THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Country comes to town for the Christmas markets

From the News Letter, December 20, 1879

Sunday, 20th December 2020, 6:00 am
The modern era Christmas Market at Belfast City Hall. Picture: Gavan Caldwell/News Letter archives
The modern era Christmas Market at Belfast City Hall. Picture: Gavan Caldwell/News Letter archives

“The market held in Belfast yesterday was truly of a Christmas character,” reported the News Letter this day in 1879 in the run-up to Christmas.

It continued: “The products suggestive of this festive season being in great abundance.” The News Letter recalled that it had been many years since such a great show of fowl had been brought to the city at St George’s Market which was “crowded with vendors and purchasers up almost to nightfall”.

While the plucked fowl “were numerous” the News Letter noted that “the living specimens were in such numbers in the flax market that few people remember seeing such a turn out”.

New Ulster Agricultural and Forestry Minister Jeremy Hanley, left of the picture, choosing his own Christmas tree at Belvoir Forest Park on the edge of Belfast in December 1990. He is being advised on the right tree by John McEwan, timber marketing officer with the Forestry Service. Picture: Eddie Harvey/Farming Life/News Letter archives

Such was the number of birds that “a great many were left unsold”.

The extensive rearing of poultry that season in 1879 was part in due, noted the paper’s correspondent, to the difficulty and reluctance of the farming population of the country to have feeding swine since the substitute, in poultry, being cheaper in rearing despite although being less remunerative in revenue.

Geese ranged in price from 2s 6d up to 8s according to weight and quality, turkeys “as a rule were inferior in quality” but despite this ranged between 10s or 12s, meanwhile hens ranged in priced much lower to that of turkeys.

Pork, of which there was little in the country, “found purchasers at average prices”.

The potato market was well stocked but prices stood well on account of the scarcity of produce.

Meanwhile, hay, turnips and other farm produce all were sold high prices owing to the bad harvest.