Memories : Lurgan, County Armagh, May 1990

Lurgan High Street 1990

It’s 4 May 1990 and we’re standing on the central reservation of Lurgan High Street admiring a very typical British townscape. Although some of the shop names aren’t instantly familiar, you’ll see TSB and Woolworth’s standing proud. But the hustle and bustle depicted in this image is very familiar for anyone who travelled up this way (well, at least until the Coronavirus (COVID-19) cleared out the streets in March 2020).

If the physical landscape doesn’t look a million miles different to how it does now, the political and cultural landscape certainly do. For many voters in the UK, it’s the day after the Local Elections where all 32 London boroughs, all 36 metropolitan boroughs, 116 out of 296 English districts and all 12 Scottish regions had chosen who the next Councillors were going to be. Reflecting the deep unpopularity of the Conservative Party in the dying days of the Thatcher Government, a mere 32% of voters had gone for the blue party, while a thumping 44% choose Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party… There are still more Conservative Councillors across the country than Labour ones, but it’s close…

In the music charts, Madonna’s Vogue is in the top spot, but Opposites Attract by Paula Abdul and Black Velvet by Alannah Miles are chasing hard in the all-female Top 3. Other than the fading Step On by the Happy Mondays, it’s a quite unmemorable chart, reflecting the crossover in tastes as we glide from the neon-bright 1980s to the grungier 1990s.

It’s also the week that we’re starting to see houses sport ‘squarials’ on their roofs as the newly-formed digital satellite network British Satellite Broadcasting begins to ramp up its services. It’s already months late and, as Sky Broadcasting’s been on the scene since late-1988, it’s not looking good for the technical-superior official UK broadcaster. We know what happened next – Sky and BSB merged to become BSkyB and all of those homes with squarials and technically-superior D-MAC boxes would eventually be forced to replace them with Sky’s analogue set-up. Shame…

May 1990: BSB Squarial
Picture: Campaign

So, tell us about the cars

It’s an interesting mix – and, being Northern Ireland, the ‘dateless’ registration plates make it difficult to place some of the cars precisely. But we’re not going to let that stop us trying. Driving away from us on the left, we have a Triumph Acclaim HL jockeying for position with a Bedford Astravan (the fastest vehicle in the world) behind a nice Fiat Uno. This part of the world looks like Austin Montego country, with two parked kerbside on the left and rather fetching grey example up ahead with the red reflector panel between the rear lights.

Ahead of the Fiat is a rather fetching Vauxhall Nova saloon, while who could miss the Renault 4 Fourgonnette. Up at the top, having nabbed a desirable parking space in the middle, is what looks like a Metro ARX or, possibly, Studio 2 special edition. Lovely stuff in what looks like rather a bad traffic day in Lurgan.

Coming towards us are some joyous sights, too. Japanese car fans will appreciate the short-lived (in the UK) front-wheel-drive U11-generation Nissan Bluebird (a car who’s central locking system would unlock, but not lock, the car) followed by a second-generation Mitsubishi Colt (Mirage in Japan), which already looks to be succumbing to rust. Behind these are a lovely Ford Escort XR3i and Vauxhall Nova GTE in what could be some soft of impromptu hot hatch showdown. Further back – and in the same spirit – is a Honda CR-X, which looks petite on the road, even then.

Finally, the last word should go to the British Army Land Rover right at the back. If anything, it should serve to remind us how far we’ve come since the days of The Troubles, and long may our lasting peace remain…

Lurgan 1960
Lurgan: Ben Brooksbank / Lurgan: High Street, 1960

For fun, I’ve added this image sourced from Wikipedia of the same place from 1960 to show you how far things changed in the intervening years. Is this a larger jump to 1990 than that shot is today? I’d say so!

If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line via any of the links below.

Keith Adams

21 Comments

  1. “Finally, the last word should go to the British Army Land Rover right at the back. If anything, it should serve to remind us how far we’ve come since the days of The Troubles, and long may our lasting peace remain…”

    Peace? What peace?

    From BBC News 5 Aug 2019. 29 years on from the photo:

    Eighty-one people were victims of paramilitary attacks in Northern Ireland between July 2018 and June 2019.

    Seventeen of the victims were shot, while 64 were assaulted.

