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Policeman offered pawnbroker gun for cash

By Ivan Little

Published 24/09/2016

A former Belfast pawnbroker has revealed that a policeman and a paramilitary offered him guns as collateral for loans at the height of The Troubles.
A former Belfast pawnbroker has revealed that a policeman and a paramilitary offered him guns as collateral for loans at the height of The Troubles.

A former Belfast pawnbroker has revealed that a policeman and a paramilitary offered him guns as collateral for loans at the height of The Troubles.

The businessman, who did not want to be named, was recalling the oddest things he had ever come across during his time in the trade.

At one time 50 pawn shops were operating right across Belfast, but only two of the old-style businesses have survived, though a number of other companies linked to nationwide chains offer pawnbroking services. The former broker said that in the 1950s and 1960s, suits and clothes were the most popular items offered as hard-up families tried to raise enough money to put food on their tables.

The pawned property would usually be reclaimed after the men of the house brought home their weekly pay packets.

Lately however, the pawnbrokers have become interested only in jewellery, gold and watches.

But the former broker said that he was amazed by what a loyalist paramilitary had to offer him. "It was a gun," he added. "And when I told him that I wasn't interested he told me it wasn't loaded and that he would be back within a short period to redeem it. Naturally, I sent him on his way."

But the broker said he was even more surprised to hear what a plain clothes policeman wanted to pawn. "He said he was going out for the night and needed money for a drink," he explained. "He told me he would leave his personal issue weapon with me and collect it in the morning. Again, I refused."

On a more light-hearted note, the ex-pawnbroker said a drunken Scottish football fan came into his shop in a bid to raise money for the ferry home after a game against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in the 1980s.

"When it became clear he had nothing of value to put up for a loan, he whipped off his trousers and said they would be his collateral," said the businessman, who declined the fan's offer.

The late snooker star Alex Higgins also availed of the services of pawnbrokers. He repeatedly pawned a medal he won at the Benson and Hedges Irish Masters in 1989. And he used the cash for drink and gambling.

When his bets came up he redeemed the medal, but it invariably found its way into the brokers' vaults again.

However, he died before he could reclaim it for the last time and the company returned the medal to the Hurricane's family.

War hero James Magennis pawned his Victoria Cross in 1952 after he fell on hard times, but the broker returned the medal to him.

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