Friday, 15 February 2019

BELFAST: HIGH STREET LONG AGO

An article of any length based on the contents of this blog post is open for commissioning. Contact: joecushnan@aol.com

Michael Portillo, in his television train journeys shows, carries around his Bradshaw's Guide of railway timetables and travel notes, to compare modern trains and travels to days of yore.


It has struck me on more than one occasion that a series could be developed, based on Cathal O'Byrne's entertaining book As I Roved Out, to seek out places and stories of interest throughout Belfast's history. As I Roved out was first published in 1946 by the Irish News, and reprinted in 1982 by The Blackstaff Press. It's full title is As I Roved Out: A Book of the North - Being a Series of Historical Sketches of Ulster and Old Belfast. So, for the next few blog posts, I will dip into the book and highlight some of the stories within. I was born and raised in Belfast and O'Byrne's tales and recollections have always informed and entertained me.

There has been and continues to be a lot of debate about the state of UK High Streets. The debate is a mixture of blether, blah, emotional outbursts, surveys, reports, all strangled by indecision. There is campaign after campaign to save the High Street, but nothing happens.

I worked in retailing for nearly forty years from the 1970s, including stints in town centre shops as well as out-of-town stores. High Streets have always changed and will continue to do so.

I remember a few years ago when our local Woolworths closed and there was much wailing about the loss of a much-loved name. And for a moment, I felt nostalgic and sad until I wised up. I realised that it must have been about five years before the closure since I bought anything in the shop. In a roundabout way, I suppose I was part of the problem!

In As I Roved Out, in a chapter called In High Street Long Ago, Cathal O’Byrne wrote about some of the trades operating in Belfast in the 1800s. There were no big chain stores or any of the usual suspects that occupy or occupied more recent High Streets. It seems to me that way back then, local, independent shops and businesses were the norm.

For example, James Cleland sold ‘English glass, East-India and English china, with very fine Nankeen ware, Staffordshire or Queen’s ware, Wedgwood and Bentley’s real composition (and mock) Antigua teapots.’

Thomas Lyle, under the sign of a saw offered ‘hardware, tools, silverware, steel malt-mills, and especially mentioned, 50 muskets with bayonets, fit for Volunteers.’

Elizabeth Rea, a grocer, sold ‘Belfast sugar at sugar-house prices, clover seeds, Dantzic ashes, Whitehaven roll tobacco, fine French indigo, and best fatt madder.’ (Whatever that is, but it’s not a typing error.)

Henry and Robert Joy printed the Belfast News-Letter.

Michael Twigg manufactured ‘all kinds of cambricks and sold printed linens, poplins and Irish chintzes.’

Thomas Clownish sold cloth and rugs, Eleanor and Mary McCormick sold caps and trimmings for gowns, John Annesley and James Lilley were grocers, Mrs Cooper was an inn-keeper, Dorothea Garnet sold muslin, gauze, fox-tail feathers and feathers for Volunteers, James Vallance auctioned books, James Lamb was a shoemaker, Henry McKedy was a seeds man ‘at the sign of the Orange Tree’and Mrs Wilson dealt in ‘carpets, carpeteens and stair cloths.’

Cathal O’Byrne noted that ‘in High Street also could be bought a good sortment of English and Irish broadcloths, Forrest clothes, German serges, Sarge denims, worsted and Hair Shaggs, cotton-thick-setts, jeans, fustians, beaver druggets, lastings, velvets, sattings, Persians, riggs, poplins, crapes, chamblets, stuffs, callamancoes, damasks, sattiniscoes and padaway serge.’ You can't get much of that gear in M&S these days!

Yes, High Streets have always changed.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

BELFAST: TOMMY COOPER & MONSIEUR DOMINIQUE

An article of any length based on the contents of this blog post is open for commissioning. Contact: joecushnan@aol.com

Michael Portillo, in his television train journeys shows, carries around his Bradshaw's Guide of railway timetables and travel notes, to compare modern trains and travels to days of yore.

It has struck me on more than one occasion that a series could be developed, based on Cathal O'Byrne's entertaining book As I Roved Out, to seek out places and stories of interest throughout Belfast's history. As I Roved out was first published in 1946 by the Irish News, and reprinted in 1982 by The Blackstaff Press. It's full title is As I Roved Out: A Book of the North - Being a Series of Historical Sketches of Ulster and Old Belfast. So, for the next few blog posts, I will dip into the book and highlight some of the stories within. I was born and raised in Belfast and O'Byrne's tales and recollections have always informed and entertained me.


