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Great Scot! The shop that wouldn't take tartan tenner

An Ulster Log

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 09/07/2016

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon
Jayne Wisener

Retired farmer Bill Grant got a shock when the tenner he offered a shop assistant in Enniskillen was rejected as illegal tender.

You see, Bill is a Scot and the note he produced from his wallet was a Scottish tenner.

To make matters worse the store where it all happened in the town's Townhall Street was the Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

Bill, who wanted to buy a belt, was adamant that on a matter of principle his Scottish tenner had to be accepted by the young female assistant at the till who was equally insistent that it couldn't be taken over the counter. To avoid a confrontation Bill's wife Ann stepped in and purchased the belt with a Bank of England note. "I thought Scotland was still part of the UK in spite of Nicola Sturgeon," declares Bill from Kirrimuir near Forfar in Angus. "I'll be letting her know about my experience, which left a bad taste, when I return home from holiday."

Folk will be glad to hear that no other shops in Enniskillen reject Scottish notes - including the Post Office - nor does it appear to be general policy in Edinburgh Woollen Mills which are dotted all over Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Was the whoopsie in Co Fermanagh a one-off?

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill chain was founded in 1946 as the Langholm Dyeing and Finishing Company with the development into retailing happening in 1970, when the first shop was opened in Randolph Place, Edinburgh.

In 1972, the first store south of the border opened, appropriately enough at 81 English Street, Carlisle.

The company, which has had a number of owners, was returned to being an independent privately-owned business by Philip Day and is now owned 100% by the Day family with a "first price, right price" tradition.

Our Jayne set to be centre stage again

You always know Christmas is just around the corner when the Grand Opera House in Belfast announces the dates of its traditional pantomime. And this year we have a local girl in the title role. She’s Jayne Wisener (29), from Coleraine, as Cinderella, opposite my old mate John Linehan as May McFettridge and Paddy Jenkins as  Baron Hardup. Cinderella opens on December 3 and runs until mid-January.

How my search for a G-strap ended successfully in Clogher

We all know what a G-string is. But what is a G-strap? I had nurses everywhere baffled when I set out in search of a G-strap, having to explain that it is belt with a special buckle and is used to affix medical appliances like catheters to a leg.

On the point of giving up the search, I arrived in O’Neill’s Valley Pharmacy in Clogher, where amazingly, they stock G-straps in abundance. You don’t even need a doctor’s prescription to acquire one or two.

So if you are ever in urgent need of one, just head down the road to Clogher. The Valley folk stock nice shaving cream, too, and I liked the smell of their perfume selection.

But here is a question: why is it called a G-strap?

Nicely handled ... Zara and Daisy walk away with top doggy prize

My daughter Zara and her doggy pal, Daisy, a thoroughbred Chihuahua, were leaving for a dander around the Irish Game Fair at Shane’s Castle by Antrim town.

So I dared them to enter the competition to find the best female handler and canine, although, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting a result.

Lo and behold the pair of them were pronounced winners of the class, sponsored by Countryside Alliance Ireland and hosted by BBC dog guru Keith Matthews.

I am now obliged to keep my promise to use a picture of the champions in my column. So here is a photo of the winning team, Zara and Daisy.

I wish the Queen had been given her chance to sit in Giant’s chair

I’m disappointed that the Queen wasn’t invited to sit in the Wishing Chair during her visit to the Giant’s Causeway. What would HM have wished for?

A more united United Kingdom with no divisions and more happiness, perhaps. I sat in that traditional Wishing Chair once upon a time years ago and asked the gods for £100. It arrived two days later in the form of a cheque for a long forgotten article I had written.

However, I have to agree with Samuel Johnson who once proclaimed that the Giant’s Causeway is worth seeing, but not worth going to see. Even if it has a Wishing Chair that works — for some. I’m sure HM would disagree with Johnson after her visit. I’m not so sure about Prince Philip’s reflections on the matter, though.

Why meeting Fred was knockout

Former British bantamweight champion Freddie Gilroy, who has died at 80, still packed a lethal punch well into his 60s, I have good cause to remember. One afternoon, Freddie, for whom I had a regard, and I were among a gathering of old hacks and sports people gathered for the craic in McGlade’s famous upstairs lounge in Belfast, when I asked the ex-champ if he still had a good left hook as old age approached. 

He demonstrated too well by throwing a quick jab at my tum, knocking me over the outstretched leg of another member of the group who howled in pain.

That person, whose name I can’t remember, was on a stick for a couple of weeks. Freddie, alas, went to his grave without being reunited with the treasured Lonsdale Belt that he was awarded for defending his British title three times.

The old champ always insisted that the belt had been stolen and that it was untrue it disappeared after he left it on a bus. 

He was the first Irish boxer to be awarded a Lonsdale Belt.

A red letter day for ex-postmaster

Retired postmaster Israel Abernethy’s personal mailbox has just been full to the brim. The widower, who retired in 1999, recently celebrated his 90th birthday and the cards have been flooding in. The father-of-five, who also has seven grandchildren, is now making plans for his century. “My mind is as sharp as when I was under 40, so why not?” he asks.

The PO in Carnmoney village where I grew up was an Abernethy establishment as was the grocery store, from 1920, when Israel’s father, Israel senior, a First World War veteran, set it up, with his wife Ella taking over after his death in 1943 (she died in 1963). Israel junior became postmaster in 1960.

I’ve special memories of the Abernethy PO. I was a telegram boy during school holidays. Delivering telegrams in their yellow envelopes around the countryside paid well.

Anyway, Israel junior’s 1999 retirement broke the Abernethy link with the Carnmoney PO which is now part of a Co-op in the Beverley estate a couple of miles away.

Belfast Telegraph

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