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McCann’s Bakery, also known as the Victoria Bakery, was a major employer in Newry and played an important part in the local community throughout the year. This was no less true at Christmas. Over the years a number of former McCann’s workers have shared their memories of working at the Bakery with Newry and Mourne Museum. Some of these reminiscences have given us an insight into what work was like at the Bakery during the Christmas period.

A price list dating from 1977 listing Christmas fayre. Many of the items listed were family favourites, made by McCann’s year after year. Newry and Mourne Museum
A price list dating from 1977 listing Christmas fayre. Many of the items listed were family favourites, made by McCann’s year after year. Newry and Mourne Museum

They described Christmas as being a “mad rush” with hordes of people to cater for and many extra orders being placed at short notice. There was high praise for the McCann’s bakers who primarily dealt with the Christmas rush in an efficient and professional manner. It was remembered that the bakers never refused an order and always endeavoured to complete every order placed. Due to the high work load and the public’s slight panic over when there would be fresh bread again, the workers barely had two days off during Christmas. Any plans for a Christmas party failed to materialise as there was no time to spare in their attempt to accommodate the needs of the public.

Wrapper from one of the Christmas Puddings made by McCann’s Bakery which were exported to France in the ealry 1990s.  Newry and Mourne Museum
Wrapper from one of the Christmas Puddings made by McCann’s Bakery which were exported to France in the ealry 1990s. Newry and Mourne Museum

One memory highlighted was McCann’s Bakery offering their ovens for the bakers to cook Christmas turkeys for customers. The workers recalled the queues of people lined up outside the Bakery with every type of bird to be cooked. The bakers took the birds and gave the customer a cloakroom ticket with instructions to come back at a later time to collect their cooked poultry.  The workers declared that despite this somewhat haphazard approach to organise the mass of people and birds, it appeared to have worked, as everyone left satisfied that they had the correct bird. The smell of the roasted turkey continued to linger throughout the building for days afterwards. This was a potent reminder of all the effort made to help the community through the Festive Season. 

A promotional photograph of a McCann’s Christmas Cake from the 1970s/1980s. Newry and Mourne Museum
A promotional photograph of a McCann’s Christmas Cake from the 1970s/1980s. Newry and Mourne Museum

McCann’s Christmas Puddings, Christmas Cakes and Rich Fruit Loaves, which were made in the 1980s, were based on recipes that had been developed sixty years previous, a testament to the Bakery’s pride in its past.  So highly thought of were McCann’s cakes that according to Sir Richard Needham, they had a unique stipulation in their rent agreement with the Needham family (their landlords) to bring a cake with them to  Mourne Park for the family, in order to get a rebate on their rent.

Merry Christmas From McCann’s. Taken from the 1975 Christmas brochure.  Newry and Mourne Museum
Merry Christmas From McCann’s. Taken from the 1975 Christmas brochure. Newry and Mourne Museum

Former employees of McCann’s Bakery have also donated many artefacts to the Museum; a few of those which relating to their Christmas products are illustrated here.

McCann’s Christmas Card sent with their Rich Fruit Loaf which was made from a tradtional recipe used for more than 50 years. Serving suggestions included “spreading liberally with butter or honey…cover thinly with cheese and toast under a grill…very popular when fried.” Newry and Mourne Museum
McCann’s Christmas Card sent with their Rich Fruit Loaf which was made from a tradtional recipe used for more than 50 years. Serving suggestions included “spreading liberally with butter or honey…cover thinly with cheese and toast under a grill…very popular when fried.” Newry and Mourne Museum

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed. However, we wish our supporters a Happy New Year and look forward to welcoming everyone back to the Museum in 2021.

by Joanne Glymond

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