A Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland

With the arrival of the first U.S. Army troops in January 1942, each GI received a 'Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland' to help them adapt to new surroundings.

During the Second World War, over 300,000 members of the United States military passed through Northern Ireland. At times, this meant that almost 10% of the popular was a member of the American forces. Sailors, soldiers, and airmen began arriving in January 1942 and continued to do so in waves until their final departure from Ulster in 1945.

To help the new arrivals adjust to life in Northern Ireland, each received a copy of the ‘Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland’. Issued by Special Service Division in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., this small book contained a vast amount of information. It was part tourist guide, part etiquette handbook. Some parts referred to customs and traditions now outdated over the course of more than eight decades. Other information relating to bad weather, poorly seasoned food, and lack of Sunday entertainment may still hold true.

There are two Irelands

You are going away from home on an important mission – to meet Hitler and beat him on his own ground. For the time being you will be the guest of Northern Ireland. The purpose of this guide is to get you acquainted with the Irish, their country, and their ways.

You will start out with good prospects. The Irish like Americans. Virtually every Irishman has friends or rela­tives in the United States; he is predisposed in your favor and anxious to hear what you have to say. This, however, puts you under a definite obligation: you will be expected to live up to the Irishman’s high opinion of Americans. That’s a real responsibility.

The people of Northern Ireland are not only friends, but Allies. They are fighting by the side of England, the United States, the rest of the United Nations. Thousands of Irishmen are hefting steel in the hot spots of the war, doing their share and more. It is common decency to treat your friends well; it is a military necessity to treat your allies well.

Every American thinks he knows something about Ire­land. But which Ireland? There are two Irelands. The shamrock, St. Patrick’s Day, the wearing of the green – these belong to Southern Ireland, now called Eire (Air-a). Eire is neutral in the war. Northern Ireland treasures its governmental union with England above all things.

There are historic reasons for these attitudes. Ireland has sent many gifted and valuable citizens to the United States. Irishmen from North and South, Prot­estant and Catholic, began to emigrate to America in early colonial days. Nine generals in the American Revolution were of Irish birth. Four signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Ireland and four were of Irish descent. Fourteen Presidents of the United States have carried the blood of Ireland in their veins. There are many of you soldiers who are of Irish descent. Some of you, Protestants or Catholics, may know at first hand or second hand about the religious and political differences between Northern and Southern Ireland. Per­haps they seem foolish to you. We Americans don’t worry about which side our grandfathers fought on in the Civil War, because it doesn’t matter now. But these things still matter in Ireland and it is only sensible to be forewarned.

There are two excellent rules of conduct for the Amer­ican abroad. They are good rules anywhere but they are particularly important in Ireland:

  1. Don’t argue religion.
  2. Don’t argue politics.

The Country

Northern Ireland – usually called Ulster – is a small country, only slightly larger than the State of Connecticut. It is made up of the six counties in the northeastern corner of the island: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Londonderry, Fermanagh, and Tyrone. Some 1,300,000 people – not quite so many as in Los Angeles – live there.

First off you may not like the Irish climate. It is damp, chilly, rainy. If you are from the Southwest or from Cali­fornia you may find yourself homesick for sunshine. The sun is only an occasional visitor in Ireland; there are about 200 rainy days a year. The rains, however, come usually as gentle drizzles, not as thundershowers.

It may be news to you that Ireland is farther north than the United States. For this reason the day is very short in winter and long in summer. In late June and July there is little darkness and you will be able to read a newspaper at 9 o’clock at night. In late December daylight lasts less than 7 hours, and darkness closes in by mid-afternoon.

Despite Ireland’s northerliness – it lies about exactly opposite Labrador – extremes of heat and cold are rare. In the summer a temperature of 80 degrees is the peak of a heat wave, and in winter freezing weather is the exception rather than the rule. It is the always-present dampness which make the cool summers and mild winters seem colder than they are. Many people in Ireland wear thick, woollen clothing the year round. You will be wise to keep yourself warm and dry; pneumonia and bronchitis are common.

