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 News-Letter, Monday 4th June 1928

A large congregation assembled in Belfast Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, when the font and the ornamentation of the baptistery were dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Down and Connor and Dromore (Right Rev. Dr. Grierson). The baptistery is admirably suited to the design and proportions of the Cathedral, and great artistic taste has been shown in connection with the ornamentation, in which dignity and refinement are allied to breadth and simplicity. The Bishop rightly described the baptistery as a great achievement. “Artist, sculptor, mosaic-worker, and handicraftsmen have all,” he said, “conspired to produce for our Cathedral and the glory of God what I believe truly to be a gem of perfectness.” The font was presented by the children of the diocese, and especially by those who were baptised in the Cathedral or in St. Anne’s Church; the three stained-glass windows were the gift of the late Mr. Granby Higinbotham as a memorial to his daughter Harriette; Mr. Higinbotham himself is commemorated in the building by means of the mosaic roof, the cost of which was defrayed by another daughter, Mrs. Donal Moore; the capitals were presented by Miss Annie Coates, Miss Annie Taylor, the members of the diocesan branches of the Mothers’ Union and the Girls’ Friendly Society, the members of the Church of Ireland Women’s Settlement, Lady Dixon, Miss Ferguson, the daughters of the late Sir Daniel Dixon (in memory of their sister, Evelyn Annie Ward) and the Cathedral Branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society. Gifts were also presented by Miss Rosamund Praeger, Miss Lizzie Moore, and two anonymous donors – one in memory of her mother, Annie Richardson Smith, and the other also “in memory of a beloved mother, E.M.D.” The cost of the mosaic floor was borne by members of the Cathedral Guild. The designs were prepared by Sir Charles Nicholson, the mosaic work was executed by Miss Gertrude Martin, the heads of children on the ends of the upper and lower string courses were carved by Miss Praeger, and Messrs. Purdy & Milliard carried out the remaining work.

After a processional hymn, “Angel voices, ever singing,” the diocesan banner of the Girls’ Friendly Society was dedicated by the Bishop, who subsequently proceeded to the baptistery, accompanied by the choir and clergy. Mr. R. B. Hardy, Dean’s warden, asked his Lordship to dedicate the gifts which had been provided for the furnishing and adornment of the building, and the Dean (Very Rev. H. R. Brett) read the “tale of gifts.” The dedication ceremony then took place, and prayers were read by the Bishop. While the choir and clergy were returning to the chancel, “Christ, Who once amongst us,” was sung.


In the course of his address, the Bishop referred to the dedication of the banner for the Girls’ Friendly Society, which he described as one of the noblest and most fruitful of their church organisations, banding together, as it did, their young women in the cause of purity and service. As regards to the baptistery, he said it was an achievement, an end reached, a completion amongst much that was incomplete. A cathedral was not to be built in a few years, or perfected in a generation. “A vision of growth towards consummation is necessary in our imagination; but to-day one definite part is complete – complete let me say, in beauty of symbolism and beauty of art. Here too,” continued his Lordship, “is a prophecy. What had now been done by the art of the gifted and the free will offering of God’s people tells us not to be afraid of the future. We believe that at each period art will be placed by God at our service, and that the liberality of the community will flow freely to supply the resources from which a finished, majestic, and beautiful temple of worship will stand upon this central site in our great city. Here is a prophecy; may God fulfil it. Here also is the sanctification of art by its dedication to Almighty God. Beauty is born of heaven; it is God’s endowment, God’s nature. Here is a standing memorial to several outstanding figures. The baptistery was prepared by Sir Thomas Drew, the design was the conception of Mr. W. H. Lynn, an architect to whom this cathedral owes much and the carrying out of the design and its embellishment is the product of Sir Charles Nicholson’s artistic taste and ability. Happy are we to feel also that it is a memorial to our much loved T. G. G. Collins, Dean of Belfast, and later Bishop of Meath, in whose time the baptistery was built, in whose time the design of the mosaic for the roof was prepared, and who collection from the children of the diocese the money needed for the beautiful font.”

His Lordship went on to refer to those whose lives and works are commemorated in the baptistery, including the late Dean Robinson and Canon Cary; and expressed appreciation of the assistance given by the members of the Cathedral Guild and Dean Brett. “I would offer our present Dean,” he said, “our heartiest congratulations on his seeing the fulfilment of his desires and prayers in this service of consecration. What we rejoice in to-day has been largely achieved by his constant thought and ability and by his power of enlisting the co-operation of others. We acknowledge our indebtedness to him, and thank God for what he has so successfully accomplished. St. Anne’s has always been remarkable for the way the church folk of Belfast loved to have their little ones baptised within its walls. That was an honourable pre-eminence; and may the fathers and mothers in our city ever feel the fitness of this old parish church and central cathedral as the place for such a holy rite.”

