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16 October 2014
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Our Daily Bread

Bakery historian James Davidson gives YP&M's Michael MacNamee an insight into the heritage of the bakery business in Northern Ireland.

bread
 

Where would we be without it - our daily ration of pan and plain bread, soda and potato farls, pancakes and buns. James Davidson is the third generation of his family to be invloved in the bakery industry and has researched the bakery business in Ulster for his book - Our Daily Bread.

 

Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939

rows of ormo bread vans

 

 

James Davidson's father always referred to baking as " the second oldest profession". According to Genesis, chapter 40, verse1 , "The butter of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord, the King of Egypt". The butler was freed but the baker was hanged !

The Bakers guild in ireland dates back to 1478, the first master being one John West. Centuries later the "Tech" in Belfast taught its bakery students in the early 1900's as the humble loaf and its production became more and more advanced.

 

 

Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939James Davidson, centre

James Davidson, centre, in 1964

In his book James revels the family business that baking was, as far back as the early 1800's and which including as many as 35 bakeries outside Belfast in rural Ulster. Family names synonymous with bread production such as Stewarts, JB Kennedy, Irwins, Gillialand, Marsh, Whaley and McWhatters. McCann's bakery in Newry was run by five generations of that family.

The distribution network has changed greatly as the trap and carts made way for the rail which in turn made way for vans and the modern day lorries.

The owners, workers, the bread making process and the delivery network as well as the bakery buildings themselves are laid out in a pictorial history. Most of the buildings are either gone or reused as retail outlets.

 

 

Veda bread was 100 years old in 2004. Invented by Scot, Robert Graham in Gleneagles, Veda was baked all over the UK, however, Northern Ireland remains the only place still baking the bread today.

 

Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939
This picture records the participation of CW Hart, the world champion long
distance runner, in the 1914 London to Brighton run. The man in the car is
Mr R Graham, the patentee of Veda Bread. Mr Graham seems to have
realised the value of sports sponsorship early.

Bible references, how Lisburn Distillery Football Club got their nickname and sugar smuggling all have their place in the history of bread in Northern Ireland....
Audio Clip: James Davidson and Michael MacNamee

If you have any memories of the bakery business in Northern Ireland please fill in the form below.

YOUR RESPONSES

Margaret Harrison - Mar '08
I am looking for anyone who would have knowledge of Robert Crawford who was my Great Grandfather and worked at the Ormo Bakery. I believe that he was a Secretary around about 1920's?

Rita Gillard - Mar '08
I make soda bread in the electric fry pan, cooking 5 mins on each side, quite often it cooks on the outside but is doughy on the inside. Would anyone know what I am doing wrong? My Mum passed away 10 years ago and she made great potato, soda, wheaten and treacle farls. I only have her soda bread recipe and never had to make it while she was alive.
We came from Belfast in 1953, I remember the bread man and milk man coming to our house delivering. These were great times and the milk and everything else tasted so much better.
Would anyone be able to e-mail me recipes for these farls.
Thank you for the great web site. I enjoyed so much!
Rita(nee Watt)

Margaret Cromie nee Wilson - Feb '08
I lived at the street at the back of the Ormeau until 1964.I loved Veda and fruit malts and was trying to get a way to buy Veda here in Canada, Sobeys groceries sell potato bread, so if enough people ask for it we might get it brought over. Mrs Bridges bakery in Toronto or in Sobeys are the only places I know.

When my daughter and I went over to Ballyclare to visit my sister, we ate nothing else but wheaten farl, Veda, pancakes(the sponge type) and fish and chips!
Good luck in finding the bread and it's nice to be in touch with anyone from Belfast, Ballyclare or the barnish.

Thomas E Boyle - February '08
Why cant we have more ulster bread goods and recipes for the type of foods we love and could go on enjoying for years to come, currant squares, baps, veda loves,batch bread, I'm sure lots of ulster folk would glady pay a small fee for the establishment off an ulster recipe club, if you don't then someone will eventually will put recipes on the web, or simply buy a recipe book of ulster baked goods, i was a baker for fifteen years and loved every moment of it.

