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Records and Recollections of Alexander Boyd & Co. Ltd.

Into the Twentieth Century

Some time after the events of the last chapter, in April, 1896 a new manager was appointed to the Pharmacy. He was A. J. O'Shea, but his reign was a brief one. He was caught pilfering on a Sunday, later that year, by James A. Hanna who had suspected as much and had concealed himself in the shop. This resulted in summary dismissal-'the better the day, the better the deed', not obviously being taken in mitigation.

The next manager was Robert Andrews who came with his wife to reside in apartments in Castle Buildings in November, 1896. His salary was £100 a year together with one quarter of the nett profits. He was a successful manager but had a desire to be in business on his own account. In March, 1899 he and his wife received one share each in Boyd's. He attended the general meeting in that month but on 22nd July notified his intention to leave and start for himself in the Crumlin Road area of Belfast. Next came J. Carrol Culbert who commenced his employment on 81st July, 1899 at £70 per annum plus the apartments in Castle Buildings. From August, 1902 his salary was £150 per annum. He was a reasonably successful manager as far as producing profits was concerned. He left in June 1905 to start business on his own account and for many years carried on a very successful business at Holywood Arches in Belfast.

With a senior man, W. Kelly, in charge of the day-to-day operations in the Grocery, from December, 1899, and with the Medical Hall in capable hands James A. Hanna had time to turn his undoubted talents to other uses. He was a man of quite outstanding ability, combining a keen wit with sound common sense. In addition, he was a master of the spoken word and a clear, incisive thinker. He had his many admirers but, especially among those who had felt the sharp edge of his tongue, he had his enemies, too. He stood as a candidate for election to the first Lisburn Urban District Council in 1898 but was not elected. Nothing daunted he tried again and success came in the next election in 1900.

This was the beginning of a new phase in his life for, apart from a period of four years, 1909 to 1913, he was a member of the council until January, 1920, standing down then on medical advice. He was chairman for two years, 1903 and 1904 but preferred, as he put it, to be "in the Fighting Line". He was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the Lisburn Technical School, in Sir Richard Wallace's Lisburn replica of Hertford House (Sir Richard had presented it to the Council). He was for many years a Governor of the County Antrim Infirmary, established in Seymour Street, in 1767. Subsequently it became the Lisburn Hospital and was still in use for geriatric patients up to 1975.

James Hanna's address to the electorate in 1903 is worth quoting in full:

"Ladies and Gentlemen,
The fatal policy a the policy of drift. Every Local Government Elector should, and I hope will Vote an the 15th  January so that the result will not be haphazard. If I am elected I shall endeavour not to betray the confidence of my fellow-electors.

  I am,
Yours faithfully,
James  A. Hanna".

At least he was not likely to be accused of breaking election promises.

There is no doubt that in the affairs of the town and its Council he found his real niche. Much of the business of the town was discussed and transacted round his desk in Castle Buildings and the press reports of the council debates abound with his comments. The vigour of his remarks is exemplified in a debate at the Lisburn Cathedral Literary and Debating Society on the Cooperative Movement. In response to a remark about him made by Harold A. M. Barbour, one of the Barbour family of Hilden and a great champion of the Co-op in Ireland he said, "I can tell Mr. Barbour that I have used these hands and I have used this head in providing a livelihood for myself and those depending upon me for upwards of forty years". To Mr. Barbour "Can you say that? I say that I have done a year's work for every hour's work ever the leader of this Society in Lisburn has done for himself". As Harold Barbour was a gentleman of considerable leisure the remark was pointed if not polite.

Others reacted violently to his remarks. As witness, Wellington Young, the town solicitor, who said at a meeting of the Urban District Council in February, 1905 in answer to a charge made by James Hanna of improper conduct at a Local Government election, "He charges that I neglect my duty by permitting personation agents going in and out of the station. Mr. Hanna was the most ubiquitous person of the lot. Now, Mr. Hanna, I'll put an end to these insinuations. I'll put an end to these deliberate attacks and any meetings in your shop for the purpose of coming up and attacking me. You were like a lamb when in the chair but were not five minutes out till you attacked me. I would rather meet Mr. Sloan or Mr. Todd who are open enemies but you're a sheep in wolfs clothing . . . . .' and so on. Fur and feathers flying!

Then there was Robert McCreight, the rate-collector and clerk of markets, who, during some long drawn-out dispute with the council burst out in a letter to James Hanna:

"What a low-down, despicable cur you must be to show such spite and vengeance against an official . . . . ..  Go unto your knees and ask to have your black heart purged of hatred and malice against your neighbour".

Strong words but all glossed over very neatly in a topical song of the time:

"When brethren together in unity dwell
And all the Board meetings conducted so well
With Hanna presiding impartially there
And all members willingly doing their share.

Tis time it was finished this row with McCreight
We've all got to suffer and pay a high rate
The officials get beef, the ratepayers get bone
So, look to your laurels Todd, Hanna and Sloan.

So raise up your voices and let us all sing
Success to old Lisburn and God Save the King".

