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 Between The Wars

Belfast Telegraph, Wednesday 5th August 1925

Some ingenious individuals haunting Belfast railway stations, it is reported, have recently adopted a method, not altogether new, of cashing the flattened tin tops of mineral water bottles.

Dud “pennies” of this character have been passed into chocolate slot machines at the Belfast and County Down Railway and the Midland Railway stations with such skill that sweetmeat to the value of nearly £5 has been extracted.

Naturally officials in charge of the machines, discovering that such a pilfering was going on, have kept a keen watch lately, and it is anticipated offenders will be brought before the magistrates shortly.

To view a selection of images relating to Belfast and County Down Railway click here.

To view a selection of images relating to Midland Railway click here.

  • Belfast Between The Wars

Northern Whig, Wednesday 8th October 1924

The Belfast Philharmonic Society, having been founded in December, 1874, this season commemorates its jubilee. To have to its credit fifty years of unbroken and successful musical activity is a record by no means common, especially for a provincial society – it is, we think, unique in Ireland – and it is one which certainly calls for something more than a mere passing reference. There may be, indeed there no doubt are, other societies which have been in existence for a period of fifty years, or even longer (the London Philharmonic Society, so far as memory serves, dates from about 1813), but very few, if any, of these societies are in such a position that they can start the present season’s work with a balance of over £50 to their credit. The Belfast Philharmonic Society fortunately is in such a good position, and this without taking into consideration the legacy of £500 left to it by that generous benefactor of the city, the late Miss Riddel. Perhaps the present time may be a fitting one in which to refer briefly to the circumstances of its formation, and also to say something of its subsequent history, for in the past we have been too prone in speaking of the growth of the city to lay stress on the material and industrial to the exclusion of the artistic.


Before we can understand fully the circumstances which led to the Philharmonic’s formation it is necessary first to consider the state of affairs musical in the years immediately preceding 1874. After the old Anacreontic, which existed from 1814 until 1866 the principal musical body was the Classical Harmonists’ Society. Later there was formed the Belfast Musical Society. It was then found that there was not sufficient scope for both, the Classical Harmonists, whose work was mainly instrumental, being in anything but a flourishing condition. In September, 1872, some members of both societies (among them Sir Charles Brett, still, happily, an active member and present secretary of the Philharmonic), having the best interests of music at heart, suggested that it would be a much more satisfactory state of affairs to have one efficient society which would embrace all the musical forces of Belfast. Every effort was made to bring this about, but with no success. However, the desire for union becoming stronger with the experience of the next two years, ultimately gave rise to further negotiations. These were brought to a conclusion satisfactory, if not to all the individual members, at least to the committees of the respective societies concerned; and so in October, 1874, the new society started rehearsing “Elijah,” the public performance being given on Wednesday evening, 2nd December, under the baton of Henri Stichi, the first conductor. An interesting fact to note is that the Philharmonic, becoming trustee for the musical effects of the Anacreontic and Classical Harmonists’ Societies, is carrying on, in unbroken line, the work commenced over one hundred years ago.


Although the society was now safely launched its difficulties were by no means at an end. These were chiefly caused by two things. The first, one which has long since been overcome, was the rivalry of other societies started in opposition. The second, and by far the more important, for it is still felt, was the scarcity of competent orchestral players in the city. In the earliest days there was no orchestra, the society having to engage De Jong’s and other orchestras to play the accompaniments. By degrees, however, orchestral members joined up, and no doubt all the conductors. Sir Robert Stewart, Beyschlag, Dr. Koeller, and the others contributed something to help on this side of the society’s growth. But in this the greatest advance has been made in the time of the present conductor, Mr. E. Godfrey Brown. It has been a long and very arduous task, but we are now beginning to reap the benefit. Indeed little more progress can be made till we have permanently resident in our midst more good brass and wood-wind players.


Little need be said of the actual works performed, as a fairly comprehensive list of these is given in every programme. It is only to be expected that till well on in the twentieth century, performances of oratorios predominated, with occasionally an opera or cantata. In recent years, while the great classics, notably Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, have by no means been neglected, tendencies have been somewhat less conservative, and performances of fine modern works by Elgar, Stanford, Parry, Vaughan Williams, Borodine, Holst, Harty, Norman Hay, and others have been given.


