The Other Face of Sandy Row
In the days gone by it was said that you could get anything from a needle to an anchor in Sandy Row, the area was used by all classes and creeds for shopping. Nobody complained of being intimidated by the flying flags or the decoration around the 12th July celebrations. In fact many Roman Catholics came to the Row over the 12th July period to admire the decorating and enjoy the fun that prevailed that day.
By 1900 there were 127 shops and traders in Sandy Row. The first Department Store was Hewitt Bros.
Shops whose name were famous throughout Belfast were the Gilpins for furniture,
Edwards and Cairns both suppliers of fireplaces, Reid’s for shoes, Gordon’s for Clothing, Scott’s for drapery, Browns for drapery, James Johnston the Butcher. Fresh fruit was supplied by Smyth’s and the Tyrone and Perry’s.
Groceries were supplied by Andersons who were famous for their bacon, Livingstone’s, Joynt cash stores and Le Tastes famous for pies and cooked meats.
Sarah Jane Rosbottom Ulster wallpaper and paint shop. McMillan’s bakery is well known, cloth in hand to get hot soda bread or to Mrs Bairds for butter and stomach cakes. Markey's Pharmacy has been around for 40 years or more, and has sadly been taken over by Gordons Chemist.
There other institutions for by the Loyal Orders. The following can only be described as Sandy Row Institutions. The Moore family sold Fruit and Vegetables from a handcart on a Saturday.
Then there was Maggie Moore’s second hand clothes shop on the corner of Rowland Street which had such good quality cast offs that actors and professionals would shop there. It was like a jumble sale when you went in clothes everywhere. It was said if your clothes were wrinkled people used to say did you get them from Maggie Moore?
Being a working class area there were 2 pawnshops Waricks and Allen situated at each end of the row. Regalia Manufacturers by Thompson and Bridgette.
There was Mary McDowell’s Dolls Hospital. You would bring your child’s doll there to be fixed. Her shop used to be on the Grosvenor Road but she moved to Sandy Row. Mary McDowell also made collarets for the orange men. It was said that every man in Sandy row would have a collaret that was made by Mary McDowell.
On a Saturday night the shops remained open late but the star attraction was cheap John (Bob Monroe). He sold everything from soap to clothes pegs in Blythe Street. He had many a patter one was when he used to wait for the men to come out of the pubs.
He would say “Gentlemen what about a piece offering for the wife some ribbon for her hair only a 6pence. And to the women he would say “Ladies pick up your razors for your men at home, they are not German or William Bloat made.
Linfield Café or the stew shop ran by the mother of the late Billy Helsip still paraded with the District colour party in his eighties. The Sandro Cinema or as it is known locally as The Shack, the manager was a man called James McKeown but as he was the chief chuckerout and he was nicknamed The Sheriff. Rabbie his assistant was nicknamed the Deputy.
The first Supermarket in Belfast was opened by J.D Bell at the corner of Wellwood Street / Great Victoria Street. McDowell’s corner shop was famous throughout the area, it was in City Street and it was open 24 hrs a day and it never closed.