While J. A. Hanna was thus engaged in the affairs of the town Boyd's itself was not fulfilling the early promise of the new company. The Medical Hall, during the first decade of the twentieth century continued to produce satisfactory profits but sales in the Grocery Department tended to drift lower and lower, from £9,049 in 1900 to £6,723 in 1906. Worse still, the percentage rate of gross profit, a reliable barometer of the health of a retail company, was far from satisfactory, dropping from 13 ½ % in 1899 to a meagre 5½ % in 1910. All was certainly not well According to the observations of a young apprentice employed in the grocer department from 1902 to 1905 and recounted some fifty years later pilfering was rife and he cited one particular method. When a van-driver came in and gave a certain sign this was a signal to hand over to him a packet of tobacco and it was unwise to ignore the signal. With the departure in 1911 of W. Kelly and the appointment of James J. Moffatt things began to change. Indeed in April, 1914 William Leslie, of Martin Shaw, Leslie and Shaw, the accountants, was able to write; "The Grocery shows a Gross Profit of £15.4.6% on cost. We were always of the opinion that (it) should be about 15% and this is the first year it has reached that percentage within the knowledge of the writer...... Altogether we trust that the good results of last year will be maintained in the future and if so your Balance Sheet will look much healthier".

One of the reasons for the low rate of gross profit was that in the early part of tt twentieth century Boyd's was acting as wholesaler for a great number of small corner-type shops. This would have affected the percentage gross profit to sizeable extent. It affected the nett profit too as it was often difficult to get paid. During this period many decrees for money owing were obtained but these were easier got than the money. George B. Wilkins, solicitor, succeeded F. W. Charley. acting for the company in these matters. In the period October, 1901 to January I 1902 he wrote eighteen letters applying for money due (for this service he charged 1/1 per letter) and obtained nine decrees. In spite of this bad debts continued to mount up and, in 1915, £582 had to be specially written off. This was in addition to the amounts written off annually.

When comparing figures over such a long period account must be taken of changing prices. As I write this I have in front of me an old confectionery box alas empty, for Millar's Duke of York mixture and marked "Two ounces a Penny", and here is a typical order in July, 1902:

1 lb. Fine sago
1/4 st. Rice best
2 lbs. Butter
1/4 st. W. soda
1/4st. Pearl sugar
3 Lemonade
1/4 doz. Hudson's Ext
½ st. T.T. flour
4 ozs. Treacle
1 lb. Tea
1 lb. sliced bacon
2 1/2d
4 1/2d

Some curious items appear in the orders from small shops. Candles, tobacco and chewing tobacco figure regularly but what about, in 1896, ½ lb. Labour Leader Cut Plug 1/10d or 1/2 st. Black Balls, 1/3 or 4 lbs. Pink Aromatics I/6 or 1/2 st. Killarneys 1/8 One bottle Port Wine at 1/9 sounds good value but what about 1/4 st. Barilla at 1/3 or 1/4 st. Mottoes at 10d 1 dozen Clay pipes for eight pence recalls to mind the old clay pipe dug up in a garden at 81 Antrim Road in July 1960.On one side of the bowl was an impression of a hand and on the other side 'Alexr. Boyd & Co. Lisburn'. One thing that emerges from all this is that, not only have prices changed out of all recognition but also the things that people buy.  

All businesses depend for their continued success on the people who work in them and Boyd's was no exception. It is interesting now to look back over the regrettably scanty records of those shadowy figures who came and stayed one year, two years, ten years, twenty years. There was for instance, Aubrey Harding who was employed in 1902 at 8/6 per week and who became, in due course, the All Ireland representative of Reckitt and Colman and a prominent member of the Society of Friends in Ireland. There was John Kain who came as an apprentice in 1871, stayed on as an assistant and became one of the original shareholders in the Company. He died on 1st June, 1891 but his descendants live in Lisburn yet. There was W. I. Balmer, a chemist's assistant who was paid £70 per annum and went to Grattan's in 1902 and Cosby, another chemist, dismissed in 1899 for drinking methylated spirits. Drink was the cause of the downfall of others too - S. McDowell in 1892 and Alexander McMaster, sent home 'liquored' in 1888. In July 1895 Henry E. Malone was employed for two years with free board but no salary. Another apprentice, Joshua Corken, was the ward of the Reverend John Leslie of Toomebridge. His dismissal, in 1901 for some irregularities, hinted at but not specified, upset the reverend gentleman somewhat, judging by the correspondence that ensued.

Some terse comments mark the departure of others; David Stevenson, discharged 'useless', John H. Woods, `an empty-headed fellow, gave trouble' and Samuel Todd, dismissed in 1899 'disobedient and dull'. In 1889 Thomas Gowan joined the R.I.C. and in 1894, John Downey, the Army but not surprisingly more money was a frequent reason for leaving. W. J. Todd, paid £56 per annum left in 1909 for £1 per week in Belfast and William Blakely, one of the original-shareholders, paid £70 per annum in 1880 left in July, 1891 for £2 per week, also in Belfast. As a matter of interest, the Town  Clerk of Lisburn in 1900 was paid £52 per annum.