Dampness chills the bones of visitors, but it makes Ireland green and beautiful. Ulster is a saucer circled by rolling hills. There is the Antrim plateau in the north­east, the Sperrin Mountains in the northwest, the Mourne Mountains in the southeast. If you come from North Carolina, or Colorado, or Idaho, these may not seem much like mountains to you – they rise 3,000 feet at their highest – but their beauty has drawn tourists to Ulster for many years.

On furlough you may want to visit the mountains, or to see Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. (Lough, pronounced “Lokh,” is the Irish word for lake.) Another strange and famous landmark is the Giant’s Causeway – 40,000 columns of basalt rock which rise from a bay at the northern tip of the island. This is celebrated in legend and story.

Most of Ulster’s 1,300,000 people live northeast of Lough Neagh, in the lowlands. There are a good many large estates owned by the wealthy or the once-wealthy, and you will find ancient and turreted castles scattered among the hills and glens, but most of the Irish farmers manage to make their livings on plots of land which Americans, used to tractors and far horizons, would think hardly larger than ample vegetable gardens.

This scale of farming will seem almost absurdly small to you who come from the Middle West or the Far West. There are 90,000 farms in Ulster with tiny fields and small, whitewashed, thatched-roof cottages. A 5-acre place is one of respectable size to an Ulsterman, a 20-acre place is really substantial, and anyone who owns more than 40 acres is considered to be engaged in large-scale farming. Fine cat­tle graze on the pasture land, and hay, oats, potatoes, tur­nips, and wheat are grown.

Belfast is the most important industrial center in Ireland, and one of the key points of the British war effort. It has a population of 438,000 – one-third of the people in all Ulster live there – and is slightly larger than Kansas City, Mis­souri. Belfast was badly bombed by the Germans in 1940. Londonderry (called Derry by the Irish), the second city of Ulster, is located on the North Coast, and had a popula­tion of 43,000 before the war.

Belfast today resembles many American cities where the weapons of war are being forged as fast as industrial wheels will turn. The production of linen in peacetimes is a great industry; Irish linens are known all over the world. Today much of the linen industry has been converted to the man­ufacture of cotton goods – cloth for British Army uniforms.


To understand why there are two governments in Ireland – Ulster in the north and Eire in the south – it is necessary to know a little about Irish history.

Irish history is endlessly complicated. Originally in­vaded and populated by the Celts (pronounced “Kelts”), from the French coast, whose Gaelic language and ancient legends still survive, Ireland was engaged for a thousand years in a struggle against English domination. After England broke with the Church of Rome in the first half of the fifteenth century, many of the Irish refused to forego their Catholicism, and subsequent wars took on the character of religious struggles.

Present-day Northern Ireland was once part of the an­cient Kingdom of Ulster, and it remained the last strong­hold of Celtic rule until the seventeenth century, when after a long war with the English most of the Celtic in­habitants were driven out or went into hiding in the wild hills.

Their confiscated lands were given over to large num­bers of Scotch Presbyterians and Protestant English set­tlers. At the celebrated Battle of the Boyne, July 12, 1690, the last Catholic King of England, James II, was defeated by the Protestant King, William of Orange, and Northern Ireland became a seat of British and Protestant rule. Many of the Protestant Irishmen of Ulster today are descendants of those early Scotch and English settlers.

When the Irish Free State was created by the British Parliament in 1922, the majority of Ulstermen wanted to retain the union with Britain. Hence they were called Unionists. Out of respect for their wishes Parliament sepa­rated the six northern counties from the Free State and gave them a separate government. The Free State later changed its name to Eire and considers itself virtually independent – so independent that it is not at war with Germany.

Northern Ireland has its own Parliament, made up of a Senate and a House of Commons. The Governor (the Duke of Abercorn has held this post since 1922) repre­sents the King. The Prime Minister stays in power only so long as he has majority support in the Ulster Parliament.

