Monday, 9 June 2008

'Fidelis Atque Fortus'

The town owes its existence to the Anglo-Norman policy of building castles to control conquered territories. John De Courcey established one such strong point where Castle Gardens mill stood. It was first officially known as Villa Nova De Blaethwyc (the Blathmaic being the people of the district) but the colloquial Gaelic name of Baile Nua (New Town) was more commonly used and indeed up until the eighteenth century Newtownards was called Bally No by its inhabitants. The suffix Ards derives from the Irish word Ard which means high and refers to the surrounding hills which give this descriptive name to the narrow peninsula which stretches from the south of the town.
The arms of the town tell us more about its history. The Scottish influences shown by the St. Andrews cross in the shield, the twelfth century castle around which the town grew, through the De Courcey age and the influences of the savages of the Ards through the motto `Fidelis Atque Fortus' (in English faithful and brave). The arms of the borough also have references to the Montgomery and Londonderry families, to the association with Augustinian and Dominican abbeys and priories and the two industries, linen and rose growing, which helped establish the town as one of the industrial centres of the province.
The Montgomery family were the Lords of Newtownards for a century and a half. The third viscount spent two years as a prisoner of Owen Roe O'Neill and after his release he joined the royalist cause and fought Cromwellian forces.