Monday, 31 August 2015

Mayoral Occupants


MY FASCINATION with the history of the city of Belfast's Rolls-Royce Phantom VI continues.

The following Lord Mayors enjoyed the privilege of being conveyed in that stately limousine:-


1966-69     William Duncan Geddis,
Studied at Skerries College in Belfast before becoming a clothing manufacturer; elected to the Belfast Corporation for the Ulster Unionist Party; Lord Mayor, 1966-69.
1969-72     Joseph Foster Cairns,
Managing director of a furniture retailer, and chairman of a development company; elected to the Belfast Corporation for the Ulster Unionist Party; Lord Mayor, 1969-71.
1972-75     Sir William Christie MBE JP,
Proprietor of a wallpaper company in Belfast; Lord Mayor, 1972-75. During this time his home and business were attacked several times, and his wife survived a gunshot to the head in 1972. 
His time in office coincided with the suspension of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, and he was therefore the first Lord Mayor since John White in 1920 not to serve as an ex-officio member of the NI Senate. He retired in 1977.
1975-77     Sir Myles Humphreys JP DL,
Ulster Unionist Party politician, engineer and businessman; Lord Mayor, 1975-77; chaired the NI Police Authority for a decade. Sir Myles appears to have been the last Belfast Lord Mayor to be knighted.
1977-78     James Stewart.

1978-79     David Somerville Cook,
solicitor, eventually becoming a senior partner at Sheldon and Stewart Solicitors; founder member, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland; Belfast City Councillor, 1973-85. 
In 1978, he became the first non-unionist Lord Mayor since partition (the pro-home rule Liberal, William James Pirrie, having held the post in the 1890s); Deputy Leader of the Alliance Party, 1980-84. 
The Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Down is presently Mrs Fionnuala Cook OBE DL.
First published in August, 2012. 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Strand Hotel, Portstewart

I am seeking photographs of the Strand Hotel, Portstewart, if any readers can share them with me.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Portstewart Revisited

It's a mere hop, skip and jump by car from Portballintrae in County Antrim to Portstewart in County Londonderry.

Portstewart is, perhaps, the slightly more sedate neighbour of Portrush, a mile or two along the Causeway Coast.

I parked on the Promenade and proceeded to walk to the main beach, viz. Portstewart Strand, a property of the National Trust.

En route, I passed the site (top) of the Strand Hotel.


Do any readers possess photographs of the Strand Hotel, by the way?

The site is directly opposite the golf links. The hotel was demolished about 1991, I gather.

My parents stayed there in 1958; and We Three stayed there six years later, in 1964, when I was four.


The original steps down to the beach remain, however.


Across the beach is Harry's Shack, a new beach restaurant which has become very well established.


The ecological roof is notable.

Portballintrae: III

I motored the short distance from Portballintrae to Portrush yesterday evening, in order to have some grub at the legendary Ramore wine-bar, at Portrush harbour, County Antrim.

Be advised that parking is difficult here, though, having driven round the block twice, I was fortunate enough to drive into a space somebody was just vacating.

The wine bar was as busy - buzzing - as ever.

I was shown to a high table and stool within five minutes, though.

Their system is proven and works very well: one is shown to a table; given a menu; order up at the bar counter; provide table number and pay.

Thereafter you wait until your name or number is called.

I had the Seafood Thermidor, comprising a kind of luxurious fish-pie of lobster, cod, prawns, turbot etc, with piped potato and tomato slices on a rich lobster Thermidor sauce.

It was sumptuous and filling; no need for any side orders.

In fact, I was so satisfied afterwards that I had no room for the tempting puddings on offer.

Had I not been dining solo, I could have shared a dessert.

What a remarkable establishment Ramore is.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Portballintrae: II

The roof was firmly attached to the Belmont two-seater this morning for my visit to Portrush, the popular seaside resort on the County Antrim coast.

I parked at the East Strand car-park and thereafter walked towards the town centre.

I enjoyed a pot of tea in The White House department store on the main street.

This compact store has a very good culinary department on the ground floor; and their café is renowned for its high standards.

