Book about Russian Jews of Union Street

The story of a family of Russian Jews who ran a credit drapery business in Union Street will be told in a new book on the blending of Ulster and Jewish cultures.

The book entitled ‘More Than a Suitcase of Memories’ was written by Linda Fullerton, an author from Portadown with family roots in Lurgan.

It features the story of Isaac Matthews who came to Northern Ireland in the late 1800s to escape the suffering of the Jews at the hands of the Tsar.

Settling in Lurgan, Isaac first introduced the idea of credit drapery to the area.

For the first time, poor working class people of Lurgan were able to provide for their families by buying drapery and other household items on credit for as little as a penny a week from the Matthews family.

The story describes the wonderful blending of two cultures between people “as Ulster as soda farls and as Jewish as bagels”.

It is a tale of compromise, determination, optimism and the simple joy of life and living.

In a unique, enjoyable and true story, it celebrates a people who once thrived here in Ulster and for a short time had a thriving community in the North Street area of Lurgan.

The Matthews family will still be remembered by many of the older folk still living in Lurgan.

The launch took place in the Belfast Synagogue on Tuesday and one of the two surviving Matthews brothers, Elliott, who is now in his eighties, was in attendance.

Linda Fullerton was born and raised in Portadown and has family roots in neighbouring Lurgan.

She was a primary school teacher for 26 years and now lives in County Down with her husband Colin and Reuben, their dog.

She said: “The Ulster Jewish community is very small today and may all too soon be confined to history.

“We should not forget them.

“It is vital that we preserve the rich kaleidoscope of history in our small corner of the world and especially in the Lurgan area in which this family carried out their credit drapery business and had their wee parlour shop.”