Northern Ireland, although it has its own Parliament, sends 13 members to the House of Commons in London, just as Iowa or Indiana – which have their own legisla­tures – send Congressmen to Washington.

Éire Border Problems

American troops are not permitted to cross the border into Eire, and, as you probably know, Eamon De Valera, Prime Minister of Eire, publicly protested against the first landings of our men in Ulster.

This may strike you as strange – as it is strange – when the grave issues at stake in this war are considered. Behind this border closing, behind the De Valera protest, is the whole difficult and complicated Irish question. You need to know about this problem and what is said on both sides, but the best plan for an American soldier is to stay on the side lines.

De Valera’s goal is the unification of all Ireland into one nation. His government protested against the landing of troops because, as a matter of public policy, it does not recognize the separation of Northern Ireland. Eire has declared itself neutral in the war. However, the great ma­jority of the citizens of Eire privately hope for an Allied victory, and the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck is said to have been cheered more loudly in Dublin than in London.

Nevertheless, Eire’s neutrality is a real danger to the Allied cause. There, just across the Irish Channel from embattled England, and not too far from your own billets in Ulster, the Axis nations maintain large legations and staffs. These Axis agents send out weather reports, find out by espionage what is going on in Ulster. The Ulster border is 600 miles long and hard to patrol. Axis spies sift back and forth across the border constantly.

Be on your guard! The Nazis are trying to find out all about the A.E.F. Watch what you say in public. Enemy ears are listening.

The People: Their Customs and Manners

The people of Ulster, whether of Gaelic, Scottish, or English ancestry, regard themselves as Irishmen. They are proud of their lineage and tremendously fond and proud of either native land. They will talk to you freely.

Before you have been there many days you will hear all about Ireland’s long history, the beauty of Ireland’s scenery, the extraordinary goings-on of Irish fairyfolk, the pro­digious roll call of Ireland’s great men. Your role is to listen. You may have seen more exciting scenery, you are undoubtedly used to more bountiful living – but you are on their home grounds.

They may expect you to brag about New York’s big buildings. Don’t do it. There are Irishmen who emigrated to the United States as boys and who have returned, near the end of their lives, to the little villages they left long ago. Some of them are unpopular because they talk about sky-scrapers, express highways, modern plumbing; they boast about the wonders they have seen and shared. The Irish, being proud people, resent comparisons in which Ireland seems to come off second best.

Getting along with people in Ireland is pretty much the same job as getting along with people in America. Consid­eration, courtesy, friendliness will take you just as far in Ireland as they will at home. The Irish will like your frankness if it is friendly. They will expect you to be gen­erous, high spirited, robust – but they will not appreciate any effort of yours to impose your code of conduct or values upon them.

A visitor coming to America wins few friends if he makes a point of telling Americans how much better his country is than theirs. It doesn’t make any difference that he honestly believes he is right. The Irish like their own way of life and you will be wise, if, during your stay, you fit yourself into it as well and as comfortable as possible.

The people of Ulster are, in general, serious-minded and hard-working. They are independent in their beliefs and stubborn in their opinions. The heavy infiltration of Scotch blood may have something to do with the fact that they are exceedingly thrifty. But they are thrifty also because Ire­land is not a rich country and a living is difficult to come by. The Ulsterman likes to drive a hard bargain in busi­ness affairs and he thinks a spendthrift is a dope.

Yet, at the same time, Ulster is a most hospitable place. If you pause at a farmer’s house, you are likely to be in­vited in for a cup of tea. Tea is now rationed, but recently an American soldier speaking on a short-wave broadcast said he had drunk more tea during his first 2 weeks in Ireland than he had in his whole life before. You should be warned on one point: if you are invited to the farmer’s dinner table, don’t accept too many help­ings. Food is not plentiful, and because the Irish are hospitable, the bustling housewife may have cooked most of the week’s supply of meat.

