Pig Minelly The Belfast Peeler
There are many stories about “Pig” Minelly, perhaps enough to fill a book, this would be my favourite, and one I witnessed for myself. I and some school friends were making our way home up the Springfield Road, and near the old Franklin Laundry we came upon a gathered crowd. The reason for all the commotion was plain to see, a horse lay dead between the shafts of a cart and there stood “Pig” Minelly, notebook in hand interrogating the horse’s owner. The man, a ragman, was in obvious distress , his means of a livelihood lay dead before him and the cart still laden with the rags he had gathered that day. The “Pig” spoke, “Name”, the ragman answered, “Ginger”, the Pig retorted,” are you trying to be funny?”. The ragman looked at him as though puzzled, “I am not trying to be funny.. You first asked me how old the horse was, then you said ’Name’.. so I thought you were still inquiring of the horse so I told you its name... Although now.. That was not its name when I bought it from oul Geordie Quinn... Geordie called Toby.. but I didn’t like that name I thought it more suitable for a dog, so I called it Ginger“.
“Pig” was plainly getting angry now, so blurted, “ Look, I want YOUR name” , the ragman pointed to a little board on the side of the upturned cart , “There is my name and address written there”. This board was required to be displayed by law on all horse drawn carts in those days. But “Pig” was not having it, he stammered, “For the last time, I want your name and address”. But the wee man was as determined as the peeler, and boldly answered back, “There is my name and address, take it from there, if it is good enough to identify me by law then it should be good enough for you Mr. Minelly”.
Well, we were not kids who were reared with a blind respect for peelers so the inevitable pig sound was soon heard, as though in cheers of approval for the ragman, “Hoink... Hoink”, soon all the kids were screaming “Hoink, Hoink” at the “Pig”, one in the back ground volunteered, “Hey Pig, ye call the horse Ginger, write it down.” another came back with , “Aye, look Pig , his name is wrote on his arse, that’s the law, where is yer name wrote?”. The “Pig” began to swipe out with his note book, “Get away off, c’mon, Move on with ye”. He completely lost it by now and the next minute he had the wee rag man by the scruff of the neck and screaming, “I want your name”, the ragman squeaked, “It’s on the cart”, and of course, never missing a chance to wind up, we all chorused, “It’s on the cart. ..its on the cart, Pig”
The whole incident developed into a pantomime and brought looks of total disbelief from a Sergeant and two other peelers who arrived in an old black sedan car up from Springfield Road Barracks.
Pig Minelly And Davy Davidson.
In the then new housing estate of Ballymurphy we had many characters, Davy Davidson, a protestant man who had moved from the Westcircular Road “Huts” to Ballymurphy was one in particular. Back in those days a lot of adults pedalled to work on bicycles, and every place of employment had huge ’bike sheds’ where workers would park their bikes, the Royal hospital had many of these sheds.. and well, needless to say, many a bike would ‘disappear’ with the owner later buying his own bike back ’cheap’ from a Smithfield stall. Anyway, Davy appeared in front of the magistrate one time charged with stealing a bike from the Royals bike shed, a peeler, none other than the famous “Pig” Minelly, put on surveillance duty to watch the bikes, and hopefully catch who was stealing them , read from his note book to the court, in a most officious and pompous manner, of how he had seen Davy with a bike in the vicinity of the bike shed, where upon he detained him and soon ascertained that he was not in fact the owner of the bike in question , he went on to say that Davy told him that he had found it and was returning it because he had assumed it came from the bike shed.
Davy interrupted and looking sheepishly into the eyes of the magistrate pleadingly said, “That’s the God’s honest truth, sir. the bike was lying on the ground and I merely picked it up and was returning it to the nearest bike shed when Constable Minelly pounced on me”
The “Pig” was heard to mutter, “He‘s not as daft as he lets on, sir. I know him of old”.
The magistrate, obviously irritated by the interruption of the peeler, turned to him, folded his arms and said, “Mr Policeman, you are not here to judge this case.. I am.. Tell me, why did you detain Mr Davidson in the first place. is it so unusual to see people with bicycles in the vicinity of a bike shed “.
“Well sir“, said the “Pig“, “he did not seem attired to own or be riding a bike”
“Oh, but Constable Minelly, he was not riding the bike. Nor according to you did he claim to own the bike .. and how should one be attired to own or ride a bicycle” asked the magistrate.
“Well sir, he was not wearing bike clips on his trouser ends to stop them getting caught in the chain“ , said the peeler tapping his note book with his pencil.
The magistrate unfolded his arms , tidied up the papers on his desk, settled his specs on his nose, mused for a few seconds and said, “It seems to me you acted in haste Constable Minelly, he could well have been correcting a bicycle that had fallen from the bike stall, and I take your word that he is a smart man.. And if Mr Davidson is as smart as you seem to think he is, surely he would have went prepared for a spot of bicycle riding, attired that is, case dismissed.”
Davy won, and by God he let everyone know he won, how dare they try to frame him.
