April 1874 – What the papers said 150 years ago

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Rescue at Sea (Copyright Bing AI Image Creator)
Rescue at Sea (Copyright Bing AI Image Creator)

Local News April 1874

Downpatrick Water Impurity

The Belfast Morning News reported, 16th April 1874, on the “extraordinary amount of sickness prevalent in Downpatrick attributed to the impurity of the water supplied to the inhabitants“.

Ten water specimens from pumps and wells were forwarded to Dr. Hodges for analysis with his subsequent report to a special meeting of the Town Commissioners noting thatr, of the 10 samples, only 3 were found to be free from poisonous matter. It was noted that “The Commissioners, of course, adopted precautionary measures at once for the protection of the public”.

Easter Activities April 1874

Easter week in April 1874 saw coverage of a number of activities to celebrate

The 4th April edition of the Belfast Newsletter outlined the Easter Monday celebrations, subject to good weather noting that citizens and visitors “will have ample facilities for a day of genuine enjoyment“.

Commenting on the local approach to the Easter celebrations it was noted that:

The first day of the week is set apart for its more serious celebration; the second for engaging in those innocent relaxations which never fail to benefit our physical condition, and to impart a healthier tone to our minds. We are not, perhaps, in this particular corner of Ireland, so fond of amusement of a public and congregational character as our fellow subjects in England and Scotland, or even in other parts of our own country. This taste, like many others, requires a certain degree of education.

Easter Monday Amusements – Newsletter 4th April 1874

The paper noted that “our Continental neighbours seem to understand these things better than we” adding that “the general feeling of good-humour and recreative pastime that accompany the festivities following the Lenten Fast seem to be not merely the innate love of human nature for light amusements“.

A few of the local Belfast Easter Monday attractions were listed:


Botanic Gardens is to feature a grand féte and gal with a wide programme of activities commencing at eleven o’clock in the morning and continuing until evening at a moderate admission cost.

  • a balloon ascent
  • civil and military athletic sports & ancient games
  • a display of camelias and spring flowers
  • juggling and acrobatic performances
  • A performance by the band of the 6th Royal Warwickshire Regiment
  • A large number of prizes will be offered those competing in a variety athletic sports

A range of miscellaneous activities are listed

Botanic Gardens Palm House
Botanic Gardens Palm House Today


Mr. Charles DuVal is to deliver “an illuminated performance of his entertainment” at 3pm at the Victoria Hall. The “Odds and Ends” programme at the Hall is considered “more than usually attractive” with visitors offered every convenience for their comfort. The paper notes that extra allurements are advertised for the evening performance.


The ‘Belfast Museum’ will be open all day on Monday for the inspection by the public of its contents. (At this time the Belfast Museum was located at 7 College Square North until the opening of the modern museum at Botanic Gardens).

Exhibits included “natural history specimens, antiquities, objects of art, and rareties of various descriptions, gathered from many quarters of the earth” with a “nominal” admission charge.

It is noted that:

“We do not know any place wherein an intelligent person could spend a portion of a holiday more profitably or agreeably than in examining the treasures of the Belfast Museum.

Easter Monday Amusements – Newsletter 4th April 1874


Easter attractions include a number of horse races “in the neighbourhood of the Six-mile Post, Crumlin Road, on Easter Monday. The first race is announced to start at twelve o’clock. There are three events on the card, and prizes, varying from a purse of sovereigns to a horse’s bridle, are offered for competition“.


Cut-price railway excursions from Belfast on Easter Monday along with “the steamer Erin to sail (weather permitting) between Belfast and Bangor“. An imposing ceremony is to take place in connection with the opening of the Bangor Orange Hall.

The Ulster Railway Company will offer excursion tickets to Dublin for the Punchsestown Races.

News from the Courts – Newsletter 1st April 1874

Careless Driving

Robert Blair was charged by Constable Wilcox with having been drunk in charge of a horse and car. The prisoner was driving upon the footpath. Mr. Orme fined the prisoner 20s and costs; or, in default, to go to jail for fourteen days.

Newsletter 3rd April 1974

A Fight in Georges Lane

Esther Cassidy and Bridget Cassidy were charged by Constable Cairns with being drunk and fighting in George’s Lane. There were thirty-four previous convictions against the first-named prisoner. The Bench fined each of the prisoners in 40s and costs; or, in default, to go to jail for one month.

Newsletter 6th April 1874

Father Prosecutes Son

Constable McCallum charged James Barr, aged 15, in relation to the theft two mufflers, belonging to his father. Mr Barr, the boys father, confirmed the theft adding that he “regretted that he had to give a very discouraging character of the boy”.

