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Sinclair Seamens Church Coporation Square


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Bringing Old Belfast To The New

Glenravel Local History Project

There is perhaps no more fruitful for of education than to arouse the interest of a people in their own surroundings These words were written by Richard Livingstone and appeared in a book by Alfred Moore called Old Belfast over fifty years ago. Looking back its hard to imagine that they are as true today as they were way back then. More and more people are becoming interested in the history of Belfast and it was out of this that the Glenravel Local History Project were born in May 1991. Many could be forgiven for assuming that this name derived from the famous Glens in Co. Antrim and they would be right but in a roundabout way. Glenravel Street was situated directly behind in the old Poorhouse on North Queen Street and contained quite a few beautiful and historic buildings. One of these buildings was situated at its junction with Clifton Street and although it was officially known as the Ulster Ear, Eye and Throat Hospital it was known to most people as the Benn Hospital. This was due to the fact that it was built by Edward Benn (brother of the famous Victorian Belfast historian George). Mr Benn lived in the Glens of Antrim where Glenravel is situated. Although Glenravel Street contained all this history the street itself was totally obliterated to clear the way for the modern Westlink motorway system leaving us to question schemes such as historical areas of importance as well as buildings. The Glenravel Project was established by local historians Joe Baker and Michael Liggett and has now went on to become the main local historical group in the whole of Belfast. Over three hundred publications have been published by the group as well and several web sites, DVDs and countless newspaper and magazine articles. The Project also conducts several walking tours ranging from the Belfast Blitz right through to a walking tour of the historic Cavehill area. One of these tours is also around the historic Clifton Street Burying Ground which is also situated behind the old Poorhouse and which was opened by them in the mid 1790s. Although our original aim was the historical promotion of this site we have now went on to cover the whole of Belfast as well as assist numerous local historical schemes far beyond our city’s boundaries. This magazine is now our main focus for the local and factual history of Belfast and we welcome all articles of interest relating to the history of our city. And our aim:-

Advertisement from 1925 Old Marlborough Street

To secure a future for our past

5 Churchill Street, Belfast. BT15 2BP

028 9035 1326 028 9020 2100 028 9074 2255 2

DRUNKEN SAILORS, DEATH BY BOILING TEA AND A DUMPED ARMY UNIFORM More True Cases From Victorian Belfast Over the past few issues we have been taking a look back at life in Victorian Belfast as reported in the old newspapers. In May 1870 a sailor named Robert Aicken, while under the influence of drink, fell into the river at Donegall Quay. Harbour-Constables Gray and McKinney rescued him. He was removed to the General Hospital in a greatly exhausted condition.

A nine-year old boy named Thomas Flavel was remanded, charged with having stabbed a little girl named Lizzie McConnell on the hand with a penknife.

In early June, 1870 it was reported in the Belfast newspapers that the tramway along Donegall Quay now extended from the Queen’s Bridge to the Ardrossan shed, and, when completed, there would be a connection with all the A man, while walking through the Shankill railways, having termini in Belfast. graveyard, found the dead body of a child, wrapped up in a piece of cloth, beside the A number of boys, while amusing themselves railings. He reported the matter to Sub- on the bank of the River Lagan, at Constable Gilbert Hassley, who had the body Ballymacarrett, found a bundle floating in the removed to the Morgue in Police Square. water. The boys, on opening the bundle, found it to contain a complete suit of regimentals, A meeting of the representatives of trades and belonging to the 18th Regiment. The clothing other interested in the intended demonstration was removed to the Mountpottinger police at the laying of the foundation-stone of the station. Working Men’s Institute, about to be erected in Castle Street, was held in the Oddfellow’s Constable Marks brought the dead body of a Hall, Academy Street. In the course of the male child to the Morgue. It was found rolled meeting, the route of the demonstration was up in a piece of newspaper and an old shawl, decided and bands also offered their services. lying in the Ormeau Demesne, near Raven Hill. Several present also congratulated the Working Men’s Club. A man named John Mooney was admitted into the General Hospital, having one of his arms The half-yearly inspection of the troops broken, and suffering from other injuries stationed in Belfast took place in the barrack received by an omnibus knocking him down at square of the 18th Royal Irish. The inspection the Northern Counties Railway Terminus. was delayed for an hour due to unfavourable weather. The inspecting officer, Major-General An inquest was held in the General Hospital Sir Arthur Cunningham, complimented Colonel on the body of an old woman named Alice Call as to the efficiency of his regiment and Strain, who was knocked down by a cart in also complimented the officers and men for Sandy Row a week before. The jury returned a their soldier-like appearance. verdict of accidental death. 3

Queen’s Bridge

Patrick McCrory died in the General Hospital after being injured by a horse knocking him down and trampling on him in the People’s Park on the previous day. A boy named James Mackey was sent to jail for two months for having maliciously broken five panes of glass in the Barrack Street dispensary station, after being refused admission to the workhouse.

Queen’s Island by the waves, and the occupant, a young man, was thrown into the water. The skiff was near the beach at the time of the accident, and the young man was rescued, having sustained little injury.

An inquest was held in the General Hospital on the body of a young man named McCrory, who died from the effects of injuries received by a horse knocking him down and trampling him in the People’s Park. The jury returned a An inquest was held in the General Hospital verdict of accidental death. on the body of sixteen-year old Francis Armstrong, of Glenavy, who died from the An inquest was held in the General Hospital effects of injuries received by a cart going over on the body of a man named Andrew him on the Falls Road. The jury returned a McDonald, who died from the effects of burns verdict of accidental death. received by falling into a pan of boiling tea in Messrs. Shaw & Finlay’s establishment, Ann As the Fleetwood steamer was proceeding Street. The jury returned a verdict of accidental down the lough, a skiff was upset near the death. 4

Belfast Gassing Tragedy n September 1925 a terrible tragedy occurred at the large mansion house in north Belfast known as Hopefield House. The large house had been let as flats since the Sinclair family have moved out and three victims of gas poisoning were discovered under strange circumstances on Monday September 14th.


There were over 20 people sharing the Hopefield House flat complex at the time. Hopefield House used to belong to the Right Hon Thomas Sinclair and the house was quite secluded in its site just off Kansas Avenue, surrounded by trees and set in its own grounds.

