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Newspaper Miscellanea

compiled by T. Neill

In the last issue of this journal there were examples from newspapers of past happenings domestic and petty and this is a further selection of such extracts. This selection shows that, whilst some things have totally disappeared from the everyday scene, the draper's advertisement, for example, illustrated that the emphasis today is somewhat different even to the extent that we would not have the variety of cloths to choose from in a Lisburn shop or indeed a Belfast shop, bearing in mind that communication in the 18th century was so much slower, the extent and variety of textiles on offer must reflect the development and importance of Lisburn, although the town at that time had only a population of approximately 4,800.

Belfast Newsletter 14th - 18th April, 1775:

William Rea who has lately opened shop in the north side of the street opposite to the Market House in Lisburn takes this method of informing the public, that he has laid in the following sortment of goods, viz.

Broad cloths, raters, worsted cloth, sattin denim, cottons, crapes, camblets and stuffs, sattins, modes, persian, peelings and cardinal silks, silk, cotton and linen handkerchiefs, apron and furniture checkers, bed ticks, blankets, flannel pladdings, fringes and druggets, ribbanes, gloves, stockings and hats: - these of Irish manufacture.

He has also laid in the following English goods, superfine broad cloths, foreft cloths, bath rugs, hunters cloths and coatings, twilled kerseys and kerseymeres, cordeliers, fustlane and velvarets, ruffles, callmacoes and English stuffs and sundry other articles in the shop way.

He hopes that his candour in his dealings, the smallness of the profit which he means to charge and the excellent quality of his goods will be sufficient recommendation of him to the publick.

Lisburn 10th of April, 1775

In the same issue of the Belfast Newsletter appears the following advertisement:


To be sold by A.G. Stewart of Ballydrain, a pair of very large well trained Draught bullocks which he will warrant good and kindly in plow, harrow and car, which makes them extremely useful to every farmer as they can at any time be fattened and then made more profitable.

The Ballydrain in this advertisement is the property that is now occupied by Malone Golf Club, but what is interesting is this mention of bullocks as draught animals which were unusual in Ireland. In this context it is worth mentioning at the Plantation, Lisburn, where John Barbour established his threadworks in 1784, there was an ox-driven spinning or twisting mill, called the 'bull ring', part of which survived to recent times.

The following in the Belfast Newsletter of June 3 - 6, 1788 refers to Dromore, Co. Down and the advertisement is suggestive that John Carroll had an eye to business for if the medicine failed or he was called upon too late, then his interest in the business of undertaker could be resorted to:

Wanted now, or at November next, an Apprentice to the Apothecary Business, by John Carroll, Surgeon, Dromore.

May 31st, 1788

N. B. He has for hire a neat hearse with or without horses.

The name Sir Richard Wallace needs no introduction to the people of Lisburn and the gift of the park and named after him as the Wallace Park is one of his best known and continuing gifts. The Belfast Newsletter of Wednesday, December 7th, 1881 carried the following brief notes of the generous gift:

"Gift of a people's Park to Lisburn by Sir Richard Wallace, M. P. The people of Lisburn are about to receive an additional proof of he generosity of Sir Richard Wallace, Bart., M.P. To their popular landlord the tenants in the town and district already owe much, but this most recent proof of his interest in the welfare of the town will be one of the most acceptable and popular acts and highly beneficial to the town. Sir Richard has offered 20 acres of land for a people's park, and in addition to fencing and planting it he has signified his intention of building a caretaker's lodge, refreshment roams, etc., on the grounds. The park will be vested in the Town Commissioners for the use of the people of Lisburn. Such an act at a time when the relations between landlord and tenant are strained in many parts of Ireland is especially gratifying, and is a further proof of the desire of .Sir Richard Wallace to discharge the duties of his position. It is worthy of his reputation."

Now a complete change from the 18th Century to the 20th Century and from the local scene to the national scene; this article in the Irish Times of the 13th May, 1978 shows that the past and the present are related, when Conor 0'Clery reporting on the Week in Westminster, titled his article IN A GREEN CARPETED ROOM, 12 MEN REVISE IRISH HISTORY - this gives a succinct glimpse of a part of Parliament that most people don't know and it is possible in these committee rooms that the greater part of parliamentary work is carried on.