I love watching old clips of music hall acts and variety shows. The life of the troupers was far from romantic as they hauled themselves around the nation’s theatre circuits, but to audiences and, eventually, television viewers, there was a ton of entertainment to be enjoyed. Dancers, comedians, acrobats, jugglers, ventriloquists, singers, magicians and more did their turns time and time again. Live entertainment was, and probably still is, a tough gig.

I was born too late to see many of the great variety stars, although I did chuckle my way through a Tommy Cooper show at the Circus Tavern, Purfleet in Essex in the late 1970s. One gag concerned a white gate amongst his stage props. He would do a daft trick, tell a silly gag and walk towards the gate, stopping himself from opening it. Trick, gag, gate, trick gag, gate. On and on it all went, with the audience in stitches. Then right at the end of the show, trick, gag and gangly walk to the gate. He paused, looked at the audience, laughed the Cooper laugh, opened the gate, marched through and closed the gate behind him. The audience roared and gave him a standing ovation. Pure magic.

I was reminded of this story in the As I Roved Out chapter, Old Belfast Goes to the Play. I will come to the specific trigger shortly. Cathal O’Byrne wrote about serious theatrical productions, noting that the first mention of a theatre in Belfast was in a 1758 newspaper advertisement for The Drogheda Company of Comedians who were appearing at a place called The Vaults in Ann Street. In 1778, the New Theatre opened in Ann Street, and attracted an array of well-known actors of the day. Shakspear (sic) plays were very popular, although general comedy and farce attracted audiences too.



As far as variety was concerned, there was one particular act that caught my eye, and reminded me of the daftness of Tommy Cooper. At the Market House, Belfast, in 1754, in amongst a ‘celebrated company of rope dancers and tumblers’ was Monsieur Dominique who, according to the playbill, ‘will support himself by one arm on the back of a chair, which hath never been done in Europe by any person but himself. Price 1s 1d. The door will be open at five and the performance begins precisely at seven o’clock. He performs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays each week.’

Cathal O’Byrne concluded: ‘One feels inclined to wonder exactly what the early comers did during the two hours from five to seven, but we are quite sure that Mr. Dominique’s marvellous one arm act on the back of a chair made up for all the tedium of waiting.’

Take a bow, all you players from the past, wherever you are.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

BELFAST: HERCULES STREET

An article of any length based on the contents of this blog post is open for commissioning. Contact: joecushnan@aol.com

Michael Portillo, in his television train journeys shows, carries around his Bradshaw's Guide of railway timetables and travel notes, to compare modern trains and travels to days of yore.

It has struck me on more than one occasion that a series could be developed, based on Cathal O'Byrne's entertaining book As I Roved Out, to seek out places and stories of interest throughout Belfast's history. As I Roved out was first published in 1946 by the Irish News, and reprinted in 1982 by The Blackstaff Press. It's full title is As I Roved Out: A Book of the North - Being a Series of Historical Sketches of Ulster and Old Belfast. So, for the next few blog posts, I will dip into the book and highlight some of its content. I was born and raised in Belfast and O'Byrne's tales and recollections have always informed and entertained me.

I have lost count of the number of times I have walked the length and back of Royal Avenue, Belfast. The shops and other businesses have changed over the years but, taking the time to look up, there are still fine examples of original architecture. It has always been a busy thoroughfare, even stretching back to the days when it was called Hercules Street and nicknamed 'the street of (47) butchers'.



Cathal O'Byrne's somewhat rose-tinted, but enjoyably nostalgic, view of life in days gone by is encapsulated in this passage: 'What the people of Belfast of those early days seem to have had in common were music, and a light-hearted love of life and air and sunshine. They appreciated the simple joys, the blessings of life and health, opportunities for labour and, with a sturdy independence, and in their faith in the right, they feared no man.'

