The packman

From Harry Foy's Book  'Growing up in Portadown in the Thirties and Forties'

My grandfather was a packman for J.M. Reid of Bridge Street. It was his job to go around the countryside selling clothes to the farming community. He was a small butt of a man, but was always immaculately dressed. In his earlier days he was a horse dealer in Dungannon but deals invariably ended up in the pub and he became too fond of the stout. He always travelled to the pub at night in the horse and trap and when it was time to leave, he was helped into the trap and the horse found his own way home. Unfortunately one night, the horse was frightened and bolted, breaking the harness. The horse was killed and "wee Jemmy", as my grandfather was known, never got over the loss. He sold up and moved to Portadown.

As children we sat on the stairs and watched my Grandad get ready with his pack. On a freshly scrubbed floor large black oilskins were spread out. All the clothes were brushed and neatly packed: Men's shirts and socks, ladies' knickers, pinafores, blouses and skirts. The oilskins were then wrapped around the clothes and huge leather belts held everything in place. Jemmy arose at six o'clock the next morning and placed the pack on the specially strengthened carrier of his bicycle. For the next week he would travel around south Armagh and Tyrone selling garments to farmers' wives who rarely got to town.

Jemmy had an old wireless set in the house and his favourite programme was Harry Lauder. Jemmy had worked with Harry in the coalfields before Harry had gone on the stage so he knew all the Scottish songs. When my grandmother knew Harry was going to be on the radio she evacuated the house knowing Jemmy would come home with a case of beer. We used to watch him through the window. Off came the boots and leggings and a well-oiled Jemmy would dance and sing every Harry Lauder number. He waved the poker about and woe betide any ornament or furniture that got in his way. His favourite hobby was billiards and even at the age of seventy-five he could hold his own with the best of them. He retired during the war when clothing coupons brought about rationing. I can still hear him singing ... "I never loved any so sweet and so well as Brigid McCaffrey in Farrell's Hotel".
Market Day in Portadown.

Street gangs and fogging orchards.

The wee shops.

Colourful vendors.

The Canon's trip.

The Butterfly.

Greenaway's ghost.

Summer on the Bann.

The Great Lemonade Robbery.

My first day at school.

Even the dog understood the language.


Our House.

A long throw since skittles game was born.

The Gas Man Cometh.

In tune with the band.

Clubs and tickmen.

Donald Campbell Had nothing on us.

The Obinsville Cowboys.

Singing in the streets.

Such good sports.

The days of the sand quays.

The magic of Christmas.

Bombs - not sandwiches.

Skipping, football and cigarette cards.

Escape to the movies.

My first taste of plays.

Smuggling knew no borders.

The tale of the pigs.

Three brass balls.

Thanks for the memories.

First class show!.

Who could forget Mary Ann!.

Health remedies.

Fondly Remembered.

Going To The Dogs.


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