Elaine Hogg her friend Mrs Fricker and had been introduced to her brother and his wife on the Saturday evening and when she called with Mrs Fricker on Monday evening she noticed two days of milk sitting outside Mrs Frickers' rooms. She knocked,

The victims were Mrs Fricker, aged 60, who lived in Hopfield House, Edward Sands aged 48 who was the brother of Mrs Fricker and Suzanne Sands aged 40, his wife. Mr Sands was a Great Northern Railway ganger who lived at Hazelbank Cottage, Laurencetown near Banbridge. Mr and Mrs Sands were visiting Mrs Fricker for the weekend and all three were found dead in the same bed and all in their nightwear. The little bedroom where they were found was filled with gas which was escaping from a jet, partly turned on from the time the three had gone to bed on the Saturday night.

Mrs Fricker usually lived alone in rooms on the second floor at the end of a dark corridor and she was the unofficial caretaker for the building.

but there was no reply, and it was then that she noticed the strong smell of gas coming from the apartment. She became distressed when she could not get into the flat as it was locked from the inside with the key still in the door and she called for the local police.

No one noticed that Mrs Fricker was not around on the Sunday as her rooms were in this quiet corridor and it was a The bedroom door was locked Mrs Redmond who was a and on the table in the room friend of Mrs Fricker who Constable Gould arrived were the remains of the last discovered the three dead quickly and got into the meal that they shared. bodies. She had met up with apartment with the help of a 5

and left as the gas levels were so high in the rooms. Word was sent to the Antrim Road Barracks and a party of police arrived on the scene but could only use weak torches to find their way around the apartment as they did not dare to light a match, so heavy were the traces of gas pervading the corridor leading to the apartment. The bodies were identified at

the morgue and it was believed that as there was no leakage in the gas fitting that the tragedy had occurred when they did not turn the gas off properly. Mr and Mrs Sands left five children as orphans, aged between one year and eighteen. He was a greatly respected worker on the railway line and his untimely death caused great distress in the Banbridge area.

Scream in the night

and looked into the water but could see nothing. The he heard another cry and going in the direction of the sound he found a child lying about a metre from the side of the dock. He heard no splash. About half an hour later the body of Mary Ann was recovered from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene. She had died from drowning. The baby although cold was unharmed and was taken to Frederick where the police told him that his wife had died.

duplicate key and he found the rooms filled with gas and everything was strangely quiet. The constable, with the aid of a torch discovered the three persons lying in bed, all dead. They were all dressed in white, their blanched faces and the darkness added to the ghastliness of the scene that confronted Mrs Redmond and Constable Gould. The police turned off the gas

FrederickSmith was a man who worked at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard in 1911. He had worked at the shipyard for many years and lived with his wife and two children at 24 Malvern Street. One Saturday night in December 1911 at around 5.30pm his wife who was aged 23 asked him to make some tea, which he did. He then sat down by the fire and she asked him to pour out the tea which he refused to do. He jokingly told her that if she wanted the tea she could pour it herself. His wife, Mary Ann, didn’t find this very funny and "went into a huff". Frederick ignored her and lay down on the sofa, looking out the window of their small house. Later he went on to bed where he was awoken a couple of hours later by his three year old child who was crying. His wife Mary would normally tend to the children so he went to find her and found her 6

lying on the sofa with the tube of a gas ring in her mouth and the gas turned on. He took the piping from her mouth and flattened it so no more gas could escape. His wife was still alive and she whispered that if she could have not more gas she would find something else to use. Mary Ann got up and lifting the one year old baby she left the house. Frederick followed her until she got to her mother’s house in Hopeton Street. Frederick then went back to his house in Malvern Street to care for the other child. He had wanted to make sure that she was safe before he left her. At around six the following morning Daniel Morrison who worked on a ship in the Abercorn Basin heard a scream and shortly afterwards a cry. He ran on deck

It later transpired that Mary Ann had suffered greatly from tooth pain and often took gas to ease the pain that she suffered from her bad teeth. She often could not sleep for more than an hour at the time and at the inquest these reasons were put forward to suggest that was why she had taken her own life. The pain had become so bad that she could not think straight and she felt that the only answer was to sleep for ever.

paralysed by the snow and mud and thousands had to fall on him. He suffered walk home in the terrible extensive head injuries and conditions underfoot. died a short time later in the The thousands of workers Royal Victoria Hospital. from the shipyard in the east The heavy snowfall caused of the city and the mills of chaos on the Belfast tram Whitehouse had to walk system. By midday on the into the city causing the 13th March it took almost snow to turn to what was two hours from the tram to called at the time ‘rivers of get from Duncairn Gardens mud’ making the journey on the Antrim Road to the take even longer.

March Snowstorm n March 1937 Belfast suffered from the effects of one of the worst snowstorms in its history. One man died, the city’s transport system was halted and the countryside was completely cut off from the towns.


In Belfast a postman, J M Stewart, of 25 Yarrow Street, died while delivering mail in Eglantine Avenue. The heavy snow caused a drain pipe to dislocate and

city centre. By 6.00pm when the commuters tried In the country they walked to get home they found the through deep white snow tram system had been but no carts or vans could

The trek to work on a Saturday morning 7

get through the snow and four thousand gallons of milk were sent from Ardrossan in Scotland to Belfast to help meet the usual 25000 gallons of milk that were consumed daily in Belfast in the 1930’s. Telephone connections were threatened owing to the weight of the snow on wires and several telephone poles fell on the Springfield Road. In the countryside, Lisburn, Larne, A tramcar leaves its rails outside St James’ Church on the Antrim Road Ballynahinch and Ballygowan were some of the areas which were completely cut off. The snowstorm also caused problems to the electricity service, which caused light bulbs across the city to crack and break. During a musical concert in Belfast one of the musicians was hit by falling glass as the bulbs fell to the floor. The musician was not badly hurt but he did require medical treatment for the cuts to his head. One building in Princes Street in the dock area of Belfast collapsed under the weight of the snow, but no one was injured. 8

Members of the RUC clearing the yard at Musgrave Barracks

Donegall Place

1868 9

THE OLD POORHOUSE Part 5 AND GRAVEYARD FINAL RESTING PLACE oday if you ask people with an interest in Irish history or politics who founded the United Irishmen and therefore Irish republicanism the answer you’ll get is Theobald Wolf Tone. Every year republicans of every type march to Tone’s grave totally unaware that there’s a slight problem in doing this. Wolf Tone is NOT the founder of the United Irishmen - it is in fact a Belfast man by the name of