The arrangements for this season promise well. Something is provided for all, both lovers of oratorio and those whose tastes are more in sympathy with modern work. There is, as always, a fine array of soloists, and it is a sign of the times that they are all English, and those of the very best. The season will commence appropriately with a performances of “Elijah” on October 17, the soloists being Miss Dorothy Silk, Miss Helen Anderton, Mr. Ben Morgan, and Mr. Herbert Heyner. The soloists for the second concert on November 14 will be Miss Megan Foster, Mr. John Goss, and the brilliant young cellist, Miss Beatrice Harrison. The work to be performed is Vaughan Williams’s setting of “Towards the unknown region,” for chorus and orchestra. Again there will be the usual “Messiah” performances on December 12 and 13, with Miss Dora Labette (an impeccable artist), Mrs. John Seeds, Mr. Hughes Macklin, and Mr. Foster Richardson as soloists. The third concert in February, which brings Miss Harriet Cohen (pianist), Miss Daisy Kennedy (violinist), and Mr. A. Jordan as soloists, will also give us another first performance of a work by Dr. E. Norman Hay, this time, “To Wonder,” a tone poem for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra. The last concert on April 9 will be the special jubilee concert, and it is fitting that the greatest English oratorio, Elgar’s “The Dream of Gerontius,” should be the work chosen. For this, the soloists engaged are Miss Olga Haley, Mr. John Coates (by many considered as an even better Gerontius than Gervase Elwes), and Mr. Harold Williams, while the conductor will be Sir Henry Wood.

The Philharmonic Society has done much during its long life to forward the cause of music. Names of many, prominent in the city, have been associated with its work. Certainly it deserves the hearty sympathy and support of all music lovers. N.F.

To read more about Belfast Philharmonic Society click here.

Northern Whig, Wednesday 10th May 1933


Belfast Corporation’s go-ahead gas undertaking presented to the public yesterday further evidence of enterprise and progress when the Lady Mayoress (Lady McCullagh, C.B.E.) opened the new gas showroom in Queen Street.

Built on pleasing, modern lines, the new building, as stated by the Chairman of the Gas Committee (Councillor A. Hodgen, J.P.), who presided at the opening ceremony, contains approximately 5,000 square feet of floor space.

The design of the building was carried out by Mr. James D. Smith, M.Inst.C.E., Manager and Engineer of the Gas Department, who was complimented on his share in the project and on his management of the department.

There was a large attendance at the opening ceremony, which was held in the demonstration room.

Mr. Hodgen recalled that the original building on that site was erected by Belfast Gas Company in 1872, and became the property of the Corporation in 1874, being occupied by the collector and cashier’s staff. The business of the department increased so rapidly that in 1893 a fine range of workshops was erected behind the office. In 1907 the clerical staff were transferred to City Hall. Owing to the congested state of the workshops behind the old building the department decided to erect new workshops, offices and stores in Bankmore Street, and the outdoor department first occupied these in 1908. The old Gas Office on that site was then let out as offices to different firms, while the old workshops were used as a surplus store by the outdoor department.


Last year it was decided to demolish the old building and erect in its place the present structure. The demolition was commenced in January, 1932, and in the following month the Pressure Piling Company began work. The building contractor, Mr. John Elliott, commenced operations immediately on completion of the piling in April, 1932, and by careful attention to the plans submitted by Mr. J. D. Smith produced the fine building, which was to be known as “Queen Street Showroom.”

It consisted of three floors, with approximately 5,000 square feet of floor space. The ground floor, approximately 1,7000 square feet, had been designed to give the maximum window display. The first floor would be known as the “Demonstration Room,” where seating accommodation had been provided for 150 persons. Cookery and other demonstrations would be given from time to time. All the different and latest types of gas cookers were on view. The second floor was given over to all types of bathroom geysers, water heaters, refrigerators, globes, and pendants.


Two gas flood lamps had been erected in Queen Street with the intention of flood-lighting the building in winter.

Mr. Hodgen remarked that at present there were in use 94,023 gas appliances. This total was made up of 46,352 cookers, 44,804 fires, 2,651 water heaters, and 216 other appliances. In addition there were in use 41,500 cookers fitted in conjunction with auto meters. This made a total of 135,523 gas appliances at present in use, and gave an idea of the enormous strides this department had made during the last few years.


Appreciation at being requested to perform the opening ceremony was expressed by the Lady Mayoress, who said that the showroom, the gas arrangements it contained, and the demonstration facilities it provided would be a great asset to the city. “I don’t think we shall have any more complaints about indigestion and about people being ill from it,” added the Lady Mayoress smilingly. “I have some knowledge of gas cookers, which I think are one of the finest helps a housewife can have. These cookers on view here represent the latest improvements.”

Amid applause she declared the showroom open.

The main contractor, Mr. John Elliott, presented to the Lady Mayoress a souvenir gold key, manufactured by Messrs. Sharman D. Neill, Ltd., Donegall Place, Belfast, for which the Lady Mayoress returned thanks.

