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Ulster log: Raising a few glasses to Belfast's lost brewery

By Eddie McIlwaine

Glasses will be raised in McEnaney's Pub on Belfast's Glen Road next Friday when former employees of Bass Ireland hold a reunion in a hostelry that is a stone's throw away from the site occupied by the company and its Ulster Brewery until 2008.

"More than 100 of ex-workers and friends will be gathering for this nostalgic occasion," explains former executive Peter Rush.

"What started out with a handful of us getting together for a drink and a bit of a catch-up has really taken off."

But there will be no return visit to the 17-acre site where Bass and Tennent's were brewed since 1960 as everything was demolished in 2009. It is now occupied by the Caffrey Housing Estate, named after Thomas Caffrey, who founded the Ulster Brewery in 1862.

Bass Ireland traded in Northern Ireland from 1960 until 2008 but the roots of the company can be traced back to 1810, when a Clotworthy Dobbin operated a Brewery in Hercules Street, Belfast, now Royal Avenue.

Peter Rush can tell you, after major research, that what was once the Hercules Brewery was taken over eventually by Caffrey who changed the name to the Ulster Brewery.

"He moved the brewery to a greenfield site on the Glen Road in 1897 from the Smithfield area of Belfast and he and his descendants continued to trade there until the company was sold to a consortium of Ulster Licensed Vintners in 1950," says Peter.

In 1960 the vintners sold the business to United Breweries and following various name changes, as a result of mergers and takeovers, the company became known in 1974 as Bass Ireland Limited, employing around 500.

The final closure came in 2008, when a consortium of owners decided to import the drinks from Scotland.

The Producers have a hit with Tiffany

Singer Tiffany Graves will be making her overdue Grand Opera House, Belfast, debut next month in the musical comedy The Producers, which is based on the favourite film of the same name. Versatile Tiffany has the role of Ulla in the laugh-a-minute show. She made her stage debut aged 11 in The Nutcracker, with the English National Ballet and has been in productions of Annie and was a vocalist in Disney’s Magical Moments.

 Tiffany was born in Salisbury and studied acting, singing and dancing at the Arts Educational School in Tring. She has been a soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and is a regular at the Edinburgh Festival.

The Producers is at the Grand Opera House in May for a week.

Why Jackie Blanchflower deserves a plaque too

I hope Jackie Blanchflower is remembered with a Blue Plaque like the one just unveiled to his brother Danny. Jackie was a Busby Babe at Manchester United when his football career was cut short at the age of 25 by the Munich disaster of 1958 in which eight of his teammates perished.

Jackie survived, but was badly injured and never played again.

He had already won 12 Northern Ireland caps and would have been as successful as big brother Danny if cruel fate hadn’t taken a hand.

Jackie in later life was a popular after-dinner speaker, but was dogged for the rest of his life by memories of the plane crash.

Jackie, who died in 1998 at 65, was more outgoing than his big brother, who was a celebrity and liked you to remember that.

A widower whose wife Jean died in 1990 after years of marriage, Jackie became an accountant. He was survived by his three children John, Helen and Andrew.

It all adds up for the novelist Toni

I'm looking forward to Toni Jordan's next novel. It just has to be called Multiplication, I predict. You see her debut book is titled Addition, out now from Sceptre. Perhaps Toni, who lives in Melbourne, will also write one called Subtraction.

Her heroine in Addition is Grace Lisa Vandenburg, who counts everything including the letters in her name (19), the steps she takes to the local coffee house (920) and even the number of bites she will take to devour a slice of orange cake. She says that numbers hold the world together.

Then along comes Seamus Joseph O'Reilly (also 19) who thinks Grace would be better off without all that counting. I'm counting on Addition being a bestseller.

At your special service, men

US Army recruits were delighted when an attractive young woman officer stepped forward to explain about the military's Special Services department which operates clubs, libraries, cinemas and other facilities on bases.

"As you can see," she told the new intake, "I am wearing the uniform of Special Services.

"You will be aware that this uniform covers all the recreational activities provided for you by the Army."

She got a round of applause.

Eleanor's secret is finally revealed

When she was a schoolgirl in 1949, Eleanor Moffatt agreed to share a secret with renowned author St John Ervine who had a Blue Plaque erected in Belfast in his memory last month. And Eleanor, now an 82-year-old widow, kept her word until now, 66 years later, when she told me what she had agreed with Ervine who died in 1971, all that time ago.

"I had written to him at his home in Devon asking for his autograph," Eleanor recalled. "He wrote me back a lovely letter, complete with his signature, but making it clear that he thought autograph collecting was a useless hobby and telling me never to reveal that he had given me his." Eleanor feels, now that the east Belfast author is long gone, that it is alright to talk about that secret deal.

Belfast Telegraph


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