Who was William John from Portadown? Part 2 – the Belfast linen Industry

Since this time of year is for story-telling, let’s continue with the tale of Anne and William John

You may remember they met at a dinner party  in the USA – Anne and her father having emigrated from Mayo after their homestead was destroyed in the Great Wind


William John was from Portadown,

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An Orange Lodge Grand Master”, whispered some of his descendants .

When he met Anne

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he was touring round the USA to source markets for his linen business.

He was  a “middleman” – buying cheap from the peasants who wove the linen and selling dear to anyone who would buy it. He was working on the cusp of linen industrialisation and he  certainly knew how to profit  as linen passed from being just produced locally to turning out  finished products in Belfast mills.

William John eventually acquired a large number of warehouses on Belfast docks and made his profits from buying cheap from the linen mills and selling dear to whoever would buy his linen ware –

Risultati immagini per hand painted irish damask linen


Risultati immagini per hand painted irish damask linen


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lace-trimmed tablecloths, sheets, towels, pillow-cases, shirts, chemises, petticoats.

Whatever you wanted for your person, house, shop or hotel, William John could find it or order it made, ship it to you and turn a pretty pound or more on it for himself.

Had he lived today he would probably have been an on-line sales billionaire!

He was charmed by Anne –

“an American wife is a great business asset”.

Her French-origin Irish Catholicism was easily overlooked.

Risultati immagini per I'll cross that bridge when I come to it

In Belfast. she could be passed off as a Hugenot” he reasoned to himself

there’s a nice Hugenot community in Lisburn, They’ve helped make Ireland the lead producer of linen.

That’ll do – she can be an American  Hugenot”

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Anne liked William John. She liked his prosperity  and his business intelligence.

Like many Americans, she loved the idea of returning to  her homeland. From Portadown or Belfast she could travel to Mayo and look up family friends and relatives.

Irish Catholic peasants” thought William John  “There’ll be no visiting with themRisultati immagini per 19th century marriage proposal

She accepted his marriage proposal

She agreed that any male issue  would be brought up Protestant and the girls  in the Catholic faith

She soon found out William John was an arch controller.

As time went by,  she became a battered wife.

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A late Christmas presence

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I once got a Christmas present that didn’t arrive until Easter

I’ve got something for you” said Gerald, neighbour and family friend,

sweeping into our house for my parents pre-Christmas drinks party.

There was no parcel under his arm or sticking out of his coat pocket.
It’s a Persian kitten that’s yet to be born. You’ll get it in a few months time”
I’ll have to tell them” I whispered.

My parents were dead set against pets
“You’ll have plenty of time to choose your moment”.
He handed me his coat and headed into the party.

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I forgot all about Gerald and his non-existent Persian kitten.

Though I would have liked one

Late spring that year I got very sick – the doctor made  house calls.

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Bedrest and antibiotics were prescribed.

One afternoon after school

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my sister toiled up the stairs to my room.
She stood just inside the door with her hands behind her back.

My mother had put the fear of God into her about getting infected with whatever I’d got.

She was usually just allowed to put her head round the door.

Stepping into my room took courage on her part.

A friend of yours has come to stay ”she said.

I couldn’t understand what she was talking about.
I thought I was fever delirious again.

I’ve called him Felix” she said. “We learnt “Felix the cat in Latin today”

True Fact: She never was much good at Latin.

The kitten was so small he fitted into the palm of her hand.

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Gerald left him in for you. He said he hoped you would be better soon

Mother came up later with my medicine and supper
Your father and I  agree you should have told us about Gerald’s present.

It’s too late now to say  anything to him. It’s all your doing.

When you go back to school you can ask if one of the other pupils in your class   wants a Persian  kitten.

After such deception we can’t possibly allow you to keep it

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(Felix threatened with eviction)

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Head throbbing I sank back on to the pillows.

The whole kitten situation was beyond me!

Days passed. I started getting better.

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The doctor delivered his verdict

Back to school on Monday

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Mother came up to my room on Sunday night.
Felix has been living here for 10 days” she said.

True Fact: I hadn’t seen him since that brief visit with my sister.
Your father and I have got to like him” she said

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He’s staying

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He stayed for 17 years. A very long life for a cat!

Christmas Greetings 2017

Season’s Greetings to all far and wide, at home and abroad, from The Mirror


Best wishes to all our readers, followers, commentators and lurkers
Hoping you all have a wonderful Christmas

And to start  off  the Mirror’s Christmas Concert – an oldie but goldie

Dublin’s chiming in!

America’s making its voice heard!

The Wise Kings have Started on their Journey

But it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas carol


And a look to the future

This where we’ll be staying in 2018!  North and South of Ireland 



 And Scotland should soon confirm she’s  staying with us!