William Drennan a man whom we unfortunately know so little about. Drennan was born in Belfast on the 23rd of May, 1754. He was the son of Thomas Drennan, minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Belfast, and of his wife Anne Lennox. William Drennan obtained his early education in Belfast, and later he entered Glasgow University at the age of fifteen,

and received the MA degree in 1771. He then went to Edinburgh in 1773 to study medicine, and received the MD degree of that university in 1778. He went to Newry in 1783 where he practised as a doctor until 1791 when he moved to Dublin. As mentioned above a little known fact is that Drennan is the real founder of the United Irishmen and was the author of the Society’s celebrated test. He also became the first Secretary, and went on to become President of the Movement. Another little known fact is that Drennan based the United Irishmen on Freemasonry hence the name ‘The brotherhood.’ In 1794 William Drennan was arrested and tried for publishing a ‘wicked and seditious libel’ which was addressed to the Irish Volunteers, but he was acquitted of this charge. This experience seems to have given him a distaste for the more extreme views in politics, and while still a keen observer and supporter of the United Irishmen, he seems to have taken no part in its projects.

Perhaps the most important legacy are his letters published as a collection by the Public Record Office in 1931, which were called The Drennan Letters. These were a pile of letters found in an old tin box in the home of John Swanwick Drennan (fourth son of William Drennan). The letters were correspondence between William Drennan in Dublin, and Martha McTeir in Belfast. Covering the period between 1791-1794, the letters give an almost daily account of the proceedings of the United Irishmen, and also tell about the members of the Society, from Wolfe Tone to Lord Edward Fitzgearld. A lot of what is known about William Drennan today is due to these letters, along with important information about other members of the United Irishmen.

The Manse in Rosemary Street

Martha McTier 11

In 1800 William Drennan married an English woman named Sarah Swanwick, and in 1807 he inherited the property of his cousin Martha Young. Being now relieved from the necessity of practising his profession, he moved from Dublin to Belfast where he settled at Cabin Hill in the Upper Newtonards Road. Later he founded the Belfast Magazine, and he began to take a keen intrest in history and poetry, some of which can still be read. He died on the 5th of February, 1820, and his coffin was carried by six poor Protestants and six poor Catholics. On his tombstone is recorded the poem in which he was the first to call Ireland the ‘Emerald Isle’. William Drennan M.D. born May 23rd 1754 died February 5th 1820 Pure, just, benign thus filial love would trace, the virtues hallowing this narrow space, the emerald isle may grant a wider claim and link the patriot with his country’s name

Among the other United Irishmen buried here include Robert and William Simms who were the owners of the Ballyclare paper mill, and who were at McArt’s Fort on the Cavehill with leading 12

members of the United Irishmen including McCracken and Wolfe Tone, when they all swore allegiance to the Movement. The Simms brothers, along with Samuel Neilson, also set up the newspaper of the Movement in January 1792 which was called the Northern Star, and which was destroyed

by the military in 1796. Robert Simms was the man the authorities wanted Henry Joy McCracken to inform on at his trail in 1798. He refused, embraced his father and said ‘farewell then’. Robert and William Simms remained in Belfast after the defeat of the United Irishmen, and settled at The Grove.

Another “United Man” buried here is William Steele Dickson. He was born in the townland of Ballycraigy in the parish of Carnmoney, Co. Antrim, on the 10th of November, 1744. Little is known of his early life and in his narrative he wrote, ‘my boyish years were spent in the usual, and I’m sorry to add, useless routine of Irish country schools.’ At first his thoughts turned towards law and politics, but after his return from college he was persuaded by his friend, R. White, to become a candidate for the office of a Preacher of the Gospel. He was later appointed minister of Glastry, Ballyhalbert, on the 6th of March, 1771. Afterwards, he became a Doctor of Divinity at Glasgow University. William Steele Dickson was still minister of Glastry when the Volunteer Movement began. He joined and became Chaplin and later Captian of

the ‘Echlinville Volunteers’ which were raised by Charles Echlin and numbered, according to the roll of September, 1779, eighty armed and uniformed men. In 1791, Dickson expressed his approval of the United Irishmen, a Society which he later joined. On the 22nd of May, 1779, at an Inn known as the Whitecross in Pottinger’s Entry, Belfast, William Steele Dickson was elected the chief of the Insurgent Army in Co. Down. At a meeting the next night, in the same place, soldiers of the Royal Irish Artillery, led by Major General Barber, raided the Inn, searching for documents telling who the leaders of the United Irishmen were. No documents were found as all the leaders were elected the night before. From this it can be seen that the Major’s informer had got the wrong night!

On the 5th of June, 1797, Dickson was arrested and taken to Lisburn under a military escort. He was forced to walk the whole way under a scorching sun, amid clouds of dust kicked up by the horses’ feet. The reason for this action was to force him to tell them the names of the United Irishmen’s leadership. He refused. After being held in Lisburn he was later taken to the ‘Black Hole’ in Belfast, and in July, 1797, he was again moved, this time to the Artillery Barracks where he was held for over a year. On the 12th of August, 1798, he was taken to a prison ship which was anchored in Belfast Lough, and soon after, imprisioned in Fort George, Scotland. On the 13th of January, 1802 he was released after spending over six years in prison. On March 4th, 1803, William Steele Dickson became minister of a newly formed congregation in Keady, Co. Armagh, his pay being £50 per year. The Lord Lieutenant, upon being asked, refused to grant the ‘Royal Bounty’, to what he called, ‘this Rebel Pastor’ whose ‘crimes’ had never been proven. In 1817, William Steele Dickson retired from Keady and went to live in Belfast on the charity of a few friends. He

died two days after Christmas in 1824 and was buried in the poor ground of Clifton Street, his entire funeral procession being made up by his close friend Dr H. Montgomery and eight others. So ended the life of one who had endeavoured to neutralize the poison of prejudice and bigotry, fostered the seeds of religious liberty and sought to promote union and harmony among his fellow countrymen of all religious persuasions; a man who was buried among

the people he cared for most the poor. The site of his grave was left unmarked for 85 years, until, in 1909, Francis Joseph Bigger erected a tombstone to his memory with the following inscription: William Steele Dickson Patriot-Preacher-Historian born at Carnmoney 1744 died at Belfast 27th December 1824 DO CUM ONORA NO HEIREANN (For the honour of Ireland) 13

