Co Down man aims to top up his collection

Neil Reid with some of the stoneware bottles in his collection
Neil Reid with some of the stoneware bottles in his collection
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A Co Down man is seeking the help of News Letter readers in adding some elusive historical items to his growing collection.

Neil Reid, 43, who is originally from Banbridge but now lives and works south of the border, has amassed a collection of artefacts of social interest, particularly stoneware bottles from all over Ireland.

The Dunbar Mill, Gilford workers back in 1937. Neil's grandmother is in the centre of the centre row.

The Dunbar Mill, Gilford workers back in 1937. Neil's grandmother is in the centre of the centre row.

He said: “A good friend of mine owned a bar in Dromore, she gave me an old bottle that said ‘ginger beer’ on it. It was meant as a joke because I’m ginger, but it ended up starting a fascination with bottles.

“I started looking into where the bottles were made and background to them.

“My original intent was to collect a bottle from every county, but soon I found out there are a lot of bottles out there, probably 700 known bottles. They are very difficult to find. I would hunt through antique shops, flea markets, auctions and that type of thing. You also pick some up by word of mouth or even dig them up from an old dump site.

“My collection ranges from Coleraine to Cork, but a number of local bottles have eluded me. I am aware of bottles from Lurgan, Portadown and Banbridge but am yet to locate these. In particular, the Crystal Mineral Water company in Banbridge produced some fantastic stoneware bottles and it would be the pinnacle of my collection to add one of these.”

The bottle from the Crystal Mineral Company in Banbridge that Neil would love to add to his collection

The bottle from the Crystal Mineral Company in Banbridge that Neil would love to add to his collection

Explaining the history of stoneware bottles, he said: “They were produced during the Victorian era, late 1800s, early 1900s, and were all hand made. No two bottles are the same due to the processes involved, but the minor flaws are what add to their charm.

“Historically stone bottles were gradually replaced by mass produced glass bottles, the result of which is that many of these were buried in landfill sites or dumped in rivers and canals and can be difficult to locate.”

Neil added: “I’ve always had a big interest in local social history, these stoneware bottles are part of it. I have been working hard in documenting the past so that it can be preserved for future generations.

“I have amassed a collection of local items, everything from clocks to water pumps, but there are a few items that I have struggled to find. I am keen to locate any stoneware bottles from Banbridge and anything relating to the Dunbar McMaster spinning mill in Gilford.”

He said: “I was born in Gilford into one of the mill workers houses owned by the Dunbar McMaster company and my family were historically mill workers there. I have a fantastic photo of my grandmother working in the mill taken during the Coronation in 1937. I am seeking anything relating to the mill and its history such as receipts, packaging or advertising or even furniture.”

Neil commented: “I am part of a local history group, who meet regularly to discuss past events and places and we regularly showcase items so that they can be shared by all.

“I would really love to put on an exhibition in Banbridge and that’s probably where this is going.”

Sadly Neil’s wife Kate doesn’t share his enthusiasm for artefacts from the past: “She thinks it’s a load of junk, she’s a minimalist.”

If you can help Neil add to his collection email him at neilreid76@gmail.com