The forty-seven butchers, included five called Davey, two McMahons, two Franklins, two Rices, two Hamills and two Branaghs. There were four grocers called Donaldson, Ferguson, Agnew and Allen; five taverns run by McKenna, Sanders, Anderson, Lawless and McDowell. Amongst others were two bakers, two chandlers, a blacksmith, a brewer, a cotton spinner, a cork-cutter and a clothes dealer.

As a retail veteran, starting out in Belfast in the early 1970s, I have seen many changes in shops, shoppers and shopping, and not all for the better. Looking at the growing number of ailing High Streets and dying towns across the UK nowadays, it is impossible not to reflect on the sheer variety of trades operated years ago in main streets countrywide, similar to Hercules Street. Regarding High Streets generally, we've lost something valuable to the commercial monster, and sadly, in my opinion, we are past the point of rescue.

'Hercules Street was a busy and happy place in the old days,' wrote O'Byrne. 'The dwellers therein were good neighbours. They knew well the charity of friendliness and the peace of industrious contentment.'

It's a little too perfect, of course, but he had a point.

Monday, 11 February 2019

BELFAST: OLD STREET SINGERS

An article of any length based on the contents of this blog post is open for commissioning. Contact: joecushnan@aol.com

Michael Portillo, in his television train journeys shows, carries around his Bradshaw's Guide of railway timetables and travel notes, to compare modern trains and travels to days of yore.

It has struck me on more than one occasion that a series could be developed, based on Cathal O'Byrne's entertaining book As I Roved Out, to seek out places and stories of interest throughout Belfast's history. As I Roved out was first published in 1946 by the Irish News, and reprinted in 1982 by The Blackstaff Press. It's full title is As I Roved Out: A Book of the North - Being a Series of Historical Sketches of Ulster and Old Belfast. So, for the next few blog posts, I will dip into the book and highlight some of the stories within. I was born and raised in Belfast and O'Byrne's tales and recollections have always informed and entertained me.



Every town and city, it seems, has seen a fair share of buskers, troubadours and musicians over the years, some impressive, others tuneless. In fact, in a city near to where I live, I see an old chap sitting on a low stool plucking away at a guitar. The repertoire consists of hitting one string and one string only, alternating the speed from slow to faster for variety, but always only one string. The other five on the six-string instrument probably lost the will some time ago.



In As I Roved Out, Cathal O’Byrne recalled Belfast’s street singers, many singing unaccompanied, warbling away and selling their lyrics printed on flimsy paper. ‘From the ballad singers in the streets of Belfast, the old songs could be heard long ago, especially in North Street on a Saturday night.’ He mentioned Arthur Quinn, ‘an institution’ whose most popular song was Sitting in the Parliament Chair. There was Alex McNicholl, a balladeer, known for his Six Magnificent Bricks went Out on a Spree and a version of Master McGrath.


Josef Locke - The Garden where the Praties Grow

Pat Feeney, primarily a comedian, belted out The Gems of Old Ireland, a sixteen-verse epic that saluted many an Irish hero from Brian Boru onward. Johnny Patterson, a circus veteran, could be heard at horse fairs singing Brigid O’Donaghue and The Garden where the Praties Grow. (I remember Mr Sadler in primary school teaching us to sing this circa 1959/60.)



An anonymous singer is mentioned: ‘The high-pitched, dolorous voice of a certain woman ballad singer was well-known to the public of the city(in the 1920s). ‘This woman, for reasons best known to herself, never ventured out except in pouring wet nights, when her wailing voice sounded even more than ordinarily dreary.’ It appears she sang only one song called Dobbin’s Flowery Vale – ‘An’ to hell with you, and Armagh too, an’ Dobbin’s Flowery Vale’.


The Wolfe Tones – The Smashing of the Van

Blind Nicholas Ward’s preference was for rebel songs including The Smashing of the Van, Clare’s Dragoons and The Felons of Our Land. His pitch was West Belfast and his mission through his singing was ‘to sweeten Ireland’s wrong.’

These days, buskers give us The Beatles, Dylan, Coldplay and, more often than not, Brown Eyed Girl, all well and good, but wouldn’t it have been a joy to hear these old balladeers entertaining in the streets of old Belfast. I certainly think so.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

BELFAST: OLD SMITHFIELD

An article of any length based on the contents of this blog post is open for commissioning. Contact: joecushnan@aol.com

Michael Portillo, in his television train journeys shows, carries around his Bradshaw's Guide of railway timetables and travel notes, to compare modern trains and travels to days of yore.

