Silent Valley turns 100: relatives of those who built it come together to mark centenary

Silent Valley holds millions of litres of water and 100 years of history.

The first sod was cut a century ago by Lord Edward Carson as construction began to create the reservoir in the Mourne Mountains.

The decision to build it arose from an increase in demand for drinking water in Belfast, five years after the end of World War One.

Today, it still provides homes in Co Down and Belfast with drinking water.

At a special ceremony to mark the occasion, relatives of those who helped to build it were invited to an event at a newly renovated visitor centre at the site.

Among the relatives were people who were involved in the construction of the Binnian Tunnel, an underground waterway that allowed water to run from Annalong into Silent Valley when demand increased even further around 10 years after work started on the reservoir.

Thomas Newell, who is now 90, was just 17-years-old when he helped put the finishing touches to the tunnel.

"You worked a 12-hour shift and at the end of the week you got £12," he told UTV.

He added that it was a difficult job which required hard work in tough conditions.

"It is great to see so many people here, because I didn't think I would've got this long myself," he said.

"But sure, that's the way things go. A bit of hard work doesn't kill nobody."

Among those in attendance were Mairead Quinn and Roberta Curran.

Their father and uncle both worked on the tunnel along with Thomas Newell.

"My father Bobby Davy, he worked in the tunnel along with his brother Willie," said Roberta.

"Daddy was the concrete man," added Mairead, "and Willie was the explosives man," she said while laughing at the titles given to both men.

"Well sure what did Willie say?," said Roberta. "If Daddy had have been the explosives man he probably would've blown half of the country up!"

A piece of mosaic artwork was also unveiled at the site to commemorate those involved in creating Silent Valley.

Each tile was designed by local schoolchildren with the assistance of Mount Ida Pottery.

Dympna Gallagher from Northern Ireland Water told UTV that the organisation was determined to maintain Silent Valley and protect it for future generations.

She also recognised the challenges ahead.

"We have to keep looking at all of the challenges and climate is one of those challenges that we have," she said.

"Then we look at all of the risks that we have and we have to put treatments in place to manage those risks."

Relatives were able to gain a first glimpse at the new visitor centre which allowed them to find out more about what is to come for Silent Valley while remembering their connection to it.

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