The male social center in Ulster is the tavern or public house. While there are temperance advocates and a few prohibitionists in Ireland, you won’t see much of them. Irish whiskey is famous, but the price is now so high that you will find most people drink stout, ale, and porter, which they call “beer.” The American-type beer (which is, of course, really German type) comes only in bottles and is known as “lager.” Up in the hills you may be offered an illicit concoction known as “potheen.” This is a moonshine whiskey made out of potato mash. Watch it. It’s dynamite… The beer and ale served in the “pubs” is usually heavier and stronger than ours. Don’t expect ice-cold drinks. The Irish, like Europeans generally, are accustomed to drinks served at room temperature. They like them that way.

The Irish don’t go in for the Dutch treat system. If five men enter a pub, each will stand a round, and etiquette demands that all stay until the last of the five rounds has been bought. If you are invited to join such a group, and do so, remember that you will give offense by a refusal to treat and be treated.

You’ll probably miss the soda fountains, the hot dog stands, and hamburger joints of America. Ireland has nothing remotely like them. There are no sodas, few sweets, and very few soft drinks. If you want a sandwich, you’ll have to make your own; the Irish serve and eat their meat and bread separately. As a matter of fact, when on furlough you may have difficulty in getting a hot meal just when you want it. Most “pubs” don’t serve food. In the country it is quite all right to approach a farmhouse and ask to buy milk, eggs, bread, and tea.

Milk, eggs, bread, and tea usually serve the Ulsterman both at breakfast and supper. (Supper is often called “high tea.”) Dinner is the only meal that includes meat, potatoes, and other vegetables, and, except at the big hotels in the cities, it usually comes in the middle of the day.

The war has made it necessary for Ireland to rely on her own produce for food, and there is not much variety. Potatoes and cabbage are the inevitable vegetables. There is little seasoning in the food, and the beef or the bacon may be a bit on the tough side, but it satisfies a hungry man. There are various Irish specialties that you will find delightful – the oat cakes and potato bread are excellent and the scones (baking powder biscuits) are the best in the world.

The pre-war tourist frequently remarked, in criticism of Ulster, that there is nothing to do there. It is true that the Irish do not go in for organized sport as much as the English do or as much as we do. But you’ll rarely see any­thing more exciting than a football (soccer) game between two tough Irish professional teams; tempers rise and the police are frequently on hand to keep order. Both dog racing and horse racing are popular; all field sports are popular, and you might be able to get permission from a farmer to shoot over his land or to trout-fish his brook, but make very sure you get permission – poaching isn’t popu­lar in North Ireland.

Golf is not a rich man’s game in Northern Ireland and there are links everywhere. Your commanding officer un­doubtedly can arrange for you to play the nearby Irish courses. There is boating and bathing on the “loughs.” And you will be interested in watching a cricket game even though you find it slower than baseball.

There is virtually no night life. Pubs close early, and the floor show and juke joint are non-existent. You will find motion-picture houses (cinemas) in all the larger towns; many American films are shown. The theatres are closed on Sunday. In fact, everything is closed on Sunday because of the devout church-going habits of the population and the strict blue laws.

In the matter of Sunday closing, in other matters of morality and personal conduct, the Irish may seem puri­tanical to men used to American’s free and easy ways. You will do well among respectable householders to avoid even mild profanity: what passes for idle swearing among Americans may strike the Irish as real blasphemy and, therefore, offensive. Anything which borders, however faintly, on the indecent is better left unsaid.

The church is an important social institution in Ulster. Often a town of 10,000 will have 15 or 16 churches, and even those not members of a church make a point of at­tending Sunday service; besides feeling the need of spir­itual uplift they know they will meet their friends and neighbors there. In the small towns some church groups often add an open-air Saturday night meeting to the cal­endar of services. You will be interested in these Saturday night meetings; country people who have come to town with their produce wander from one shop to the other while cornets and drums play gospel hymns in the main street, and the preacher speaks from a well-placed soap box.

