1951 Albion FT21N Flatbed. Made in Scotstoun, Glasgow, Scotland.
“Mark Knopfler – Border Reiver”
Originally known as Albion Motor Car Company Ltd, the company was founded in 1899 by Thomas Blackwood Murray and Norman Osborne Fulton. The factory was originally on the first floor of a building in Finnieston Street, Glasgow and had only seven employees. In 1903 the company moved to new premises in Scotstoun.
This lorry was probably one of the last made before the take over from Leyland and subsequently moved to Bathgate, West Lothian, by the now British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1980.
This oul girl is finished in the livery of Belfast Co-operative Society, a familier sight to me in 50’s 60’s Belfast.
The Belfast Co-Operative Society was established in 1888 by 200 people. Based on the English and Scottish socialist idea at the time to bring easier access to goods by the working class people of the community. A small shop opened at the Shankill Road, quickly followed by new premises at North Street. In 1910, the society also bought and converted Gallaher’s (Blues,Park Drive,etc., cancer sticks) tobacco factory at York Street. The main offices were built in 1932.
By 1969, the Belfast Co-Operative Society had 192,000 members. It had the country’s largest single dairy, and was also one of the largest coal distributors and I well remember the electric bread vans that called everyday to your home with fresh bread and pastrys.
The Orpheus restaurant and ballroom was the focal point of ‘the Co’, where shoppers could enjoy afternoon tea or top bands playing at dances.
The Co-Operative Society also ran an innovative share scheme, whereby regular customers received a dividend for their purchases. Household members memorised their Co-number and quoted it faithfully every time a purchase was made. The amount was logged in a passbook, and ‘the divvy’ was paid at the end of the quarter.
A member could also buy goods , grocerys ‘on account’ and ‘square up’ at the end of each ‘Co quarter’. Always a panic in our house with my mother, times where always hard and money tight.
In May 1972, a massive Irish Republican Army bomb explosion and subsequent fire injured 25 people, and caused around £10m worth of damage. The ladies and menswear, drapery, carpets, soft furniture, hardware, and electrical departments were totally destroyed, while the Orpheus Block, containing the grocery, butchery, pharmacy and furniture departments, remained undamaged. This was the third and most serious fire at the York Street premises since the beginning of the IRA terrorist campaign.
In November the following year, the foundations of the new store were laid. It was to have a multistorey car park, a hairdressing and beauty salon, an air-conditioned coffee lounge, a centrally located credit transactions office, and first aid room with a full time nurse on duty, and a public address system. It was projected to be ‘the most modern store in Ireland.’ However, on January 21, 1977, a week before its official opening, three IRA bombs went off in the new building.
Eventually the CWS disappeared as I knew it in my youth , although the Society still trades and is owned by the Scottish Co-op.
My elder sister had her first job in the Co-op.. in the offices . she decided in the early sixties to become a nurse and qualified in England, eventually finishing her career in New Zealand as a lecturer and tutor for the New Zealand Labour Movement. Awarded the Queens Nursing Medal in 2014.
I photgraphed this old girl that has jogged my memory so much at the Co Down Traction Engine Club rally at Rosemount estate, Greyabbey on the shores of the Ards Penninsula, Strangford Lough.