Every now and again there is someone who makes a lasting impression on us. Sometimes we may be attracted to their qualities of kindness, hospitality, humour, humility or wit. One gentleman who certainly had all five, besides more, was Beanstown Road resident Harry Mulholland. Harry passed away last September in his 95th year. You didn’t go to speak to Harry, you went to listen. It was fascinating to listen to him recalling childhood memories from the 1920 era and stories about his 41 year career with the railway. He recounted vivid tales of local characters, no longer with us.
In May of this year an article appeared in the Ulster Star centering on Davy Jones, Lisburn’s own “Tom Thumb” who measured just a mere two feet in height. I appealed for readers with photographs of Davy that they would be willing to share with others of Davy to get in touch. It was only a short time following my request when several readers kindly sent me copies of their personal photographs featuring Davy Jones. I have since been informed that the car is now in storage and no longer on display at the Ulster Transport Museum.
Harry Mulholland had his own story to tell about wee Davy. Harry’s father and mother, Henry and Sarah, had moved to the Knockmore area in 1910. Henry was employed as a plate layer on the railway. Harry would eventually follow in his father’s footsteps and take up employment with the railway in 1936. His father had been putting two sidings at a new factory which was known as “Burnhouse” on the Moira Road. He was looking for four extra men at that time and Harry was found to be a suitable candidate and commenced his employment. When he retired Harry told me that he never had a “day on the sick.” A remarkable achievement.
Prior to taking up employment with the railway, at the age of fourteen, he started employment with Dick Norwood who had a dairy in those days at Sloan Street, Lisburn. Harry told me it was located where the Lisburn Veterinary Clinic is now situated at 49 Sloan Street. Dick Norwood had fields rented in the Knockmore area. The cows were tied to the railway fence there and milked. At the age of 14, Harry would climb into the van used to make the milk deliveries. He taught himself how to drive, using the field as his “highway.” It was not long before Harry was out delivering milk on the road. He recalled to me how the cows were milked at 4pm every afternoon. The delivery round finished at 8pm each evening, for which he earned 13 shillings a week. Harry was on the road at an early age making deliveries in the van. Dick Norwood, however, knowing Harry was on the “junior” side of a driving licence, made sure he took the van himself on one particular run at 8am each morning – to the local constabulary at the police station!
Harry’s milk rounds included Antrim Place in Lisburn, off Antrim Street, known as “Buggy Row.” Most of the twenty seven houses there were on his delivery list. The first house on the right as you entered Antrim Place was the home of Davy Jones. There Harry would sometimes find him sitting on the floor “footering” with bits and pieces of clocks. Harry also recalls the steps in his house that Davy used to reach the cupboards. Davy came out with Harry every morning on the milk run, and returned home again about half past eleven. In those days of pre-pasteurisation there were milk cans in the van that each held 10 gallons of milk. The milk was dispensed from a tap into pint, half, or quart tins. Davy assisted in the filling of the tins. Bobby Hanvey interviewed Harry for the series “The Rambling man” on Downtown Radio many years ago. Harry had been relating the story of Davy Jones on the milk round to which Bobby suitably retorted “You filled the pints Harry, and Davy filled the half pints!”
Harry told me another story about family relatives who were visiting from England and staying with him at the Mulholland household. Davy Jones had come out to visit them at the house. Harry’s relative was still in bed and Davy had made his way down to the bedroom to announce his presence. The poor lady had just woken up to see wee Davy standing beside her in the room. I was told there was some laughter from other family members in the house when they heard her squeals. She had told them later that she thought she had just seen “the divil himself!”
I’ll leave it there for now and Harry’s own words –“Tell them there was a young fella from the Beanstown Road told you that story.” There are many of Harry’s stories to be told, but they’ll keep for a rainy day. No doubt there will be plenty of them as well!
The Digger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Davy Jones part 1: On the shoulders of giants - the `Irish Tom Thumb'