A very impressive service concluded with the singing of “O Worship the King” and the pronouncing of the blessing.

The service was intoned by Rev. C. M. Gorman, and the lesson was read by Rev. J. H. Freeman. The Rev. Chancellor Banks carried the pastoral staff, and Rev. Minor Canon L’Estrange and Rev. S. Fenton acted as the Bishop’s chaplains.

To read more about the history of Belfast Cathedral click here.

To read more about the baptistery click here.

To view a photo of work being carried out on the baptistery's mosaic roof click here.

Belfast News-Letter, Monday 23rd January 1928

Art students have an instinct which makes them delight in dressing up. Their training, too, teaches them to recognise type quickly, and they have special facilities for the carrying out of their ideas. These facts enable one to understand why the annual fancy dress dance under the auspices of the School of Art at the Belfast Municipal College of Technology is always a particularly attractive event. This year’s dance, which was held on Saturday in the college, was no exception to the rule. The Central Hall had been specially decorated by the students. The platform, on which Cowser’s orchestra was stationed, was transformed into a woodland scene. The overhead lights were softened by shades representing a pack of cards, and between them there were lines of lights in lovely jewel colours – amber, green, and sapphire. The ever-changing lighting effects had been arranged by students under the direction of Mr. Hezlitt. Every imaginable fancy costume was worn by the dancers, who numbered about 350. There were kings and queens, princes and peasants, figures of historic interest, and famous characters in fairylore, poetry and fiction. It was a veritable Arabian Nights picture, and there was about the whole proceedings a commendable absence of conventionality. Mrs. Earls, Mr. Beaumont, Mrs. Gould, and Mrs. Penpraze acted as hostesses. Mr. Penpraze was an ideal master of ceremonies, for he was indefatigable in his efforts to give everyone a good time. A word of praise is also due to Miss McLean, who undertook the arduous duties of dance secretary. Supper was served in upstairs apartments, the catering being carried out by Messrs. Thompson’s (Belfast), Ltd.


The important work of judging was entrusted to Miss Rosamund Praeger, Mr. Morris Hardy, and Mr. Baker. Miss Praeger’s exquisite sculpture is well known, Mr. Hardy is a London sculptor who is at present engaged on work at the Belfast Cathedral, and Mr. Baker is a talented painter and a teacher at the School of Art. The prize (a cheque) for the best period costume was awarded to Miss Earles, whose portrayal of a 13th century lady was beautiful and admirably suited to her type. The straight trailing gown was expressed in royal blue and purple, with a white headdress under the coronet.

The prize for the best home-made costume of any period went to Miss Maureen Plowman, whose pompadour gown was a most artistic creation, and had been made by her mother. It was carried out in pale blue satin, with a panel of palest pink, and was elaborately trimmed with applications of crimson velvet encrusted with jewels, and tiny wreaths of flowers. The second prize-winner in this section was Mr. Morrow, who was a realistic Turk in purple, green and red.

In the section for costumes of any period or class which might be home-made, bought, or hired, the prizes were awarded to Miss McCullough and Mr. Harry McMullan. Miss McCullough’s Louis XVI costume, in palest pink, was the embodiment of dignity and grave. Mr. McMullan, as an old English gentleman, in a green suit with the characteristic tail coat, was a picturesque figure. A tall hat and side whiskers were impressive details.

A special prize for originality displayed in her costume was awarded to Miss Olive Henry, who depicted “Cock Crow”. The frock was in tangerine bordered with green, on which were appliqued a rising sun and roosters. The headdress consisted of a sun cap, surrounded by cut-out roosters.

A striking costume was that of Mr. J. B. Boyd as a serf. It would have won the first prize had it not been for the fact that Mr. Boyd did not comply with the conditions attached to this award.

Another charming idea was the portrayal of a bunch of violets by Miss McLean (the dance secretary). The frilled frock was of violet net over silver tissue with a waist band of violet ribbon, finished with a posy of violets. The head-dress was a cap of violets, finished with a cluster of upstanding leaves at the back. Almost a prize-winner, too, was Miss S. Knox, who came as a Black Butterfly. The body of the butterfly was very realistic.


