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Stock-Markets / Stock Market 2021 Jun 25, 2021 – 06:52 PM GMT
By: Chris_Vermeulen

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The story behind Belfast’s ‘Alec the Goose’ tribute at St George’s Market

A St George’s Market goose named Alec is said to have won hearts and minds as he waddled to see local kids at school up to his untimely demise in the 1920s.

Almost 100 years on, his likeness, now set forever in bronze, is still catching the eyes of children who pass him outside the market[1].

We spoke to the man behind his design to find out why a goose got a place among the city’s street art sculptures.

Alec’s creator, Gordon Muir, was appointed by the Paul Hogarth Company to create the “sweet little piece” of street art over 10 years ago. It is thought to have cost around £12,000.

His creator Gordon Muir

The Scottish artist told Belfast Live: “Alec the Goose was probably my first foray into formal sculpture – bronzes if you like.

“The story is that throughout the 1920s, Alec was a popular figure in the St George’s Market[2] area of Belfast.

“Apparently he was loved by all the children and regularly accompanied them to the school gates and then trotted back to where his owner was running his stall in the market. He was regular feature of the landscape and much loved and very recognisable.

“Sadly he was hit by a truck in 1929 and went to his demise. There certainly was a funeral but where his burial place is, I don’t know.

“There’s no great moral tale behind it. It’s just a sweet little piece to make folk say ‘aw’,” added Gordon.

“Alec was very real and he was very loved, particularly by children and I suppose the purpose of the piece was to convey that story to other children and other people and show the nature of what that buzzing market place must have been like.”

Gordon’s design for the sculpture

Gordon’s own daughter, who is now reaching 30, also features in the design,

“Because of the story of Alec it seemed to require a child being in the piece too,” he explained. “The wee girl is loosely modelled on my own daughter Holly who is now hitting 30.

“Because of the associations with my daughter it has a special place in my heart and because it was my first type of these pieces.

“He’s definitely got a fan base amongst youngsters, particularly, the sort of under fives who can get up close and personal with him. I have seen umpteen photographs online with little people with Alec the Goose.

“You see footprints going along the pavement – it’s a sweet little piece.”

His memorial plaque reads ‘a former patron of St George’s Market’

Alec and his little friend were first designed in clay so a mould could be made to later pour molten bronze into – but on the way to the factory Gordon said he had a near miss when “he fell off his perch”.

“We live up a bumpy farm road and the man who came to get the clay went over a bump and Alec fell off his perch and had to get some remedial work – all was well in the end – but it took another week’s work.

“It was cast in bronze at a company in Edinburgh and then was shipped over.”

The little bronze sculpture has sat in pride of place outside St George’s Market for well over a decade now, and Gordon says he has “been over quite a few times” to see him.

“He needs a polish every now and then.”

Anthony McGuigan, from the Paul Hogarth Company, was the man who unearthed the story of Alec when the company was hired for urban renewal work said Gordan.

Gordon’s daughter’s expression here inspired the design for Alec’s friend

Anthony told us: “We were doing a public realm scheme in the area and as part of the public consultation talked to people about the place before we started changing it. We heard this story about Alec the Goose and were like – what? Hold on a minute there.

“Traders told us this story they had been told by elderly traders… it had come down two generations. We wanted to immortalise the story.”

Anthony said he learned “there was a poultry trader in the markets and this goose got the run of the place and got to do what it wanted”.

“It used to walk down to the markets every day and the traders would feed it but it walked down past the school and stopped at the school gates and the kids loved it,” he explained.

“It was supposedly a bit of a cult hero at the time – and part of the reason we know the story is actually true and not an old wives tale is that one of the traders still supposedly has the telegram the day that Alex was killed.

His prints are etched on the city’s street (Image: Shauna Corr/Belfast Live)

“Basically, he was crossing the road and got hit by what was called ‘a motor lorry’ and they were all so distraught and the person who owned Alec was away at Lisburn Market that day so they sent a telegram to Lisburn to tell them that Alec was dead and he got hit.

“The words motor lorry stuck out to me – a motor lorry would have been a big deal and Alec would have had no experience of navigating around them. He was only one and 1929 was the year the telegram was sent.

Little ones love it (Image: Paul Hogarth Company)

“We really enjoyed doing it. It was a story that came to us rather than us creating the story.”

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References

  1. ^ outside the market (www.belfastlive.co.uk)
  2. ^ St George’s Market (www.belfastlive.co.uk)
  3. ^ sign up for our newsletter here (www.belfastlive.co.uk)

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