This is a neat anecdote about the role S.D. Bell & Co. played in helping the inhabitants of Rathlin Island during a particularly long spell of rough weather in 1938. Rathlin (pop. 100) is small island, four miles in length, situated six miles northeast of the mainland and 47 miles from Belfast.
In 1938, Rathlin was cut off from the mainland for three weeks due to
torrential rain and persistent gale force winds. Supply boats from
Ballycastle could not make the trip and food supplies were rapidly
diminishing. A brave pilot, Denys Gillam, responded to the call for
assistance and prepared to fly supplies to Rathlin, which had a short
runway of only 250 yards.
S.D. Bell’s sprung into action as well, preparing a delivery of
flour, oatmeal, butter, tea, sugar, lard, paraffin oil, candles,
matches, cigarettes and newspapers – note that tea is on a list of
necessities! Gillam made the treacherous flight and landing, which
involved barely clearing the roof of a house, to deliver the goods from
Bell’s. He made a second trip the following day.
Gillam was later awarded the Air Force Cross for his bravery and
airmanship during the relief flights. S.D. Bell’s capitalized on the
event for its advertising as well. A headline read: “Rathlin Island –
supplied at a moment’s notice – we can supply your requirements with the
same dispatch and satisfaction.”