A feature was a scene from “Alice in Wonderland.” The delightful topsy-turvy world created by Lewis Carrol, was admirably depicted. Miss Delta Smith, with her hanging fair hair, made a charming Alice. Her frock was of blue organdie, and she also wore a dainty apron. There were the Duchess (Miss Boyle) imposing in pink, crimson and gold, her ladies-in-waiting (the Misses Kathleen Gamble and Betty Clements) in pink and gold, and the card kings and queens – Miss Hopkins, Miss McLean, Miss McCullough, Miss Watkins, Miss Kincaid, and Mr. J. McDermott. Humpty Dumpty (Miss Dick), the cook (Miss Hutton), the baby (Miss Stewart) and the carpenter (Mr. H. Hewitt) were there, too, and course, the Mad Hatter (Mr. Galloway) and Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Mr. McCann and Mr. Williams). Miss Moira Muir was a realistic dormouse, and Mr. Toogood portrayed the cat. The tea table in the famous party episode was a dominant note. Concealed in the teapot were favours and novelties, and these were distributed by the Dormouse, to the delight of the spectators.

Later in the evening, fancy dances were given by the Miss Marjorie Worral, who was wearing a pretty pink frock with bands of silver. Indeed, there was not a dull moment, and the organisers of the dance are to be congratulated upon its magnificent success.

Almost without exception the fancy costumes were far above the average, and here and there were some smart evening frocks. Mrs. Earls was in black, brightened with diamante; Mrs. Beaumont’s gown was of café au lait georgette and silver lace; Mrs. Gould was in black over silver lame; Mrs. Penpraze wore biscuit georgette and lace; Mrs. S. Donald Cheyne was in black, the skirt adorned with applications of coloured silk; Mrs. Park wore a French frock of gold metal lace and black georgette; and Mrs. Tawse was in gold lace and lame.

A striking couple were Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Hillock, who came in gorgeous robes as an Eastern Price and Princess. Among a crowd of gypsies Mrs. R. Brown’s costume, in crimson, blue, green, and white, struck a distinctive note; while Miss Rosa Werner was striking in red, blue, and black. Miss Smith was effective as Bacchante, in green trimmed with clusters of grapes and carrying a wine glass; Mr. Henry Doherty was an unmistakable Sydney Carton; Mr. W. Glenn was capital as “The Absent-minded Professor,” wearing with his dinner jacket grey trousers and brown brogues, and having a quill pen behind his ear; Miss McComb came as Night, in black with silver stars; Miss Marion Wilson was a call-boy; Miss Margaret Orr, a pretty brunette, was a charming Cherry Ripe; and Miss Betty Browne was an attractive Hawaiian maiden.

To read more about the history of Belfast School of Art click here.

Northern Whig, Monday 20th October 1930

With the long winter nights ahead of them Ulster people are being drawn as if by a magnet to the sixth annual radio exhibition now in progress at the Ulster Hall, Belfast, and on Saturday night the stands were beleaguered by wireless enthusiasts.

What impresses visitors most is the extraordinary development made in the sets offered for sale and the economy in price which has accompanied the trend towards wireless perfection. One had only to look back about eight years to recollect the time when the apparatus within the reach of the working man’s purse was some gallant, but not-too-dependable, little box, which would, with very delicate adjustment of a “cat’s whisker,” give tolerable reception from Belfast, say, at Ballygowan. And in those days what an advantage it was to get Chelmsford at Ballymena on Mr. Everyman’s set! The children were put under dire penalties to keep silence, and Mrs. Everyman had to rush to stop the clock while Mr. Everyman strained his ears into the solitary pair of earphones which the set would work.


What a change now! For reasonable prices all and sundry may purchase a set which will bring in music in sufficient volume to enable home dances to be held, and even in the most remote parts of County Donegal quite humble people are enjoying radio’s benefits.

One feature of the attendances at the Ulster Radio Show is the proportion of people from the country, to whom radio is much more a blessing than townsfolk when nights and long and the evening’s amusement presents a problem.

The radio-set manufacturers for town sales have to meet more fierce competition. Midget golf, the “talkies” and “the dogs” are but a few of the new “crazes” which have arisen to claim the dismal hours of the townspeople since the first flush of wireless telephony’s success. But the radio manufacturers know how to meet competition, and the keen-eyed and alert salesmen at the Ulster Hall Exhibition – which concludes tomorrow – have little difficulty in convincing all that no house, whether in a city avenue or in the heart of a desolate moor, is really complete without a radio set.

To view images relating to wireless from National Museums NI's collections click here.

To view images relating to radio from National Museums NI's collections click here.

To read more about the Ulster Hall click here.