The name Coleraine comes from the Irish Cúil Raithin, which means ferny corner. The town is located in County Londonderry, close to the boarder with County Antrim, and is the lowest bridging point before the estuary of the River Bann. Coleraine is a large town approximately 55 miles (90 km) north-west of Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast, and approximately 30 miles (50 km) from Londonderry City.
The population of the town is just over 24, 000. Almost one quarter of the population is under the age of 16, and 16.4% are over 60. Females are in a slight majority, as only 47.3% of the population are male. Less than 5% of 16 to 74 year olds are unemployed. The town is predominantly Protestant.
22.7% of the population are Roman Catholic, 73.5% Protestant and only 3.8% belong to other religious groups.1
The area has the highest property prices in Northern Ireland, which is even higher than property prices in the well-off area of South Belfast.2Disposable income in the Coleraine area is also well above the average for Northern Ireland.
Coleraine won the Best Kept Town and Ulster In Bloom awards in 2002, and in 2003, was chosen to represent Northern Ireland in the Britain In Bloom competition.
Coleraine has it’s own local radio station, Q97.2FM, which broadcasts throughout the area. Many local shops and cafes play the station, and many use it for advertisements.
There are many schools and other educational establishments in Coleraine, covering all levels of education, from pre-school through to further and higher education establishments. The secondary level schools have a large catchment area, with pupils travelling between the neighbouring towns to attend their preferred secondary or grammar school.
Coleraine is the home of the main campus of the University of Ulster. The university was built on the 1960s, and opened on 1st October 1968. It was originally known as the New University of Ulster and win awards for it’s architectural design.
There was some initial controversy with the chosen location of the university, as it was believed by some that it should have been located in Northern Ireland’s second city of Londonderry. However, due to the Troubles at this time, it was believed that Coleraine would make a safer location.
The name changed in the October 1984 when it merged with Magee College in Londonderry, Belfast Art College, and what was known as the Ulster Polytechnic at Jordanstown, just outside Belfast. These campuses are still part of the university, and the Belfast campus, in Belfast’s “Cathedral Quarter”, has recently had some modernisation work carried out. The Coleraine campus has world-class biomedical science research facilities.
Coleraine is also home to the main campus of the Causeway Institute of Further and Higher Education. It has a second campus in Ballymoney, only a few miles away. The college offers night and day classes in a wide range of subjects and levels, including GCSEs, A-Levels, NVQs, BTECs, and certificates.
Coleraine is home to the headquarters of Coleraine Borough Council. The building itself was a recent build on the east bank of the River Bann, and is beside the marina. Coleraine Borough area extends to cover the nearby towns of Castlerock and Portstewart, in Co. Londonderry, and Portrush in County Antrim.
East Londonderry constituency is formed from Coleraine Borough and it’s neighbour, Limavady Borough. This constituency is for elections to both the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Westminster Parliament.
Coleraine has seen it’s fair share of celebrities passing through its streets over the years.
- One of the biggest names to come from the town is well-known actor James Nesbitt, who grew up and went to school in the area.
- Andrew Trimble, Ulster and Ireland rugby player and attended Coleraine Academical Institution (CAI), the town’s boys grammar school.
- Jayne Weisner, who appeared in the recent film, Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street as the daughter of Johnny Depp, hails from Coleraine and attended the town’s girls grammar school Coleraine High School (CHS). She starred in school plays from an early age, and in her first year at CHS, won the lead in Oliver!
- Maggie O’Farrell, who won a Betty Trask Award for her first novel After You’d Gone in 2000. She also wrote My Lover's Lover (2002), The Distance Between Us (2004), and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006)
- Janey Moffatt, film producer.
- David Cunningham, member of The Flying Lizards, and producer of 80s hit single Money.
- Ancestors of the 11th President of the USA, James Knox Polk, emigrated from Coleraine to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in 1680. Polk later moved to Tennessee, becoming Governor there before becoming President.
- Andrew Bonar Law, Prime Minister of the UK from 23rd October 1922 to 22nd May 1923, lived in the Manse belonging to 1st Coleraine Presbyterian Church in Abbey Street. His father was a minister from Portrush.
- John Bodkin Adams, a suspected serial killer, lived in the Mountsandel area of the town from 1911 to 1916, and attended CAI. He worked as a GP in Eastbourne from 1922. He was suspected of being responsible for the deaths of 165 patients. He was charged in 1957 with the murder of 2 patients, but was acquitted.
The County of Coleraine
The current county of Londonderry was originally known as Coleraine. The county was created in 1585 by John Perrot, under the reign of Elizabeth I. The intention was to have administration carried out in the town of Coleraine, although the jail and courthouse were built in Desertmartin, in the neighbouring county Tyrone.
In 1607, the majority of the county was confiscated from the Irish aristocratic owners. In 1609, it was handed to the Corporation of London and its livery companies, and they were instructed to begin its plantation.
The plantation was to cover the entire County of Coleraine, a small part of County Donegal round Lough Foyle, and the Loughinsholin barony. The barony consisted of what was then the north part of County Tyrone, and the part of County Antrim close to Coleraine town, called O’Cahan’s Country. This large area was merged with County Coleraine in 1613 to make the new County of Londonderry. The county town was now the walled town of Londonderry, on the west bank of the River Foyle opposite the ruined town of Derry.
Coleraine Throught The World
There are towns across the world that are also named Coleraine. For example, there is a Coleraine in Itasca County Minnesota, USA. It is much smaller than it is Northern Irish namesake, with 1,110 residents in 443 households, according to the census in 2000. The town is 98.47% white, 0.72% mixed race, and the remaining from other ethnic groups.
The town of Bryan’s Creek Crossing in Victoria, Australia was renamed Coleraine by a surveyor called Lindsay Clarke who was working on the town in 1853. Te Mata Estate's Coleraine Cabernet/Merlot, a wine from New Zealand, also gets its name from Coleraine.