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, Saturday 4th December 1937


“Tame, but take no risks,” was printed on top of a heavy crate which arrived at Bellevue Zoological Gardens this morning. It contained a rare sloth bear from South India, but the name “sloth” in the case of George, as the bear is named, seems to be inappropriate, for a less slothful animal has never been seen in Bellevue.

On the bear’s arrival, Mr. Foster, the head keeper, decided to take George from the heavy crate in which he had travelled from India, and lead him along the path to his new home in the zoo. And as George was represented to be tame, and wore a leather collar, no great difficulty was expected. But no sooner did the bear get outside than he turned with a swiftness almost impossible to believe in such a clumsy looking animal, and attached Mr. Foster fiercely with teeth and claws, scratching, biting and snarling like a perfect demon. Fortunately two assistant keepers were at hand, and between then George, still fighting fiercely, was inducted to enter the safety of a cage.

George is a Christmas gift to the zoo, from Mr. Noel Thompson, a former resident of Belfast, who is at present living in India, and who assured the authorities that the bear was “house-tame”. But the long voyage to Ireland and the presence of strangers around him, instead of his old friend and master, Mr. Thompson, apparently upset the animal, and caused him to give an exhibition of the well-known bad temper of bears.

In spite of this exhibition George is a very welcome addition to the zoo, as he is the first of his species to be seen there. He presents a most comical appearance with long, shaggy untidy looking hair, with mobile, protrusible lips, a whitish muzzle, and long which claws, instead of the usual black ones. He is of special interest to students of literature, as he belongs to the species of bear made famous at Kipling’s “Baloo.”

Find out more about the history of Belfast Zoo here.

Find out more about sloth bears here.

Northern Whig, Wednesday 18th August 1926

“I am perfectly satisfied that we have succeeded in taking photographs of those who have passed out of the body or who are what is commonly called dead.”

This remarkable statement was made to a “Northern Whig” reporter yesterday by Mr. John McDermaid, president of the Ulster Christian Spiritualist Association.

The photographs on which the astonishing claim is based were taken recently by Mr. Hugh Robinson as part of his investigation of Spiritualism in the Association’s Hall, 63, Victoria Street, Belfast, and by the side of the grave of Mr. McDermaid’s mother in the City Cemetery.

Two of the prints were offered to the “Northern Whig” for publication, but were not suitable for reproduction. On the one of the graveside scene are three cloud-like effects, and on that showing the interior of the hall two similar effects.

Referring to the first print Mr. McDermaid said:- “I can clearly identify my mother, and besides her is my little baby sister. There is also a vision of my father, Mr. Frank McDermaid, who passed out of the body 22 years ago. I can recognise their features with certainty. The other form on the print is a ‘spirit cloud,’ which comes as a spirit is beginning to manifest. If the exposure had been made a few moments later, it is possible that the spirit form would have more completely developed and a more distinct impression would have been obtained. The three forms appear on the sky just above the heads of the people standing by the grave, and there must have been something there or nothing would have appeared on the photograph.”

Mr. Edwin Graham, secretary of the Association, referring to the second print, declared:- “ I am able to identify my brother, Thomas Graham, who passed out of the body 44 years ago. I recognise the hair, eyes, and beard, and I have no doubt that it is him.”

Mr. McDermaid added that the taking of the photographs was simply an experiment and he was much gratified that it had been successful. He regarded the results as furnishing additional proof of Spiritualism, and stated that he is prepared to allow any genuine investigator to see the photographs to make prints from the negatives.

Belfast Telegraph, Thursday 11th February 1937

Members attending a dinner in Thompson’s Restaurant, Belfast, had the unique experience of listening to a response to one of the principal toasts delivered by a person who was separated from the company by 6,000 miles of land and ocean.

The toast was proposed in the customary manner, and its acknowledgement came from a familiar voice, though the gentleman speaking was at the moment in Johannesburg.

The speaker was Mr. Alec Brown, a director of the Sircocco Works, and well known as an International bowler, who is at present on a business and sporting mission in South Africa.

The speech was reproduced through the medium of a gramophone record. The company enjoyed not only the sentiments of acknowledgement, but the novel manner in which the response was made.

To read an article about Sirocco Works on the Belfast News Letter website click here.

To listen to a podcast about Sirocco Works and its founder Samuel Davidson on the Best of Belfast website click here.

Click here to see photographs relating to Sirocco Works via National Museums NI's website.