It has struck me on more than one occasion that a series could be developed, based on Cathal O'Byrne's entertaining book As I Roved Out, to seek out places and stories of interest throughout Belfast's history. As I Roved out was first published in 1946 by the Irish News, and reprinted in 1982 by The Blackstaff Press. It's full title is As I Roved Out: A Book of the North - Being a Series of Historical Sketches of Ulster and Old Belfast. So, for the next few blog posts, I will dip into the book and highlight some of the stories within. I was born and raised in Belfast and O'Byrne's tales and recollections have always informed and entertained 
me.



More than twenty years ago, I attempted a poem about old Smithfield Market, Belfast. It is not a very good poem but it noted what I felt about the place. Growing up in the 1970s, a trip into town would not be complete without a stroll through the old building and surroundings. For what it's worth, here's the poem:


  
The musty smell was wonderful, stale
damp, sour but comfortable and safe,
a sense of having been here for years,
secure for trade, exchange and sale.

Over two hundred years, day to day
buying and selling of farm produce,
hides, livestock, social and commercial
patter, agreements, prices to pay.

A quadrangle of single storey
shops filled the former open space,
where cows once stood, books, furniture, odds
and ends, mixed value antiques, hoary,

dusty with that thick seductive smell
teased and tempted the streams of browsers.
"I BUY ANYTHING" said Kavanagh,
McQuillan's "RECORDS TO BUY AND SELL",

Hugh Greer "BOOKSELLER" for well-thumbed
tomes on every subject known to man;
key cutters, scissor sharpeners, clothes
in heaps, as thrifty shoppers haaed and hummed.



Then the fire in nineteen seventy four.
What a blaze, what sadness in the ash,
as I rummage through my younger man's thoughts
for things new buildings can never restore.

Even within some poetic clumsiness, the Smithfield I loved came flooding back. I am not as fond of the replacement market. No offence to the traders who are working to earn a crust. It's the absence of 'atmosphere' that I miss most.

Cathal O'Byrne wrote about old Smithfield and painted a generally jolly picture of hustle and bustle amongst traders, browsers and customers. He described fair days when amusement booths were set up including 'the din and squeak of the Punch and Judy shows' and much good-natured banter.

He talked about 'the bartering and clapping of hands as horses, mules and asses changed owners, the screaming of cheap-jacks where the country people gathered, wide-eyed, around rolls of gaudy woven stuffs and big Dan Halliday rattling his delph to show its soundness at, it seemed, the imminent risk of reducing his plates and dishes to smithereens.'

Smithfield's traders included fruit and vegetable sellers, coopers, carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, coffin-makers, wood carvers, antique dealers, harness-makers, ironmongers, and many a pub. There was also the Mill Gate Theatre at the corner of Mill Street and Chapel Lane.

O'Byrne concluded: 'The people of Smithfield in the old days, while they made money by the hatful, did not neglect the social amenities. Kindly, neighbourly and generous to a degree beyond the ordinary, to them the finer things in life were as important as the goods of this world.'

I conclude that as a teenager, the place was magical to me. It still is, in my head.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

BELFAST: STREETS & SWEETS

An article of any length based on the contents of this blog post is open for commissioning. Contact: joecushnan@aol.com

Michael Portillo, in his television train journeys shows, carries around his Bradshaw's Guide of railway timetables and travel notes, to compare modern trains and travels to days of yore.

It has struck me on more than one occasion that a series could be developed, based on Cathal O'Byrne's entertaining book As I Roved Out, to seek out places and stories of interest throughout Belfast's history. As I Roved out was first published in 1946 by the Irish News, and reprinted in 1982 by The Blackstaff Press. It's full title is As I Roved Out: A Book of the North - Being a Series of Historical Sketches of Ulster and Old Belfast. So, for the next few blog posts, I will dip into the book and highlight some of the stories within. I was born and raised in Belfast and O'Byrne's tales and recollections have always informed and entertained me.



I am a sucker for street directories, especially old ones illustrating streets that are no longer there. While writing a memoir in recent times, I got hold of a couple of Belfast Street directories from the early 20thcentury to pinpoint where my ancestors lived. They are fascinating documents and they helped me enormously to condense their neighbourhood into a few closely-knit streets in the New Lodge Road area.

