Big thank you from

Remembering the days of 'Banana Ben'

by THE RAMBLER 16/12/2005

SIGHT of a news headline 'Fyffe's rejects EU tariff proposal' has taken me back to my boyhood days and also to my years in charge of the tariff branch of the now defunct Ministry of Commerce.

I vividly remember a character called 'Banana Ben' who was, to my boyhood mind, in the same boat as Wee Willie Winkie, i.e. he roamed through the town, but here was a difference.

Banana Ben professionally doled out ten shilling notes (£0.50) to lucky recipients who qualified if they were able to produce a bunch of bananas bearing a FYFFE label.

That's one for the 50% extra and buy one get one free brigades of present day promotions.

Frankly the free this and free that and the prevalence of 99p markings on price lists puts me off, rather than the reverse.

The news heading already quoted concerned the EU proposal to introduce a tariff of £176 per tonne on imports of third country bananas from the start of next year.

Fyffes regret this decision which they feel is not in the best interests of the industry and claim that it has been rejected by the majority of stakeholders in the global banana trade.

It is said that it would cause banana importers to seek higher selling prices from customers with a potential knock on effect for consumers.

Fyffes, which is the second largest importer of bananas in the EU and the largest distributor, believes that it will result in the end of the banana industry in several Caribbean countries while also placing enormous pressure on Latin American banana producers.

Fyffes say its duty costs will increase by about £40 (an awful lot of ten bob notes).

There is speculation that this could lead to the company's changing over to a brokerage system rather than actually purchasing bananas as of now. It all leads back to the effect of EU membership where the EU decides tariffs rather than the UK as was the old

Presumably the need for tariff divisions in the UK public service establishments has now disappeared. Over to our members of the EU Parliament.

Of course we do not have local importers of bananas although they do have large warehouses on our industrial estates and presumably significant jobs in the warehousing and freight traffic.

Like Lisburn , Lurgan never had many fishmongers. Going back to school days once more, when hawkers peopled country roads, I recall the rhyme

'Paddy Dobbins sells fish, three ha'pence a dish. Cut the heads off, cut the tails off. Paddy Dobbin sells fish'.

'Herns alive, Herns alive, alive alive oh!' (Herring became Herons)

I mention Dobbin as he also sold fruit and he claimed to have been the first to introduce the local consumers to bananas.

He hailed from Carlingford in Co Louth.

In Lisburn Elmore was the principal fishmonger. A neighbour of mine Seamus Clenaghan, a cousin of Sir John Lavery RH, married Kathleen Elmore. I think Elmore's was close to where Green's is now in Bow Street.

Ulster Star