The Story of Ballymaclinton.


Part 1 of a two part article by George Ithell from the Exhibition Study Group archives

with illustrations added of contemporary souvenirs from the Irish Village.


            The type of shop required in any community such as in Donaghmore, Co. Tyrone, was of great importance for it’s merchandise, and what would be more needed than the grocers. The year the story begins is 1820.

            In a period of very difficult time of Irish history, the affluence, such as it was which Ireland enjoyed before the Union with Great Britain in 1801, was sadly reduced by the departure of the nobility and gentry. Consequently, the trade and economy suffered, but needs bred resourcefulness and ideas were experimented with.

            One of these resourceful people was a David Brown who was the proprietor of the local shop. In a little back room of his premises he was able to produce a cheap soap suitable mainly for household chores, but no doubt was also used on the hardy skins of some of the customers. With the soap being a huge success David Brown progressed with another of his experiments for candles.            These were of course in great demand before the advent of electricity. The demand for both of these commodities continued and a new business was launched and prospered. David Brown’s son James joined him and ultimately followed and developed the industry considerably, James Brown was then succeeded by his twin sons,. David and Robert.




An unopened packet of Colleen Shampoo. Although it is not dated it could well have been sold

at the time of the Franco-British Exhibition, or soon after. On the back it mentions Professor Kirk.

The pictures are 75% full size.


            In 1895 the firm of David Brown & Son was now large enough to take over another soap manufacturer in Belfast. This was McClinton’s whose scented and unscented soap was their speciality. McClinton’s name was retained for the brands of toilet soap but the household soap was still sold under the original name. Another of the firms activities was a large farm which with the soap works gave employment to upwards of one hundred people in the area.

            David and Robert Brown were very much respected by the entire community with their attitude to life. The altruistic outlook the brothers had, overcame a problem which at that time was immense. The housing situation was dreadful by present day standards, but a colony of cottages with four rooms complete with half an acre of garden to each one was built. The charge for rent was minimal, just Two Shillings per week and that with the rates paid!



Valentine’s supplied the printed paper to go on the lid of this box which would have held three

bars of soap. The origin of the picture is one of their post cards.


            Tuberculosis and other killing diseases were a scourge in Ireland about this time, and with others, including Lady Aberdeen, the wife of the Lord Lieutenant, David and Robert formed a Society to gather funds to combat these ills and were successful in raising large sums of money.          Ballymaclinton Village at the Franco-British Exhibition in 1908, was in the form of an advertisement and also to gain funds for the charities for which Ireland so badly needed. A donation, or token charge to enter and view the village was paid into the fund of the National Woman’s Health Association of Ireland. many other firms displayed their products and made valuable contributions to interest the 2,000,000 visitors the first year. Charitable organisations were in attendance with reports and results of their work. Demonstrations by the Church of Kildare Training College for the Blind in the methods of reading Braille, was a revelation.

            It was the general opinion that since 1900 there had been a very considerable improvement in the Industrial Development in Ireland and that the. Irish contribution to this Great Exhibition, added still further potential, The designers in their efforts for the fullest authenticity included the essential General Shop. This shop was given full Postal facilities not only for stamps, but for Postal-orders and a Continental Telegraph Service. This was then designated The Ballymaclinton Post Office. This was the first time in the history of British Postal services that the name of .a person was the subject of the title. No reference to that point has been made anywhere yet.

            In the Post Office Records Department a notice in the Circular No:1835 states that - ‘A temporary Branch Office under the designation of Ballymaclinton. Shepherd’s Bush Exhibition W. Code J.M.C. for the transaction of Telegraph and Postal Order business and for the sale of stamps, opened on July 14th 1908, and in a later circular the closure as October 31st the same year.

            The following year, an item in the Circular No. 1881 of May 18th states that-’Reference to the Branch Office known as Shepherd’s Bush Exhibition. B.O. the Town Sub-office under the designation of Ballymaclinton, Shepherd’s Bush Exhibition W. will be opened in a few days time in the Irish Village, Imperial International Exhibition for the sale of stamps and Post Office business On a later page in the same Circular another reference ‘a similar Office known as the Scottish Village both opened from 10 am until 11 p.m. on the 1st June 1909’ The reported closure was on October 26th 1909. A special hand-stamp for each of these years is common, but a single-ring skeleton type for use on ‘parcel and packets was in use from May until September 1909 only.’ A Parcel Post label to be used in conjunction with the latter was another innovation. Ballymaclinton Exhibition - Shepherd’s Bush W. in two straight lines with the J.M.C. code in the title area.



Another soap box which like the previous one is about 1 inch deep. Although it can hardly be

seen the printing on the box top is in a style not used by Valentine on their post cards, so this must have been specially printed by Valentine’s for Maclinton’s.


            These last two items are recorded by the late W. G. Stitt Dibden. At the same time the hand-stamp was issued so also the mail-bag seal, a crown motif with the Ballymaclinton Shepherd’s Bush Exhibition placed axially in smaller letters than the dated hand-stamps. The Post Office facilities were axed in 1910.

            1908 was the year that Britain was to stage the Olympic Games. As the idea of a joint venture for a French and British exhibition had been suggested by a Trade Convention, The Great White City was planned and the site chosen. The White City Stadium at Shepherds Bush, although modified in the last few years, is the only remaining building which was part of the huge project culminating in a very successful and much appreciated event. The spirit and tolerance in which a great deal of thought and organisation on the part of the two countries is seen when the French wanted 1907 to be the chosen year and agreed that the Olympic year would perhaps be more satisfactory.


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