Monday 31 October 2016

Tyrone Courier joins British Newspaper Archive

The Tyrone Courier is the latest Northern Ireland title to join the British Newspaper Archive. Eventually the holding for this weekly paper will span 1880 to 1909. For now, only the 1899 and 1903 editions have made it to the database.

Historical newspapers often remind me of Hartley's 'the past is a foreign country' phrase, but the editorial choices of this particular paper seem positively bizarre, even for the period.

It's a curious 'local' paper, with large sections given over to international news, gardening, cooking recipes, sport results (none related to Ireland), the serialisation of a book, and randomly shoe-horned jokes, none of which has survived the passage of time with rib-tickling humour intact.

Taking the 15 January 1903 edition as an example, a huge proportion is given up to what I can only describe as 'oddities' from around the world. These unexpected stories include details of a Spanish toreador who, with only a bruise on his leg to show for his efforts, had made a £12,000 profit in the previous season by killing 133 bulls; the transformation of the Royal Aquarium in Westminster into a Methodist Church House; a row of corn 25 miles long planted in Kansas, and the execution of a murderer, dragged kicking and screaming to the guillotine, in the French city of Lille. The story below – Lunatic's Telepathy – is from the same issue.

Meanwhile, just one line – 'There was a great flood in the Ballinderry River last Tuesday' – is the only mention of an event affecting a local rural community on the Tyrone/Derry border.

At least there are reports of the Quarter Sessions at Dungannon, Cookstown and Moneymore!