Acting on behalf of the boy, Dr Browne said it would be a pity to send such young lad to jail, as jail would only make him worse.

The prisoner was remanded for one month, “to see how he would conduct himself, and during that time if he did not conduct himself properly they would send him to a reformatory”.

“Trailing his Coat”

David Connor was charged by Sub-Constable Gilliland with being drunk and disorderly in Smith.
field. Sub-Constable Gilliland noted that

The prisoner, before arrested, was crying out that if any constable would lay a hand on him he would strike him on the mouth. A constable did lay a hand upon him, and he duly fulfilled his promise, for which he had now to answer.

Belfast Newsletter 1st April 1874

Mr Connor was fined 20s and costs, or 14 days’ imprisonment in the event of a failure to pay the fine.

“Drunken Freak”

John Wilson, a steward on the ship “Llama” was charged with stealing £18 from John Caldwell.

A statement from Caldwell reported that he had asked the young steward to keep £18 for him. Wilson refused to hold the money and laid it on the table. Caldwell asserted that the steward had subsequently taken the money. A search for the money the following day, found no trace. At this stage, John Wilson appeared and handed over £17. On being searched the other £l was found on him.

The prisoner pleaded guilty to the charge, and said he planned to go to America on the coming Saturday, and hoped his worship would discharge him. He added that “he had been taking some drink at the time of the occurrence, and the lifting of the money was more a drunken freak than anything else”.
The BENCH said the prisoner had got a very good character, and they would discharge him with caution.

Correspondence / Opinion April 1874

Actresses Husbands

A Newsletter commentary on the 8th April 1874 contained an opinion-piece on the allure of stage acting for young women seeking potential fame and immortality.

A STAGE life has attractions for a woman who is young, good-looking, and of pleasing manners. Although she may not be much of an actress, she has the satisfaction of appearing in public, and is sure of admirers.

Her portrait is in every photographer’s window, and, perhaps, has even appeared in one or more of those illustrated journals which have lately sprung up with the view to make ladies and gentlemen of her profession immortal. Everybody has heard of her, and the name she has assumed is mentioned without prefix of Madame or Miss, just as we mention the name of one separated from us by fame or death. Her vanity is so fully gratified that there is no wonder at her attachment to what she terms her art.

Actresses Husbands, Newsletter 8th April 1874
Actress (Copyright Bing AI Image Creator)
Actress (Copyright Bing AI Image Creator)

However, husbands of these glamourous stage actresses who “who derive a considerable portion of their income from the earnings of their wives” come under heavy criticism. Noting that Noblemen and gentlemen are excluded from blame the article lists those lesser professions including (less successful) “actors, musicians, stage-carpenters, scene-lifters, gas-men, box-keepers, and ticket takers, among people connected with the theatre; half-pay officers, Government clerks, mercantile clerks, tobacconists etc“.

These lesser professions offer husbands “who are decidedly inferior to their wives. living off the earnings of a pretty and popular” wife. The author also questions the motivation of the wife: “As to her, let me not inquire too closely what advantage she secures…

Correspondence – April 1874

A Disappointed Sparrow Hawk



To-day, at about 2 p.m., while a small knot of sparrows were assembled on the eves spout of Mr. Moore’s binding shop, at the rere of Donegall Place, busily engaged, no doubt, discussing their projected arrangements for the spring, they were suddenly and rudely disturbed in their deliberations by a splendid sparrow-hawk dashing right into the group. Fortunately for them, he secured no prey.

Baffled, he turned and flew up on to Messrs. Ewart & Sons’ warehouse roof. He remained there a minute or two to recover himself, as he seemed a little out of breath with his fruitless effort. He then flew across the opening into Fountain Street, swerving a little to the right, so as to continue his flight, which was quite low, over the reres of the houses in College Street, until he alighted on one of the chimneys which overlook the Orange Hall, on which he remained a very considerable time, quietly surveying his surroundings. From the easy, business-like manner in which he conducted himself -quite at home in fact- it is probable that he and his mate have taken up their suburban residence in the immediate neighbourhood, quite alive to the superior social and alimentary advantages of their position as free and independent burgesses of Belfast.

