The Balnamore Mail Bag – more than just a mail bag

It’s already considered a key object in telling the story of trade in Ballymoney, but now the Balnamore Mail Bag has attracted the interest of university researchers in partnership with The Postal Museum in London.

Currently on permanent display at Ballymoney Museum, the leather satchel was used to deliver mail to Balnamore Mill and is one of the few surviving objects representing the history of one of the largest spinning mills outside Belfast in the early 19th Century.

However, it is not just the bag and its exceptional craftsmanship that is of interest but rather the person who used it – postman William Orr, who despite being registered blind, had no trouble finding his way from Ballymoney to the mill and back again in the course of his duties.

University researchers from London and Derby are leading a three-year, Wellcome-funded project exploring the health of postal workers in the Victorian and Edwardian era, mapping their experiences geographically to build a profile of ill health and mortality.

Explaining further, the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Councillor Richard Holmes said: “The project has engaged approximately 130 regional volunteer family historians to trace postal workers from retirement to death. Researchers are now interested in bringing these lived experiences of postal workers from 1860-1910 and their occupational health to life using museum collections and personal histories.

“The Balnamore mail bag in Ballymoney Museum collection has caused particular interest for the research team who now hope to collaborate with communities local to  the museum to reinterpret this item, raising the profile of William Orr and  his fascinating role in the history of disability and postal work.”



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If you have any information about William Orr or would like to be involved in the project then please get in touch with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Museum Services team by emailing