High Street around 1790. The tower like building on the junction of High Street and Cornmarket to the right is the old Market House and it was from here that the United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken was hanged in 1798

Looking down High Street from Castle Place around 1820


Exploring Belfast’s Old Streets Raymond O’Regan

HIGH STREET High Street runs from Castle Place to Victoria Street and was one of the original streets of Belfast, dating back to the early 1600's. The River Farset flowed underneath it and at one time up to four bridges existed over the river. CHADES BRIDGEopposite Corn market (this bridge is believed to still exist under the road )

STONE BRIDGEopposite Bridge Street (used during market days in the 18th. Century) ECCLES BRIDGE – Opposite Pottingers Entry SLUICE BRIDGEopposite Church Lane Any reference to large ships sailing up High Street in the 17th. or 18th. centuries is incorrect. First of all there was the Sluice bridge at Church Lane

also the water level where the Lagan met the Farset was only two to three feet deep. All large ships sailing into Belfast had to dock at Garmoyle, three miles down Belfast Lough and Lighter vessels would complete the journey to the bottom of High Street. The Farset River openly ran down the middle of High Street but was eventually covered over by 1770s and is nowadays only

a memory as it was diverted when the West Link was built but the route still exists all the way down to the archway near the Lagan Lookout. Here we start from the corner of Corn Market/ High Street heading down to Victoria Street. Nos. 1-15 - (1929) Dunnes Stores; Originally built for Woolworth's and Burton's whose names

High Street around 1900


The execution of Henry Joy McCracken in High Street, 1798 still appear on the top was built. It was ironic that an ancestor had given this site to Henry Joy the borough ). Here in of the building. The extended later in the of site goes back to 1639 1660's to include a McCracken, a man 1613 Belfast, under when a market house courthouse. (It is called George Martin, the control of Sir Arthur Chichester, was made a borough, one of forty created in Ireland at the time it was entitled to send two M.P.’s to the Dublin Parliament and to appoint a Sovereign (Mayor) and 12 Burgesses. The arrangement for the two MPs would last up to the Act of Union in 1801 and the Chichester/Donegall family would also lose 16

the privilege of deciding on the 12 burgesses in the reform of local government in 1839. This location was also the site of the gallows were the famous Presbyterian United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken, along with other United Irishmen, were hanged on the 17th July 1798. McCracken had been the leader of the failed United Irish attack on Antrim. Captured just outside Carrickfergus trying to escape he was arrested and brought back to Belfast. He was tried by a Colonel Montgomery in the Exchange and Assembly Building in Waring Street and hanged at five o’clock on the same day. His body, originally buried in High Street graveyard (site of St. George's Church) was removed in the early 1900s by Francis Joseph Bigger and now lies with his, equally famous sister in Clifton Street Graveyard

Looking down High Street around 1820 Next to Dunnes Stores Here is Wilsons Court. tea, wine and spices. is the famous Crown (The United Entry and then a block Irishmen’s newspaper houses modern shops the ‘Northern Star’ and cafes, ie. Jessops, was published here Brights, Isabeals, from 1792-97 when it Spar. was attacked and

These are early to mid-20th century buildings. The only interesting note is that in the early 19th century the Armagh, Lisburn and Lurgan coach began its journey from this spot.

closed down by the Monaghan Militia. The First Trust Bank occupies the block from Wilsons Court to Joys Entry. The site was previously the premises of E&W Pim who were importers of

Also previously at No. 31 High Street was the well known firm of H. Johnston whose famous gold umbrella hung outside the shop. The firm eventually moved to Ann Street along with the famous gold umbrella, but are no longer in business there. Here is Joys Entry. (There is a plaque to commemorate the fact that the Joy and McCracken family 17

Wilson’s Court

cinema audience it was used as a dance hall and was also a venue for boxing matches . At No. 43 (now O’Hare Solicitors) was the ‘Ulster

lived on each side of the entry also at one time the Newsletter was published here. (The Joy family were of Huguenot stock ie French Protestants forced to leave France when the Edict of Nantes was revoked in the 1680’s) the McCracken’s came originally from Scotland 18

The next block runs from Joys Entry to Pottingers Entry. The most impressive building in this block is St. George's Building of 1881. It housed Belfast’s first full time picture house opening in 1908 to a packed house of around 1500. It lasted only until 1916 and after the loss of the

Overcoat House’. Although St. George's Building was badly damaged in the 1970's it was refurbished and opened again for business in 1981. Nos. 47-53 – 1987--

Pottingers’ Entry


troops captured Belfast in 1688. The town at this time was surrounded by a protective wall and Pottinger opened the gates to let King James’s troops in. He was forgiven by the town and didn’t end Nos. 55-57 - Metz up with the reputation Here is Church Lane Sheppard. It was Expresso on the that befell Governor (originally called previously the home ground floor. The Lundy in Derry School House Lane/ present building dates lean as it was the site Hi-Park Centre of a Latin school back to 1904. Here is Pottingers (1987); Shopping mall opened in 1666 by the Entry (connections to and car park. This Earl of Donegall) modern St. George's House the Pottinger family massive one of whom was structure replaced (1987); Modern century building housing the Sovereign (i.e. Mayor) 19th when King James’ buildings. firm of Rensburg (replaced an 1885 building) Hampton House is the name of the building and covers the upper floors of the building and Hampden House is the Passport Office on the ground floor.


