The Times We Lived In: Lording it up in a fairytale carriage

Published: August 8th, 1981 Photograph by Peter Thursfield


No offence, guys – but isn’t Cinderella supposed to be a one-off? Isn’t she supposed to step gracefully from her magic carriage like a vision of perfection? Instead, here we get lord mayors crammed into an outlandishly curlicued Cinderella-esque conveyance in a sort of “three for the price of two” deal.

Or should that be lords mayor? Anyway, the three dignitaries in the frame on this occasion are Paud Black from Cork, Alexis Fitzgerald from Dublin and Grace Bannister from Belfast, and they are being driven in the lord mayor’s carriage, not to the ball, but to the opening of the 1981 Dublin Horse Show.

They are, you will notice, smiling fit to burst. If they really were characters in a fairy story, you might suppose that they’d already reached the “happy ever after” part: quite an achievement, given the political horrors of the situation in the North in the 1980s, and considering that Black was of the Fianna Fáil persuasion, Fitzgerald belonged to Fine Gael and Bannister was a Unionist.

The lady mayor was also the first female lord mayor in Belfast’s history – a sort of a “Belfast Says Yes” situation which, as it happens, is also the current state of play in the city, with Nicola Mallon of the SDLP wearing the mayoral chains.

Magnificent as they may be, the delighted dignitaries are easily outclassed by that extraordinary coach, made by a builder in Dominick Street, William Whitton, in 1791. Its ceremonial debut was in the annual procession to celebrate the birthday of King William III.

Yes, that King William; the one who crossed the Boyne, etc, etc. That’s Irish history for you; it moves in mysterious ways.

– Arminta Wallace This and other photographs from The Irish Times can be purchased from:

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