Remembering Rollo: The story behind ‘The Statue In the Square’

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Anyone passing through the picturesque town of Comber, County Down, is sure to notice the commanding statue in the central Georgian Square. Major General Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie presents an impressive figure as he stands atop his lofty column, sword in hand, overlooking the streets and houses of comber, and gazing far over the rolling drumlins of Down. A notable landmark – the Grecian column stands 55 feet high – the statue commemorates a remarkable man and one of Comber’s most famous sons.

This booklet outlines the life and times of the charismatic Rollo Gillespie, looking at his background, military career, and equally colourful personal life. It will explain why, when the statue was unveiled in 1845, over thirty thousand people crowded in to Comber Square; and it will bring to life once more the personality behind ‘the statue in the square’.

For more information about Comber, please visit the website of Comber Historical Society -

Desmond Rainey

Desmond Rainey is a retired civil servant, having worked in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for over 40 years. He is an elder in 2nd Comber Presbyterian Church, and has in the past sung in the church choir, participated in amateur dramatics, and played badminton and tennis.  He has always been fascinated by history and was a founder member of Comber Historical Society.

Desmond is also an avid collector of old postcards, photographs of Comber and music of the 1960s and is co-author of A Taste of Old Comber and A Chronicle of Comber 1873-1912: The Town of Thomas Andrews, Shipbuilder.

Laura Spence

Laura Spence was a Producer in BBC Northern Ireland for 14 years, mainly working on history and local interest programes including A Narrow Sea (a 60 part series tracing the connection between scotland and Ireland); Hidden History, two series in which Dr Eamon Phoenix travelled Ulster's highways and byways, uncovering our lost heritage; and 'Weaving words' which looked at the writings of Ulster's vernacular weaver poets of the 18th and 19th centuries. In late 2013, Laura left the BBC and set up her own business, 'Stone Circle Consulting' providing culture, heritage and local history consultancy, as well as running classes and facilitating workshops. She has a number of new publications underway: details available at

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