PHOTOGRAPHED IN MARCH 2019
St. Matthew’s is the oldest standing church in the community and it is now a Grade A listed building.
The local folk-lore about the Ballaun stone, which was recovered from the neighbouring Shankill Graveyard, is that it is of Druid Origins ad the old church used it for Christian baptisms. Whether true of not, who can tell? But, generations have known it as ‘the wart stone’ because of its alleged mystical powers to cure warts.
It is thought that not only is St Matthew’s the oldest church on the Shankill, but also the oldest Christian site in all of Belfast dating back to the first settlement in the area somewhere around 455AD
The Short Strand is a working class, inner city area of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is a majority Catholic and Irish nationalist enclave surrounded by the mainly Protestant and unionist East Belfast. It is on the east bank of the River Lagan in the townland of Ballymacarret, which is part of County Down. The borders of the Short Strand are Albertbridge Road (to the south), Short Strand Road (to the west), Newtownards Road (to the north) and Bryson Street/Clandeboye Gardens (to the east). At the Short Strand’s northeast corner is St Matthew’s Catholic church.
For decades, Protestants and Catholics have regularly clashed at the edges of the Short Strand. This has led to fierce rioting and, occasionally, gun battles. Much of the Short Strand is surrounded by peace lines.
The Battle of St Matthew’s or Battle of Short Strand was a gun battle that took place on the night of 27–28 June 1970. It was fought between the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and Ulster loyalists in the area around St Matthew’s Roman Catholic church. This lies at the edge of the Short Strand, a Catholic enclave in a mainly-Protestant part of the city. Violence had erupted there, and in other parts of Belfast, following marches by the Orange Order. The battle lasted about five hours and ended at dawn when loyalists withdrew. The British Army and police were deployed nearby but did not intervene. Three people were killed and at least 26 wounded in the fighting, while another three were killed in north Belfast.
The battle was the Provisional IRA’s first major action during the Troubles, and a propaganda victory for the Irish nationalist organisation. It presented itself as having successfully defended a vulnerable Catholic enclave from armed loyalist mobs. Loyalists, however, argue that the IRA lured them into a carefully prepared trap.