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The opening of Balmoral Market ensured the public got their five-a-day

By Paul Carson

Published 16/05/2014

The group of independent fruit wholesalers at the opening of Balmoral Market. 29/9/1975
The group of independent fruit wholesalers at the opening of Balmoral Market. 29/9/1975
Martin Donnelly busy at work carrying a sack onions at Balmoral Markets. 7/10/1975
A forklift stacks the boxes of fruit drinks at the Balmoral Market. 7/10/1975
Unloading flowers at Balmoral Market are, from left, Aidan McPeake, Gerry Hawkins, Brian McGrath and Robert Delaney, of Benner Flowers Ltd. 7/10/1975
Inside one of the spacious warehouses at Balmoral Market. 30/9/1975
Chief storeman, Harry Hagans, carrying boxes of lettuce at the new Balmoral Market. 30/9/1975
Mr Mervin Gilpin gathering some of the prize-winning crop of apples at his father's orchard at Ashgrove House, Portadown. 12/10/1967
An amazing crop of apples. 4/11/1960
Hard at work packing apples. 18/10/1956
The damson season just starting for Mr William Sparkes, of Drumena, Portadown. 19/9/1978
Miss Betty Carson samples fresh strawberries flown in specially from New Zealand for Frank E. Benner fruit importers. 18/12/1963
Joe Milsop gathering the last of the Victoria plums on his farm at Foymore, Portadown. 19/9/1078
Bicycle retailer Jimmy McGarvey epitomises the 'business as usual' spirit by offering what remains of his stock for sale on the street outside his burnt-out premises. 9/5/1974
Old clothes market, Smithfield, Belfast. 5/1/1937 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Smithfield market, Belfast.Young boy in a shop selling household furniture lamps and bric a brac. 26/11/1941
Seventy-four-year-old William Parker has been working in a shop in Belfast's Smithfield Market since he was a boy. All his life he has been surrounded by antiques such as this beautiful French clock which stands on a marble base. 4/10/1968
There's no doubt about it. When you're spending all day working out in the cold, you've got to be well protected. And Maureen and Peggy Deacon found the answer - hugh polythene bags. The two sell fruit and vegtables from barrows at Smithfield. 18/1/1971
Smithfield, the mecca for thousands of bargain hunters every week, is given a face-lift by Belfast Corporation painters, Mr Hill Thompson (left), of Taylors Street, and Mr David McLaron, of Ross Street. 13/3/1968
Firemen help with the clean-up after the fire at the Smithfield shops. 9/5/1974
The burnt out remains of the Smithfield shopping complex. 8/5/1974
Early stages in the erection of prefabricated buildings for the new Smithfield. 27/8/1975
Eric Lauro with a painting of how the old Smithfield market looked. 17/7/1987
Five men with over 300 years between them and their forebears trading in Belfast's Old Smithfield market will return to the rebuilt landmark for its official opening. From left, displaying their wares are Noel Havlin (keys), Paddy O'Neill (furniture), Michael McQuillan (Hall of Music) Bobby Shearer (hardware) and Jackie Segerdahl (locks and tools). 8/5/1975
Firemen tackle the blaze at Havlin's, a fire caused by incendiary bombs that reduced the 200-year-old Smithfield market to ash. 10/5/1974
Some of the former traders in the Smithfield market pictured this morning at the site of the new market as construction work proceeds. From Left, Mr Joseph Kavanagh, Mr Michael McQuillan, Treasurer of the Smithfield Traders Assoc. and Mr Raymond Havlin. 29/4/1975
Smithfield market, Belfast.Young boy in a shop selling household furniture lamps and bric a brac. 26/11/1941a

The opening of a new market at Boucher Road, Belfast, back in September 1975 was the result of many years of planning and effort by leading members of the trade.

The  fruit, flowers and vegetable business was blooming and booming in Northern Ireland, and the new £1m Balmoral market was designed to lead the way.

It demonstrated the value of forward planning and confidence even at a time of political upset and unrest. It gave a clear indication of traders determination to serve the Northern Ireland public  “ come what may.”

It gave buyers and growers an ideal surroundings on the seven-acre site , a far cry from the hampering and often scattered aspects of the, at the time, 135-year-old Mays Market.

Not only had the new market the experience of all post-war UK and European markets to draw on for design and planning, but its geographical positioning beside the M1 strategically placed it at the heart of the local infrastructure.  This gave the market that ‘hours only’ service to every town and village in Northern Ireland.

“Never before was there a greater opportunity for the Ulster housewife to get fresh fruit and vegetables,” said Mr Roland Benner, chairman of this new market company.

“ Never before was the trade in a better position to satisfy what is a constantly growing demand  - with produce that it can be proud of at all times,” he said.

It saw the coming together of the ‘ Big Ten’ importers and wholesalers in Northern Ireland at that time, and was backed by the Government’s Depart of Agriculture.

As a privately owned and operated market Balmoral did not provide the retail space that made Mays Markets such a colourful scene, but it did make parking problems disappear and it gave buyers the opportunity to easily walk from one wholesaler to another comparing prices and quality.

 It also breathed new life into the trade as of the years leading up to the markets opening saw the numbers of retailers going to Mays Market on a Friday begin to dwindle.

At the time little old Northern Ireland was topping the charts in the United Kingdom as the biggest eaters of citrus fruit and Balmoral Market was marketed as the solution to cutting the time between import and eventual retail sale.

 It was seen as indirectly benefiting the public by offering fruit and vegetables which had the minimum of physical handling – ensuring the quality of the product.

Serving Northern Ireland its five-a-day with earlier opening hours, so the corner shop could have the freshest fruit, and the weary trader an Ulster fry before starting his day.

Online Editors

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