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Welcome to Belfast Between The Wars, a blog showcasing 100 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. 

  • Writer's pictureBelfast Between The Wars

Northern Whig, Wednesday 8th June 1932


The colour and design of nightdresses and pyjamas figured in an action yesterday in the Northern Ireland High Courts, Chancery Division, before Mr. Justice Megaw, in which plaintiffs were Messrs. Hanna Bros., & Co., wholesale underclothing manufacturers, Adelaide Street, Belfast, and John O’N. Blair, designer, Bedford Street, Belfast, and defendants Messrs. J. & B. Henderson, Ltd., wholesale underclothing manufacturers, Sydney Street West, Belfast.

Plaintiffs claimed an injunction and damages from defendants for infringing the plaintiffs’ copyright.

The Attorney-General, Mr. E. S. Murphy, K.C., M.P.; and Mr. S. C. Porter (instructed by Cunningham and Dickey) for defendants.


The Attorney-General, for the plaintiffs, said the statement of claim set out that the defendant company had within the last six years requested Mr. Blair to furnish to them certain selections of original artistic designs or patterns from which they might select such as they might require. The defendants undertook to pay for such designs, but, it was contended, knew they intended to copy the designs without payment. It was further contended that they had done so. The non-payment for the design was really a bagatelle; the real gravamen was that having copied these patterns Mr. Blair then took them back into stock and sold them to other customers, who found when they got their goods based on these designs on the market that they had been forestalled by defendant company, which had put the same designs on the market. Mr. Blair would tell the Court that all his designs were original, and that when a design was selected by one of his clients it was never repeated, and became the property of the manufacturer who purchases it. Mr. Blair in February, 1930, submitted 62 designs for nightdresses and 25 for pyjamas. Four designs were retained by defendant firm out of the 62. Mr. Blair, who thought this selection a small one, examined the designs returned and found unmistakable evidence that eight had been copied. These eight designs had been traced, and the tracing was plainly visible on the returned designs. Mr. Blair destroyed these eight designs. He was afraid to return them to stock; he was afraid what had actually happened would happen, and that he would get himself into trouble with some of his other customers if he resubmitted them for selection.


Mr. Babington then explained that in October, 1930, Messrs. Hanna asked Mr. Blair to submit some designs, and brought a floral design for a nightdress. Messrs. Hanna then proceeded to manufacture a range of nightdresses, but before they would put these goods on the market the firm found that this design was already on the market. Mr. Elliott, of Messrs. Hanna Bros., saw the design was used for a garment in a shop in Royal Avenue. Mr. Elliott immediately called upon Mr. Blair for an explanation, and Mr. Blair went round Royal Avenue and purchased the nightdress, which he brought to his office. He also obtained the original design from Mr. Elliott, and on examination found there was no doubt whatever that the design sold to Mr. Elliott. Mr. Blair would tell the Court that the design must have been copied. This nightdress had been made by the defendant company, and Mr. Blair then took up the matter with Messrs. Henderson, and Mrs. Henderson said the nightdress in question was copied from “a nightgown of Swiss manufacture bought in Belfast.”


John Blair, Bedford Street, in evidence, bore out council’s opening statement. He had no doubt the nightdress in question was based on his design. When he taxed Mrs. Henderson about the matter she said she would look into it and see who had done it. Witness asked who could do it, and she said, “You can’t be responsible for everyone in a place like this. Some of the girls may have copied it.” She promised to send the design of the Swiss nightgown to him, but later Mrs. Henderson told him she had looked for the design but could not find it. He had an opportunity of looking at the books of the defendant company, and ascertained that 1,400 dozens of nightdresses of a design numbered 1954, which was supplied by him to Messrs. Henderson. He denied that this design given to Messrs. Hanna had been sold earlier in 1928 to Messrs. Henderson.

The hearing was adjourned until this morning.

