Looking Back On Old Smithfield
With Joe Graham
The early J970’s saw the disappearance of the old Smithfield Market, which went up in flames in the current struggle for Irish Independence. No organisation took responsibility perhaps because they realised that it would have been a very unpopular thing to have done. On the other hand there were many who believed that some one had been paid to do it to facilitate the building of a new shopping complex for the area. The people sobbed silently, the Robber Barons of Belfast cried “SACRILEGE”. .but never replaced the historic old market, privately they gloated, now they had seen the last of ‘that eye sore’ ,they could extend their shopping ‘centre’ of Belfast. Royal Avenue and High Street may have been the ‘centre’ of Belfast but Smithfield was the heart, and its little lanes the main arteries of that vital organ. In its lifetime it witnessed social history change through the generations. Many business’s still exist in the area that at one time were in the market, You’ll recall the legendary Joe Kavanagh’s shop with his famous “I BUY ANYTHING” sign. now there is a larger than life character, back in the 1950’s Joe hired an aeroplane and had its pilot ‘buzz’ the whole city in the low flying plane and trailing through the air it dragged a massive banner declaring, in huge letters “I Buy Anything”, it was Joe’s wee way of advertising, not for him a block Ad in the Irish News. The Kavanagh family started in a business in nearby Millfield in the 1800’s selling new and second hand horse harness, etc, and later moved into Smithfield and to the buying and selling of anything. The story goes that as a child the young Joe Kavanagh was repeatedly dragged up in front of the headmaster over his activities in the school playground, Apparently Joe would buy and sell everything from a rabbit’s paw to a iron marble to his school mates. Many a boy walked home scratching his head trying to think what he was going to tell his mother how he had just given Joe the beautiful fountain pen that his uncle Harry(his mother’s favourite brother) had sent him from America and in exchange he had a big safety Pin and a marble and a rubber duck, a tiny rubber duck, and as Joe said. ‘the pin is a SHINY NEW one’ now the Boy knew how Jack felt when he had to tell his mother that he had exchanged the family cow for a handful of beans’ The schoolteachers later spoke of how they had always known that Joe was destined to become King Of Smithfield. by his wheeling and dealing in the school playground.
Havlin’s the Locksmiths are perhaps the oldest existing Smithfield traders, It was away back in 1866 that William Havlin first opened his shop in the parlour of his home at 72Kiagstreet and from this humble beginning the family firm of Havlin’s Irelands finest locksmiths was founded William’s son, Eddie took up the business and then his own three sons11JoeWilliam and Eddie i’s time opened shops in Smithfield, three at the one time It was the son of Eddie that took up the family tradition bringing the business into the 4th Generation of Havlin’s trading from the Old Smithfield area This proud grandson of William the founder of the business is another Eddie Here is an interesting story I must tel you back in the 1960’s a photograph appeared in the Belfast Telegraph, showing the then Minister of Home Affairs, William Craig visiting Crumlin Road Jail and in the photo a warden standing to attention and saluting his boss, in his left hand he held a steel ring with a big key on it. The ordinary man on the street took little notice of the event but the boul Eddie, on seeing the picture casually remarked that it was a lapse in security, the key he pointed out could quite easily be copied from the photo he turned and got on with his work , but the matter did not end there, oh no tongues began to wag, Yer man, Eddie Havlin said he could make a key for the Crumlin Road Jail was the word that went out, and journalists always looking for a good story jumped on the bandwagon and threw out a challenge for Eddie to come up with the goods a case of put up or shut up well now Irelands finest locksmith was forced into a corner he had to defend that long tradition of Havlin’s Locksmiths, the family integrity was at stake. First needed a scale, so he studied the photo and there it was staring him in the face, the button on the warders tunic, off he went round the second hand stalls of Smithfield, that in those days sold all kinds of second hand army and other government uniforms and soon got that warder tunic that he wanted,,, and the button to use as a scale. Without much ado he set about the task of making the key and soon presented it to the most verbal journalist, saying, There you are, a key to Crumlin Road Jail”, Much was made of the whole carry on, needless to say the authorities refused to let the key be tested to see indeed if it would open the gates of the Jail. For this Eddie was thankful, for he knew right well that if they had allowed such a test that they would have had the lock quietly changed beforehand, leaving Eddie with egg on his face not that I would doubt the key would have opened the gates and privately many warders on comparing the key admitted it was .A Perfect Replica,! And even pre recently he made a key to the past... Quite recently Eddie got a call to come to the old Clifton Street poorhouse and open a huge wooden chest that sat in the hallway and had never been opened in living memory resulting in in its lock rusting up and sealing, some hours later Eddie had made anew key and returned to open the chest, having ;lifted the lid on its now creeking hinges he made a very pleasant discovery inside the chest there were books and papers of the old poorhouse of the most historic and very important nature that had somehow been put there away back in the 18th century and overlooked until that day. The trustees of the Clifton house were delighted, Eddie had made a key that had unlocked many secrets of the past.
THREE GENERATIONS OF McBURNEY’S AND “PREMIER” Away, way back in the 1920’s a wee girl from Five Mile Town and her Belfast Husband ran a Lodging House in Old Barracks Street and this young couple who shared a common love of Traditional Irish music decided they would go into business at the thing they loved and obtained a wee shop in Smithfield in 1926. .and so “The Premier” was born .making available to the citizens of Belfast the most popular music recordings of the day not to mention needles for their gramophones and song books and sheet music of all the popular and traditional airs of Ireland and from around the world. As the years went by their children, Billy, Malachy, Gerry and Winnie helped out and developed an equal love of the music business, so much so that they took the dream of their parents, Bridget and Patrick McBurney, a step further by forming, ”OUTLET RECORDS” .a recording studio that catered for the local music and singing talent. The title of one of their first records, “Show me the man who does not love the land where he was born” ,recorded by four school teachers from St Thomas‘s, I think said much as to the soul and gentle love of all things Irish that Bridget and Patrick instilled in the hearts of theimusic loving children.
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