Experience of 1920s Troubles
At the height of the 1921-22 Irish troubles, business had deteriorated so badly that my parents were seriously considering emigrating to Canada or the USA. This was the period when both political factions were putting pressure on people to boycott merchants and goods of the opposite religion. My father refused to sign the directions from either side and this was not received well by the Unionists. But he was not the only merchant in town to take this stand as they considered it an infringement on their rights to make their own decisions. I know of two families with strong republican associations who surreptiously continued to purchase their groceries from him, such was their regard for him. At this time also the Dungannon branch of the Orange Order 'black listed' my father which was a direction to the members not to support him in business and there were members who complied with the direction. My father considered emigrating and discussed it with Mr Campbell, a director of Hughes Dickson & Co, flour millers in Belfast, who dissuaded him from making any decision for six months. Mr Campbell's opinion was that a settlement had to come sooner than later and normal relations would return.
All three counter staff gave him their notice because he would not at their dictates join the B-Special Constabulary, which at the time was of a highly political nature. In fact for him to do so with his business in a nationist district was tantamount to it being closed. Before the month was up the three got our minister, the Rev. Stanley W. Thompson, to mediate on their behalf and tender apologies for their conduct, and requesting that they remain in the business and continue as before. My father's refusal was of an adamant nature and I recall the day that I accompanied him to the shop to be his 'protector' when he paid off these men. Staff was something of a problem for a couple of years after that with my mother helping during the busier periods. My Uncle Willie was now in Toronto and not enjoying it so my mother wrote to him offering a job at Watson & Bell.
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