So, it was with considerable interest that I found a chapter in As I Roved Out in which Cathal O’Byrne combed through directories, one from 1819, more of a list than a directory, of residents, streets, lanes and entries. The first actual directory is dated 1840 – 41 and was known as Martin’s Directory, available to subscribers for four shillings, and four shillings and sixpence to non-subscribers. For your money, you got ‘the names and addresses of Nobility, Gentry, Clergy, Merchants, Traders and Principal Inhabitants of Belfast and Beyond’as well as the addresses of landowners and magistrates.



One example - an interesting paragraph recalls a confectioner. When I was growing up in the 1960s, we would buy little bags of butter balls, mint imperials, dolly mixtures, flying saucers, lemon bon-bons, pineapple chunks, black jacks, fruit salad and more. I did recoil, however, at the thought of brandy balls, clove rock and aniseed balls – the devil’s confectionery. We also devoured packs of fruit gums, wine gums, fruit pastilles, opal fruits, midget gems and spangles. In the 1840s, the inventory was a little different.



The confectioner in the street directory is David Sheills, at 45 Union Street, Belfast. His entry notes that he ‘takes the liberty of informing his friends and the public that he still continues to make Superior Lozenges…  Peppermint, Cinnamon, Lemon, Cayenne and Ginger at different prices from 10d to 1s 6d per lb. He mentions ‘Warm Stomach Rock, recommended for a sore throat or a pain in the stomach. This rock ‘expels wind, changes the acrimony of the bile, strengthens the stomach and promotes digestion and the different secretions.’



The entry continues to list items such as paregoric and horehound candy, coltfoot candy, worm candy, squill candy, marshmallo (sic) candy, real China honeycomb, Spanish juice ju-jubes, acidulated drops, shells, comfits, sugar sticks ‘in white, black, red, pink or amber, as required.

Sugar baskets, blown, spun or plait, plain or crystallised lions, dogs, birds and bottles, black lumps, bull’s eyes and paradise balls were all available. (No sugar police in the olden days!)

As a former retail manager, I noted O’Byrne’s comment: ‘With the Belfast merchant of the old days there was none of the ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. They were out to please their customers, and that they usually succeeded in doing so, the flourishing business firms of the old town attested.’

I would recommend acquiring an old street directory connected to family history. It will fascinate. Oh, and have a bag of toffees close by, for old time’s sake.

Friday, 8 February 2019

BELFAST: STORMONT & A RUTHLESS REVEREND

An article of any length based on the contents of this blog post is open for commissioning. Contact: joecushnan@aol.com

Michael Portillo, in his television train journeys shows, carries around his Bradshaw's Guide of railway timetables and travel notes, to compare modern trains and travels to days of yore.

It has struck me on more than one occasion that a series could be developed, based on Cathal O'Byrne's entertaining book As I Roved Out, to seek out places and stories of interest throughout Belfast's history. As I Roved out was first published in 1946 by the Irish News, and reprinted in 1982 by The Blackstaff Press. It's full title is As I Roved Out: A Book of the North - Being a Series of Historical Sketches of Ulster and Old Belfast. So, for the next few blog posts, I will dip into the book and highlight some of the stories within. I was born and raised in Belfast and O'Byrne's tales and recollections have always informed and entertained me.

Last year, my wife and I, and two friends from England spent a few days in Belfast. The friends were visiting for the first time and wanted to see and do a few things. One item on their list was a visit to the parliament buildings at Stormont - a first for all of us. As you may know, there was not a heck of a lot going on politically in the corridors of power, as the Northern Ireland Assembly had not assembled for a long time. But the building was open for tourists and talks about what should happen when the wheels of government are turning.



As a kid, the image of the magnificent building with its long driveway was always impressive. It was even more so as we drove up to the car park. The policemen outside the building's entrance were armed, friendly and helpful. The reception staff were friendly and helpful too. We had a tour, admired the magnificence of the interior and then settled into the former Senate area which is now a committee room. It feels like a powerful room, with its red leather seats and fancy decor. The presenter shared anecdotes about the past and it was all very entertaining.

It wasn't difficult to imagine adversarial exchanges, shouting matches and the natural trait of Northern Ireland's politicians and officials to engage in that wait-a-wee-minute/catch-yourself-on/dug-in heels type of debate.

