‘Hedging Your Bets – The Long Arm of the Law!’

RACKS – TRACKS by Aidan Campbell








I don’t drive these days, due to ill-health, which means I walk a lot on my sojourns around the RACKS area. As readers of RACKS TRACKS will be aware I have written about several subjects which have come to my attention, things I notice about my surroundings, as I walk the routes of Shandon, Kensington and Cherryvalley. These have included the hazards of dog pooh and road traffic accidents plus old street signage and are subjects that I would not previously have considered as I rushed about in pursuit of happiness in my car and saw pedestrians as a bit of an inconvenience. The issue of overgrown hedges has meaning for me. Why? Because as hedges have overgrown during the good weather I am forced to walk onto the road, risking life and limb, on my journey. I have had a couple of close calls with speeding traffic and was actually struck on the shoulder by the wing mirror of a speeding van on Kensington Road – even though I was walking on the footpath. The van did not stop!

But, are overgrown hedges a modern phenomenon?

Consider the Belfast News-Letter on Tuesday 1st February 1916: ‘Protruding Hedges – Belfast Corporation Prosecutions. Before Resident Magistrates in Belfast Summons Court were James McFadden, East Lothian, (102) Kensington Road, and William Burglass, Iona, (106) Kensington Road……(they) were summoned by Belfast Corporation for having within the last month, by negligence, prevented and interrupted the free passage of persons on Kensington Road, contrary to statute.

Hector F. Gullan, Superintendent of Works, stated that the defendants’ hedges extended across the footpath from 18 inches to 2 feet so that at East Lothian there was only 2 feet to 2 feet 6 inches of footpath and at Iona, 3 feet 4 inches compared with 4 feet 6 inches at adjoining property where hedges were pruned.

James Davis, curator of Botanic Gardens and Superintendent of Parks gave corroborative evidence and added that hedges could be cut at any time without injury.

Mr Crymble (defending Mr McFadden of East Lothian) said his client was prepared to have it cut on 17th March. This the Corporation agreed was the proper time. Mr Spiller (prosecuting for the Corporation) said ‘Trimming will not satisfy us’. Mr Burglass (of Iona) stated that he had a gardener working for 2 days and he submitted that the projection of the hedge was the result of long growth and that the negligence was not on his part. The case against Mr Burglass was adjourned, the defendant undertaking to have the hedge cut if required with 14 days.

Mr McFadden would not undertake to have the hedge cut within a fortnight and the magistrate imposed a fine of 2 shillings and 6 pence, with costs. Mr Spiller said that the public should know that as long as there was an obstruction the occupiers of the houses were liable to be fined for each day’s default’.

Our public services took the law very seriously in 1916!

 Another hedge-related inconvenience was drawn to my attention by a recent news article in which a partially sighted individual, with a guide dog, recounted the dangers for him, when out walking, of not only cars parked on footpaths but over-hanging hedges at head-height. He had a few experiences of being ‘whacked’ in the face by branches. How inconsiderate! Surely that wouldn’t happen in the RACKS area?

Over-grown branches at head-height in the RACKS area can pose a hazard for partially-sighted pedestrians.

A plea to all residents of RACKS:

‘Think of others – Keep your Hedge Trimmed’.

Read more about local history at: www.eastbelfasthistory.com

Aidan Campbell