Northern Whig, Tuesday 26th January 1937


Mr. William F. H. Fry has long been in the front rank of damask designers. He is not so well known as a painter, but his first exhibition, which opened yesterday at Messrs. Robinson & Cleaver’s, should make his name familiar in that sphere also. He was one of a small group of painters in Belfast who worked continuously with Paul Neitsche, and he has all Neitsche’s meticulousness, though he is never a copyist.

Probably the most realistic painting in the exhibition is No.42 (“Going to the Meet”), which never becomes the mere photograph of a hunt, to which subjects often decline. The discipline of the designer has obviously strongly influenced his treatment of the hounds here, but it is interesting to notice how he throws one into the shadow and another into the light, to break up the pattern and give greater interest to the design.

One of the best pictures in the exhibition is No.35 (“The Old Barn”), which is entirely knife work. The barn itself has a fine architectural quality, the outlines are sharply defined, and the pattern emphasised by touches of red. No.41 is also broadly treated, and colouring is used to strengthen the atmosphere much as the figures are used to emphasise the character of the painting. Colour is one of Mr. Fry’s strong points, and he can capture the feeling of seasons simply by changes of tone. He has a winter time study of swans sailing on a pond, the whole picture veiled in a cold mist that is, nevertheless, lightened by judicious touches on sky and water. This is done entirely with the brush, and proves that Mr. Fry is as unsuccessful in the traditional as in the modern medium.


The care that is spent on detail is illustrated by No.20 (“Journey’s End”), which has a splendid feeling of space. The general effect is so broad that there would seem to be a complete absence of any detail, but Mr. Fry strengthens and lightens his picture by breaking up the even surface of the bridge. A study in spring light is No.48, which is done in greens, and shows a pleasant country lane in which three boys are playing marbles. The boys are sketched in just sufficiently to give life to the scene of which they are an integral part.

For the capturing of a mood No.47 (“The Island Ruin”), is probably the most arresting picture on view. It is done in a range of colours that are amazing for their suggesting quality, and the placing of the lonely heron gives a strange medieval quality to the painting. In contrast to this revival of a dead age is No.50, which exudes vitality and warmth.

Mr. Fry is showing a few portraits which are notable for their vitality and character. A sketch study of David Webster shows how from the beginning character is expressed. The portrait of James McKinley is remarkable for its significance of detail. The post is admirably caught and even line in it is of interest and value. There is only one watercolour on view, and this was done when the artist was 17. Even in this early study is to be seen the leaning towards strength – parts of this are even suggestive of oils – and there is to be seen a tendency to change shapes as the painting progressed. Thus what was intended to be a figure is modified to an effect of shadow, and the whole design is really worked in with the painting.

The exhibition will be open daily until 6th February.

  • Writer's pictureBelfast Between The Wars

Northern Whig, Tuesday 29th January 1935

The Belfast Tramways Committee's proposals for making the new Floral Hall at Bellevue a success are causing apprehension among amusement caterers in the city, who consider it is unfair that amusement houses in the city should have to face what they regard as unfair competition from a municipal department.

The fees which are to be paid to some of the companies and individual artists, it is urged, are far beyond what any private concern should pay, and are such that the Floral Hall would not be a success from a financial point of view. It is also pointed out that the competition which the theatres and cinemas would have to face will be at a time of the year which is the leanest for them. In the summer months it is with difficulty that both clear expenses, and if the weather is particularly good for the whole of the period then cinemas and theatres lose heavily. This loss, it is held, would be intensified if uneconomic competition had to be face from the Corporation.

A memorial setting out the views of the amusement trade has been sent to the Town Clerk, and will come before the Tramways Committee at its next meeting.

Another matter which is creating a great deal of interest is the attitude which will be taken by the Improvement Committee to the plans of two new cinemas on Lisburn Road which will be next to churches. At the Committee's meeting to-day the plans for one of them will come up for approval.

The number of people who are keen to enter the field of entertainment, writes the "Northern Whig" Film Correspondent, shows not the slightest sign of abating, and if the various persons interested proceed with their intention then the building trade should be given a considerable amount of employment. Including those for which plans have already been drawn up no fewer than ten halls are projected for various parts of Belfast.

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