You are more than welcome in the churches. Nothing will establish friendlier relations between you and the Ulster people than going to church with them. Freedom of worship is guaranteed everywhere in Ire­land and Britain, just as it is in the United States. In America – as you know – we usually take it for granted that some people go to one church and some to another. The Irish, where religion is concerned, take nothing for granted. Church affiliation is a serious thing.

There are 430,000 Roman Catholics in Ulster, 390,000 Presbyterians, 345,000 members of the Church of Ireland (Protestant Episcopalians), 55,000 Methodists, and 60,000 of other faiths.

Religious differences and political differences are insep­arable in Ireland; they have been made one and the same by years of internal bitterness, strife, and violence. You will discover that Protestants usually do not mingle with Cath­olics nor Catholics with Protestants. They move in quite different circles socially, and they have few contacts even in business. Don’t try to bridge this chasm. Wiser and better equipped people than you have discovered that Ireland is one place where intervention is not blessed, however well intended.

July 12 – known simply as The Twelfth – is an impor­tant date in Ulster. This is the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne which, as you know, established Protestant kings on England’s throne. Celebration of the day is led by the powerful Orange Order, a Protestant political and fraternal organization, and there are parades and demonstrations throughout the six counties. Political feelings run high and clashes between Protestant demonstrators and their Catho­lic fellow-countrymen are not uncommon.

Summing up: Religion is a matter of public as well as private concern in Ulster and you’ll be wise not to talk about it. In America we ask, “Where do you come from?” In Ulster they ask, “What church do you belong to?” If the question is put to you, tell the truth and then change the subject.

About Arguments

The Irish love to talk. Conversation is the most highly perfected form of entertainment. Although class distinc­tions are important in Northern Ireland – the large land­owners, professional men, industrialists, tradesmen, farm­ers, laborers, all accept their allotted places in the social set-up – there is a democracy of self-expression. No Irish­man is too poor or too humble to offer an opinion, and every Irishman expects to be listened to.

Argument for its own sake is a Scotch-Irish speciality, and arguing politics might almost be called a national sport. The pub is the principal forum. You may be de­ceived by the high temperatures developed in these discus­sions. The Irish call each other names, accuse each other of the most bizarre irregularities, indulge in wild exagger­ation and virulent personal abuse. Listening, you may ex­pect a rousing fist fight at any moment.

Actually this is all part of the fun and the show. In America we don’t hold it against a man because he tells a tall story with a couple of beers under his belt. In Ulster it is quite within the rules of the game to accuse your ad­versary not only of pig stealing but of actual treason.

A word of warning: your place in these arguments is on the side lines.

Difference in Language

The Ulster accent may at first be hard to understand. The upper-class Irishman speaks like the upper-class Eng­lishman, but the speech of the shop and the farm and the public house is not the speech of England, Scodand, or America. In its richest form, the Irish version of English is a brogue, and there is a brogue for every county in Ireland, just as we have a Brooklyn accent, a Boston broad “a”, and a Texas drawl.

Many of the expressions may strike you as funny; some of them may not be understandable. Remember that many of your expressions will strike the Irishman as funny – even if he is too polite to laugh – and that he has a hard time understanding you too.

The moving pictures have brought some Americanisms to Ireland. You will find that the young people use and understand terms such as “okay,” “oke,” “guy,” and “scram.” But they will also invite you in for “a squib of tea,” and refer to an unmarried man or woman well over 40 as a “boy” or a “girl.” Only married people who have children are called men and women; bachelors and spin­sters remain juvenile until the end of their days. You will learn that the word “friend” has a very special meaning. It means a cousin of some degree (a member of the clan) who is about one’s own age.

There are obligations, par­ticularly in the rural districts, that go with the relation­ship; relatives have mutual obligations to help in farm work, to come to the rescue in financial troubles, and to be on hand to assist in such important ceremonies as wed­dings and funerals.