Barry Woodside - February '08
I have a number of tokens from Ulster bread makers - Hughes, McWatters (sic - not McWhatters!) Bakery, Ormeau Bakery, William Vint (Carrickfergus) and Baines Machine Bakery (Larne).
They are illustrated on my website www.irish-tokens.co.uk Some were bought in bulk at a discount while some were bought by large companies and given to the workers in their paypackets.
Best wishes
Barry Woodside

FRANK AGNEW -  Dec '07
HI. MY FATHER WORKED IN KENNEDYS AS A STOREMAN FOR MANY YEARS. WOULD ANYONE HAVE KNOWN HIM? - KEVIN AGNEW.

Richard - Feb '07
My father was a "bread server" in McCombs in Snugville Street Belfast in the 40's and 50's.
He originally had a horse and cart as his transport to feliver.
MCombs became Milanda.

Trish Taylor - Jan '08
I am trying to track down information about a Hanka Doll my Dad has. The cotton is made in Ireland and the box has a trademark symbol 'Ormo" ( a tree in a circle) Trademark No 134125.
So far I have been able to find out nothing about this little doll at all and wondered if it may have been made for the bakery at some time?

Did the bakery have a logo of any kind?

Brian - Jan '08
What does VEDA stand for ?

Maureen Macfarlane nee O'Hara - Dec '07
Would any one know Andrew O'Hara - a baker in Belfast in the 1920/1930's? I think he worked in vlonard confectionery on the Falls Road as my grandmother worked there. Her name was Ellen O'Hara nee Rice - if this rings any bells, please get in touch, thank you, Maureen.

George Le Francois - Mar '07
The easiest method to make WHEATEN BREAD is as follows:
Pre heat a cast iron frying pan (if you don't have a griddle) over a medium to medium-hot flame/element with a diffuser underneath. Dust the pan very liberally with plain flour.

In a bowl add

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Swirl together to blend

Using a metal spoon - it's easier to clean than a wooden one - add in buttermilk to make a very moist dough. Turn out on to a liberally floured counter or board and knead for a few turns adding more plain flour as needed to keep it from sticking to the counter and yourself.

Form into a disc the size of the pan and cut in quarters (triangles).

Place in the pan and cook 6 minutes; turn and cook 6 minutes on the second side. Cooked, propped against each other, the three outer sides for 3 minutes each. Cool completely on a wire rack.

What you have just made is a "cake" of wheaten which has 4 farls.

when cool split and apply a goodly amount of hard butter and whatever sweet to savoury items that strike your fancy.

Simple? It is.

Maureen Quiigg - Mar '07
I also remember going to kennedy's bakery for my mother to get baps and sodas in the fifties

Eamonn - Feb '07
To answer some questions, a 'bread server' is a bread delivery man. Up until about ten years ago it would have included retailing from the van similar to the way milkmen delivered milk to your doorstep. You'd pull out the big long drawers full of cakes and smaller breads like Veda and Soda farls, the pan and plain bread would fill the rest of the van. The job also involved deliveries to shops, and nowadays that's all it entails, with large supermarkets making it necessary to use bigger lorries. 'Scammels' refers to a now defunct British lorry manufacturer.

Vicky - Feb '07
I need detailed information about davidson bakery and the way they appointed executives to give away the breads. main focus is on their dressing style as well as the info. Thank You.

Sean - Feb '07
HI I am living in Australia now, having been brought up inportadown my 1st job was in Irwins bakery, I miss th ebread from back home. Can anyone send me the recipe to make Veda bread would be great to pass down to the kids, Hers my email seand006@hotmail.com

Veda Franz - Nov '06
Can somebody please tell me why the Veda loaf was given its name?

Janette McDonald - Sep '06
My Dad and Mum both worked at the "Co" before they were married. We came to Canada when I was little. It is my parent's 40th Anniversary this year so I'm surfing for info on 1966 Belfast, I'm happy to find this site:) Anyone remember a Tom McDonald or Isabell Reford working at the Co-Op.. or perhaps your parents might remember them?
They are both well and Dad is still baking!!