The conversion of the old church in High Street into the “Grand Citadel” in 1651

of the Mistletoe Café. St. George's (Church of Ireland); Rector Rev. Brian Stewart. The present church only dates back to 1816. Designed by John Bowden from Dublin. This site can

trace its history back to the 11th century. The Chapel of the Ford was used by travellers who had successfully crossed over the River Lagan at low tide. The chapel is recorded in

a papal bull of 1306 and was greatly extended into the Corporation Church in the early 17th century. The Corporation Church had a chequered history. In 1644 the first session

Looking up High Street from the old Hannover Dock


of the Presbyterian Church was held in the Church. In 1649 as Belfast was a Royalist town, Cromwell in Ireland at the time, sent a Col. Venables to Belfast. There was a four day siege and

when Venables won the day he turned the Presbyterians not only out of the church but out of Belfast. The Presbyterians would have to wait until the restoration period of the 1660s before being allowed back into Belfast. When Col. Venables was in Belfast in 1649/56 he took over the church and turned it into a citadel. He used it to stable his horses and used lead from the roof to make musket bullets. The church although restored would eventually be demolished in 1774 when St. Annes Church was being built in Donegall Street. The pulpit from St. George's was presented to St Mary's Catholic Church when it opened in 1784 and it is still there today. • King William III’s chair, that he used when attending a service, during his five day stay in Belfast, in June 1690 at the Corporation Church still survives and can be found to the left of the altar.

• The Pillars at the front of the present church came from the Earl Bishop of Derry’s unfinished house in Ballyscullon, Co. Derry • To the right of the Chancel is a memorial to Sir Henry Pottinger who in 1842, at the end of the Opium Wars in China, secured the lease of Hong Kong for the British government. A lease than only ran out in 1997. When the Corporation Church was demolished in 1774 the graveyard remained and was the original burial place for Henry Joy McCracken, United Irishman. In the early 1900's Francis Joseph Biggar, Solicitor and Historian, re-interred his remains alongside his sister in Clifton Street Graveyard, upper section, Antrim Road Wall. It is interesting to note that the new church St. Anne’s being built in Donegall Street (paid for by the Earl of Donegall) was not complete when the

Corporation church day until 3 pm and was demolished in visitors are always 1774. The First welcome. Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street Next door to St. offered their building George's Church stood to the Church of a hotel called the Ireland for services. Eglinton and Winton This was typical of Hotel. The hotel was this liberal church and affectionately known was also a way of as the ‘Egg and making amends as the Winkle’. The present Presbyterians had day site stretching taken over their round the corner into church in 1644. A Victoria Street has history of the church is been developed as a at present being public space called worked on and ‘Jubilee Park’. according to the Backing onto the side Rector the Rev. Brian of St. George's Church Stewart is due for you will find a mosaic completion in 2013. c o m m e m o r a t i n g This fine church is victims of the conflict usually opened every in Northern Ireland. Part 2 in next issue 21

THEN & NOW - High Street An old postcard showing High Street in 1903

April 2009


An old postcard showing High Street in 1939

April 2009


THE RED UNDER OUR BED! hile Belfast has been the home of many Reds, Radicals and Revolutionaries over the years, to the list of names such as Wolfe Tone, Jim Larkin and James Connolly must also be added that of "Russia’a supersalesman", Maxim Litvinov, the Polish born Russian revolutionary and prominent Soviet diplomat.


Maxim Litvinov was born Max Wallach in Poland on July 17th 1876. He changed his name to Litvinov when he moved to Russia and served as a promising army cadet until he rejected his commisison in favour of joining the Bolsheviks. In common with other prominent Russian revolutionary figures his early work was largely propoganda based. In 1901 Litvinoff was arrested and imprisoned in Kiev. He spent his time in prison profitably, learning languages that would stand him in good stead when he became one of the Soviet regimes most influential and charismatic diplomats and negotiators. After 18 months he escaped to Zurich, Switzerland, where he joined a cadre of exiles that included Lenin and became a leading contributor to the revolutionary newspaper Iskra (The Spark). Litvinov returned to Russia shortly afterwards, but his stay was not a lengthy one as he soon found himself on the run from the authorities again. In a daring raid on one of the Russian 24

Jonathan Hamill where he was to live for the next 10 years. There, Litvinov resumed his propoganda work, taking an active role in the International Socialist Bureau. Litvinov also met his wife, Ivy Lowe, in London.

Imperial Bank’s armoured cars, the revolutionaries, led by none other than Stalin himself, stole 100,000 Rubles (£10,000). A matter of days later Maxim Litvinov appeared on a hotel balcony in Paris brandishing a handful of notes that were identified as part of the Tiflis haul. The Russian Imperial government put a price of 100,000 Rubles on Litvinov’s head and began extradition procedures to secure his return to Russia. From Paris, Litvinov travelled to London,

The connection with Belfast predates the Russian Revolution, when a young merchant, David Levinson, met and fell in love with Rifka Wallach in Poland in the late nineteenth century. Rifka’s brother, Maxim, had been the best man at their wedding. The bond between brother and sister was close and the two corresponded continuously throughout their lives. When David Levison and Rifka were exiled from Tasarist Russia they settled in Enniskillen and then Clones before moving to Belfast where they lived in Cliftonpark Avenue and later Brookvale Avenue. David Levinson, like Litvinov himself, was a Jew. Northern Ireland had a flourishing Jewish community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of the reasons for this was the importance of the linen industry and the prominence of textile manufacturing in Eastern Europe. The links between Northern Ireland and Eastern Europe, as fostered through the linen trade, made cities such as Belfast an attractive

Cliftonpark Avenue

Brookvale Avenue

destination to Jewish exiles and refugees. Belfast was viewed as a port of call where specialist skills and experience would enable textile workers to find ready employment and provide for themselves and their families. For similar reasons, the Jewish community in Northern Ireland was swelled greatly in the late 1930s when Jewish families throughout Europe fled oppression. On his arrival in Belfast, Maxim Litvinov was carrying a suitcase containing 100,000 Rubles. He explained to his sister, Rifka, that it was, ‘the sacred property of the Party and could not be touched.’ The Levinson’s had three

children; Jack, Ray and Estar. Maxim Litvinov stayed in Belfast for two years. The family later recalled the conversation Maxim had with his sister when they met, "I know I am going to be so happy here. It is a beautiful city; they are friendly people. Now Rafika, I can see why you call Belfast your home, why you never sigh for the loveliness of our beloved Poland." "And it shall be your home, too, Max. You are welcome here a thousand times over. How happy you will make me if only you will stay." "Of course I shall stay Rafika, but how long I cannot say. It may be a week, it may be a month, it msay be a year – but I must go when I get the call from Moscow."