When an Irishman says: “I am after drinking my beer,” he doesn’t mean he is about to do it or that he wants to do it; he means, quite sensibly, that he has just finished doing it. When he says his wife is a “homely kind of person” he is paying her a compliment; he means not that she is ugly but that she is cozy, kind, and unassuming. He is likely to be vague and optimistic in giving you directions: “Just up the road a bit” may mean a long way, and a “five- minute walk” a jaunt of several miles.

You probably know that English and Irish drivers of motor cars (not “automobiles”) travel on the left side of the road. You may not know that a drug store is a chemist’s shop; that garters are “sock suspenders,” and suspenders “braces” or “galluses”; that a street car is a “tram”; that a “stationer” sells writing materials and news­papers, and a “draper’s shop” clothing.

The Ulsterman will be tolerant about your ignorance of Ireland; it is only fair play to be tolerant about his igno­rance of America. If you live in Buffalo and he inquires if you know his uncle in Los Angeles, don’t laugh at him – you’ll pull an equally bad boner about Ireland before the hour is out.

The Girls

Ireland is an Old World country where woman’s place is still, to a considerable extent, in the home. In the cities, to be sure, modern trends and the pressure of the war itself have liberalized social attitudes. But in the rural sections – and it is quite possible you will be billeted in areas that are rural beyond your expectations – the old ideas still exist. Irish girls are friendly.

They will stop on the country road and pass the time of day. Don’t think, on that account, that they are falling for you in a big way. Quite probably the young lady you’re interested in must ask her family’s per­mission before she can go out with you. In the old days when a girl was seen in the company of a young man more than two or three times, it was as much as announcing an engagement. Or nearly as much. The couple was said to be “clicking,” and the unwritten code demanded that the rest of the girls turn their eyes elsewhere.

If you’re interested in dancing, you’ll find partners with­out difficulty in Belfast and the other big towns. You’ll hear American popular songs, and recordings by American bands. But in the country, dances are comparatively rare, and jive is unknown. Occasionally, however, you may find a rural frolic in progress. The Irish jigs and reels and the “valeta” – a square dance – are strenuous and sweaty fun. One point: cutting-in is frowned upon. Watch the other men and follow their example.

A word of warning about the rural areas: Sewage dis­posal is unsatisfactory in some places, with resultant water contamination and soil pollution. Boiling your water is recommended when you are not sure of the water supply. Incidentally, the water for tea is always boiled and hence safe. Also, you won’t find much coffee and what you do won’t be like the coffee you are used to. So you probably will find yourself drinking more tea in a week than you have in all your previous life.

Ulster at War

Ulster and England have been at war with Germany since September of 1939. In Belfast, which is blacked out every night, you will see some of the scars of the 1940 bombings. You will see other effects of the war on the shelves of the shops. There aren’t many things to buy. In America we have not yet felt, to any extent, those deprivations which result from turning all industry into war industry.

Here are only a few of the things – avail­able at any corner store in America – which you will have a hard time finding in Ulster: soap, chocolate bars, talcum powder, oranges, chewing gum, grape juice, ice cream.

You will see soldiers everywhere, American soldiers and British soldiers. The British soldiers are young men, just as you are, and just as full of beans. Hitler wants you not to get along together, and he has history in his favor: allies sometimes have had difficulty getting along together. This is the time both to fool Hider and to make history.

Lean over backwards to make friends with the guy who talks differently, thinks differently, but fights the same. Remember that no criticism has ever been made of the gallant, stubborn fighting of the ordinary British soldier. The Americans were great at Bataan; but do not forget that a regiment of bank clerks and floorwalkers (the Queen’s Rifles) who hadn’t completed their military train­ing held Calais and made the Dunkerque evacuation pos­sible. They were ordered to hold Calais at all cost. They did. Most of them died there.