There are many yarns about how Davy managed to bring ‘an extra few bob’ into the house at a time when the working class of Belfast were struggling so terribly to rear a family. At that time, 1950‘s, many people were forced through desperation to go to the money lending sharks, or the pawnbrokers of which there were plenty in Belfast in those days. History shows that when ever the poor fall on hard times there are always those ready to line their pockets on their misery… but hang on a minute and I will tell you some of the yarns I heard about Davy, and if they are true, Davy outsmarted many a ‘shark’. There was the time when Davy brought his family allowance book (or was it his wife’s) along to a local money lender ‘spiv’ who loaned Davy £20 (a sizable sum in those days), the ‘spiv’ was then to keep the book and draw the payments each week until he got back the initial £20 he loaned Davy, plus about half as much again as interest. The practise was that the ‘spiv’ would hold the book until that amount accumulated then he would get Davy to go into the Post office, draw the money and give it to him , in turn Davy would then get back the allowance book. The ’spiv’ may have had a thousand or more peoples books so it was a lucrative money making scheme for him. Anyhow that day arrived and the ‘spiv’ arranged to meet Davy and off the pair went in the ‘spiv’s’ big car to cash the book payments, Davy was to go in and collect the cash, the ‘spiv’ with no danger to himself would wait outside in the car, for you must remember this type of dealing was illegal. In goes the bold Davy to the Post Office,, but.. the ‘spiv’ was not to know that Davy had earlier arranged with his wife to meet him secretly inside the Post office, he cashed the book, gave her the money and the book and gave her a five minute start before he returned to the ‘spiv’s’ car pretending to be in a terrible state of concern, he blurted to the ‘spiv’, “ Oh , Mr ****. You won’t believe this.. the wife must have got wind of what was going on and got into the Post Office before me knowing I would be going there.. When I cashed the book from me she took the money and the book and told me, and I let her have it cos’ I didn’t want you to get into trouble, cos’ she said if I did not give her it she would tell the post Office clerk that you and I had done a money lending deal with her family allowance book” . Well the ‘spiv’ nearly took a turn in his eyes.. he stuttered and stammered and told Davy he hadn’t heard the end of it , a couple of boys would be paying him a visit, and uttered other threats. But he still never got his £20 or indeed the interest either…meanwhile Davy met the wife later as pre-arranged down the town and they had a right wee spree with the ‘spiv’s’ money and interest. Another ‘move’ Davy pulled was when he wrote into Stormont and said he had lost their family allowance book, which he had already given to a different ’spiv’ for a £25 loan, and when Stormont send him a new book he took the new book along to the money lending ’spiv’ and waved it at him saying, “Here Mr*****, don’t you bring that family allowance book of ours to the Post Office to cash…cos’ you will get ’lifted’, I have reported it lost and they gave me this new one and that one you have is now useless, but don’t you worry about your £25 .. I will make sure and pay you the first opportunity”. He did not convince the ’spiv’ and once again Davy received all sorts of threats, but it did not get the ‘spiv’ his money. Davy once got a job with the ‘Highways Department’ of the old Belfast Corporation, and an old mate who worked with him at the time told me a good yarn, he and Davy were walking to work one rainy morning and neither of them had a cigarette and were quite ’browned off’. As they passed a street cleaner Davy noticed the cleaner had no cap or ‘Buck Lep’ as they called them in those days. “Hey fella“ , said Davy to the cleaner, “You’re getting soaked ,do you want to buy a ‘Buck Lep’ for a Tanner(sixpence)“, The cleaner readily said “Yes” at which Davy took his cap off and handed it to the cleaner and took the tanner, went straight in to a nearby shop and bought five Woodbine cigarettes and the two went off happily puffing through the rain to work. Things must have been very bad in Davy’s house one morning that he had to go to work without a ‘piece’(lunch)..they were working up the Malone Road digging drain trenches which were half full off rain water, which gave Davy an idea, at Lunchtime he promptly walked up to the nearest house, knocked on the door and told the woman of the house that his sandwiches had fallen into the half filled trench, “Oh, you poor man” says she, and soon brought out a silver tray with a tea pot and a cup on it and a plate of chicken sandwiches, “There you are my good man.. we can’t have a man working without a bite in his stomach”, said the woman. Davy sat down to eat while his mates gaped, “What’s wrong with ye all.., he joked, “What are ye looking’ at, Paris Buns and Baps are good enough for you working class,, but a man like me is used to finer stuff,, this is just for my morning break.. wait till you see what I get for my dinner”.
Believe it or not.. Poor Davy landed in the magistrates court a few weeks later. His house had been burgled as he slept and the rotten thief stole the money from out of his gas meter.. but . Davy was charged with emptying his own meter ?.. It seemed poor Davy had really fallen on hard times.
And to make matters worse.. who was the arresting officer.. yep, you got it, no other that his last opponent, Constable “Pig” ..it was time for a rematch .. And who was to be the referee ..your right again .. It was the same magistrate, ach, sure Davy had to be odds on favourite.
Out came “Pig’s” notebook, he recited from it, it all seemed circumstantial.. He told how he had found the empty coin box lying out in Davy’s garden, Davy had told him he had not set eyes on it until the moment when the policeman brought his attention to it, it all looked good for Davy, if I were a betting man I would have put my money on him. “Pig” continued to read from his wee black book, in a superior tone he delivered the solar plexus punch, .. “and on the inside of that empty coin box we found the finger prints of Mr. Davidson” . the referee had little to do.. It was a one sided battle, poor Davy was counted down and out.. he was led away to serve three months in the Crumlin Road Prison. Poor Davy has moved on from this life where he often said was full of “Hard Times”, hence his nick name, “Hard Times Davy”.
FOR MORE ON THIS SUBJECT
BELFAST HISTORY, PHOTOGRAPHIC AND VIDEO ARCHIVES
Contact JoeGraham Rushlight123@hotmail.com
78 ANDERSONSTOWN PARK BELFAST BT11 8FH
TEL 028 90626631