Although the Levinson’s placed a study at their guest’s disposal and he read constantly throughout his sojourn in Belfast, penning letters to Maxim Gorky, Prince Kropotkin and Lenin from his address in Cliftonpark Avenue, Maxim Litvonov also found himself work as a teacher. Fluent in fourteen languages, including Russian, French, German, Spanish and Japanese, Maxim Litvinov taught languages at a school on the Antrim Road. Most of his pupils were linen buyers and salesmen. Despite the fact that Litvinov was well known – a distinctive looking foreign gentleman dressed in a white linen suit, sporting a Panama hat and smoking a cigarette walking down the Crumlin Road was hardly inconspicuous in 1914 / 1915 – his stay in Belfast was not without its dangers. Equally unusual and noteworthy were the two swarthy skinned men with the "appearance of detectives" who took a great interest in the movements of Rifika Levinson’s brother and who could often be seen waiting for him on street corners as he walked to and from work. These


Cheka men were left standing on the kerbside a short distance away, unaware that their quarry had eluded them. Litvinov never returned to Belfast, but he maintained contact with his fanily in Belfast up until the death of this sister Rafika in 1933. She asked to be buried at ‘home’ and was interred in Carnmoney cemetery. After the Revolution of October 1917, Maxim Litvinov’s diplomatic abilities, were rewarded by Lenin who appointed him as the Soviet Union’s first representative in Britain. Litvinov proved himself a gifted orator and statesman. It was largely through his efforts that Britain agreed to end its economic blockade of the Soviet Union. In February 1929 Litvinov personally oversaw the pact that was to bear his name. The Litvinov Pact, which was signed by the Soviet Union, From his address in Cliftonpark Avenue Maxim Litvonov was Poland, Romania, Latvia and penning letters to Maxim Gorky, Prince Kropotkin and Lenin Estonia, was a non-aggression were members of the Cheka, or second-hand bookstores in pact that effectively protected the secret police, despatched from Smithfield. On fine days he liked Soviet Union’s Western Russia on the orders of the nothing better than to climb boundaries. Imperial Government to keep tabs Cavehill and take in the views on Maxim Litvinov. over the shipyards and the sea Maxim Litvinov was equally Assassination was not far from beyond, no doubt wondering highly thought of by Lenin’s Maxim Litvinov’s mind and while when the ‘call from Moscow’ successor, Stalin. In 1930, Stalin appointed Litvinov as he did not believe that his constant would come. Commissar, or Minister, of companions would dare to act on British soil, he carried a loaded As expected, the fateful telegram Foreign Affairs. During this revolver in his hip pocket and a arrived. Litvinov was summoned period, Litvinov worked tirelessly Gurkha style knife. In his spare to Moscow in 1917. In the quiet to secure international recognition time, Maxim Litvinov spent hours of night he slipped out of the for the Soviet Union and was in what is now Central Library on house by a side entry on to accordingly dubbed, "Russia’s Royal Avenue, or perusing the Landscape Terrace and began his Supersalesman", by Time bargains in one of the many journey back to Russia. The two Magazine. Litvinov argued, "It is 26

In his spare time, Maxim Litvinov spent hours in what is now Central Library on Royal Avenue (above), or perusing the bargains in one of the many second-hand bookstores in Smithfield (below).

time to realize that the Soviet Union is a fact which has got to be reckoned with, that cannot be made to disappear by incantations of abuse. ... I do think, however, that something might be done for the removal of phenomena unnecessarily aggravating our relations and prolonging the world crisis. ... I may describe my proposal as a kind of economic non-aggression pact. It will at least serve as evidence of the readiness of the Soviet Union to adhere to the principle of the peaceful co-existence of the two systems and of having no aggressive intentions, whether of a political or economic nature." In 1933 Litvinov persuaded the United States to officially recognize the Soviet Union, and was instrumental in securing the acceptance of the USSR into the League of Nations, where he represented his country from 1934—1938. The acceptable face of Russian Communism, Maxim Litvinov was disarming both in appearance and demeanour. As Time magazine commented in 1942, "To the U.S. public, traditionally suspicious of stripedpants diplomats, he looks disarmingly undiplomatic. His roly-poly shape, bland face, crinkly eyes, thick spectacles and thinning grey hair give him the friendly air of a delicatessenkeeper. His accent sounds like purest ingenuous Brooklynese. He looks exactly like his Revolution-days nickname: Papasha—Little Papa…These were the days when newspapers 27


On fine days Litvinov liked nothing better than to climb Cavehill and take in the views over the shipyards and the sea beyond, no doubt wondering when the ‘call from Moscow’ would come. all over the world pictured Russia's new leaders as demons with long beards and bombs in their pockets." Although Litvinov was replaced as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1939 by Molotov, and stripped of his Party status in the Stalinist purges, he did not fade from public view for long. "Russia’s Supersalesman" returned to prominence again during the Second World War when Russia sought to ally itself with Western

powers. Stalin again recognised that Litvinov, the orator and elder statesman, represented their best chance of securing financial and military assistance from the United States and Great Britain. During the Second World War, Litvinov served as Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs and was the Soviet Union’s Ambassador to the United States from 1941 to 1943, a position he had earned through his earlier and successful negotiations with the United States government. His

purpose served, Litvinov faded from public view after the end of the Second World War and lived out the rest of his life in relative obscurity in Russia. Maxim Litvinov died in Russia on December 31st 1951. Time Life Magazine stated that at the age of 75 Maxim Litvinov had, "attained a distinction rare among castaside Old Bolsheviks: he died in bed." Twice featured on the cover of Time Magazine, the man dubbed, "Russia’s supersalesman" was dead. 29


he story that I am about to tell is of a time when most of the people on this Island “North and South” suffered from great poverty and hardship there was no TV or I.T so people with little or no money had to make their own entertainment. This was done in many ways but for most it was by street games, these games are not unique to Belfast alone but can be mirror imaged across the Country. Many of the games played in the streets owe there origins to the Victorians who where the first generation to provide entertainment to the masses on the back streets. The game of Skipping not only gives those who


did it a great fitness but also produced many budding songwriters and rhymesters as they sang while they skipped to tunes like “In and out the Dusty Bluebells” or “Our School is a great wee School” It was not unusual to see on a summer night whole families out skipping the males getting the role of swinging the rope. Another great pastime for the girls was that of playing “Jacks or Whip and Perrie” the boys favourite of course was marbles as football was not allowed to be played on the street and if you were caught by the Peelers “IT WAS COURT AND A FINE OF FIVE BOB”