QUESTION: When was the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland passed?
ANSWER: 1800 (as every Irish schoolchild knows)
QUESTION: When was it last amended?
ANSWER: Last Tuesday:

While attention was focused during the week on Unionist MPs and whether or not they would help the Tories reduce today's income tax rates, momentous decisions regarding old Irish legislation were being quietly taken in a green-carpeted committee room in the House of Commons.

On Tuesday fewer than a dozen MPs gathered in committee room 10 to consider a piece of legislation entitled the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Bill. This effected a modernisation of the courts and their administration in Northern Ireland.


The Act had already been given its second reading in the Commons and had passed through the Lards. On Tuesday, MPs met to vote on the Lords amendments before sending the Bill to its final report stage.

One of the MPs attending committee room 10 was Kevin McNamara, the member for Kingston-upon-Hull. After the session was completed and the' Bill and its schedules had been voted through (each division being decided by about 10 to 2 votes) his eyes fell on Schedule 7 of the Bill. In amazement he rose to his feet and said: "DO you realise that in two and a half hours we have just repealed centuries of Irish legislation?"

Schedule 7 of the Act, headed "Repeals Acts of the Parliaments of England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom," in fact repealed 90 Acts of Parliament relating to Ireland, dating from 1330 to 1920, and 12 Acts relating to Northern Ireland, and amended 100 other Acts of Parliament, almost all of which had been made applicable to Ireland in the 18th/19th or early 20th century.

To Mr. McNamaras amazement one of the first Acts to be amended was the "Union with Ireland Act, 1800," an historic piece of legislation believed by many to have been long since consigned to school text books. 

There on page120 of the Judicature Bill was the ruling that reference to the Court of Chancery in Ireland should be deleted from the 1800 Act of Union.


And the Judicature Act also stipulated that "Chapter 2 as it applied to Northern Ireland' should be repealed from the statute made at Westminster in 1330, the fourth year of the reign of King Edward the Third after the conquest.

Mr. McNamara alerted his colleague Jock Stollard, another Labour MP interested in Irish affairs. He and Gerry Fitt, the SDLP member for West Belfast, pored over the seventh schedule. They discovered that the MPs in committee room 10 had also casually disposed of such Acts as the Judges' Lodgings Act 1801, the Assizes (Ireland) Act 1825, the Taxing Masters (Ireland) Act, 1848, and the Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1901.

Moreover they had amended the Habeas Corpus Act 1804, deleting the words "or any justice of oyer" to "baron as aforesaid", and changed the Slave Trade Act of 1843, regarding evidence from far-off countries and colonies where the nefarious practice of slave trading might be continuing.

They had also repealed parts of the Forcible Entry Act, 1634, the Quo Warranto Act, 1798, and the Legitimacy Declaration Act (Ireland) 1868.

The explanation for these historic appeals and amendments was, however, provided by one of the officials responsible for drafting the new legislation. It was all a housekeeping and tidying up exercise, he said, concerning old 19th and 20th century statute law relating to the High Court.


The King Edward the Third Act, 1330, he said, provided for example that the King's Justice go out on horseback three times a year to affect "general gaol delivery," that is to try all people imprisoned on serious charges, who did not have access to the justice courts in London. The Crown Court in Belfast now sat in almost continuous session at the behest of the Lord Chancellor and Kind Edward's Law would no longer be necessary. The other amendments modernized the whole range of statute law governing NI courts.

As far as the real world was concerned, the Week at Westminster was like the good old days of the Shipbuilding Nationalization Act in 1976 when Northern Ireland MPs decided major Government legislation. As the 11 MPs flew in from Aldergrove on Monday (Unionist Jim Kilfedder could not attend because of illness) they became the focus of attention. Would they or would they not decide the outcome of Chancellor Denis Healey's Budget proposals?