Afterwards, the presenter told us that she was distracted by my friend who, she said, was a ringer for Ian Paisley Jr. (Later in the Crown Bar, I ask the bar staff if they could see a resemblance and, quick as a flash, they said yes. I got the same reaction when I asked the waiter in Deane's restaurant. Case closed!)



Cathal O'Byrne concentrated on nearby Stormont Castle, but on the day of our visit, it wasn't open to the public. The castle's history is interesting. '..... the brown towers and turrets of Stormont Castle show above the treetops, and in the little graveyard is erected the great high colonnaded mausoleum with its pepper-box cupola, to the memory of the man, the Rev. John Cleland, M.A., who built the Castle of Stormont.'

Cleland was the Rector of Newtownards, a property owner, said to be an avid land-grabber of fields, farms and some public roads. His castle was not really a castle at all. It started as a large house around 1850, and through extensions and alterations, it became quite a grand building  'by encasing it in Scrabo stone and furnishing it with towers, battlements and turrets, forming the Castle of Stormont as it stands today.'

According to O'Byrne, as well as being a Rector, property owner and land agent, Rev. Cleland was also a magistrate with strong links to the secret service, paying spies and informers when necessary to gather information against enemies. In the descriptions of the man and his activities in the chapter 'The Man Who Built Stormont', I kept thinking of the ruthless, power-hungry, gold-obsessed man in the same way I think of ruthless characters in The Sopranos or Peaky Blinders, people who get what they want whatever it takes.

A lawyer of the time said about Cleland: '....he tells you that his mind is unprejudiced, that his heart is full of humanity and that all his hopes, fears and wishes are a pure and innocent mixture of milk and water.'  Of course, by accounts, the Reverend was nothing of the kind.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

BELFAST: JERRY CRUNCHERS AND GRAVE WATCHERS

An article of any length based on the contents of this blog post is open for commissioning. Contact: joecushnan@aol.com


Michael Portillo, in his television train journeys shows, carries around his Bradshaw's Guide of railway timetables and travel notes, to compare modern trains and travels to days of yore.

It has struck me on more than one occasion that a series could be developed, based on Cathal O'Byrne's entertaining book As I Roved Out, to seek out places and stories of interest throughout Belfast's history. As I Roved out was first published in 1946 by the Irish News, and reprinted in 1982 by The Blackstaff Press. It's full title is As I Roved Out: A Book of the North - Being a Series of Historical Sketches of Ulster and Old Belfast. So, for the next few blog posts, I will dip into the book and highlight some of the stories within. I was born and raised in Belfast and O'Byrne's tales and recollections have always informed and entertained me.


Jerry Cruncher played by Alfie Bass
in A Tale of Two Cities (1958)

A reference to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens catches my eye. It refers to a character called Jerry Cruncher of Hanging Sword Alley, Whitefriars, London, who works as a bank messenger by day but operates as a 'resurrection man' at night. That term is a disguise for 'body-snatcher'.  It was a lucrative business.



In a paragraph that mentions the notorious duo, William Burke (from Urney, Co. Tyrone) and William Hare (possibly from Newry or thereabouts), both of whom moved to Edinburgh, an anatomy lecturer paid £7 10s for one body.

With the rise in medical schools, the demand for corpses increased, and demand always outweighed supply, so high cash settlements were guaranteed. For those who dared to rob graves, it was easy money. Burke and Hare, and probably others, turned to murder to keep up with requests for fresh
corpses.

Burke and Hare at work

In Belfast and elsewhere, it was not uncommon for relatives to keep watch through the night on the graves of recently deceased family members. It seems no one bothered much keeping an eye on the plots of hanged murderers and other criminals, but many innocent souls were guarded. For a time, the watchers were armed with guns but there were many complaints from graveyard neighbours about noise and from relatives that tombstones were being damaged by stray bullets. Some watchers were accompanied by dogs ready to pounce on would be snatchers. It was fairly common for graves to be guarded until decomposition made bodies valueless.

Cathal O'Byrne quotes a form issued by the Old Poorhouse in Clifton Street, Belfast to be signed by anyone appointing a watcher:

'I hereby engage to be responsible for the conduct of ______ sent by me to watch the Remains of ______ in the burying ground belonging to the Belfast Charitable Society, and to make good to the said Society any damage which may be done by him, or any of them, during the period of their watching tombstones or otherwise.'