Margaret Rankin - Aug '06
Like Susan Williams, I remember my mother sending me to the coty bakeries with six pence on a friday night, and the lovely man would fill my bag up with cakes swiss roll and so on I would run like mad home as my mum would make trifle out of the swiss role - oh happy days. As I live in England now I miss my favourite bread lovely treacle farls. When I get a chance to go home I find the nearest baker and indulge in cream cookies and currant squares. By the way does anyone remember the wee stew shop in North Street, I always had a bowl when I was down that way. Sorry I never had a liking for Veda bread but I loved the plain loaf but I can buy plain loaves in marks & sparks over here - those were the days.

Alan Johnston - Aug '06
I found this article to very intersting.

Re: Ormeau Bakery - Can someone please give me the history behind the Ormeau Bakery, such as when was it built and when was it closed etc.

Joe Doyle - July '06
A wee question. What was invented 20 years before the motor car and thirty years before the Veda and is still in use every day? The answer - the Belfast bap. Invented by Bernard Hughes and thousands are still sold every day. Long may it live!

Margaret Murray - July '06
Looking for a recipe for wheaten farls. I think it's a combination of oatmeal and whole wheat to get the right texture. Also molasses. Not sure of proportions. Thanks. I went to McKennas bake shop at the markets. Now live in US. My daughters and myself are all great cooks dispelling the myth Irish women are lousy cooks.. Given what we had to work with, I think we did a darn good job"

Bob Cook - July '06
Does anyone remember the O'Hara Bakery from Belfast. I have been told that my Granddad's family (McGrath) was connected to them. The article here does not mention the O'Hara's Bob.

Maureen - July '06
To Patrick Lennon. Is your name also spelled Linden? When I do my searching of the surname, it has been spelled Lennon and several other ways. My grandfather was a bread server, I think this is delivering bread with those big bread trucks. The ones that are pictured on the site. Thats about it. I enjoyed visiting Ireland and seeing my relatives for the first time. Maureen

J batty, Queensbury West Riding Of Yorkshire - June '06
I served in the Dukes at Palace baracks Holywood 1958/9 and Inglis breads were the best breads that I have had, I even tried to get it sent to me here in Bradford.

Diane Goodwin - June '06
I'm another one who misses the Veda, the tatie farls & the wheaten. I remember growing up on veda, toasted with cheese (not melted, just thickly sliced) or just butter. It didn't need anything else. And the plain bread! You nearly broke your teeth on the crusts when it was toasted! There's nothing like it though, and I miss it dearly now I live in Australia. Maybe I'm wrong, but I remember a lot of the bakeries still operating when I was a kid - Ormo, Inglis....I've been away from home since 2002, so I've got severe withdrawal symptoms...I also miss proper custard tarts (with the brown burnt skin on!) those cakes from Ormo with the pastry case, red jam, sponge, icing on top and a cherry in the middle.
And chips from Isabeal's on the Lisburn Rd sandwiched between 2 large whacks of buttered wheaten at my granny's house. A taste sensation, I tell you!

And yes, a veda recipe would be great...

Iris Moffett - June '06
I also was back in Belfast area for a holiday, I have been living in canada since 1966. Have mastered wheaten, soda and potato bread but still have to wait till I go back home to get my veda and I eat it everyday while I'm there. If anybody has a recipe please pass it on.

Patrick Lennon - '06
One of the contributors on your web page, (Maureen Savell-May 06) says her grandfather was a bread server at Linden's Bakery. My grandfather was a bread server also. Can you tell me what the job involved?