Picture taken from Rooms of Time by Cahal Dallat and Faith Gibson


Picture taken from Rooms of Time by Cahal Dallat and Faith Gibson

In those days there were no rubber or plastic balls what we had was and old leather case ball with wet newspapers or rags but this is where the term hanky ball player came from as many after a long time of playing with the stuffed ball could not play on a proper grass pitch with a real case ball. Rounder’s was a very popular with all age groups as was “Blind Mans Bluff and Hide and Seek” The girls played at “houses & Shops” while the boys were “Cowboys or Indians” or “Soldiers” and we won all the battles, some of the other games played by all were “Thunder

& Lighting” this was raping on some ones door and running away to hid if you got caught it usually resulting in you being brought in by your parents for annoying the neighbours. Another game that was played by boys was one called “Churchie Leap Frog” this was a game where a number of boys would bend over each other and other ones would leap on to their backs until the lot collapsed the ones who had the most people on their backs won. This is just a taste of the Street games there are many more and I leave that to you to remember your favourite one. 31

It is no wonder that the generations that played and enjoyed these activities were and some still are the fittest people in the town, because not only did we expand our lungs and flax our limbs but we also had to use our brains at the same time without help from an electrical instrument or gadget. Our imagination was ripe as we needed to invent things and games so as we did not get bored with the same things.

THE STREET VENDERS Many of the people that served our communities for many years are now long gone but the memories of these men and some women and what they served on our door step will take a long time to die. The following is a tribute to those who braved all weathers to bring their services to our streets and door steps, these people provided a valuable service and many also provided entertainment in their own way. I will tell of my memories from this time but I know many of you will have their own memories, I will be talking about the streets in the East End of the city but I think you will be able to put them into the area that you where brought up in.

But before I move on I cannot leave this period without talking about the street swing every street had one and many had three and four, I am of course talking about the rope tied around the Gas Lamp post and this simple thing brought so much joy and entertainment to generations of children growing up in Belfast. THE GAS MEN Hop-scotch was another favourite street game enjoyed by mostly girls and women thank When the Belfast Corporation Gas Department goodness for flagged footpaths it saved a lot in was open at the gas works in 1837 the people chalk and marking out also learner you to count of Belfast did not know of the wonderful


service that this company would provide to the Citizens of Belfast The profits from the Gas company provided the funds to build the City Hall and also to lay the tracks for the system to run the Electric Tram Company these are two of the main funding that they provided for. Over the years they give employment to many 1,000s of local people amongst these were two groups that are instilled in the memory of those who remember them the first of these was the “Lamp Lighters�. Along time ago the only street lighting in Belfast was by Gaslight and these lights needed to be serviced daily, this meant that a large number of men where employed to service and to light these lamps every evening and as dusk came we could see these men both on foot and on bicycles leaving the depots with either a small ladder or a long pole as they lit the lamps all over the town every night.

The second group of these men where the Gas Meter Readers this was a man who went round and read your meter and emptied it of the pennies that we had put into it to buy our gas. When they had counted the money they then checked the units that were used and most times people got money back and in many households this provided the money to put a dinner on the table that evening. Nearly all the families looked forward to his visit! BREAD SERVERS The Bread Server was another one and most children looked forward to him arriving. In the street up until the 1950s most of the bread and pastry was delivered by a man on a horse and cart. In the 1950s most of the main bakeries had converted to the Electric van, the reason we waited with bated breath for him to arrive is that we would have gotten a Paris Bun or some other treat. In the poorer districts of the

Picture taken from Rooms of Time by Cahal Dallat and Faith Gibson


Picture taken from Rooms of Time by Cahal Dallat and Faith Gibson

city some of these men brought out the day before buns for the real poor families and sold the goodies at a reduced rate. The van with the bread had long drawers that he pulled out to get the bread and some times some of the biscuits and buns fell of these and never got time to hit the ground as they where snapped up and away before he could get to them. What stands out in the memory of the bread server is how clean and neat these men where in their white or blue coat whatever time of the day you met them they looked immaculate hair well groomed and shoes polished to a mirror shine.

outer coat so as to protect their shoulders from the rough bags and also the weather

THE RAGMAN The Rag and Bone Man he got this name as he collected old rags and would give you a bone china cup in return. They all did not give china cups many just give the kids a balloon almost all of these men and some women pushed hand carts around the streets. It was said they took the rags home first and sorted them out, the good stuff was pawned or sold to second hand shops. Today they would be rewarded for there contribution to “Recycling.” They usually THE COALMAN The coalman is the last of these to survive entered the street calling out “any old rags any modern ways as supermarkets can not sell large old rags” bags of coal from their forecourts. These men COAL BRICK MAN also took a hammering when the smokeless fuel arrived followed by gas. Unlike the breadmen The “Coal Brick Man was another regular the coal man was dressed in black coats and visitor to the street in the winter months as aprons some wore a leather waist coat over their many a fire was kept alight at night with a 34

couple of caulbrek and a shovel of slack. One of the best know coal brick men in the east end was Billy Young who sadly died recently at the ripe old age of 88. For over 50 years Billy could be found with his horse and cart delivering Caul Brek and fresh fruit and vegetables all over the streets of Belfast. In the early days he pushed a hand cart with a very heavy load on a wet day the load doubled in weight I was talking to Billy one day and he told me that he left the house at 3-00am so as to be early in the queue at the depot in Middlepath Street.

winter and the coat had no buttons but was tied up with a piece of rope, another feature or trade mark was his red hair and he placed his hand over his ear as he sang the songs. We all sat along the edge of the curb to listen and watch while the grown ups stood at their doorways. I can remember one day half way through the performance he stopped and had a jam sandwich this he shared with his old dog who was always at his feet. When he finished he took a bow and went round with a hat looking for a donation for his work but by this time most of his audience had returned in doors.

STREET ENTERTAINERS One of the visitors we looked forward to was the “Street Singers” these were men who came around the street singing and entertaining the residents. One I remember was from the Falls Road I can’t remember his name. He came in the streets wearing a great coat summer and

There was also at times Accordion Player, Flute Players and Fiddle Players but the favourite one of all was the Penny Whistle Player he not only played the tin whistle but danced and led us all in community singing what a way to lift the mood of a people whose life was so mundane through the poverty they had to endure.