I suppose that our town sparrows are as amenable to the common sparrow hawk as their country cousins, and, are quite as numerous. I would, therefore, beg that the bold birds that have taken up their quarters in the neighbourhood may be allowed to enjoy their predatory visits unmolested. It would be a new feature in town ornithology.-

I am, yours respectfully, R. N. Wednesday, 8th April, 1874.
Belfast Sparrow Hawk (Copyright Bing AI Image Creator)
Belfast Sparrow Hawk (Copyright Bing AI Image Creator)




Might I, through your journal, respectfully call the attention of our Town Council to the unsatisfactory state of a portion of the West side of Peter’s Hill – the portion lying between Brown Street and Townsend Street – a distance of 40 yards or more being without a footway of either pebble or flags, which in wet weather is specially unpleasant to pedestrians, as they have to wade through the mud, there being a want of crossings also at either of the points mentioned?

It seems strange that this much-needed footway has been so long unmade when this street is one of the oldest in town, and this part of the street is as broad here as at other places where it has a footway on each side.

If made, as I believe it should be at once, it would confer a great advantage on a large mass of the population who have to pass this way daily.-

Yours respectfully, THOMAS YOUNG. 108, North Street, 4th April, 1874. (Belfast Newsletter 7th April 1874)
Rescue at Sea (Copyright Bing AI Image Creator)
Rescue at Sea (Copyright Bing AI Image Creator)



Last evening I had occasion to cross by the City of Dublin mail steamboat Munster, Captain Slaughter, R.N., and witnessed while nearing Holyhead a remarkable incident. In a heavy sea our steamer almost ran down a tiny craft which was drifting into mid-channel; its occupant’s cries for assistance were happily heard, and Capt. Slaughter brought his vessel to. The man, with one oar only, was too weak and exhausted to be taken in tow, and with the seas running almost mountains high, the ship’s boat was manned and lowered, and the man thus marvellously rescued from the peril of impending destruction. This occurred at 11-30 p.m., and a strong N. W. wind blowing.

The greatest praise is due to Captain Slaughter and his crew for this dangerous venture, which ro sulted in the saving of human life.–

I am, Sir, your obedient servant, EDWARD LEE. Campsbourne, Hornsey, April 2.

Advertisements/ Classifieds

Classified Ads for April 1874 included:

Classified Ads - Belfast Morning News 15th April 1874
Classified Ads – Belfast Morning News 15th April 1874

An early advertisement for O’Kanes undertakers…

O'Kane's Funeral Undertaking - Belfast Morning News 16th April 1874
O’Kane’s Funeral Undertaking – Belfast Morning News 16th April 1874

A visit to the Dentist offered many services

Tooth Extraction Advert - Newsletter 2nd April 1874
Tooth Extraction Advert – Newsletter 2nd April 1874

Meanwhile the Ulster Weekly News offered a variety of content.

Ulster Weekly News Ad - Belfast Morning News 16th April 1874
Ulster Weekly News Ad – Belfast Morning News 16th April 1874


Local Theatre & Events April 1874

The Easter period had its influence on the theatre shows of the period…


Belfast’s Theatre Royal hosted the pantomime of “Cinderella, or, Prince Pretty boy and the Little Glass Slipper.” with morning and evening performances. It’s noted that “Visitors from the country will be afforded an opportunity of witnessing one of the best pantomimes ever produced in Belfast“.

MONDAY POPULAR CONCERTS – Newsletter 4th April 1874

The Ulster Hall was expecting a very large audience for the last popular concert of the season on Easter Monday. “In addition to the members of the Dublin Vocal Union, the following artistes will sing-viz, Miss Herbert, Miss Craig, Mr. Barton M’Guickin, and Mr. T. Grattan Kelly. Mr. B. Hobson Carroll will preside at the grand organ“.

Other News

Foreign News April 1974

Foreign news stories covered in brief:

  • In the Spanish Civil War, Marshal Serrano has been reinforced by 2,000 men, under the command of General Rodas. An equal reinforcement under General Moriones is expected.
  • Plans for a new scheme for the fortiifcation of Paris demonstrate, says the Telegraph “a profound distrust in the French army no matter on what basis it operates”
  • Regarding the Bengal Famine, The Daily News’ special Indian commissioner, telegraphing from Sectamurree, reports that “the average wage of men, women, and children was three halfpence a-day per head, affording a daily rationing of a pound and a-half of rice, with no allowance for other life-sustaining condiments”. He commented on the lack of European supervision as the wages are often paid irregularly resulting in an “incalculable intensification of the distress”.

Previous Monthly News

What was being reported in the Belfast newspapers 150 years ago? Read some of the news & stories here…

March 1874 News

February 1874 News

January 1874 News

December 1873 News

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Botanic Gardens Belfast – An Eventful History

Botanic Gardens Belfast - The Palm House and Flowerbeds
Botanic Gardens are popular public gardens located in South Belfast. Occupying 28 acres, the Botanic Gardens have an eventful history.

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