Sunday, May 5, 2019

Harbison's, Ltd.

I'm repatriating the blog for the while. This is barely genealogy, since it's the recent past.

One of the legends of my childhood was that my family owned a bar in Belfast, that it was run by a manager who embezzled the profits, and upon the death of my grandmother it was sold in a vicious fight over her will. I think most of this is true.

The bar was at 19 Ann Street, in Central Belfast, now part of the pedestrianized part of the city. Another bar, nearby in Crown Alley, was supposedly the place the United Irishmen were formed in 1798. But the Ann Street bar dated to before 1852; in 1843 it was a hattery. By 1852 it had become the premises of a 'grocer and spirit dealer' Robert Gilmore. Between 1868 and 1877 it passed into the hands of Patrick Clarke, 'spirit dealer'; by 1890, it had become the 'Royal Hotel' and was owned by Joseph Muldoon, my great uncle.

When Muldoon died, in 1895, he in turn bequethed it to his sister, Mrs. William John Harbison, née Matilda Muldoon. Her husband already operated a 'wine and spirit dealership' and less respectably, a shebeen, in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. Matilda held it until her death in 1925; she was apparently intestate, and it went to her husband, who died, a rich man, in 1933. Apparently that was the occasion of the first fight over a will. I gather that evenually the bar came into the possession of my grandmother, Mary Harbison née Phillips, who owned it until her death in 1966; it was certainly operating as Harbison Ltd. in 1960. At this point another big will dispute started, of which I don't know the details, except that it estranged my father from some of his siblings and cousins. And the bar was sold.

Ann Street was bombed by the IRA in 1992. The premises are now occupied by a yogurt shop. I'm still looking for a picture of the old Royal Hotel; the yogurt shop is too depressing to show.

It's a shame, really. As the eldest son of one of May's four surviving sons, in a different universe I could be a barkeep. That's a job I could love.

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