COLERAINE reader Molly Kennedy is well and truly back in action after a short illness.
Molly has often transported us back in time with her sharp eye for wit and nostalgia. Her colourful account today is no exception.
“The Albertbridge Road in east Belfast has changed a great deal over the years. My family came from the area known as the Mount, which at the turn of the century consisted of largish houses mostly inhabited by local tradesmen who conducted their businesses nearby. In those days when cars were a rarity even professional men such as doctors and dentists conducted their professions from their home premises. By the 1950s the Mount was beginning to look a bit shabby and many of the larger houses had been split up into flats. But there was still a large rock which I was told was a ‘mounting stone’ outside a pub on the junction of the Albertbridge Road and Castlereagh Street. The Albertbridge Road was still a thriving shopping area. There were all kinds of small shops catering for the needs of the folk from the local streets and also from the nearby suburbs such as Knock and Castlereagh, only a short bus ride away. There was also a large draper’s shop known as Prices of Mountpottinger, and across the road was the most exciting shop in the district – a gem, if you’ll excuse the pun, which announced itself as Hugh Gemmells. Accompanying the owners name there was always some sort of advertising ‘jingle’. One example was as follows:
They come from far and near,
They come by car and plane
To get the feet they love so well,
Freshly cooked by Hugh Gemmell.
“Now it wasn’t exactly Wordsworth, but it was a clever way of drawing attention to the shop in those distant days when advertising wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now. The feet referred to are of course, pigs’ feet – trotters and all – some of which were displayed, if my memory is correct, on a sort of raised counter on the street outside the shop. Perhaps someone will have more accurate memories of this.
“I don’t think I ever tasted pigs’ feet, but before anyone says ‘yuck!’ may I point out that there are several recipes for them in Mrs Beeton’s cookery book, and I think I may also have seen references in Elizabeth David’s cookbooks too. Apart from these delicacies there were rabbits and game hanging up, and trays of cockles, whelks (known in Belfast as ‘wilocks’), and crabs. My mother used to buy tripe, which was delicious cooked in white sauce with onions.”
Molly hopes that readers may remember some of the other goods on display in Gemmell’s.
“Did he sell meat or fish?” she wonders, “and maybe someone remembers some of the other rhymes which I enjoyed reading as I passed by in the bus,” she adds. She left the area in the late 1950s, and doesn’t know when the shop closed “but it should be remembered as part of the heritage of east Belfast, and life at the time when the shipyard played such an important part in the life of the city.”
She visited the area recently and is pleased to announce that “the ‘mounting stone’ is still there.” I hope someone can tell Molly more about it, and explain why and when it was put there. Roamer would also be keen to receive a few recipes for pigs’ feet at the address at the bottom of the page. Not so sure about tripe though!