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  • Belfast Between The Wars


Belfast Telegraph, Tuesday 19th February 1929



The factory girls of Ulster are the prettiest in Great Britain.

There were excited flutterings in the city’s bachelor dovecots to-day when it was learned that an expert had expressed this view.

It is the emphatic opinion of Sir Thomas Morrison Legge, who was for twenty-eight years Medical Inspector of Factories, and he made the statement in London on Monday evening when addressing the Royal Society of Arts.

“As the result of thirty years’ observation,” he declared, “I think that on the whole the looks of the youthful women workers in Belfast and the North of Ireland generally stand highest."

"They give an impression of indefinable refinement and reserve,” added Sir Thomas.

Ulster factory inspectors who had experience across the Channel to-day confirmed this view with equal emphasis.

“Ulster girls dress better,” one of them told a “Telegraph” reporter. “They are much better built, and their appearance is generally considerably more attractive than the factory girls of such places as Lancashire.”

“I might say, however,” added the official, “that there are not so many generations of factory and mill girls in Ulster as there are in cross-Channel centres. There is a big recruitment here from the country districts, and that has a considerable effect on their general good looks.”

The pronouncement is not the first one in favour of Ulster factory girls.

During the folk-song competition at the Belfast Musical Competitions on Saturday evening, Mr. Herbert Wiseman, the adjudicator, commented that he had heard the finest rendering of one of the songs (“Over Here,” by Charles Wood) given by a Larne factory girl.

“It was the most vivid singing of a folk-song I ever had the privilege to hear,” added Mr. Wiseman.


Belfast’s closest rivals to the distinction of having the prettiest factory girls are found in the artificial silk factories of Cheshire, Sir Thomas Morrison Legge mentioned after expressing the view quoted above.

“I have a strong penchant for red hair, which I regard as a most beautiful gift from the gods,” said Sir Thomas, “To me it seems that red hair in anyone stones for a multitude of sins.

“In fact I feel that people so blessed are terrestrial visitors from the never, never land. Unfortunately, there are too few of them – only some five per cent. The looks of the workers in Glasgow and Newcastle stand very high, partly, no doubt, because of red hair – and what so often goes with it, glowing rosy cheeks.

“Although in height, build, and appearance they may not be Venuses, the Lancashire factory operatives of today are, in my opinion, the finest workers in the world. Factory life has not in the least affected their character, which is distinguished above that of all other workers for grit, wit, and bonhomie, with yet just a touch of the savage as a saving grace.”

Rough, strenuous work might be thought to detract from good looks, Sir Thomas remarked. This was not so, however. It was a well-known fact that the Scottish fisher girls averaged 70 per cent good looking.

The handsomest woman worker he ever saw was engaged in the manufacture of white lead in some works at Yarrow. She had a face which reminded him of the effigies of saints in stained-glass windows of the 15th century.

The handsomest men the world had ever seen, in the lecturer’s view, were to be found among the first hundred thousand Australians who “came over” during the Great War.


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