The quirky lexicographer, Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil's Dictionary defines 'body-snatcher thus: 'One who supplies the young physicians with that which the old physicians have supplied the undertaker.'

Body-snatching was an obscene crime endorsed by those 'respectable' medics who were prepared to stump up cash for corpses. The 'trade' diminished over time but grave robbing continues in various parts of the world to this day.

In A Tale of Two Cities, Jerry Cruncher, irritated by his wife's praying for him, eventually renounced his life as a resurrection man. Burke was hanged on 28 January 1829 and his body dissected publicly in a college anatomy theatre. Hare was released from custody and eventually vanished, never to be seen again.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

OPEN FOR FREELANCE COMMISSIONS

I used to be 3

I am open for freelance feature 
and review commissions.

Please get in touch if there is anything I can do for you.
joecushnan@aol.com

I have these areas of expertise/interest:



RETAILING - all aspects of shops, shoppers & shopping (serious analysis; humour) based on 35+ years in retail management. My book, Retail Confidential (2010) sums up my career.



JOB LOSS - Having lost jobs 3 times in my working life, I condensed the experience of dealing with unemployment, bouncing back and not letting the bastards grind me down into a 'my story' and advice book, Much Calamity & The Redundance Kid: Job Loss, Seriously a Funny Old Game (2012).



GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD - The great movies and movie stars pre-1980, preferably. I wrote a book about the star of Ben Hur - Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood (2013/2015).

BELFAST NOSTALGIA - It's my home city and there's many a tale to tell.

NON-FICTION BOOK REVIEWS - Dig around this blog for some of the stuff that interests me. The 'popular posts' on the right hand side might be a good place to start.


Please get in touch if there is anything I can do for you. joecushnan@aol.com

Published  feature work in the past few years includes:

On leaving Belfast

On my father, the stranger

On singer/songwriter David McWilliams

On the golden age of television

On actor James Ellis’s short stories

On my father

On the actor Sam Kidd

On the closure of retailer BHS

On family history

On my runaway father

On examination results and my education

On homelessness and begging

On the Royal Ulster Constabulary

On my mother

On a 1928/29 Belfast tourism guide

Saturday, 2 February 2019

THIS IS NOT A SPECTACLE BY ISABELLE KENYON





















This Is Not A Spectacle: Extended Edition
by
Isabelle Kenyon

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/This-Spectacle-Isabelle-Charlotte-Kenyon/dp/1979446431/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1549104461&sr=1-3&keywords=Isabelle+Kenyon

Link to Fly on the Wall Press: https://www.flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk

Link to Isabelle's author services: https://www.flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk/author-services

Isabelle Kenyon is a northern UK-based poet and the author of Micro chapbook, The Trees Whispered (Origami Poetry Press) and Digging Holes to Another Continent (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York). She is the editor of Fly on the Wall Press, a socially conscious small press for chapbooks and anthologies.

This short collection packs a punch with reflections and analysis of humanity. It explores personal emotions, individual awkwardness, the state of society, people watching and more. There is anger, sensitivity, sadness, hope and finger-wagging at unfairness and injustice. Great imagery at times too.

I love this one:

Letter to my younger self

'They are going to love you, though that is unimportant.
You will find comfort in your own skin: this will be everything.'

Contents:
The Van
Mumbai
The Day Mumbai Stopped
Hiroshima's Children
Shaping a Future
Stains
Raised by the Internet ('Log off. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.')
Car Park Scene
The Man with the Unfortunate Name
Homeless
On Display
Hospital
Identity: Granny Olga ('I visit your silver birch in the orchard, you are the wind in its branches')
Teenagers at a Bus Stop
The Only Pub that will Serve Us in Stockport
Manchester Arndale
Cain
Just Shoot Me, Okay?
The Care Home Room
Hair
Cry-Baby
Chicken Shop God
Me Too: Spoken Word
Early Evening Wine Bar
Let Me Count the Ways You are Flawed
Heard It on the Grapevine 
Letter to My Younger Self



Check out the links above for more on Isabelle Kenyon and Fly on the Wall