Picture taken from Rooms of Time by Cahal Dallat and Faith Gibson


Roy Rodgers

Gene Audrey

The Lone Ranger & Tonto

THE HOBBY HORSE MAN The Hobby Horse Man was another who we loved to see arriving in the street what excitement he caused among us kids, up the street would have trotted the old pony or horse pulling a set of wooden horses mounted on a turn table that was cranked by the owner. When he turned the table it went round this was all done by hand and the more kids on it the slower it went as the weight of then meant that it was harder for the man to turn. Once on these horses we transported we back in time to being the best know “Cowboys from the Movies” we had Roy Rodgers, Gene Audrey, the Lone Ranger & Tonto and Hop-aLong-Cassidy. We had running gunfights and the goodies always won the ones with the home made masks always lost we smacked the arses of the wooden horse "A Brush Shaft most times" and the only ones to get the red marks and hurt where us.


about how they drilled. My Father came out to get me and he joined in as he was a Second World War Veteran and at this a man called Martin Vance came along and he joined in he was an ex prisoner of war from the Korea War (1951) How many people today can claim to have heard the stories of four military veterans from four different wars spanning over 50 year. Most people would associate the hobby horse with the late Mickey Marley that in because he was the last of the dying breed of street vendors. In East Belfast we had three men who had these roundabouts they were “Hard Screw Cunningham, Bull Ellison and a man from Scotch Row by the name of Leebody. Off course the girls rode on the stage coaches or traps which they had on the roundabouts, but many where just happy to stroke the horse or pony and feed them if they where allowed to by the horse owner. There used to be a man from Frankfort Street off the Beersbridge Road who delivered bleach from a bicycle, he had a large container with a tap on it that was fitted to a basket on the front of the bike. People had to bring their own containers to be filled with the bleach as he was unable to supply these, again many older people benefited from this service.

I was in luck as I lived in the same street as the man who owned a set of them lived he also stabled them there. His name was Bull Ellison and he was a veteran of the Boar War (189899) and I remember one day some the boys sat down and listed to him talk of his days in Africa fighting the Boars. As we sat there another man came out and started to tell us about his days in France during SHARPENING OUR KNIVES the Great War (1914-18) they showed us the There was also a man who used his bike to different ways they sloped arms and talked sharpen peoples knives. He would arrive in the 36

street and put his back wheel up on a frame. He would then fit a grinding stone wheel on the back wheel and with this he was able to sharpen knives and any other tools that people wanted done. When the sparks from the grind stone started to fly so did we as we scarped out of the road for fear of being burnt. BUTTERMILK MAN When I left school at the age of 14 the first job I got was delivering “Buttermilk� from a small lorry with two stainless steel containers mounted on the back. The lorry was owned by a man called Tommy McKeown and we delivered buttermilk all over the city a different part of the city was visited each day. We had pint and quart size stainless steel cans like the old Billy can and these were used to measure out the amount that people ordered the

large containers had taps on them so we could measure the milk coming out, the people ordered the amount they required but they had to bring their own vessels to pour it into. These where the days when people used to bake their own soda bread and they also drank a lot of buttermilk with their dinner. I remember that we sold quite a lot of gallons of buttermilk over the week I also think he sold fresh orange juice. Today we have very few men delivering milk to your door but this was not always the case up until the last 10 years we had hundreds of men bringing milk to your doorstep all year round and in all weathers. In the early days this was brought by horse and cart but with the electric car coming the horses disappeared and the cart soon took over their role.

Picture taken from Images of Belfast by Robert Johnstone and Bill Kirk


Other names of paper men are the Shaw brothers “Sammy & Frank” and they employed many young boys to deliver the Tele for them. Even today Frank Shaw at the age of 85 can still be seen pushing his bike and delivering telegraphs around the Woodstock Road and I must tell you that he pushed the same bike for almost 50 years he must have peddled some miles in those years. They also had a Brother in Law called Bobby Sweetlove who also One of our favourite pastimes was to hang on delivered a large number of papers. to the back of these floats and get a free trip up FISH AND SKIN MEN the road, dangerous yes but at that age you faced anything and there was less traffic than there is To end this story the last ones I will talk about today as most people living in working class is the (heron’s alive men) these where the men areas could ill afford a bike let alone a motor who delivered fresh fish from a box of ice on the front of a bicycle we also had an Italian car. who delivered ice cream in the same way. The last one was the “skin man” this was the man NEWSPAPERS BOYS AND MEN Newspaper boys could also seen in large who came around with a hand cart and collected numbers delivering papers before and after our kitchen waste food so they could feed the school. The men also sold papers and pigs. On a summer day you could smell the magazines from stalls at the entrances to all cart from streets away and by the sound of the the main employers in the area. There was one millions of flies that followed him. man I think his name was Moore who had a stall at every entrance to the shipyards also I hope you have enjoyed this trip back to an Shorts. He also had stalls at every Railway era when life was about people not the materials Station and Bus Station in Belfast he retired a they sell and a time when a street was about a community not just bricks and mortar. very wealthy man. Many people were employed as most milkmen had a van boy to help them and most of the lads who left school at the same time as me went into one of the many dairies that we had in our area. The largest one was the “Co-op” and we also had the “Northern Dairies, Henrys Dairies and Cregagh Dairies” - this gives you an idea of the number of people employed in the trade.

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS They say it’s always better to start with the bad news first so we must inform you that the promotional price of £1.50 for the Old Belfast Magazine will come to and end from the next issue. As readers will be aware we received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to begin the Old Belfast project just over a year ago and this included the promotional price. From Issue 10 the magazine will go to its proper price of £2.50 and we can assure you that this will be the fixed price for some time to come. When we first launched these titles back in 1991 their cost was £1.75 when it was Historical Belfast. It then became the Belfast Magazine the price of which was £2.50 but this was mainly supported by advertising so as you will notice we have only went back to our proper price. However readers will now be getting more for their money as there are no longer commercial advertisements contained within the publication which means more stories of a local historical interest so excellent value for money all around! And what’s the good news? The Old Belfast magazine will now be out in the first week of EVERY MONTH so make sure you ask your newsagent to reserve your copy now.

The old White Linen Hall which stood on the site of the present City Hall (below)


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Old Belfast 9  

A collection of articles on the history of Belfast

Old Belfast 9  

A collection of articles on the history of Belfast

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