The first woman to be employed was Miss Charlotte Mussen Wilson on 20th July, 1901. She lived in No. 18 Castle Street and was to look after the books of the company for thirty-eight years. Although she was held by everyone in the highest esteem her prowess as a book-keeper was more than once called into question. In December, 1915, the Auditors drew attention to the haphazard way in which the ledgers were kept and went on to say, "We think that with the exercise of a little care your books should balance correctly ... .. and this should be possible if Miss Wilson carefully follows out the instructions which our assistant recently gave to her regarding her work".

A post-script to this chronicle of those pre-1914 employees of Boyd's came in November, 1955 from the United States. Joe Curran, of New York City applied, not seriously, for a vacancy advertised in the Belfast Telegraph and mentioned, as if an afterthought, that he had left the Pharmacy forty-one years before 'to go fight a war'. Subsequently he did visit his old place of employment. The principal thing he could remember was the punch-ball kept in the top store for lunch-time exercise.

Boyd's and its Neighbours

No account of Boyd's would be complete without some reference to its neighbours. Good relations with one's neighbours can be of considerable consequence especially when rights in common are involved.

Boyd's was fortunate in this respect in that most of the neighbours were tenants and this seemed to create a considerable identity of interest. The first house in Railway Street was occupied by a solicitor, R. H. Berryhill, and, upstairs in Castle Chambers another solicitor, Samuel F. McConnell had his offices. He died in 1909 and was succeeded by his brother-in-law D. Barbour Simpson who continued the practice for many years, his law clerk, Thomas M. Harvey, eventually becoming his partner. The practice is now controlled by J. Mervyn McConnell, a grand nephew of the founder.

Also upstairs in Castle Chambers was an office shared by the Lisburn Grocers' Association and the Starr Bowkett Building Society. The latter was a rather curious organisation. The First Lisburn 1,002nd Starr Bowkett Building Society, to give it its proper title, was founded on a system drawn up in 1843 by a London doctor, T. E. Bowkett. Briefly, the system operated like this. A number of people would join the Society and would pay a small amount each week into its funds. In about one year's time a draw would be held and the lucky winner would be loaned sufficient money to enable him to purchase a house. He would continue to pay the weekly subscription and would also commence to pay off the loan on which no interest was charged. This meant that further draws could be held at ever decreasing intervals. As soon as every member had had his draw and had paid off his loan the society would be wound up and its surplus distributed to the members.

Partnering T. E. Bowkett in the operation of the parent organisation was Richard Benjamin Starr but after a disagreement around 1870 R. B. Starr continued on his own. He modified the scheme to some extent and charged each new society for the use of his rules. He died in 1892. A number of well-known Lisburn people were members of the Lisburn Society. T. M. Harvey, S. F. McConnell's law clerk at that time, was secretary. Presumably this is why the office was in Castle Chambers. James Waring was a director as was Thomas J. English, the Clerk of Petty Sessions. Also amongst the members was James A. Hanna. His draw turned up in 1895 and, although he already owned Castleview, an interest-free loan was not to be sneezed at so, with the security of a mortgage on Castleview, the society lent him £300, repayable by equal quarterly instalments over twelve and a half years. The mortgage was finally discharged on 4th December, 1916 but there appears to be some mystery about this.

Although Tom Harvey was secretary of the society in 1895 and in 1916, in between there was another secretary who disappeared in dubious circumstances. He had informed J. A. Hanna that his debt to the society was discharged but apparently this was incorrect. Anyway in 1916 J. G. Hanna wrote to Tom Harvey offering £15 in settlement of all outstanding claims and this seems to have been accepted, hence the discharge of the mortgage.

The society continued to occupy the office in Castle Chambers until February 1950 and still exists in a state of semi-liquidation, a sort of limbo between the living and the dead.

The first house in Railway Street, No. 4, was divided into two shops until after the 1939/45 war. Mrs. Jean Simpson had a children's wear shop there for many years and this is still continued. No. 6 was let by Sir James Musgrave in 1898 to Margaret Armstrong as a private hotel and confectionary shop. She was succeeded by her daughter, Evelyn Armstrong. In her later years the business declined until, in 1955. she finally gave up the shop and retired upstairs where she eked out the rest of her days. By that time to enter the shop seemed like a journey in time back to the age of Queen Victoria. It was a lonely life for Evelyn Armstrong, living in a big rambling house with only an occasional visitor. It ended in February 1962 when she was found one morning dead in her bed.

After that the shop was re-built incorporating the gate-way entrance. No. 8 was a cycle shop before the first world war and Joseph Fletcher was tenant in 1914. He and his family continued to run the business for over fifty years. In No. 10 Dr. J. G. Johnston commenced his long and distinguished medical career in Lisburn in March 1914. H. B. Williamson took over the tenancy in 1920. He was a merchant tailor. No. 12 was tenanted in 1898 by Melville & Co., funeral undertakers and they were succeeded by William Jellie, described as a "Posting Master and Funeral Undertaker". Around 1930 it became a drapery shop.

