Christmas celebrations in Lisburn a hundred years ago

Henry Ballance
Henry Ballance

The Lisburn Standard summed up Christmas Day in 1915: “Christmas was very dull. The weather too had a depressing effect, and it was with an effort on most homes that any gaiety could be worked up.”

Christmas 1915 was overshadowed by world events with many families remembering their loved ones across the globe. The world was at war, and as early as October Christmas gifts were collected for those serving in the Navy, troops at the front, prisoners of war and the wounded in hospitals.

Christmas greetings from 1915

Christmas greetings from 1915

The local newspapers coverage of the war included lists of local men who were killed, injured, missing in action, acts of bravery and reported advances in the battlefields.

The commanding officer of 11th RIR, Lieutenant Colonel H A Pakenham, from Langford Lodge, sent a Christmas greeting from the front lines to the local relations and friends of the Battalion thanking them for the ‘sympathy and affection shown’ since their formation.

In 1915, the local press also carried lighthearted columns including recipes and cooking tips on how to stuff the roast goose.

If you could not afford the ‘real bird’ a mock goose would be soaked and served with boiled mashed butter beans, ground almonds, butter, vegetable extract, breadcrumbs and sage.

Christmas card from 1915

Christmas card from 1915

A goose in Lisburn market was seven shillings and a turkey around 14 shillings.

A Christmas book of the Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital including photographs of the Ulster Division and a message from the King was on sale, in the local shops with the proceeds benefitting the hospital.

Dances too were held to raise funds for men in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles. Items such as razors, pencils, envelopes, shaving utensils, coca, milk, soups, chocolate, cigarettes and tinned Christmas puddings were sent.

On Wednesday December 1, 1915 a ‘great auction’ was held at the Assembly Rooms in Lisburn, to raise money for the British, Russian and Belgian Red Cross Societies.

Lists of donors and donations were published in the Lisburn Herald and the Lisburn Standard. Donations ranged from money, food, farming utensils, oil paintings and general household goods. Donators were Miss Lilley, Hillhall; Edward Mockler; Miss Eliza Morrow, Ballyhomra; Mr. William Smyth, Ballinderry; Mrs George McLorn, Tannaghabrick and A. Patterson, Lisburn.

Six other donors gave turkeys including Glenavy councillor Henry Ballance, the brother of John Ballance, the New Zealand Premier. Henry’s second son, Samuel, joined the war effort and received a commission with the army. Henry had a clearance sale of all his stock, crops and chattels at Eden Lodge, Kilcreeny, Glenavy. A full inventory was published in the local press and the auction was held on Saturday, December 4, 1915.

Two local doctors, John Lawrence Rentoul, Lisburn and David Peter Gaussen, Dunmurry left to join the hospital ship the S.S. Britannic, built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast.

Despite the dampened spirits of the season there was some hope for the inmates at the Lisburn Workhouse and the patients at the local infirmary. They were treated to the traditional Christmas fare kindly provided by local benefactors. Children within each establishment were given toys, sweets, cake and fruit. The ladies in the workhouse were given cheese and biscuits and the menfolk were each given two ounces of tobacco.