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  • Belfast Between The Wars


Belfast Telegraph, Thursday 18th July 1929



(By “A Girl in the Crowd.”)

You’ll be surprised, I suppose, to learn that Belfast typists go to work in bare legs and flimsy party frocks.

A correspondent has just forwarded a cutting from a Sydney (New South Wales) newspaper, in which the above interesting information is given as a news item, together with these lines:-

“Alas! We might have guessed how things would be when Ireland broke from English rule at last. Dour Ulster Presbyterians agree. The Belfast girl becomes a belle that’s fast! Dublin and Cork look at them with dismay, and Limerick and Wexford make a fuss – they shake their heads in sorrow and they say – “These Belfast girls are too bl-fast for us.”

The “Daily Guardian,” Sydney, which printed that would be sadly disappointed, I’m afraid, were they to send a photographer over to snap this bare-legged, party-frocked army!

Extraordinary things are even yet believed in certain countries concerning Ireland. In a vague sort of way people still imagine we all have red hair, and that we walk round in our bare feet wagging shillelaghs, and that kind of thing. But the accusation of our being fast is a novel one. Even a little French schoolgirl, writing an essay on Ireland, came to the conclusion that “Irish people are not wicked, but foolish. They keep pigs, and have red cheeks.” (I don’t know whether it’s the pig-keeping part of it she considers foolish, but, at any rate, she dismisses us of the charge of being wicked.)


To get back to the bare-legged typists who go to work in flimsy party frocks, it occurs to me that the “Sydney Guardian” hasn’t much idea of the weather to which we are subject to in Northern Ireland. Except on occasional days the above kind of dress would result in an epidemic of pneumonia among typists of Belfast. There’s another aspect of it, however. I mentioned the other day that a little American girl visitor found herself the cynosure of all eyes in Belfast because she wore no stockings. It reminds me what was told of another unfortunate girl who dared to play bare-legged tennis, and travelled via tram to her club with – er – nude ankles, in June.

En route she said she couldn’t have received more horrified looks had she been walking about with measles or smallpox. One old boy in particular blushed so profusely and looked so annoyed that she was afraid he’d get apoplexy. Mind you, that same old boy, I’m convinced, would sit on the beach with a straw hat on the back of his head, and read the “Presbyterian Messenger,” and not turn a hair at a bevy of youth and beauty sun-bathing around him. Such a queer old world it is that while you won’t offend anyone in a hundred at Ballyholme Bay if you walk around there in a bathing costume, try the same crowd and the same costume at Castle Junction, and you’ll probably be arrested. In a way, there’s not much sense in it, but there it is, and because of it we are not more prudish than any other little corner of the world.

Will the “Daily Guardian” Sydney, New South Wales, kindly take note, however, that most Belfast typists are not earning much magnanimous salaries as to afford to sport their party frocks at work, and that one wretched girl who dared bare her legs got so many cold stares that she thought it would be kind of warmer to get back to hosiery. And that’s that!


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