Originally the goods entrance for Castle Buildings was from Railway Street but, in 1899, on the acquisition of No. 4 Railway Street a right-of-way to the rear of the premises was also acquired. This was down Baker's Entry from Castle Street and was shared with a number of other users. For this reason it was to be a source of irritation for a great many years.

On 12th November, 1901 in a storm a large building known as 'Noah's Ark' and situated behind Castle Buildings collapsed, filling Boyd's yard with rubble and causing extensive damage to the stable, hay-loft and oil-store as well as to the roofs of 5 and 7 Castle Street. This building, fronting on to Baker's Entry and behind No. 9 Castle Street, had had a long and interesting history. At the time of the collapse it was being used as a Salvation Army Hall but originally it was a four storey cotton mill built in 1790 by James Wallace, a Yorkshireman. The cotton industry in Ulster dated from 1784 and depended on water to power the mills but Wallace's mill was unique. There was no water power available, of course, being on top of a hill so he brought a 15 h.p. Watts steam engine from Glasgow, and Wallace's became the first mill in Ireland to be powered by steam. The cotton industry expanded rapidly bringing work and good wages but this was short-lived and soon the industry was to decline bringing unemployment and much distress to the people of Lisburn. Wallace's mill, one of the first to close, around 1810, was used as a depot for the distribution of relief to the needy by the Philanthropic Society. In 1892 the same society converted the mill for use as a poor-house. Although the workhouse on the Dublin Road was built in 1840 Wallace's mill continued as common lodging house. In 1837 it housed 47 people. In 1858 Mary Leneghan was the door-keeper. At that time there were forty to fifty rooms in the building let to all sorts of people. Drunken brawls and domestic squabbles were commonplace and earned for the building its nickname of 'The Noah's Ark'. The nickname proved more permanent than the building as the name was inherited by the new corrugated iron building that took its place. At the time of its collapse the 'Noah's Ark' was owned by Lady Seeds Kaye who lived in Dublin. She was the widow of Robert Seeds, Q.C., of Dublin and he was the son of Hugh Seeds who owned much property in Lisburn and lived in Railway Street, probably No. 14. The agents for the estate were Alex. Crawford and Son of Belfast and, following the collapse of the building, much correspondence passed between them and Boyd's particularly regarding the delay in re-instatement.

To Alex. Crawford & Son,
                                                                     5th September, 1902

Dear Sirs,
In reply to yours of 3rd inst. we remark it is in contemplation to get Home Rule for the inhabitants of lreland but we may have to wait a while and in the meantime many things may happen: because you remove a boundary fence we have to erect a hoarding. With very great respect the risk is yours and we shall very reluctantly hold your client responsible.

Yours truly,
Alexander Boyd & Co., Ltd.
James A. Hanna, Director
        5th September, 1902.

Dear Sirs,
Without touching upon the vexed question of Home Rule as raised by your letter of this date. We are removing a wall, our properly, from our ground which we thick we have a perfect right to do, whether we replace it or not but which we informed you was our intention

  Yours truly,
Alex Crawford & Son.

They were as good as their word and in due course the new Salvation Army Hall was completed although not without causing James A. Hanna some concern for its encroachment on to the right of way down Baker's Entry.

This right of way continued to be a source of contention for many years and it is interesting to note the readiness with which solicitor's letters were despatched on the most trivial matters. Rights of way are of course notorious in this respect. In due course No. 9 Castle Street and the Noah's Ark were acquired by the Stevenson brothers for their motor engineering business. As their business expanded they needed more space and moved to Seymour Street. This was the opportunity for Boyd's to acquire the property but the price was hard to agree. However when it was let to W. Lilley for use as a fish and chip shop the resulting smell and general nuisance spurred J. G. Hanna, the then managing director, into action and in February, 1987, the premises became the property of Boyd's.

On the other side of Baker's Entry was No. 11 Castle Street which was also owned by the Seeds family. This was bought by Thomas McAllister a merchant tailor in 1914. Thomas McAllister also kept hens, four head of fowl, which strayed on to Baker's Entry much to the annoyance of James A. Hanna. As he remarked in a letter, "If all 16 people who used the right of way put four fowl each at large there would be no comfort for any of us".

The trouble was no one agreed as to who actually owned Baker's Entry itself. This resolved itself in February, 1951 when Boyd's bought No. l l Castle Street from the then owner James Tolerton, and Baker's Entry belonged to Boyd's. In December, 1968 No. 11 was sold to Jack Booth but Baker's Entry was excluded from the sale and remains the property of Boyd's with rights of way over it enjoyed by the occupants of Nos. 11 and 18 Castle Street.

