Sunday Performances in Belfast

Northern Whig, 19 August 1921

In August 1921, H. Colquhon wrote to the Northern Whig in support of Sunday concerts at Bellevue. These performances, organised by the Belfast Corporation, proved controversial and many other citizens wrote to local newspapers opposing what they saw as ‘Sabbath desecration’. Colquhon’s letter provides an insight into Sunday activities in Belfast and the contested nature of this issue.

Bellevue Steps, Big Public Domain

Sunday in Belfast


Sir,—I have read a number of letters about band performances at Bellevue, and the majority are against such performances on Sunday. May I state my views on the same subject and also pass a few remarks.

I have always understood that the average citizen had certain privileges, amongst which was the right to act as he thinks best in the matter of his conduct on Sunday or any day so long as his conduct is legitimate. It is apparent to anyone who cares to see that there are certain cranks who will tolerate nothing which will not conform to their own ideas, and anything which does not pass this “Board of Censors” is apparently to be turned down.

Perhaps a little review of the average Sunday in Belfast will help us to judge the state of affairs in their present light. We have two sections of the community to deal with—the people who attend public worship, and the people who don’t; and of the latter, I am afraid, there are quite a large number. For the churchgoers we have a number of religious attractions such as excellent choir services, sermons, missions, &c., and I am sure they are looked forward to with a great deal of pleasure by those who are interested in religious matters.

For the people who do not attend religious services of any description what attractions are provided? The attractions are public houses, and, if you don’t drink, billiards, or ice-cream shops, surreptitious card parties, pitch and toss, crown and anchor, three-card trick, banker, &c., or the Custom House steps. There you can hear speakers on a variety of things, including religion, politics &c., not to mention quack doctors and brass and reed bands, or, if you feel inclined you can stop in bed and read the Sunday papers. Of course I am speaking of the average working man who works all week and has only Sunday to himself.

Well we have “astounded” some of the aforesaid cranks by daring to have an extra attraction in the shape of a band at Bellevue, which is the cause of much heartburning and loud protest. One individual asserts that if it is continued the city will become “morally bankrupt,” completely ignoring the fact that it was morally bankrupt years ago, and people like him have not helped to put it on its feet again. Another asserts that the concerts will not pay the Tramway Committee. I do not know if he means that it will bring “bad luck,” or that no one will attend, but judging by last Sunday I venture to say that it should pay. I would remind correspondents who write in this strain that we are living in a material world. We must face facts, and one of them is that the present-day young people will insist on spending their Sundays as they like, and the Tramways Committee by providing something attractive in the shape of a good band amid beautiful surroundings are doing more to uplift the young and old people than all the street-corner “bawling” and abusive language which one hears “churned” out in Belfast on Sunday after Sunday.

Might I add that I would rather spend Sunday afternoon listening to some decent music and enjoying the surroundings at Bellevue than hearing street preachers bullying everyone into their way of thinking, and they are only driving people further away from religion by their methods of intolerance.

I would venture to suggest that there are some local bands who would give their services on Sunday at Bellevue, as they have given them on Sunday in various halls and churches without protest from those concerned. I hope the Tramways Committee will give those bands an engagement later on. Of course the introduction of good music by first-class bands has been greatly appreciated by the public, and the Committee concerned should be congratulated. I assure them that the public instead of being “greatly outraged,” is “greatly pleased,” judging by what I have seen and heard. In conclusion, I hope the Tramways Committee will continue the performances, and the best argument they have is their increased receipts.


55 Hopewell Street, Belfast,

August 18, 1921.