Welcome to Belfast Between The Wars, a blog showcasing a range of interesting stories written in and about Belfast between the end of the First World War in 1918 and the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. 

Belfast Telegraph, Thursday 30th July 1936

Mr. Albert Reid, deputy chief of the New York Fire Department, thinks that the Belfast Fire Brigade has little to learn about fire-fighting.

In his 40 years of fire-fighting he has seen many fire stations and has had experience of all manner of fire-fighting equipment, but when he visited in the Chichester Street Headquarters of the Belfast force he saw something that he had never seen before – a 100 ft. turntable escape. In the matter of equipment, he thinks, Belfast Brigade is certainly in advance of New York, although the latter, naturally, in a numerical sense, is much bigger.

Mr. Reid, who is visiting Belfast on holiday, was greatly taken on with the 100 ft. water tower which is driven by motor. In New York, he said, their water towers were considerably under 100 ft. and were of an older pattern, which hydraulic drive. He also inspected with interest the other fire-fighting equipment and was greatly impressed with the spick-and-span appearance of the station and with the general note of efficiency which was evident.

Afterwards, in an address to the men, he complimented them and Chief Officer Smith on “a station which was a credit to any city”, and remarked that they were fortunate in the possession of the very last word in modern fire-fighting equipment.


He mentioned that the New York Fire Department had a corps of over 6,000 men and was highly organised to deal with fires at the shortest of notice over a vast area. The biggest fire in his experience, he said, took place at an oil plant many years ago, when over 800 men were mobilised in the space of a few minutes and ran almost incredible risks in trying to put out the flames.

Fifty tanks, each containing 50,000 gallons of petrol were affected, and the danger was magnified a thousand times because the pumping house controlling the oil level in the tanks was destroyed.

So fierce were the flames that three of the tanks became red hot, then white hot, and finally the firemen saw the terrible spectacle of the metal transparent and the oil bubbling within before the inevitable explosion. It was the most awe-inspiring sight he had ever seen. The firemen, however, triumphed in the end, but only after tremendous damage to the plant, the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fuel oil, and over eight miles of hose.

Before leaving the station, Mr. Reid expressed his cordial thanks to Chief Officer Smith and the men for the hospitable reception they had given him.

He leaves Belfast to-night for a tour of Great Britain, during which he intends to visit the principal fire stations. It’s a “busman’s holiday”, but he’s enjoying it.

To read about the origins of the Fire Department of New York City click here.

To visit New York City Fire Museum's website click here.

To view a photograph of a Belfast Fire Brigade fire engine from 1937 on National Museums NI's website click here.

Belfast Telegraph, Saturday 8th March 1930


Customs officials on duty at the G.N.R. station, Dundalk, on Friday evening found 300 watches in an unclaimed suit-case, and they took possession of it pending further enquiries.

The discovery was made in a vacant first-class compartment by Customs Officers Clancy and O’Doherty, who were on their customary rounds of inspection of the train after its arrival from Belfast.

The suit-case was found underneath the seat, and as no one came forward to claim ownership, the authorities took possession of it.

On opening the bag it was found to be full of watches of various sizes and descriptions.

There was considerable speculation as to whether this was an attempt at smuggling. If so, it was done to extraordinary fashion.

On the other hand, there is a possibility of the suit-case being lost or over-carried property.

It appears that the only clue to the mystery is a cloakroom ticket, and it has not yet yielded any result.

Although it was originally stated that the watches were value for £1,000, their exact value has not yet been determined.

Northern Whig, Monday 12th June 1933

Reference to the habit of cocktail drinking among young people was made on Saturday at the annual meeting of Belfast Women’s Temperance Association in the Lombard Café by Mrs. William Russell (president), who presided. These young people, she said, did not mean any harm, but the habit led to less control.

In the attitude to drink, she added, principles seemed to be changing. People were urging moderation rather than total abstinence. Moderation would not do. Total abstinence was necessary.

Dealing with aspects of the Association’s work Mrs. Russel said they had the tremendous responsibility of looking after 100 children in the Victoria Homes. There was a tremendous work being done about which little was known to the general public. “I would earnestly commend this work to the Christian public of Belfast, to the women particularly.” she added.


Mrs. Higginson in her report stated that the work was a large one, consisting of three different activities, each a great work in itself. The splendid work of the temperance missionary, Miss McKay, was overseen by Mrs. Gregg. There were the Victoria Homes and Shamrock Lodge, and, lastly, the Inebriate Home, which was the only home of its kind in Ireland.

The new members to be added to the Committee of the Association were Mrs. Crawford Browne, Mrs. John McCaughey and Mrs. Edgar.

The financial report was presented by Mrs. McVeigh, the hon. treasurer.

Mrs. Gregg presented the report of the temperance missionary, and paid a tribute to the work of Miss McKay.

The report of the Inebriate Home was presented by Dr. M. McNeill; and Mrs. George Wilson, the hon. secretary, presented the report of the Victoria Homes and Shamrock Lodge. The reports were adopted, on the motion of Mrs. Sinclair, seconded by Miss Steen.

On the motion of Mrs. James Crawford, seconded by Miss A. Steen, the Committee were re-elected.

You can view images of the Lombard Café on National Museums NI's website.