According to W. F. McAllister, one of the four children of Thomas McAllister, the merchant tailor, No. 11 Castle Street had a much more illustrious place in history. This was that, before the Crucifixion, the Scrolls of the Temple of Jerusalem together with "Jacob's Pillow" or the "Stone of Destiny" were brought by way of the coast of North Africa, Portugal and Strangford Lough to Lisburn which was known to the early Greek historians as the Hill of Tara. Here, based on this stone a church was built and, added W. F. McAllister, to introduce a note of authenticity, "the O'Neills worshipped here". The stones from this church were eventually used in the building of the Church of St. Thomas now the Lisburn Cathedral. Plot so the "Stone of Destiny" for W. F. McAllister and his father discovered it in the wall at the gateway entrance to No. 13 Castle Street. Cut on its face was the word "IF' and although the stone itself has been lost a photograph of it exists and at least one person believes that if this gateway entrance is ever excavated there will be found the original scroll of the Ten Commandments. Possibly with them, and to show the connection with Boyd's, will be found a label with the directions:

Take two with a pinch
of salt.

Son succeeds Father

To return to the main theme of this story and to the early 1900's it was natural that James A. Hanna, now in his fifties, should be looking to his own family for a successor. However, Hector, the elder son was destined for other things. Educated in Lisburn Intermediate School and R.B.A.I. he won a scholarship to Oxford University where he had a distinguished academic career. After that he became assistant to the professor of classics at Queen's University, Belfast and eventually Head of the Classics Department in his old school, Inst. Although not actively involved in the affairs of Boyd's he took a close, personal interest in the activities of the Company and, over the next fifty years, missed the general meetings of the company on only rare occasions.

James Gorman Hanna, born in 1889, was the obvious successor. On the personal recommendation of Thomas McMullan, chairman of T. McMullan & Co., Ltd., the Belfast chemists' wholesalers, he was apprenticed in 1906 to Samuel C. Nicholl, a chemist in Donegall Place, Belfast and started on the hard road towards becoming a Pharmaceutical Chemist. To begin with he did very well, winning the Pharmaceutical Society's silver medal for second place in Ireland in his first year, but then difficulties arose. Samuel C. Nicholl decided to retire from business much to the annoyance of J. A. Hanna, who blamed Thomas McMullan bitterly for his lack of accurate information. Eventually arrangements were made for Jim to complete his apprenticeship in Dublin but this unfortunate occurrence coupled with the necessity to adjust to a new life in Dublin interrupted the rhythm of his studies with the inevitable consequence of missed examinations.

James A. Hanna was not a patient man and, in 1913, felt he could wait no longer for assistance so he wrote to Jim in Dublin telling him to come home. Home he came, reluctantly, and was appointed assistant secretary and elected a director of the company with effect from 1st August, 1913 at a salary of £120 per annum. It was a pity from Jim's personal point of view that the extra time could not have been found to enable him to complete his studies. He felt the lack of a professional qualification keenly but, on the other hand, as far as Boyd's was concerned, this may have been a good thing as otherwise it is unlikely that the business would have expanded in the directions that it did.

Jim Hanna was a capable, energetic young man and immediately began to play an active part in running the business. At this time, 1913, J. A. Hanna was in overall command but was still closely involved in the affairs of the town. George A. Scott was Manager of the Medical Hall and had been since 1906, commencing salary, £120 per annum. He was a son of Alfred C. Scott, already mentioned, and a half-cousin of J. G. Hanna. James J. Moffatt had been an assistant in the Grocery Department since 14th December, 1911 and was up-graded to Manager in 1913, salary £70 per annum. Miss `Chatty' Wilson looked after the books, salary, in 1912, f48 per annum. Also in the Grocery Department were John Carlisle and Miss Lavery and in the Medical Hall, W. E. Stevenson. There were several apprentices - Robert Coulter, George Coates, David Stevenson, Mamie Innes and Victor Younger.

The First World War, 1914-1918, had surprisingly little impact on Boyd's, judging by the records available. Two members of the staff left to join the army, Joe Curran and Victor Younger, and there was an increase in the number of women employed. Some mention of sugar rationing has survived and there was a shortage of margarine. With regard to sugar, it was suggested to Miss Melville, Matron of the County Antrim Infirmary in July, 1917, to write to the Royal Commission on Sugar for additional supplies because of the increased number of patients, including ten wounded soldiers.

Also in 1917 a vigorous effort was made to satisfy the demand for margarine occasioned by an acute shortage of foreign margarine by bringing supplies from W. and C. McDonnell's of Waterford. This met with considerable but alas temporary, success. For a short time Boyd's experienced a huge demand and had to introduce a special rationing scheme but, as soon as supplies from the usual sources were resumed the demand disappeared much more rapidly than the stocks of margarine. This was a lesson in stock control that J. G. Hanna was never to forget.

Like his father, he had a forthright way of expressing himself as the following extract from a letter to Joseph Travers & Sons, Ltd., of London shows:

"We are informed by the Railway Company that your statements regarding the cause of delay in delivering three bags of coffee' are all bunkum the vessels being running all the time and that the bags are in all probability still lying in London with the labels torn off-the latter theory is more probable than your cock and bull story-we hope not deliberately made in order to deceive-in the meantime we have no coffee'.

