a population of 71,465 people in the 2011 Census.
Formerly a borough, Lisburn was granted city status in 2002 as part of Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee celebrations. It is the third-largest city in Northern Ireland. Lisburn is one of the constituent cities that make up the Dublin-Belfast corridor region which has a population of just under 3 million.
Lisburn's original site was located on what is now known as Hill Street, on a hill above the River Lagan. There was also a fort on the north side of what is now known as Castle Gardens. In 1611 James I granted Sir Fulke Conway, a Welshman of Norman descent, the lands of Killultagh in southwest County Antrim. During the 1620s the streets of Lisburn were laid out just as they are today: Market Square, Bridge Street, Castle Street and Bow Street. Conway brought over many English and Welsh settlers during the Ulster Plantation; he also had a manor house built on what is now Castle Gardens, and in 1623, a church on the site of the current cathedral. In 1628, Sir Edward Conway, brother to the now deceased Sir Fulke, obtained a charter from King Charles I granting the right to hold a weekly market. This is still held in the town every Tuesday. The Manor House was destroyed in the accidental fire of 1707 and was never rebuilt; the city's Latin motto, Ex igne resurgam ("Out of the fire I shall arise"), is a reference to this incident.
In 1920, disturbances related to the ongoing Irish War of Independence saw almost all of Lisburn's Catholic businesses burned out and many of the town's Catholic population forced to flee. The town was one of the first to recruit special constables, who went on to become part of the Ulster Special Constabulary of the new Northern Ireland polity.
The Cold War
Between 1954 and 1992 Lisburn contained the operational headquarters of No 31 Belfast Group Royal Observer Corps who operated from a protected nuclear bunker on Knox Road within Thiepval Barracks. Converted from a 1940s Anti-aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) the bunker would support over one hundred ROC volunteers and a ten-man United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation warning team responsible for the famous Four-minute warning in the event of a nuclear strike on the UK. The ROC would also have detected radioactive fallout from the nuclear bursts and warned the public of approaching fallout.
The two organisations were disbanded in 1992 at the end of the Cold War. In 2007 a commemorative plaque was mounted on the wall of the nuclear bunker which still stands, in recognition of the service of ROC volunteers all over the Province. The BBC newsreader and steam railway enthusiast Sullivan Boomer was an Observer Commander in the ROC and served as Group Commandant of the Belfast group during the 1970s and 1980s.