    There were 12 paramilitary assaults in June of this year, the highest figure in a single month since April 2009.

    In the previous 12-month period, there were 79 paramilitary-style attacks, including 20 shootings and 59 assaults.

    AND on the Statista website: “This statistic shows the number of incidents recorded with sectarian motivation in Northern Ireland from 2005 (1701 incidents) to 2020 (888). In the final year of this time period there were 888 of these incidents, compared with 865 in the previous year.”

    ON 13 Mar 2021 a 12 year old boy was asked whether he was a Catholic or a Protestant before being attacked.

    Some peace.

    • And yet the North still has a very different feel to the dark days of the 70/80s, it’s the same with most parts of the U.K. scratch beneath the veneer of civilisation and criminality is there, crime in Northern Ireland such as turf drug wars, robberies, extortion has often been dressed up as paramilitary but in reality is just a cover for old fashioned crime, this is an opinion of someone from a mixed faith family from Belfast and Derry having run his own and family business from the early 1970s.

  2. Turning back to the cars… I remember the short lived U11 Bluebird (which had FWD) was then replaced in 1986 by the Sunderland built Bluebird (Stanza/Auster based). I think the U11 was launched in 1983/84. Hard to think this photo dates back over 30 years – 1990 doesn’t feel that long ago!

  3. Several Montegos, but no Maestros. The Nova seems by far the most popular Vauxhall here, with the Astravan the only Astra, and nothing larger.

    • The grey Montego seems to be an armoured Police car judging by the glass tint and the heavily laden stance.

    • There is a Maestro hiding behind the Mk3 Escort and the Metro in the central parking area.

  4. Red, so many red cars… Now all grey, silver or white. Reminds me of one of my last days in school: A friend asked, which car on the parking was mine (as he did not know what a MG Maestro liiked like). “the red one” I said – well out of 10 spaces 8 cars were red….

    • Yes, most manufacturers colour catalogues could be mistaken for ’50 Shades of Gray’ now.

      • The Irwins Bakery Ford Cargo imerging from the right adds an extra splash of colour. Even painting in the mirror arms to match the white and orange logo.

  5. ….and of course the lovely period picky from the 60’s showing an early P4 Rover, a few Moggies, a Hillman Minx (it looks too long to be a Husky) and the divine little Standard 10. A good old Morris commercial no doubt gave sterling service – they we unbreakable but in terms of cab luxury a John Deere tractor had the edge. Just to prove the longevity of earlier period vehicles compared with today, we see a 30’s car bonnet and lights a little way past the P4. Auntie. Happy days.

    • The MOT test came arrived in 1960, and became compulsory in 1961. You imagine that many of these older vehicles would have come a cropper as the test became stricter!

  6. Possibly off topic but Keith mentions the 1990 top 3 records in the pop chart – the BBC have reached 1990 in their repeats of TOTP programmes and to me it’s amazing how many Top 40 records/bands on it have disappeared and been totally forgotten never to resurface on Radio 2, etc.

    • Chris your right, watching them every now and then there’s bands and songs I had long forgotten. Radio 2 is not what is use to be, too many rubbish modern tracks appearing. They actually have the platlist on the BBC website these days and you can see what I mean.

    • Too much forgettable house and rave music in the Top 20, that’s why, some producer assembles a faceless act to dance about to a computerised beat on Top of the Pops, has a decent sized hit or two, then vanishes with the money. Hated the music of that era and most of it hasn’t aged well or is remembered beyond the Madchester stuff.

  7. The grey Montego was indeed an ‘armoured’ police car. The landrover top right was not an army but an RUC ‘Tangi’ armoured landrover. They are still used but painted white with reflective yellow and blue nowadays.

  8. Just think, not one of those cars has an airbag fitted, And the dude in the Mazda can’t be bothered to take Jimmy Savile’s advice either. And that middle of the road parking, wtf?

    I happen to still have a Ferguson BSB Receiver as it happens, converted to D2MAC and PAL back in the day…

  9. I remember a friend buying an ex-RUC armoured Montego. The plating and extra glass was removed prior to sale but the suspension was still in place which gave the impression that the car was riding on stilts! It was fun to drive although I don’t know how the Montegos wheel bearings stood up to the extra weight.

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