Staff Pick: The Griddle Queen, 1964

Staff Pick: The Griddle Queen, 1964

Date: 20/07/2022 16:37

James Boyce attends the judging for the Griddle Queen, 1964. A search across Northern Ireland for the home-baker who produces the best soda farls culminates in this final at the Goldstone Hall on Connsbrook Avenue, east Belfast. Organiser Mrs Boucher is determined to celebrate the “older” generation of bakers and has gathered together a formidable group of competitors and top judges.

The requirements that make up a good soda farl include colour, texture, flavour and shape. There is quite the discussion about what makes a good soda. And the winner is...Mrs Robinson who seems slightly non-plussed by her cape and crown.

Soda farls are peculiar to Northern Ireland, although they may have their origins in Scotland. The farl is cooked on a griddle rather than in an oven, to give it its distinctly flat shape. As with many delicious recipes, the key to enjoying a soda farl is to keep it simple; toasted, butter and the topping of your choice, sweet or savoury. The debate as to whether or not they should be in an Ulster Fry is one that could rage til the end of time. 

James Boyce came to broadcasting journalism fairly late in life, having been a teacher previously. His reports are always informative but light-hearted. He had a natural empathy with his interviewees. Sadly, he passed away in 1966 and UTV and BBC were both the lesser for this loss.

This is a fairly typical reflection of a UTV broadcast in the early 60s, with a focus on human interest stories rather than news. This was the result of an agreement between the BBC and the new young TV station. It is also reflective of the societal attitude to women. Although these women had great baking skills and were keepers of knowledge many of us have lost since, there was a tendency to class everything women did in the format of the beauty pageant, and an implication that older women did not have much more to offer society than feeding their families.

Still, it is a charming clip; all the more so for Mrs Robinson’s reluctance to fully embrace the pageantry of the event. And those sodas do look gorgeous.