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16 October 2014
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Electrifying Memories

Parishioners of St Katharine's Parish Church, Belfast recall times past in the life of their church.

(Contributed in June 2004)

St Katharine's Parish Church, Belfast

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The parishioners of St Katharine's Parish Church, Dunlambert Park, Belfast have contributed to a booklet called Electrifying Memories, in which they remember events and people in the life of their church.

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Memories of St Katharine's Parish 1949-1963
from John Garland (a past parishioner)

The Toffee Man
During the 1950's a parishioner was the travelling rep. for Sharpes Toffee - then a brand leader in sweets, particularly caramels. After Morning Service this gentleman (his name I cannot remember) produced a pocketful of caramels for the children leaving church, sunday school or creche. Obviously a very popular person to have on a Sunday morning!

The Cake Lady
Whilst the construction of the Clark Hall was taking place, a lady living directly opposite the Church, who was not a parishioner, baked a lovely cake for the volunteer workers to enjoy during their tea-breaks on a Saturday. This lady was invited to the dedication of the Hall when it was ready for use.

The Coat over the Bicycle
The Clark Hall was built almost exclusively by voluntary labour. Many people contributed to this task led by some dedicated tradesmen. One job not done by volunteers was the plastering of the hall - a team of specialists was used for this. Although much of the labouring associated was done by the volunteers. The steelwork for the roof was fabricated by a small engineering firm and a mobile crane had to be hired to do the heavy lifting involved. On the Saturday for which the crane was hired, the sky opened with a continuous deluge of rain. As the crane was hired the work had to go on and everybody got a thorough soaking. One of the volunteers (Bob Lindsay) took off his fairly substantial raincoat and placed it over his old bicycle and got more than a little wet himself.

Parish Weekends at Murlough House, Dundrum
Murlough House was the seaside home of the Marquis of Downshire - the Hill Family of Hillsborough Castle. As the family only used the house for a summer vacation, usually in August, they made it available to the Church of Ireland as a conference centre and residential home for the use of parishioners and friends. The mansion was set in the sandhills of Dundrum (now looked after by the National Trust) and in sight of the sea and provided a magnificent view of the Mourne Mountains. Rev. Beacom led a group of parishioners there for a conference style weekend. Some leisure time was available to roam the beautiful grounds or even to visit the delights of Newcastle. An early rise was rewarded by wandering down to the beach where the seals would show great curiosity in their guests and come out of the water to talk to them.

Front cover of Electrifying Memories

Gang Show at the Opera House
In the 1950s the 75th Belfast Scouts (St. Katharine's) was one of the leading scout troops in Belfast, boasting in its ranks a large number of Kings/Queens Scouts. The scout organisation put on a Northern Ireland Gang Show for a week in the Opera House. The Gang Show was a variety entertainment with a cast of scouts and directed by the late Ralph Reader, a nationally known producer of shows including the wartime R.A.F. Gang Show. One of the 75th Scouts (Billy Miskimmon) was the star of the show, on one occasion singing a song describing himself as a "Dab from Donegal" who was a "hero to his mum".

The Pram Service
One of Rev. Beacom's innovative ideas during the 1950s was to hold a Pram Service for mothers and babies and a few toddlers. A photograph of one such service (the photo unfortunately undated but at a guess, probably around 1957-58), reveals a bevy of young ladies - all smiling - led by Mrs. Beacom pushing a lovely 'Silver Cross' pram. (At that time a Silver Cross was the Rolls-Royce of the pram world - and now the makers reveal a revival of their sales!). The photo shows most, if not all, of the young mothers wearing hats and the babies being wheeled in luxury are facing their mothers, now unfortunately something that is seldom seen.

The Chapel of the Resurrection
This ornate chapel, now sadly much vandalised, was the private chapel and mausoleum of the Marquis of Donegall, the owner of Belfast Castle. The parishes of the Rural Deanery took it in turns to hold a short service there on Sunday afternoons during May to September, with their choirs leading the way. St. Katharine's played their part in this and the event was popular with the parishioners of the day.

Any past parishioner of St Katharine's who would like to purchase a copy of the Electrifying Memories booklet should email meryl@mmcarter.plus.com. The booklet costs £5 and the proceeds go to the building fund and the rewiring of the church - hence the title.

YOUR RESPONSES

D. Curry
Hello Colin,
I know of a Norman Cheddy who was a childhood friend of my Dad`s, this would make him 86 or so. If you think he is a relation of Eileen`s please email me and I will give you directions to his house.
T dot curry2 at ntlworld dot com

John Platt - March '06
My mother attends this church and i found this article very interesting. i have printed it out for my mother.

Sonia Stevenson - March '06
Message for Sue White: My family lived in Murlough Farm in 1870. Name, Forrester Tom, Daughter Anna Maria was my Great grand mother.

Sue White - June '05
I am doing some family history research into my late mother's family who were Maitland's. My grandmother's family were from the Murlough/Dundrum area. In many documents their home address is listed as "Murlough, Dundrum". I assume this is Murlough Farm? If any parishioners have any info regarding George and Isabella Maitland, or their brothers and sisters I would be most grateful. Any more info about the house/farm would also be wonderful.

Colin McAlpin - Dec '05
As a former member of St Katharine's - choirboy, badminton club, scouts, cub master, son of a former warden, etc - I would be interested in hearing of the present locations for such former friends as Victor McCray, Brian Parks and Eileen Cheddy. We all spent a lot of our youth involved in various church activities. As a writer, I have been compiling a sort-of biography - for my own amusement - of my time at St Kate's - under the-then Rev Ernest Beacom - and wonder where the above old friends have got to. Any help would be appreciated. The period was during the l950s.

 



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