I also paid a brief visit the Holy Trinity parish church, just across the road, which dates from about 1842.

Portrush was, unsurprisingly, quiet today due to particularly heavy rain.

I was brandishing the holiday umbrella.

This afternoon I'm installed comfortably in the Bushmills Inn, having a quiet alcohol-free lager and about to peruse my Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Portballintrae: I


The little seaside resort of Portballintrae is as popular as ever.


It lies on the north coast of County Antrim, about a mile from Bushmills.

After I'd unpacked, I felt like paying my old acquaintance, Con Auld, a visit.

During the summer months he lives at his Portbradden home (top).


His tiny church, St Gobban's, was closed, so unfortunately he wasn't at home.


I'm presently in the Causeway Hotel, where I've had a light meal.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Rowallane Walk


I went for a walk in Rowallane Gardens this morning.

The National Trust in Northern Ireland has its regional offices here.

St John's Wort

Rowallane Gardens are beside Saintfield, County Down.

The herb & salad garden

The gardens were truly beautiful this morning. They really are a gardener's paradise.


A heavy dew remained on the lawns and the woods were captivating.


There is a pottery here; and the café is on the ground floor in Rowallane House, former residence of the Armytage-Moore family.


The bell-tower in the stable-yard has the crest of the Moores, a Moor's head.

I have written a bit about the Moores of Rowallane here.

I encountered Mike, one of the administration staff, on my way back to the car, and he brought me up to date with developments on the demesne.

Mural plaque on the House

There is a little second-hand bookshop at one corner of the stable-yard.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Divis Ramble


Last night I had a pal round for dinner.

The main dish was Tortiglioni pasta casserole, with thickly-sliced sourdough garlic bread and a rich salad comprising radishes, red onion, gherkin, baby plum tomatoes and lettuce.

I made a fresh basil and garlic vinaigrette dressing with a pestle and mortar.

Despite the abundant red wine, I still managed to rise after eight this morning.


Having cleared up the dishes in the kitchen, I fancied an invigorating walk in the Belfast Hills, viz. the Ridge Walk at the National Trust's Divis and Black Mountain property.

When I arrived it was a little surprising to see so many cars at the site; dozens, in fact.

The car-park was full so the narrow road was lined with parked cars.

I had a lovely walk along the Ridge Path, passing the mighty broadcasting transmitters.

The prospect here is spectacular, with panoramic views of greater Belfast and its lough.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Orlock Visit


I motored down the County Down coast today towards Groomsport.

Parking on a lay-by near Orlock Point, I strolled along the coast for about half an hour.

It's quite picturesque here: the Copeland Islands were clearly visible today.


Looking inland, there is an ugly structure of some sort on top of the hill beside Portavo Reservoir.

This building ought not to have been granted planning permission in its current form: at least it could have been camouflaged in some way, or made less conspicuous.

It is a blot on the landscape.


I drove further along the coast to the little village of Groomsport, where there was a folk group playing at Cockle Row cottages.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Mount Stewart Visit


I paid a brief visit to Mount Stewart estate this afternoon.

I donned the wellington boots and went for a walk to the Rose Garden.

This part of the demesne is awaiting restoration, including the Dairy, the Vinery, the Rose Garden and the walled garden itself.


I could hear a brood of juvenile swallows in one of the outbuildings.


This splendid demesne is a property of the National Trust.


The gardens are superb.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

S D Bell's


I met for tea at that venerable institution in the city of Belfast, S D Bell & Company, purveyors of the finest tea and coffee.

They have extended their premises quite recently to include the other units beside them.

One enters by a wide, electric door, and the heavenly aroma of freshly-roasted coffee beans beckons visitors and patrons.

My aunt had been away for awhile, so this was an opportunity for a good old chin-wag.


S D Bell's serve freshly-cooked breakfast, artisan tea and coffee, scones and cakes in the morning.

I had the fruit scone with butter and raspberry jam, and a pot of their blended Director's Brew, which was a very good flavour indeed.


Before we left, I bought a packet of Lady Londonderry's blend and couldn't resist the Lion's fruit pastilles, either.