• Belfast Between The Wars

AT THE ALBERT CLOCK: DAWN OF THE NEW YEAR

Belfast News-Letter, Tuesday 1st January 1935


NEVER-FAILING MANIFESTATIONS OF HOPE AND EXPECTATION


GREETINGS AND SONG


Long before eleven o’clock last night crowds of Belfast people started to gather on the streets and at the corners by the Albert Memorial to watch for the actual moment of the passing of the old year and the coming of the new, and for fully three-quarters of an hour before midnight the surrounding streets were almost impassable in traffic. People were coming up singly, in pairs, and in groups of a dozen or so, and periodically accordion bands marched up followed by large processions.


Most of the people were chatting animatedly about the occasion, and from the few scraps of gossip which it was possible to hear above the general buzz of conversation and the playing of musical instruments, the majority of them seemed to be very well satisfied with the old year. The slight but definite signs of trade revival, and the improvement of financial conditions, have apparently filled the hearts of the people with new hope and expectation.


As more and more people arrived the buzz of talk gradually grew almost into a roar, which still increased right up to a few minutes before the hour of midnight, though there were a few solitary, and rather pathetic, figures who stood alone with their eyes fixed on the dial of the clock. As the hour grew nearer a sensible feeling of anticipation seemed to animate the scene. Expressions grew more intent, and voices more subdued.


THE HUSH OF MIDNIGHT


The first stroke of midnight cast a solemn and impressive silence on the crowd with startling suddenness, and for the space of about ten seconds not a sound could be heard save the hooting of occasional motorcars in more distant parts of the city.

Then, as though the spell which had bound them had been suddenly broken, spontaneous cheering burst from the whole crowd, and friends shook hands and couples embraced each other with good wishes and felicitations.


Small groups linked hands and danced round in light-hearted gaiety, while others started singing “Auld Lang Syne.” The general hilarity in welcome of the New Year continued without abatement for a quarter of an hour, after which, as though mindful of their good resolutions to go to bed early and such-like undertakings, the crowd began to melt away – at first by couples and in small numbers, and gradually in an increasing stream, until, before the New Year was half-an-hour old, the locality had resumed its normal night-time placidity, which was ruffled only by the passing of an occasional tram and by a few enthusiastic singers who remained on the scene.


The normal rhythm of life had been resumed. Carnival dances were held all over the city and were attended by gay crowds who welcomed the New Year with great enthusiasm, whilst in Belfast Cathedral and many of the city churches impressive watch-night services were held. There were large congregations who observed the passing of the old year and the dawn of the new in prayer and praise.


To find out more about the history of the Albert Clock and how it was saved from toppling over click here.


You can view images of the Albert Clock on National Museums NI's website.