Progress was being made in other directions. In 1916 a typewriter first made its appearance presumably Miss Wilson was the operator. A telephone was in service as early as August 1899 and was regarded as something of a mixed blessing:

"The District Manager,
National Telephone Co'
August 29, 1899.

  Dear Sir,

  In reply to yours of 28th inst. we beg to state that we claim repayment of the enclosed account in a reasonable time, say, seven days, in the meantime the instrument is here at your risk, we paid for and you engaged to supply a modern convenience and it a known to you and your officials that you supply us with a nuisance. It is no pleasure to us to take up this position but we have had quite enough inconvenience and impudence, so that we shall carry the matter to an issue.

A. Boyd & Co., Ltd."

A motor car first appeared on the scene in 1918 in which year also a horse was purchased for £47 and one sold for £24. The horse and van was finally superceded by motor transport in 1920.

James Moffatt's position as Grocery Manager was confirmed in May, 1916 with a three year contract. The contract contains the somewhat equivocal statement that, at the end of the period "the said James Moffatt shall be given an interest in the business the nature of which shall be mutually determined". In the event, at the end of the three year's term, his appointment was confirmed and his salary was increased from £100 to £156 per annum with an annual bonus of 2 1/2% of increased sales.

Special mention must be made of two new appointments at this time. Kathleen Maze was employed from Ist January, 1918, wages six shillings per week, and Thomas McClatchey was appointed an assistant in the Grocery Department from 12th October, 1919, salary £104 per annum. They were both to become pillars of the establishment and to remain in the service of the company for over fifty years.

J. G. Hanna was now firmly in control of the business. By the end of the war his father had ceased to take much to do with the day to day running of either department but was still a prominent and greatly respected figure in the town of Lisburn. He continued to be much involved in Urban Council affairs and the County Antrim Infirmary and he was appointed chairman of a special committee set up to arrange for the erection of a war memorial in Lisburn. In this connection there is an interesting illustration of the operation of the 'Establishment' in a provincial town. James A. Hanna was succeeded in the chair of this committee by Dr. George St. George. Dr. St. George was surgeon in the Infirmary, James A. Hanna was on the committee for many years. The doctor was a member of the Urban Council for over twenty years and many times its chairman, James A. Hanna was a member almost as long. In 1920 Dr. St. George witnessed J. A. Hanna's will and it goes almost without saying that Mrs. St. George was a regular customer at Boyd's.

James A. Hanna was also closely involved in the affairs of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. He was Treasurer of the Synod of the church for many years and Treasurer, too of the church at Bailiesmills.

Everything seemed set fair in Boyd's but, in March 1920, tragedy was to strike the Hanna family.

"March 16, 1920

I leave and bequeath all I die possessed of in equal shares to my dear wife, Hector, Jim and Marie I. Hamilton and die in the hope of Everlasting life through the Love and Mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen .

  James A. Hanna
Castleview, Lisburn

Note I have taken Arsenic in error for Bismurated Magnesia. J. A. H."

This was James A. Hanna's first, hurried will. He had got up from bed the night before and had mistaken the bottles in the dark. He did not however die immediately but made a partial recovery and indeed returned to Castle Buildings but the recovery was only temporary. He entered "The Olives" Nursing Home in University Street, Belfast in May and died there on 13th June, 1920. A sad and sudden end to a long, useful and distinguished life. He was buried in Bailiesmills, the funeral service being conducted by the Rev. Professor Cromie and the Rev. R. W. Hamilton, his daughter's father-in-law.

J. G. Hanna in Control

James G. Hanna, Chairman 1920-1970 J. G. Hanna was only thirty years old when his father died and, although he faced the prospect before him with some trepidation, he guided Boyd's from the outset with a firm and steady hand. He had plenty to do as the early twenties were particularly unsettled. First Hector was appointed a director and Jim chairman. Then in October 1920, he arranged for James J. Moffatt and George A. Scott to join the board of directors. This was an indication of the pleasant relationship, albeit paternalistic, that he was to establish with the staff of Boyd's. He had the happy knack of getting on well with his employees and they mostly had a great respect and an affectionate regard for him. James Abbott, for example, a newly returned ex-serviceman and out of a job, was first employed to open and close the corner doors on a very windy day in 1919 and eventually retired almost forty years later, on 31st March, 1958.

J. G. Hanna was obviously concerned with the level of profitability which was low and set about improving this situation with customary zeal. A coal business was established in September 1921 and met with immediate success as far as sales were concerned. James Abbott found his niche there. When he got married he moved into the upper floor flat in Castle Buildings and brought up his two sons there, leaving eventually in 1958 to reside in one of the ex-servicemen's houses in Wallace Avenue.