A vote of thanks to the Lady Mayoress was proposed by Councillor H. Armstrong, vice-chairman of the Gas Committee, who complimented the builder on having carried out his work faithfully and well.

Alderman Dr. J. D. Williamson, chairman of the Public Health Committee, seconding the vote of thanks to the Lady Mayoress, remarked that he could hardly say too much regarding what she had done on behalf of the city.

Alderman Williamson referred to the capability and energy of Mr. Smith, the engineer and manager of the gas undertaking, to whom, he said, was due much of the success of the concern, which was second to none in the kingdom.


Proposing a vote of thanks to the chairman, the High Sheriff (Councillor Lieut. Commander R. M. Harcourt) referred to Mr. Hodgen’s service on the Corporation, and said he had the confidence of every member. Commander Hardcourt recalled that in addition to Mr. Hodgen’s services on the Gas Committee he had previously served for six years, with conspicuous success, as chairman of the Public Parks and Playgrounds Committee.

Sir William Turner, seconding, congratulated the Gas Committee of the way they conducted that great undertaking. He congratulated Mr. Hodgen on the fact that the Gas Committee were able to transact their business so expeditiously, and said that in Mr. Smith the city had one of the finest managers.

Mr. Hodgen briefly returned thanks, and paid a tribute to Mr. Smith’s work. On Mr. Hodgen’s proposition a vote of thanks to Mr. Smith was passed.


Mr. Smith, in reply, said it was really his staff who deserved the thanks. All the drawings were produced by the staff and all the gas services had been carried out by them. He had a good staff and they deserved thanks, and he looked upon those which had been accorded as behind directed, not to himself, but to his staff and his department.

Miss M. K. Gompertz, who is giving free cookery lectures with practical demonstrations in the showroom until May 19, was then introduced and lectured while afternoon tea was served.


The new gas showroom occupies a splendid site in Queen Street. The is the site of the old Raleigh House block of officers (adjoining the old Children’s Hospital), demolished to make room for the showroom.

A feature of the foundation was the employment of pressure piles, to ensure the most necessary building essential – sound foundation, with reinforced concrete surface foundation for the steel superstructure.

The ground floor story is an unbroken line of shop front with a deep wide central entrance, the sashes of the front being in stainless steel, with a neat leaded light design over the transom, and a dark emerald peal granite plinth. Down the pilasters to the front are fixed large stainless steel letters – gas, light, heat, power – which will be floodlighted in the winter season.

The floors throughout are of reinforced concrete, with oak woodblock flooring to finish.

The upper floors have a small raised stand around the wall for the showing of appliances, with gas points at intervals and built-in gas flues around the walls.

On the different floors have been set out all the latest up-to-date geysers, water heaters, circulators, &c.; cookers, fires, boiling rings, irons, refrigerators, lighting units, &c. Well-trained capable demonstrators are in attendance to instruct customers and users in the working, care, and maintenance of the different appliances.


An added incentive to visit the new gas showroom is the programme of free cookery lectures, with practical demonstrations, to be given there at 3 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. daily, excepting Saturday, until May 19, by Miss M. K. Gompertz, M.C.A. (of Messrs. R. & A. Main, Ltd.).

Miss Gompertz, who was introduced yesterday as “an expert in the science of cookery,” will give advice regarding the use of gas for cooking.

Here is her programme:- Wednesday (today) – Luncheon dishes (afternoon); a simple dinner, and vegetables cooked entirely in the oven (evening). Thursday – Puddings, cold meat cookery. Friday – Breakfast dishes, cakes. Monday – A dinner and vegetables cooked entirely in the oven, puddings. Tuesday – Cakes, a lunch (using only the griller). Wednesday – Savouries, supper dishes. Thursday – A dinner and vegetables cooked entirely in the oven, dishes for tea. Friday (May 19) – Rough pastry, cakes.


How well the main contractor, Mr. John Elliott, Hillsborough Drive, Belfast, has carried out his work is demonstrated by the compliment paid to him by Mr. Hodgen at the opening ceremony, on producing “this fine building.”


On the painting and decorating the new building depends greatly for its striking and apt effect. This work has been tastefully and skilfully carried out by Messrs. Wm. J. Bowman & Co., 7, Belmont Road, Strandtown.


Naturally special attention has been paid to the shop front, this part of the work being entrusted to Messrs. John Andrews & Sons, 40 Kent Street, Belfast, who have given entire satisfaction.


The electric automatic lift was made and installed by the well-known local firm of Messrs. John McLean & Sons, 76, Grosvenor Road, Belfast, who have erected more than 400 lifts in Belfast and district.

To view an image of the Belfast Corporation Gas Showrooms click here.

To see the room in which the demonstrations were held click here.

To view a range of the products on offer in 1939 click here.