Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “It’s Still Tough Going West”: Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1961

“It’s Still Tough Going West”: Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1961

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 27, 2011

From the Belfast Telegraph, __ May 1961:

It’s Still Tough Going West

It’s tough, traveling west in a covered wagon – whether you are heading for Salt Lake City or for the Ormeau Embankment.

The hazards of a journey from Dundonald were fully experienced by the Relief Society of Ireland’s float which set out for the Lord Mayor’s show last Saturday. Reports have just filtered through to me.

The float – a covered wagon complete with pioneer family, fire, pots, cradle, butter churn, and two lads with rifles to ensure ‘safety in the home’ – was making good progress to the assembly point when disaster struck.

A wheel sheared off. With true pioneer spirit, they set about repairing it. Even though it turned out to be a major engineering task needing expert help, the wagon was soon rolling again.

But it arrived fire minutes too late for the judging – and all three judges commented that they would have had no hesitation in awarding it a major prize.

It happens like that – traveling west!


(The float was built by the Scottish-Irish Mission Relief Society, under the direction of Relief Society President Nada R. Brockbank. Costumed members of the Church who rode with the covered wagon were: Joan Farbus, E. Gamble, E. Bruce, M. Brookes, Susan and Kay Brookes, Simone Farbus, Sally Jane Gamble, and Vivian Friers.)




  1. Whoa, wait. Simone Farbus is in my ward! I’m sending this to her now!

    Comment by Coffinberry — January 27, 2011 @ 7:29 am

  2. That’s incredible, Coffinberry! You’ll have to report back.

    I enjoyed the writer’s comic tone — fun stuff. But nary a mention of “Mormon” or “LDS” in the article (just “Relief Society”). It makes me wonder if the average reader got the connection?

    Comment by David Y. — January 27, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

  3. I’m wondering if it was easier getting a wooden wagon wheel repaired quickly in Ireland in 1961 than Utah in 1961?

    Comment by kevinf — January 27, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  4. Ok, here is what I learned from Sister Farbus, which I share with her permission.

    “Thanks so much for this. My mom was District RS President so we did quite a few floats. She and May Brooks are both deceased now. Vivian Friars was my next door neighbor and although her parents never joined the church they supported us a lot. Her dad Rowel was a well known cartoonist and Nicole and I visited his widow just a couple of years ago. It’s amazing to me that my mom had 6 district callings and 6 branch callings while she and May Brooks working full time in my mother’s restaurant. Mum was mother to 3 and May mother to 5 so they were women before their time.

    I can’t remember the covered wagon float but I remember being in one about families are forever.”

    After talking with her Sunday, she followed up with this information:

    “Those early Saints did a magnificent job. They also worked with Derek Cuthbert who became a general authority and has written a book about those early Saints. I have a copy if you would be interested.

    In those days we would take a week off work to go to the temple. You’d get the overnight Stranrar ferry to Heisham and then an all day train to get to London and then change to get a bus to Croydon and another to Lingfield and then a looong walk to get to Edenbrook where we would stay for the week. It was way before accommodations were built on the grounds of the temple and before the MTC there as well. We’d be in the temple for the first through the last session Tuesday through Saturday and then have the Long trek home again.

    These were very hardy and faithful Saints. I remember my mother saying that they would get the handbooks of instructions on how MIA or RS was to be run and so that’s what they’d do. They never knew that the programs were to be adapted for small units. Bare in mind that most LDS families did not have one car to a family let alone two and so quite often mini buses had to be hired to transport youth and certainly car pooling was the normal way to getting to board meetings or training sessions.

    Our front room was often used for baptismal services and then the new member was taken down and baptised in the sea near our home, in frigid temperatures.

    When I was in my teens I was the only active youth and one of the callings my mum had was as my youth leader. We would faithfully head to the converted home that was our meeting house, open up, have our lesson or activity (just in case someone else came out) and then head home again. It would have been much easier to have at home but like I said, my mother was all about the spirit rather than the letter of the law. It was invaluable training for life.”

    Comment by Coffinberry — January 31, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  5. Thank you, Coffinberry — and especially Sister Farbus! I’m going to link to this in the sidebar to alert other readers. It’s too good to miss.

    I had an Irish pen pal at or near Belfast (Newtonabbey) in the ’70s — I wonder if Sister Farbus knew Geraldine Nichols? The last letter I had from her she was moving to the U.S. (Idaho, I think), but then she just vanished. I’d love to find her again.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 31, 2011 @ 9:49 am

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