Next the Pharmacy was modernised. This was not to the liking of George Scott who was inclined to regard his young cousin with, at best, an amused tolerance. J. G. Hanna, however, was not particularly amused and soon decided that more willing co-operation was needed if not from George Scott then from someone else. In the end George Scott had to go and was replaced on 15th May, 1922 by William R. Corrie. W. R. Corrie hailed from Ballybay and he was to manage the Pharmacy very efficiently for the next thirty-eight years. After his retirement he remained a director until his death in June, 1962 and continued to take a close interest in the business he had managed with as much skill and devotion as he would have applied to a business of his own. George Scott died in Omagh in 1936.

This characteristic of long service and close personal involvement was to be an important feature of Boyd's. Over the next half century no less than twenty members of the staff stayed with the firm for over twenty years. This does not mean that there was not a continual coming and going of employees. There was, of course, particularly of juniors, but it does demonstrate the generally happy relationship that existed between company and staff and there is no doubt that on this was built the success of the company.

Elsewhere in Lisburn relations were not quite so harmonious. In 1919 there was a great deal of discontent amongst the shop-workers in Lisburn. Hours were long and irregular, pay was poor and consequently efforts were being made to organise the workers in a union. This was resisted by the shop owners and on 23rd June, 1919 a strike was declared. Boyd's staff was not involved but J. G. Hanna was one of the negotiators on behalf of the local Chamber of Trade. On the other side negotiations were conducted by none other than the redoubtable Ellen Wilkinson, M.A., later to become a great champion of the poor, the oppressed and the unemployed and a prominent figure in the British Labour Party. The strike ended on 7th July with a considerable improvement in shop hours and with the employers accepting the right of their employees to join a union. This was a somewhat hollow victory as nothing appeared to come from it and workers in small shops are still as poorly represented as ever.

One of the terms in the agreement that ended the strike was that "All matters in dispute between Lisburn Employees and Employers shall be dealt with by a Committee of the Lisburn Employees Association in Conference with the Lisburn Employers Association, without any outside interference". Could it be that Ellen Wilkinson's efforts were not entirely appreciated by those involved?

Kathleen Maze still remembers vividly what conditions were like in those early post-war years. A young girl straight from school, she started in the Pharmacy on 31st December, 1917 and her wages were six shillings per week. From the Pharmacy she moved to packing orders in the Grocery and from there to the office where she took the coal orders when that business started. She started every morning at 8.30 a.m. and worked to 6.30 p.m. except on Saturday when the closing hour was 9.00 p.m. and often later. She got one week's holiday or almost one week-from lunchtime on Tuesday to 8.30 a.m. on the following Tuesday so as to be back for the Tuesday morning market. There was a general holiday on the third Wednesday in June when all the shops were closed. She remembers James A. Hanna. He was a smallish man with a goatee beard and a soft hat which he wore all the time. George Scott, the Pharmacy manager, had a big walrus moustache. A bachelor he shared the bedroom in Castle Buildings with Willie Stevenson and they had their meals in the Kearneys' house in Bachelors Walk. When he left he started a business for himself on the Antrim Road in Belfast. During the shop strike in 1919 she was always escorted home by James Moffatt, the grocery manager. Feelings were very high at the time. She remembers well the romances in Boyd's. Two of the first three girls got married. They were the Misses Lavery. One of them married James Moffatt and the other one Sam Waring the manager of the Island Mill. Sally Armstrong who came to Boyd's in 1925 married Billy Morrow, a chemist in the Pharmacy and Amy Allen married the Grocery van driver, Bob McKnight , in 1942. On such occasions they would sometimes clear the top store and have a party but when Miss Chatty Wilson retired from the office they had a party in the Wilsons house in Castle Street. Kitty Wilson, a sister who ruled the house and its occupants, was very particular. The boys were all kept downstairs while the girls had their part of the party upstairs.

She remembers the punch-ball hanging in the top store, the boys used to go up there to play skittles at lunchtime. Then there was the time that a run-away horse crashed with its cart through a grocery window in Castle Street, scattering flake meal all over the place. Possibly the horse was attempting to re-enact a much earlier incident. This concerned a lady who generally did her shopping on horse-back and waited outside Boyd's until an assistant came out to take her order. On the occasion in question no one came out so she rode through the corner doors and up to the counter.

Kathleen Maze spent most of her time in Boyd's in charge of the confectionery, tobacco and snuff department and was regarded with particular affection by generations of children. As one child said to the managing director, "I know you! You work in Miss Maze's shop".

It is now necessary to turn back the clock and pick up the threads of this story in the early 1920's; to be more precise, to mid-day, Sunday, 22nd August, 1920. For J. G. Hanna’s next involvement in the affairs of Lisburn arose from what has been euphemistically termed "The Burnings". At that time on that day District Inspector Swanzy of the R.I.C. was walking up Market Square with two acquaintances. He had reached the corner of the Northern Bank just as the congregation of the Cathedral were coming out from morning service. Two respectably dressed young men, standing at Boyd's corner, crossed over and fired a number of shots at point-blank range into the Inspector who fell mortally wounded. The assailants ran up Castle Street firing their revolvers and escaped in a waiting taxi. W. J. Connolly the tenant of 3 Castle Street, heard the shooting and looking out from an upstairs window, had a full view of them. They saw him, too, and fired at him, missed but hit and broke one of the brass balls of the Castle Loan Office sign next door. Dr. St. George had noted the number of the taxi and in due course the taxi was traced. This led to the arrest of two men, James and J. V. Montgomery who were charged and convicted of the murder. W. J. Connolly was a material witness and consequently his life was in danger. So, for six months, he lived in Scotland Yard and had a police escort wherever he went. His family were brought over to London to visit him from time to time.

