Speaker for 1st September 2015

Photo: President John Graham greets David Martin, with Club Vice President, Jim Archer (L) and Norman Maxwell (R)
Talk by David Martin, reflecting on 'Changing Times'

The Club President, John Graham, welcomed members to the meeting. He hoped they all had an enjoyable summer break. On a more somber note he reminded those present that Probus Member John Springhall had died suddenly on 24 August 2015. John was a recent member, joining Probus on 3 March, and as a mark of Remembrance the President called on members to stand for one minutes silence.

The President then introduced our speaker for the morning, Mr David Martin, the topic of his talk being “Changing Times”. Coincidentally, David had known John Springhall as a young lecturer at the University and he recalled an amusing anecdote about John 'Springers' as he was known in those days.

David was born in Belfast and in his early days two things had shaped his life - Boy Scouts and School. His father died when David was four and as a result his mother had several jobs in order to sustain the family. Schools for David were Abbotts Cross Primary and a new secondary school, Lambert in North Belfast. He learned absolutely nothing at school but enjoyed every minute of the experience. Bob Owens, an ex RAF maths teacher had a tremendous influence on David and Careers Teacher, Sammy Scott also ex RAF, promoted only the RAF as a career path.

Bob Owens was responsible for David obtaining a job with Abbie Simons, a Jewish Jeweller in Smithfield Market. To David’s embarrassment his mother negotiated a wages increase from £3 to £3.10s. per week. He remained with Abbie for 10 years.

David’s story gave an interesting insight into the Jewish immigrants of Belfast with many amusing stories of their private and commercial practices and how they arrived in Belfast often by accident from central Russia. Sadly this community is now reduced to a mere handful. A renovated wrought iron monument to the Jaffa family now stands in the Victoria Shopping Centre.

David was a Scout Leader at 18 and with an enthusiastic work ethic he attempted to set up shops in Belfast. Projects which ended with the destructive attention of the I R A. Almost by accident on a day trip to Coleraine, he eventually located a suitable shop in Queen Street and with savings of £690.00 and a bank loan of £690.00, David Martin, Jeweller, came to fruition.

A question and answer session followed the talk. A vote of thinks proposed by Norman Maxwell was passed on to Mr Martin by the President. The members showed their appreciation for an amusing and enjoyable talk.

With special thanks to our Secretary Graham MacDonald
for this detailed report

A few notes from our web reporters' scribble pad
David told members of his childhood years growing up in North Belfast, the close knit community; his school days; friends he made and are still in touch with; as well as starting work at 'Simmons Jewellers' based in the old Smithfield Market. The narration of these early years was full of amusing anecdotes that had everyone laughing as the tales unfolded. From his first day going to school - "get on the bus; get off the bus when all the others get off; that's the school" (David's father had died when he was four and his mother had to work to look after the family) or, being sent at 16 years old, to his first job, by the school as "they want someone at 'Simmons Jewellers' that's honest, you are honest aren't you?" then meeting the "300 year old Mr Simons - I'd never met someone looking so old where I lived" (and, yes, the shop name was a spelling mistake, but he got the sign at half price!) or, the furthest David had every been as a teenager was to "the Co" (the Co-Op) on York Street, "in fact, I believed that 'the Co' WAS Belfast!", getting to Smithfield Market therefore presented a bit of a problem. David didn't venture far in his youth, and was 19 before he crossed the Lagan to visit a jewellery supplier on Newtonards Road. But David (and thereby Mr Simons) know what young people liked and would pay for - 'Simmons' became the centre for what was 'in' (or in current terms, the 'Bling' centre of Belfast!? - WebEd). And so the stories tumbled out one after the other, much to the amusement of the club (and far to many to include here) until it was time to draw to a close David's thoroughly entertaining talk, and one which certainly reflected on just how much we are in 'Changing Times'.

And a Quick Pic or two:

A 1960s view of the "The Co"


And a 50s? look into Smithfield

Smithfield Market1