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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. 

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Northern Whig, Saturday 21st April 1928

Many schoolgirls will be thinking soon about tennis and overhauling their tennis kit.

A tennis racquet which has been put away for the winter often disappoints its owner when brought out again. Strings have broken or frayed, the woodwork looks chipped, the varnish is missing in parts. It is not at all the trusted friend which was put away last autumn.

Most girls know that a coat of gut reviver tightens strings, but do they ever use oil for the frame? A drop of cricket bat oil, rubbed well into the handle and the end of the racquet where it gets knocked against the ground, preserves the frame.

Some girls go to the shop with the idea that they want a racquet of a certain weight. Now tennis stars choose their racquets scientifically. Weight, balance, grip, and material are the main features considered. An ill-chosen racquet is the greatest of all handicaps.

Many players use too heavy a racquet, under the delusion that it enables them to hit the ball extra hard. A good weight for the average woman is 13 ¼ ounces; for a man 14 ¼ ounces is more suitable. The only satisfactory way of deciding what weight racquet suits you is to try backhand strokes with it. Carry the stroke through with several racquets, and notice whether your wrist turns down by the end of the stroke. If it does, the racquet is too heavy for you.

More important than actual weight is balance – the distribution of weight in the racquet. A badly balanced racquet usually has a thin handle. This causes fatigue and occasionally cramp. A well-proportioned racquet should balance about 13in. from the end of the handle. A base line player will require a slightly longer balance point, a net expert a shorter one. A circumference of 5 1/8 in. at the grip is best for the ordinary woman and 5 3/8 in. for a man. For schoolgirls the handle should be on the small side – large ones are conductive to tennis elbow.

Always choose a simply strung racquet. There is no advantage to having one elaborately strung, and its costs more to be re-strung. The average player does not need a high-strung racquet. The gut should be on the thin side as it gives more driving force.

Many a good tennis racquet is spoiled by careless usage. When not it use an airtight cover should be kept over the head and a press fastened over this. Extreme changes of temperature are most harmful.

How many schoolgirls realise the importance of shoes to the tennis girl? Tennis shoes may be any pattern, but they must fit exactly about the heel.

And, talking of feet, do not forget that dancing is a good preparation for tennis. Miss Betty Nuthall, the famous girl tennis player, finds dancing one of the best ways of keeping quick and light on her feet. And any girl who has seen a slow motion tennis film will remember how the players’ feet are constantly on the move, even while awaiting service. If you wish to become school tennis champion next term, your slogan should be: “Improve your footwork!”

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.

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