Old News: January 1874 – What the Papers Said 150 Years Ago

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January 1874 Newspaper Image - © Microsoft Bing Image Creator
January 1874 Newspaper Image – © Microsoft Bing Image Creator

News And Weather

January 1874 was a month of conflict (like most months at the time) with updates published on a variety of disputes – some political and some more serious conflicts such as the insurrection at Carthagena, the Dutch war in the Eastern Archipelago, the Ashantee War etc. We are also told this month of the need to take measures to address a Bengal Famine with the potential to result in a substantial loss of life. Our local news, on the other hand, tended to be more mundane.

Failure to Clean Footpath – Newsletter 5th Jan 1874

Sub-Constable Ward summoned Oliver Moles from the ‘Shankhill Road‘ for failing to sweep the footway outside his house on the morning of 31st December before the hour of nine o’clock. The Justice of the Peace, T. Sinclair Esq., questioned the need for the summons relating to the sweeping of footpaths. He was assured that it is the duty of the police to summon those who fail to clean the footpaths outside their house in the mornings. It was noted that very few cases are actually brought to court with the previous case nearly a year earlier though it was explained that the police generally did not pursue these cases as they believed that the actions should be taken by Belfast’s Mayor, the Aldermen and Burgesses. Mr Sinclair raised this point further with the prosecution:

Mr. SINCLAIR: How is the state of the law on the subject?
Mr. SEEDS: A penalty of 5s and costs can be inflicted for the neglect.
Mr. SINCLAIR: I see there is a difference of opinion in the Council on this point.
Mr. SEEDS: Well, it would, of course, be a difficult thing to get forty of them to agree. (Laughter in court.)

Mr. SINCLAIR: We will have to be guided by the law on the subject.
Mr. SEEDS: The 15th section enacted that occupiers should once in every day, before nine o’clock of the forenoon, cleanse the footways and gutters, under a penalty for the neglect of such.

Newsletter 5th January 1874

After some debate on the defendants ignorance of this obligation Mr Seeds, for the prosecution, suggested “I suppose a small penalty would do”. J.P. Keegan acknowledged that a fine was required by law but drew attention to the lack of a warning or to any efforts to publicise this obligation. J.P. Sinclair declared that “We will fine the defendant in 6d and costs; but in any other cases that come before us for this offence we will inflict more severe penalties”.

Prosecutor Seeds then noted that Oliver Moles was not the only culprit identified that morning adding that:

“There are ten other parties sued for similar offences. William Martin, Shankhill Road and James Crawford, Shankhill Road, were also summoned by Sub-Constable Ward for a similar offence; and Frederick Clotworthy, Emily Place; Thomas Bronnan, Emily Place Rose Harper, Great George’s Street; George Nelson, Great George’s Street; Robert Reid, Eally Place; and Daniel Brannagh, Great George’s Street, were summoned by Head-Constable Burns for similar offences on the 31st”

Each was fined in the sum of 6d and costs.

Larceny of Coats – Newsletter 20th January 1874

Edward Toal was convicted of stealing two coats, one from a man named White and another from a man named Armstrong.

He was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment to be followed by 7 years of penal servitude. He will also be under police surveillance for 3 years.

Fall into the River – Newsletter 12th January 1874

It was recorded that a sailor named Radcliff lost his footing at Queen’s Quay while boarding his vessel. He fell into the river but was rescued by others working nearby. The reported concluded with the news that he “sustained no material injury beyond a good soaking“.

The Petty Sessions at Glenarm – Newsletter 6th January 1874

It was reported that “A great number of persons summoned by the police for drunk & disorderly conduct during the Christmas holidays” and subsequent fighting/ assaults J.P. Turnly emphasised that the court was not restricted to fining those prosecuted and warned that future conduct of this nature would result in jail time.

Breach of Workshop Laws – Newsletter 6th January 1874

Captain Hugh Osborne Bateman, Inspector of Factories, summoned Messrs. J. & S. Woods of 114 Falls Road on the charge that the defendants employed a 13 year old boy, William Tier, without ensuring that he attended school at least ten hours every week during the time he was employed. He noted that this requirement is mandated under the Workshops Regulation Act, 1867. The defendants must, by law, obtain a certificate from the school confirming the required attendance of their employee. Liability for failing to do so incurs a penalty of ‘not more than £3’.

Captain Bateman reported that he had visited the premises of the defendants on 10th Dec 1873 and found the boy, William Tier, working from seven o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock at night. This meant that he had no opportunity to attend school, nor was there any certificate produced of such attendance.

