Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce

Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce
Unveiling the plaque to James Viscount Bryce at 13 Chichester Street, Belfast on Friday 10 May 2013

Monday, 15 August 2011

That which was lost is found!

On 23 July I wrote about the blue plaque to Kennedy Kane McArthur unveiled in Dervock. After the event Chris Spurr and I went down to Portglenone to locate one of the Circle’s earlier plaques; to Timothy Eaton.

Clogher, Ballymena - photo Ballymena Guardian
Eaton was born on a farm in Clogher near Ballymena in March 1934. He served his apprenticeship in the general store owned by a relative by marriage at 48 Main Street Portglenone before he emigrated to Canada in 1854. With his two brothers he opened a general shop in St Mary's, Ontario. Then, in 1868, he moved to Toronto where he set up a store based on the principal of cash sales at fixed prices. Eaton became a highly successful businessman in Canada, establishing the T. Eaton Limited chain of department stores throughout the country and employing over 7,000 staff by the time he died on 31 January 1907. He also pioneered the use of the Mail Order Catalogue. Eaton was an enlightened employer, concerned about the welfare of his staff. For example, he was the first employer to introduce early closing.

James and Helen King at their home in Clogher, Ballymena with the plaque
on the gable.
Unfortunately the Circle had no record of exactly where the plaque had been erected and those involved in the Circle at the time are no longer with us. We had assumed that the plaque was on the premises in Main Street, which is still a General Merchants. However, when Chris and I visited the shop the current owner, who had bought the place in the late 1970s, assured us that there never had been a blue plaque there. There was a rectangular metal one erected in 1969, well before the Circle was formed.

We knew that there was a plaque somewhere so I wrote to Jim Flanagan, the Editor of the Ballymena Guardian asking its readers if they could help. Instead of publishing the letter, Jim decided to do his own investigation and established that the plaque was on Eaton’s original home in Clogher. The story, which occupied almost a full page, ran in the 11 August edition.

The plaque is one of 20 plaques in Co. Antrim. The Circle is grateful to the Ballymena Guardian for its help in tracing the plaque and we can now provide its exact location on our website.

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