Maureen - June '06
I have just returned from my trip to Norther Ireland. It was wonderful, saw Belfast and visited my cousins for the very first time. I was told by my cousins that my grandfather worked in the Kennedy Bakery not the Linden Bakery, that I thought he worked at. So, Frank Kennedy if your family would have any information on my grandfather working there it would be grand. He died in the 1950's so maybe someone remembers him. Would appreciate a note from you if anyone knows of him. I gave my email address to the originator of the site, so if you need it, I will give him permission to give it to you. Maureen

Jim Walsh - June '06
I lived on Eliza Street just down from Inglis' Bakery. I left for the US in 1959. The smells from the bakery were wonderful. My older brother worked there for a while and even his clothes smelled good. The lorries from Inglis' were up and down Eliza Street all the time. We called them "scamels" for some reason. Does anyone know where that word came from? We used to run behind them and grab on to their high bumper and hitch rides all the way up to Cromac Street where they would turn off. The scamel doors were sealed shut with a loop of wire with a lead seal about the size of a sixpence but much thicker. We would place a stick into the wire loop and twist it until it broke. The little pieces of lead would add up after a while and were sold to Tony Stowe (scrap dealer) for a few pennies for sweets at McGlades shop in Eliza Street. The surface of Eliza Street was cobble stoned at that time and the ride was pretty rough. Prior to the scamels, Inglis' delivered by horse drawn carts. The horses were shoed mainly at Johnny McKeown's Blacksmith Shop which was next door to my house. Johnny was our landlord.

Frank Kennedy - May '06
On Saturday mornings in the early 1950s, I went regularly to the JB Kennedy's (no relation) at the bottom of Beechmount Street and stood in line for a pillow case full of bread for a shilling. As the delivery vans came home from their routes, the contents of their long trays would be added to the sales table, along with fresh bread from the day's bakery overage. On more than one occasion, I remember Mr Kennedy himself coming out to view the progress and give me a pat on the head. My father commented that he only did that because my head looked like a bap.

Agnes - May '06
I have been recently told that my great grandfather may have worked in a Bakery in Belfast. Would anyone be able to advise whereabouts in Belfast and how many Bakers existed in and around 1890's? He apparently died from an accident at work. Any suggestions greatly appreciated! Thanks you.

Maureen Savell - May '06
My grandfather John Linden, was a bread server at Lindens Bakery in Belfast. I have a picture of a mural someone took of Lindens Bakery, and I believe the bakery still exists to this day. I have never seen Belfast, as I live in the USA. If you would like a picture of this mural which says Lindens Bakery at the bottom right hand corner. It is quite colourful and I am sure it has lots of meaning to the people from Belfast. It looks quite modern, but I don't think it is there today. It says Salvation Army also on it.

Adrian Gillian - March '06
Could anyone from the former milanda bakeries/inglis especially from the glen road depot supply me with (copies) of photographs of the vans and lorries of the fleet from the 1960s and 70s which they may have driven or maintained, especially transit mk1 /mk2 variants (ah memories of sitting on a milk crate on the passenger side of the cab as there was no passenger seat! could barely see over the dash!), and being woke out of my bed at 3.30 am to spray easy start into the air intake while my dad churned the engine on a cold morning (i was only 7 or 8 at the time!) ford d-series custom cab MK1/MK2, leyland ld (can't remember much about these but they had a flat pug face and sliding cab doors which never stayed shut! health and safety hah!), threepenney cab (windscreen and two smaller windows), leyland terriers/ boxers clydesdales and any other models I may have over looked, in milanda, inglis, windmill or mothers pride livery as i scratch build models when I get time to

Betty - March '06
Why is it so difficult to find a recipe for Veda Bread?

Norman Faulds - March '06
Can anyone please provide information about C W Hart other than what appears on this website?

Robert - Feb '06
There are also some australians who would like the recipe for good old irish veda bread. loved the stuff.

