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  • Belfast Between The Wars


Belfast News-Letter, Saturday 18th March 1939


St. Patrick’s Day in Belfast was marked by the traditional wearing of shamrock – by more people than usual it seemed, whose spirits, probably, were raised by one of the most brilliant and sunny days so far this year.

One flower-seller at the City Hall sold three gross of shamrock in the past couple of days at 1d and 2d a bunch. He and his friends gathered it from the fields in various districts of Belfast, including Balmoral, the Falls Road, Dundonald, and as far away as Comber. “If you want shamrock, sir,” he advised a “Belfast News-Letter” reporter, “you want to go to the turnip fields. It grows best in them.” He had only a few bunches of his last gross left in a basket. Men, he said, were his best customers.

Some hundreds of shamrock gatherers fare forth in various counties in Ulster in the week before St. Patrick’s Day, and sell the fruits of their work to the big florists, to the markets (where it was stated that 8s a gross was being paid for selling across the Channel), to street salesmen, or they sell it direct to the public themselves.


The city florists’ stocks of shamrock were rapidly depleted during the week, and one of them received orders from Irish regiments in various parts of the work. Some boxes were despatched by air mail. Shamrock went to Irish regiments in London, India, Yorkshire, and Palestine. Most of it was gathered in Co. Down and Co. Antrim. One firm sent orders to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada, and the United States, among countries abroad.

The City Hall and all Government and public offices, and the banks were closed yesterday, and those who could took a holiday in the afternoon to attend one or other of the several sporting events arranged, which included the final of the Schools Rugby Cup at Ravenhill ground, which attracted the usual large crowd, the final of the Irish Schools Association Cup at Grosvenor Park, and the final of the Lyttle Cup.

Picnic parties and ramblers were early astir yesterday in the city, and the Cavehill was a favourite rendezvous with young ramblers. City parks were filled with people taking advantage of the sun, which shone clearly from early morning until evening, and reads out of the city carried heavy private car traffic, especially to Bangor and Donaghadee.

From Newry to Enniskillen, Border towns and villages were visited by citizens of Eire, whose licensing laws cause the public houses to close on St. Patrick’s Day. Visitors thus came to Ulster to maintain the traditional “drowning” of the Shamrock.


‘Buses, the railways and the tramcars in Belfast had a record St. Patrick’s Day, the weather invited everyone to make the day a holiday out of town.

Three “specials” ran from Dublin to Belfast on the Great Northern Railway, bringing 2,000 visitors, and altogether Belfast must have had some 5,000 visitors from Eire and various parts of Ulster yesterday. A Derry, Strabane and Omagh train to Dublin carried 400; two “specials” and a duplicated train to Dublin from Belfast carried 1,2000 (including many from the Newcastle area), and 1,200 travelled in Strabane and Cookstown special trains to the Ancient Order of Hibernians demonstration at Coalisland. One the L.M.S. line a special was run from Coleraine to accommodate travellers to the Schools’ Cup final.

A special rail car, leaving about 11 p.m., conveyed Dublin choirs home from Belfast after competing at the Musical Festival.

In Belfast and all over the Province Ulster folk said goodbye to St. Patrick’s Day with dances and other entertainments.


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