Handsome, Easy-Going, And Utterly Untrustworthy

After Britain’s declaration of war against France in 1793, the United Irishmen – who hoped for French support for a rebellion in Ireland – could no longer meet openly. In Belfast, meetings were held at Dr [Benjamin] Franklin’s tavern, also called “Peggy Barclay’s” after its owner, under the guise of a social group called the Muddlers’ Club. The true nature of the group was betrayed to the authorities in 1796 by Isabella “Belle” Martin, a serving girl in the tavern (Romanticsm Anthology | Belfast Entries | Belfast Media | Joe Baker). As the text in the Peter Strain mural above concludes, “Half a dozen of them saw the inside of a Scottish prison as a result” and the club dissolved. (The text surrounding Martin’s profile is from Glenn Patterson’s book, A Mill For Grinding Old People Young – this was the name of Peggy Barclay’s inn when she left the city centre for the Buttermilk Loney (now Skegoniel Avenue) on the Shore Road in north Belfast.

The tavern, in Sugarhouse Entry, later become a hotel before eventually being destroyed in the WWII blitz. Sugarhouse Entry still exists but has been impassable since 1972, when it was closed off as part of the “ring of steel” securing Belfast city centre (DC Tours). The mural is in Crown Entry.

There is today a restaurant called The Muddlers Club, named after the society, in Warehouse Lane. Two of its murals are shown below; for others see also God Approves Our Undertakings and The Wider Conspiracy.

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Operation Banner

On February 21st, 1988, 23 year-old Aidan McAnespie was shot in the back by 18 year-old Grenadier Guardsman David Holden at a British Army checkpoint in Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone as he (McAnespie) walked to the nearby GAA club. In November (2022), Holden was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence (BBC | Belfast Live) and he was sentenced yesterday to three years, suspended for three years, thus avoiding jail unless he is sentenced for some additional crime (BBC | BelTel | UTv | Irish Times). He is the first British soldier convicted since the Agreement of a Northern Ireland killing; he might be the only one, as legislation is pending in Westminster that would end prosecutions (RTÉ video | Sky New video). The legacy legislation was discussed previously in Was This Lawful? | Soldier A-Z | Come For One, Come For All | Paras Fight Back | Stop The Witch Hunt.

The banner shown above was hanging on the railings at Laganside Courts, Oxford Street: “Operation Banner supporters group, Belafst and Scottish branch. Our veterans are heroes, not criminals. Leave our Operation Banner veterans alone and stop appeasing Sinn Fein/IRA terrorists.” “Operation Banner” is the name given by British forces to their operations in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2007; since then, the depoloyment of British forces in Northern Ireland has been known as “Operation Helvetic” (Irish News).

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Cool

The Royal Victoria Hospital was the first public building in the world to have air conditioning, developed by Sirocco Works. Fans drew in outside air and passed it over mats of wetted coir (Cooling Post | images at HEVAC-Heritage). The qualifier “public” is necessary perhaps because Carrier invented the general process for a printing factory in New York (ASME) in 1902 and the New York Stock Exchange installed a system in 1902 (6sqft)

The image above is only one of many panels in College Street Mews by Ed Hicks (ig) on the general theme of Belfast and its industry.

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All Kings Die, Some Live Forever

The Malojian (Fb) mural (shown below) on the Oh Yeah Centre was the idea of Lyndon Stephens, founder of Quiet Arch records, and when he died in January 2020 after a long illness (Hotpress), Stevie Scullion returned the favour by organising the painting of a mural by Jonny McKerr (JMK) & Dermot McConaghy (DMC) the following November (Dig With It).

Gordon Street, Belfast

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Today Is The Parrot Of Yesterday

Street art by Cyd Noble (ig) at Artcetera (formerly the Red Barn Gallery) in Belfast city centre.

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Belfast Busker

Enniskillen singer John Garrity (ig | Fb) is a familiar face in Belfast city centre, often seen busking in Castle Place and Cornmarket. He drew criticism in September 2021 for singing the ballad ‘Grace’ – about the hours-long bride of James Plunkett, executed after the 1916 Rising – while an Orange Order parade passed by. Garrity claims he was already singing the song when the parade happened to come by (Belfast Live). (Here is a rendition from another occasion – youtube.) He then gained a persistent heckler (Irish News). Now he is the subject of a mural by Glen Molloy (ig) in Donegall Street, Belfast, on the wall of the long-ago burned-out North Street Arcade, where Matt Sewell’s Carnival Of The Animals was.

Image by Paddy Duffy.

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We Are What We Think We Are

Like “You’re never too old to set another goal or dream another dream” in east Belfast, “We are what we believe we are” appears to be another of those inspirational quotes attributed to – but not actually by – CS Lewis. The quote appears alongside Belfast landmarks the Titanic centre, Aslan, the Big Fish/Salmon of Knowledge, an unidentified cupola. Part of a piece by Faigy (ig) in Wilson’s Entry, Belfast.

Image courtesy of Paddy Duffy.

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In The Shadow Of The Cathedral

Mother of two Demi Corry died in July (2022) on a park bench in Buoy Park, in the shadow of St Anne’s, of a suspected drug overdose. She was one of at least 15 drug-related deaths in the city centre this past summer (itv.com) many of them of homeless people (Guardian).

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Season’s Greetings From Belfast

“Merry Christmas, yis cunts yis” – happy holidays from Belfast city centre. Stan Carey from the blog Strong Language suggests the name “pronominal split reduplication” for the repeated “yis”.

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The Rising Place

The buildings on North Street above the art deco Bank Of Ireland building – including a former home (called The Loft) of the artists’ collective now known as The Vault– were razed in 2017. Since then, the hoarding around the site has been a site for street art and graffiti art, most recently a series of Clash Street Kids pieces (inspired by the ‘Bash Street Kids’) by the TMN krew. The plan for the location is now to produce (for 100 million pounds) a building housing a multi-media presentation of the results of an “unparalleled programme of story collection” (Belfast City Council) that will be attractive to an anticipated 1.8 million annual visitors (Architects’ Journal).

For the street art in the background, see Belfast Deco.

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