One of the defendants, Mr. John Woods, insisted that he had employed the boy, William Tier, under the impression that he was older than thirteen years of age. He had been told so by Tier’s mother. Mr Bateman produced the boys birth certificate showing that the boy was indeed under 13 years old. The mother of the boy, Ann Tier, stated that she had informed Mr. Woods that her son was under thirteen years of age at the time of his employment.

Mr Woods was fined 10 shillings and costs with a warning that he should “be more cautious next time“.

Injury to a Cart – Newsletter 26th January 1874

The Belfast Quarter Sessions considered a Civil Bill case relating to the “Injury to a cart” on the Lisburn Road on 28th October 1873.

In this case Joseph Shane, the plaintiff, accused Adam Woods of causing the damage to his cart. Mr Shane asked for £5 compensation.

Mr Shane claimed that he was driving an outside cart along the Lisburn Road when he was faced by Adam Woods’ milk cart and another cart coming up the middle of the road. The consequence was a collision, resulting in the sideboard of plaintiff’s car being knocked off.

Adam Wood’s disputed Mr Shane’s version of events stating that he had been on the correct side of the road when the collision happened.

After some consideration the court accepted Mr Wood’s version of the crash and the case was dismissed.

The Weather – Newsletter 8th January 1874

The recent fall of snow and accompanying cold weather has passed away, and has been succeeded by bitterly cold rain. The streets were consequently in a most unpleasant condition for those who were compelled to engage in pedestrianism. Towards evening the rain ceased, and the intense cold was followed by a strong and gusty wind, which continued, unabated to midnight. The following telegram was received at the Harbour Office yesterday:- “Barometer falling very fast. Ireland-Strong, sudden South gale at Cork and Stornoway. Hoist drum.”

Newsletter 8th Jan 1874

Advertisements – January 1874

It was not uncommon, at this time, for advertisements and classified ads to take up the entire front page of the newspaper with more ads on the inside pages. There were no front page headlines as would be common today. This probably reflected the importance of the advertisements in funding the newspapers. The following samples are taken from the large number of ads published in Jan 1874.

New York Sailings – Northern Whig 1st Jan 1874

New York Fares - Northern Whig 1st Jan 1874
New York Fares – Northern Whig 1st Jan 1874

Shipwreck Sale – Newsletter 3rd Jan 1874

Shipwreck Sale - Newsletter 3rd Jan 1874
Shipwreck Sale – Newsletter 3rd Jan 1874

Clarke’s World-Famed Blood Mixture – Newsletter 3rd Jan 1874

Clarke's World Famed Blood Mixture - Newsletter 3rd Jan 1874
Clarke’s World Famed Blood Mixture – Newsletter 3rd Jan 1874

Local Theatre and Events

With the Theatre listings largely the same as those of December the newspapers reported on Christmas events…

Down Hospital Party for the Insane Newsletter 3rd Jan 1874
Down Hospital Party Newsletter 3rd Jan 1874

Other News

The Society of Death – Newsletter 5th January 1874

The ‘Society of Death‘ had its first meeting in Zurich as “La Societe de la Mort.” It was reported that this ‘sect‘ has the objective of ensuring that, on the death of any member, plans will be put in place to ensure the incineration of the body.

Eulogy To “An Odd Man” – Newsletter 6th January 1874

The Newsletter reported on the passing of “an odd man” of “beautiful character” in the village of Plymouth in the State of Michigan. The deceased, Mr. Samuel Dunn, was “no ordinary man” as he was described as “a man of very intemperate habits, very noisy, but not quarrelsome“.

Mr Dunn was noted for his propensity to drink and then run half way up a hill and start “stamping and treading like a bulky horse” while calling loudly for someone to “come and block the wheel.” He would then go to the top of the hill and offer to bet “two-and-six” that he could yell louder and jump higher than any other man in the community.

After one of these regular events he returned to his house, emptied a bottle of alcohol and swore that he would never touch another drop of drink. He proved to be a man of his word – “immediately going to bed and staying there for 19 years and 10 months” before he passed away. We are told that he enjoyed the best possible health, eating two heavy meals a day.

No disease attacked him to terminate his mortal career. He simply “lived on, the lamp of life growing dimmer and dimmer, until finally it went out altogether,” to the inexpressible grief of his family and friends.

Newsletter 6th January 1874

A Frozen Body Steering A Boat – Newsletter 6th January 1874

The Newsletter recounted a tale, reported originally in the Detroit Free Press, of a curious boating incident.

The Detroit Free Press reported that on Sunday morning two farmers and their families journeyed to Malden to attend church. On the way they noticed a ship’s yawl (small boat) coming towards the beach with one man on board steering the boat with an oar.