The murder of District Inspector Swanzy had terrible repercussions. That day and the following two days saw unruly mobs seek vengeance by burning and looting the houses and business premises of Roman Catholics in Lisburn. The police were powerless to stop them as they were in small numbers at the time. The chairman of the Urban District Council took it upon himself to swear in a force of special constables to patrol the town. J. G. Hanna was one of these but the trouble died down more or less of its own volition.

In no way was this an episode that Lisburn could look back upon with any pride and it was not long before the cost of the affair in monetary terms, was bourne home to the ratepayers, when the claims for compensation came before the Courts. £806,538-8-9 was claimed and although the amounts awarded totalled substantially less, £233,952-15-9, including £6,000 to the representatives of Mr. Swanzy, what concerned the ratepayers most was the area of charge laid down by judge Matheson in February, 1921 as the urban and rural districts of Lisburn.

The ratepayers were horrified; a public meeting was called and a Lisburn Ratepayers Association was set up. As secretary, J. G. Hanna was the mainspring of this and the association spurred the Urban Council, which was prepared to accept the Court's decision, into action. As the result of an appeal the area was extended to include Belfast Rural District and in due course judge Samuel extended the area even further. J. G. Hanna led a deputation to the Urban Council in March 1921 urging the utmost economy in order to minimise the great burden placed on the ratepayers. At a public meeting on 4th October, 1921 he was congratulated on his tireless efforts on behalf of the ratepayers and in due course the Government accepted responsibility for the settlement of the claims.

All this may have whetted J. G. Hanna's appetite for public affairs for he became a member of the Urban Council in 1923. However one spell on that august body was enough and he resigned in 1926. One of the reasons for resigning was the decision of the council to hold its meetings in the evening instead of the afternoon which did not meet with his approval. He was missed on the council. On 9th January, 1926, T. M. Wilson, the town-clerk, wrote to him:

“... We have only one regret and it is a very real one and that is that you are no longer a member of the Council, and this regret I think is very general throughout the town. May I say that your term of office was outstanding in usefulness and good work . . . .”

However his public involvement did not end with the Council. Over the years his contribution to the well-being of Lisburn was immense. Like his father, he was a member of the committee of the County Antrim Infirmary but also he was chairman of the Lisburn and Belfast Regional Education Committee, a Governor of Wallace High School, a Trustee of the Thompson Memorial Home. In 1936 he declined an invitation from Lord Massereene to become a justice of the Peace on the grounds that he had "no ambition to be other than an ordinary citizen". After the 1939/45 War his extra-mural activities centred on Wallace High School and the Thompson Memorial Home. In both he wielded a powerful if conservative influence. In Wallace High School Hamilton House was named after his brother in-law and Hanna House after him.

Within Boyd's itself J. G. Hanna had plenty to do. Although he had competent managers in the Grocery department and the Medical Hall he managed the coal business himself. Sales were well maintained in all departments during the interwar period but profits were hard to come by. The Medical Hall produced consistent profits year after year as did the coal business on a smaller scale but the Grocery department in spite of the fact that it accounted for the greater part of the turn-over was not really profitable and indeed in several years in the 1920', actually made a loss. However year after year a large part of the overall profit produced was ploughed back into the business. As a result the goodwill was eliminated from the balance sheet and in due course the shares which were £10, £7 paid, were fully paid up thus removing the liability for a call on the shares.

By the 1920's the wine business which had been a prominent feature in the early days of the company had been reduced to the sale of tonic wines. It was still a substantial business as a good many people seemed in need of their tonic properties at fairly regular intervals or possibly it was a way to avoid the opprobrium attached to frequent visits to public houses. However all this was to stop in 1924 with a change in the Licensing Laws and Boyd's received compensation of £405.14.0 for the loss of business.

Some Advertisements of the 1920's

Lighting of the premises was still partly by gas and partly by electricity generated with the gas engine but changes were on the way. In 1928 100 shares in the Lisburn Electricity Supply Co., Ltd., were bought for £100 and in December of that year electric lighting commenced, at first with 200 watt bulbs but after-the first account for electricity these were changed to 100 watt lamps. It was quite expensive. In 1929 2470 units of electricity were consumed at a cost of £93.2.6, about 9d. per unit. It is interesting to compare that with the 1972 figures when the cost was £330.07 for 45,584 units. However in spite of the cost electricity had come to stay. The gas engine was sold in 1932 and in 1934 electric heating was installed in two offices and a refrigerator was bought. Incidentally gas radiators were in use for heating both shops until the 1960's.