Saying goodbye to Havelock House marks the end of an era

The demolition of Havelock House, where she started her career at Ulster Television, brought a lump to Anne’s throat...

Work began last week to demolish Havelock House, the former home of Ulster Television on Ormeau Road in south Belfast (Mal McCann)

I made a mistake. I thought Havelock House being razed to the ground last week wouldn’t concern me, despite the request by campaigners to have a few minutes inside the building to measure rooms and staircases and count the windows, purely to archive this famous building.

However, when I saw that mechanical rhinoceros poke its horn through the window into the film library where I started my career, I had a lump in my throat.

It’s bricks and mortar, of course, and memories are more important, but the building was one of a kind.

Built in the late 1870s, a thriving time in the era of the textile boom, handkerchiefs and shirts were made there, no doubt employing women from the maze of streets and the rows of red brick two-up, two-down houses on streets named after respected local men and army top brass (Sir Henry Havelock himself was a British general during the time of the 1857 Indian Mutiny and his memory is celebrated with a bronze statue which stands on one of the four plinths in Trafalgar Square, London).

It’s bricks and mortar, of course, and memories are more important, but Havelock House was one of a kind

Last week I sat with Miss Adrienne of Romper Room fame, now Adrienne Catherwood, and we talked of past times and how we were two of the first through those imposing oak doors leading to a promised land.

We hunted out an old photograph of the time capsule being planted in the foundations in 1961.

Adrienne Catherwood, the first local face on Ulster Television, looks back on the excitement of placing a time capsule in the foundations of the new extension to Havelock House.

“I remember that day so well,” she tells me. “Anne Gregg and I set it down with Lord Antrim looking on - a black tin box with a TV Post and a newspaper of that day, some coins, some film and photos and it was agreed it would lie there for 100 years before being opened.

“We gathered in the boardroom and had coffee before going downstairs. Anne had borrowed her mother’s mink coat and I’d borrowed my mum’s pony skin jacket - it was important to look glamorous for the photographers.

“Then it was back upstairs to the boardroom again for a more substantial celebration - although not for me, I was back at the announcers’ box, writing the next script... and when you speak three words-a-second, a three-minute long introduction to a programme is not an easy job.”

The newspaper photograph of Miss Adrienne. Anne Gregg and Ulster Television chairman, Lord Antrim

It’s So Sad To See

So many buildings are being treated in this cavalier fashion; the old Toll Houses, gracious city centre architecture scrapped and, not least, in 2002 the house in Ashley Avenue off the Lisburn Road where Seamus Heaney spent much of his creative life.

Our towns and cities once had such character unlike the high streets of today, which are chrome and glass and could be any street in any town, anywhere. How can you have pride in these undistinguished buildings?

Praise to Belfast City Council who took over the bank at 2 Royal Avenue and turned it into a popular venue for people of all ages to enjoy - an example of good planning, a rare thing it would seem.

There is a lot of talk about ‘anti-social behaviour’ these days, especially in London, but experienced in most major cities. And why? It’s mainly young people who presumably have nothing better to do with their time than to cause upset through violence of some sort or another.

The question has been asked over and over: how do we stop this? Perhaps inspire young men and women by challenging them, open up youth clubs where they can work out physical aggression in a boxing ring or on a badminton court, skate park and cycle track, and get involved in debating - there are hundreds of ways, but it takes planning and persuasive people who know how to engage with those with a grudge against society. Oh yes, and money to set up and support such a plan.

Is There Good In Everyone?

I believe so, but drawing it out and giving confidence is not easy and adults can be just as socially disruptive. What do you do about them? Have a stable society, good government, well structured financial support and music.

In Los Angeles during a riot, some bright spark thought of playing loud classical music over speakers to drown out the noise and there was a remarkable reaction from the crowd - they stopped in their tracks, listened and disbanded. If only it was as easy as that.

Determination certainly paid off in the postal debacle, the fastest developing story in a long time - they certainly have the government by the short and curlies, which must be of some satisfaction, but there is a long way to go yet.

I mentioned last week that I’d written to the local representative of the National Federation of SubPostmasters for a comment. No reply, yet. Surprising? Hardly.