On their return journey they saw the boat on the beach though the sailor was sitting in the same position as before. Leaving their wagons to see if the man needed help they found that he was lifeless and literally frozen stiff – sitting upright in the boat clasping the oar. They struggled to prise the oar from his frozen hands. Water inside the boat had reached the mans knees and was frozen into a solid block of ice. The ice had to be broken into pieces using rocks before they could lift his body from the boat.

On further investigation it was estimated that he had died some days before. Sadly there was no name on the boat and no-one recognised the sailor who will remain unknown.

The Frozen Corpse (© Microsoft Bing Image Creator)
The Frozen Corpse (© Microsoft Bing Image Creator)

Trade Statistics (Bringing Home the Bacon) – Newsletter 6th Jan 1874

Belfast Trade Statistics - Newsletter 6th Jan 1874
Belfast Trade Statistics – Newsletter 6th Jan 1874

Doctor Livingstone Is Dead – Newsletter 27th January 1874

DR. LIVINGSTONE is dead. The news will excite a painful feeling throughout these countries, and, indeed, we might say the civilised world….

It will be recollected that he told Stanley, who discovered the great discoverer at a time when he had been given up for lost, that he believed two years more would enable him to accomplish his task. Fatigue and a trying African climate have defeated this intention, and he has succumbed to dysentery…

While we feel an almost reverent admiration for his unshrinking energy, we begin, the humblest of us, to ask if we too might not achieve some thing, on a less ambitious scale, but still something, by an active and abiding sense of duty.

Newsletter 27th Jan 1874


Correspondence in the papers had some similarities to that of today…

Correspondence Jan 1874
Correspondence Jan 1874

Classifieds – January 1874


  • QUEEN STREET LET. DWELLING-HOUSE, No. 20, Apply to RIDDEL & COMPANY, Donegall Place and Fountain Street.
  • HOUSES TO LET. Two at MOUNTPOTTINGER. Stabling and Coach-house to each and five acres of land attached. About two miles from town. Apply to Thomas Fisher, House and Land Agent, 33 Arthur Street
  • LAUREL COTTAGE AND LARGE GARDEN, TO BE LET, at The THRONE, CAVE HILL from 1st February. This house is well-situated, commanding a fine view of the Lough and Mountain Scenery, with suitable Office-houses, and an abundant supply of excellent Water. Rent moderate. Apply to ROBERT ARMSTRONG, Throne
  • LODGINGS TO LET – Gentlemen can be well accommodated with a good Drawing-room, Parlour, and two Bedrooms, on moderate terms. Apply at No. 10, GREAT GEORGE’S STREET, Belfast


  • MISS USBHER’S BELFAST SERVANTS’ REGISTRY OFFICE, BELFAST 34, QUEEN STREET (First Door from Wellington Place). Miss USHER requires for the 1st February every description of Household servants for Noblemen and Gentlemen’s Establishments Servants
  • RICHARD CLARKE REQUIRES, for the present and 1st February, all classes of Servants. As his orders are all for first class families, only those who know their duty and can be thoroughly recommended need apply.
  • MRS MACOUN HAS ON HER LIST FOR the present and 1st February two first-class professed Cooks, an Upper House-maid (5 years’ character), a general Servant for one or two in family (19 years character), and some plain Housekeepers and Under Housemaids. Registry Office, 11, May Street (1st door from Joy Street).
  • MRS MACOUN HAS ORDERS FOR THE following Servants for 1st February :- First class Butlers; a young Lad as inside servant; Pantry-boys, and useful Coachmen; good Cooks, Nurses, House and Parlour maids, Children, Laundry, Nursery, and Kitchen maids. There are some excellent orders for good thorough Servants. Early application, General Servants Registry Office, 11, May Street (1st door from Joy Street)


  • WANTED, A WELL EDUCATED YOUTH as Apprentice by a Foreign Linen House. Apply ” H.C. (415),” Office of this Paper.
  • BUYER, OF EXPERIENCE, WANTED FOR a small Ware and Hosiery Department. Apply at 97, DONEGALL STREET.
  • WANTED, EXPERIENCED SALESMEN for our Woollen and Ready-made Clothing Departments. ALEXANDER, ORR, REID, & CO.
  • HOUSEMAID – A LADY RESIDING IN the neighbourhood of Belfast requires a Housemaid on 1st February; must have good reference. Wages, £12, all found. Apply at Mr. REED’S, Bookseller, Victoria Street.
  • W. H. SMITH & SON REQUIRE A FEW Young Women, of good address, as Clerks of Bookstands at Stations on the Ulster Railway. Apply, by letter, with testimonials, to W. H. SMITH & SON, Bookstand Department, 12, Waring Street, Belfast

Previous Monthly News

Old News – What the Papers Said 150 Years Ago December 1873

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