Frank Maguire, making one of his rare visits to Westminster, did not stay long. The Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP booked into the Hansel and Gretel Hotel in Belgrave Road and voted with the Government on Monday night against a reduction in the income-tax rate, but checked out and went home before the second crucial vote on Wednesday. After talking to the NI Secretary State, Roy Mason, Frank realized that no concessions to the prisoners in H Block at Long Kesh would be granted for his continuing support.

Gerry Fitt, with crutches and a leg still in plaster from a recent fall, arrived on Monday complaining bitterly about a letter from a Labour Party official criticizing him in the Belfast Irish News. He had the satisfaction of seeing the guilty official carpeted by the Labour Chief Whip, Michael Cocks, terrified (perhaps unduly) that Gerry would withhold his vote.

But most attention centred on the seven Unionists. Last week they had said they were uncertain whether or not they would join the Tories, Liberals and Nationalists to deliver a humiliating defeat on the Government. On Monday, Enoch Powell, their Treasury spokesman, told the Commons they would vote against the Labour Budget because there had been no movement on giving Northern Ireland a regional local government council.


The decision was seen as a humiliation for Powell, champion of the theory that every vote in the Commons should be on the merits of the arguments alone. The South Down MP was said to have revised his purely fiscal speech on Monday when he saw he was out-numbered among the seven. As it happened, Roy Mason turned down flat the Unionist proposal on local government on Thursday.

The effect of the Tory amendments, which the Unionists helped pass, will be that the under £10,000-a-year worker in the UK will get an extra £1.60 a week. But a wealthy £25,000 -a-year man will rake in an extra £1,500 a year.

Jim Molyneaux, explaining their decision at his weekly press conference in the House of Commons on Wednesday (when Unionist votes become decisive, English journalists crowd into Jim's room to hang upon every word uttered by the quiet-spoken South Antrim MP) said that they had no option but to oppose the Government, because of slow progress by the Northern Ireland Office on local government.

One of the pressures on the Unionists to back the Tories had come from the CBI who, much to his annoyance, exhorted Jim Molyneaux "to be in the Commons on Monday" for the vote. "I told them I was here every Monday," said Jim coldly. Then the CHI had complained that it would be an "absolute disaster" if the lost revenue was raised from employers' national insurance contributions. "My answer to them on that was to say the least uncharitable," said the Unionist leader with some exasperation.

Later that year the late Donal Foley in his Saturday column, Irish Times, 8th December, 1978 had this brief piece about elections:

"Some journalist historians (and romantics) are pointing to the fact that the European elections on June 7th will be the first all-Ireland election since December 14th, 1918. True, of course, but these will also be the first international general elections involving nine countries and 181 million voters. Not just ourselves and Britain this time.

1918 was the election that saw the final destruction of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Of 105 candidates returned 73 were Republicans; 26 Unionists and 6 Irish Parliamentary seats. T. O. O'Connor, the former journalist, was returned for Scotland Road division of Liverpool for the Irish Party. The Belfast Nationalist leader "wee" Joe Devlin defeated de Valera in West Belfast and de Valera, who stood for a few seats, defeated John Dillon, the Nationalist leader, in Mayo.

In Britain the election saw Lloyd George's Coalition back in power (majority 249 seats) and the fall of Asquith, who was himself badly beaten at the polls. All but 33 of his followers lost their seats also. He remained a constant critic of Lloyd George's Irish policy when he got back to the House.

These Euro Elections will produce nothing like the same excitement with a mere 18 seats for Ireland out of 198. Nor are the times half as exciting; in terms of political personalities either there is no comparison to be made. In Britain those were the days of Lloyd George, Churchill, Bonar Law, Birkenhead, Ramsay MacDonald among many others. Here were de Valera, Collins, Griffith leading a very able and enthusiastic bunch of fighting parliamentarians.

In Britain today we have a tottering Labour Government clinging to office in cheap, desperate fashion. Here in Dublin, the largest political party ever in Government hardly knows what to do with its power. Live horse and you will get grass."

Like many things the newspapers can have their periods of uneventful comment like the events that they report, but there are those which are bright and sparkle and this selection are some that intrigued this compiler.