Moya - Jan '06
I just came back on Tuesday with a Veda loaf and 6 Malt loaves as my kids who are Canadians love the bread from home espicailly the Malt loaves by Sunblest

Susan Williams - Jan '06
I remember the smell of the Coty Bakery in Ardilea Street on the Oldpark Road. My friends and I used to go and get a large paper bag of 'clippings' the ends of the buns and swiss rolls still hot from the ovens for one old penny and have a picnic on the 'skin fields ' just up the road. This would have been during the 1950's andearly 60's

Joan Skillen(Whiteside) - Jan '06
Does anyone have a recipe for veda? I can see from one of the posts that it had a patent.You'd think in this day and age of technology that someone could figure it out. Someone sent me a recipe for a wee malt loaf but nowhere near like veda. Still drooling in Canada.

Jean Crawford - Oct 05 Australia
I was going through old newspaper cuttings that my mother had kept for years and came across this one...

Newspaper cutting sent in by Jean Crawford of Australia

Maybe you could help as to what it was all about, and where the loaves were being sent. Unfortunately we don't have plain loaves here in Australia so my mouth was watering. There is an arrow pointing to the young man at the front - wouldn't have a clue as to who that is either.

Olwyn Graff - Dec '05
When I was young, I used to spend a holiday with my Aunt, who had a shop in Belfast on the Newtownards Road. She used to send me up to Stewarts for a pan and a veda. Is there no way I can get recipies for these breads? and also the old favourites, soda farls and potato bread made with just bread and flour and fried on the pan. Thanks.

Elise Snoddy Klug - Dec '05
My great grandfather, David Rainey, was a baker in Belfast, but I have no idea where he would have worked. He also worked as a baker while in Lurgan, where he married and then on to Belfast.

Gerard McBride - Sept '05
I used to help my uncle Jimmy, known as a bread server on his run for Milanda Bakeries, delivering to home and shops. He used a large Morris van with a sliding cover over the back doors for protection against the rain when the long trays were pulled out to get to the 'small's as soda and potato bread etc..were known as. Milanda used to be famous for their pastries and had a Red Seal motif on their vans and products if I recall right. Another uncle worked for Inglis and used a Smith electric vehicle, both their runs covered west Belfast. Both bakeries eventually bcame known as Mothers Pride.

Stephen - September '05
I mind the bread man doing his rounds in finaghy, pump of the horn had us kids running to the rear of his van with the pull out long trays,and maybe if we were lucky wed have got the odd "hard bun" for a halfpenny.

Dawn - Sep 05
Veda Bread would make its way all the way to Canada ( where I now reside ) each summer with my granny when she was alive. I so loved that with a good, cup of tea and some nice cheese.......oh, memories.

sigh

Joan Skillen (Whiteside) - Sept '05
I remember lining up at Pa Jordans bakery at Westburne St Newtownards Rd. Every Saturday morning my granny sent me for vedas, apple tarts, treacle farls ,soda farls and tatie bread. I can honestly say that bakery goods was the only thing I genuinely missed aside from my family when I came to Canada. Of course nowadays we have wonderful breads like multi grains and focaccia. My first response to Canadian bread was that this would have been really great if you didn't have a rubber at school, hmmmmmm I mean an eraser. Still drooling in Canada.

Hugh Thompson - Sep '05
I was a bread salesman for forty years from 1956 to 1996 delivered from city bakery mac combs ormo

Anita Collins Nee Mcarthur - August '05
My dad ( James McArthur was a bread server ( as they were then known) for many years with the Co~op bakery in Ravenhill Avenue I used to love going out with him every Saturday and pinching the buns when he was not looking! He gave me Half a crown for a day's work, which was a fortune then. I accredit my love to sweet things to him! Those days bring so many sweet memories for me now...

Margaret Cromie(neeWilson) - Feb '08
I lived at the street at back of the ormeau till 1964 I loved veda and fruit malts and was trying to get a way to buy veda here in canada, Sobeys groceries sell potatoe bread, so if enough people asks for it we might get it brought over try mrs bridges bakery in toronto or ask in sobeys.
when my daughter and I went over to ballyclare to visit my sister, We ate nothing else but all wheaten farl. veda.pancakes(the sponge type) apart from fish and chips, that was our diet.
good luck in finding the bread and its nice to be in touch with anyone from belfast ballyclare or the barnish. please e mail me





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