Don’t tell the Britisher that “we came over and won the last one.” In the first place, it isn’t true. Britain lost nearly a million men; America’s dead in action totalled a little more than 60,000. Don’t boast about what we have done or will do. Let’s see how we handle ourselves when the going is really tough.

Payday Blues

You carry the greatest sources of potential trouble right around with you in your billfold. American wages and American soldiers’ pay are about the highest in the world. The British soldier is apt to be pretty touchy about the difference between his wages and yours. It is only human nature to wonder why exposure to dying should be quoted at different rates – and such different rates.

Don’t be a show-off with your pay. It adds up to a lot of money in Ulster, and you won’t make any friends by throwing either your money or your weight around. Remember that the private in the British army makes on the average about 50 cents a day and that, according to our standards, most of the people in Ulster are exceed­ingly poor. Don’t be a spendthrift. Don’t be a dope.


The Irish have already seen a lot of American soldiers. This gives you an advantage, for they already know pretty much what to expect, and you can learn from the experi­ence of earlier arrivals. Every American soldier is an unofficial ambassador of good will.

A few important do’s and don’ts: Don’t criticize the food, the beer, the cigarettes. Avoid arguing religion or politics. Don’t throw your money around. Don’t tell them – let them tell you. In your dealings with the people of Northern Ireland, let this be your slogan:

It is common decency to treat your friends well; it is a military necessity to treat your allies well.

Money, Weights, and Measures

British money is quite different from American money, and Ulster uses British money. The people won’t be amused to hear you call it “funny money.” The unit is the pound (sometimes called a “quid”), which is ordi­narily worth a little less than $5. Early in 1942 it had a value of about $4 in American exchange. The pound is divided as follows:

12 pennies (or pence) equals 1 shilling. 20 shillings equal 1 pound.

The coins in common use are made of copper and silver. The names of the coins and their approximate values in American money are as follows:

Copper Coins. A farthing, one-quarter of a penny, is worth about half a cent in American money. This coin is not common. A half penny (pronounced “hay p’ny”) is equal to one half of the British penny as its name indicates and is worth about 1 cent in American money. The penny is worth about 2 cents in American money.

Silver Coins. There is also a silver coin worth 3 pence (generally called “thrup penny bit”). It is a small coin worth approximately one nickel in our money. You will see this very often in the cities. Six pence – about the same size as the American dime and worth about the same amount and referred to as a “tanner.” A shilling is worth 12 pennies, or pence. The shilling is commonly called a bob. It is about the size of the Ameri­can quarter and worth a little less. The florin is worth 2 shillings. It is a little smaller than the American half dollar and is worth a little less. The half crown is equal to 2 shillings and 6 pence. (Sometimes called “2 and 6.”) It is about the size of the American half dollar and worth about the same amount. The crown, which is rarely seen, is equal to 5 shillings. It is about the size of and about the same value as the American silver dollar.

Gold Coins. The sovereign and half-sovereign, which are very rarely seen, are gold coins worth 1 pound and 10 shillings, respectively. You will read about them in English literature but you probably will not see them and needn’t bother about them.

Paper Currency. The 10-shilling note is the smallest paper denomination and is worth half a pound, or roughly $2 in American money. The pound note is worth about $4. The 5-pound note is worth about $20 in American money.

A unit of money you will sometimes see advertised in the better stores is the guinea (pronounced “ginny” with the “g” hard as in “go”). It is worth 21 shillings, or 1 pound plus 1 shilling. There is no actual coin or paper of this value now in use. It is simply a quotation of price.

The measures of length and weight are almost the same as those used in America. The British and Irish have inches, feet, yards, pints, quarts, gallons, etc. You should remember, however, that the English (or “Imperial”) gallon contains about one-fifth more liquid than the American gallon. The “stone” is a unit of weight. A stone equals 14 pounds, and a man’s weight is given as “12 stone, 4 pound,” if he weighs 172 pounds.

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