Friday, 29 January 2016

The Hot Toddy


All things considered, the winter must be dealt with. Pitilessly.

Beat the chill. Arm yourself with an abundant supply of whiskey, lashings of lemons and cloves, and fight back.

STEP ONE.  The trick is to heat your glass first, so rinse it out with boiling water just as you would heat a teapot prior to making tea.

STEP TWO.  Watch the cold begin its retreat as you intrepidly place four or five cloves in a slice of lemon.

Place the lot in the heated glass.

STEP THREE.   Add about two spoonfuls of sugar (preferably brown) and pour in boiling water till the glass is about half full.

Stir until the sugar has entirely dissolved.

Bushmills Inn, County Antrim

Finally, a liberal helping of whiskey, preferably distilled in the fair village of Bushmills, County Antrim.

Stir well and savour.

You have just beaten the cold.

Start celebrating.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

James Bell Crichton VC


James Bell Crichton (1879-1961) was born at Carrickfergus, County Antrim, though grew up in the hamlet of Northrigg, near Blackridge, West Lothian.

He served with the Cameron Highlanders during the South African (Boer) War before moving to New Zealand.

Enlisting at the outbreak of the 1st World War, he served as a baker on the Western Front until May, 1918, when he transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, during the 1st World War.

Private Crichton was awarded the Victoria Cross for his deeds on 30 September 1918 at Crèvecœur, France:
CITATION 
Private Crichton, although wounded in the foot, stayed with the advancing troops despite difficult canal and river obstacles. When his platoon was forced back by a counterattack he succeeded in carrying a message which involved swimming a river and crossing an area swept by machine-gun fire.

Subsequently he rejoined his platoon and later undertook on his own initiative to save a bridge which had been mined. Under close fire he managed to remove the charges, returning with the fuses and detonators.
He was later promoted to sergeant.

Sergeant Crichton died at Takapuna, New Zealand, on 25 September, 1961.


There is a Blue Plaque in his memory at the premises of Weston Engineering, 75 Woodburn Road, Carrickfergus, County Antrim, the location of his family home.

First published in May, 2013.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Lighthouse Island: V

IN SEPTEMBER, 2012, I SPENT A WEEKEND ON LIGHTHOUSE ISLAND, ONE OF THE COPELAND ISLANDS


Most of us got out of bed early on Sunday morning, certainly before eight o'clock.

The kitchen in the cottage is the hub, in a sense.

I had brought twenty sausages, potato and soda farls.

Rosie & Nick supplied more bangers, with fresh farm eggs and bacon.

We used the three gas cookers and cooked the lot.

the offerings were placed in the centre of the table and we all tucked in.

Timothy Belmont was, as ever, amongst the leaders in the race to the food-trough.

Thus the troops were nourished and prepared to troop down to the Heligoland trap for a final push.

We managed to complete about 80% of the trap.

The bird observers might need to finish it off themselves; there's now a good basis for completion.

Thereafter we assembled out tools, placed them in the wheelbarrows, and left for the observatory at the top of the island.

I went for a stroll afterwards with Ron.

The remains of the "new" lighthouse (top), in the courtyard at the back of the observatory, are used as storage for fire-wood.

The original lighthouse was more of a square-shaped tower affair and some of it still exists beside the new lighthouse.

The top half of the lighthouse has been shorn off, so the open roof affords a panoramic view of the island and beyond.

Mew lighthouse

Mew Island, adjacent to Lighthouse Island, also has the lighthouse.

It is named after the common gull or sea mew, Larus canus, which nested there in great abundance during bygone years.

Mew Island

It was not until 1969 that electricity powered the lamp on Mew Island.

The light was converted to automatic operation and the last keeper left the island in 1996.

*****

AT ABOUT FOUR O'CLOCK, we all packed and tidied up, locked up and took our belongings down to the jetty, where MV Mermaid was waiting to convey us back to Donaghadee harbour.

It was a wonderful experience, though I think forty-eight hours was sufficient for myself!

Incidentally, a few of us were bitten by what are thought to have been bracken mites: We have several hives to prove it!

First published in September, 2012.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Tyrone DL

APPOINTMENT OF DEPUTY LIEUTENANT

Mr Robert Scott OBE, Lord-Lieutenant of County Tyrone, has been pleased to appoint

Mr David Iain FRAZER,
Dungannon,
County Tyrone,

to be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County, his commission bearing date the 14th January, 2016.

Robert Scott,
Lord-Lieutenant of the County.

New DLs

APPOINTMENT OF DEPUTY LIEUTENANTS

Mr David Lindsay, Lord-Lieutenant of County Down, has been pleased to appoint


  • Mrs Catherine June CHAMPION, Newtownards;

  • Dr Robert Alexander LOGAN, Gilford;

  • Mr Michael Desmond WATT, Seaforde;

  • Mrs Amanda Claire BROWNLOW, Portaferry;


To be Deputy Lieutenants of the County

David Lindsay
Lord Lieutenant of the County

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Lighthouse Island: IV

IN SEPTEMBER, 2012, I SPENT A WEEKEND ON LIGHTHOUSE ISLAND, ONE OF THE COPELAND ISLANDS


The throne-room, otherwise known as loo-with-a-view, is situated half-way down the cliff, overlooking Mew Island.

For those who haven't been following the narrative, Lighthouse Island is one of the Copeland Islands, off the coast of County Down.

From the observatory at the top of this little island it takes about four minutes to get to the said convenience.

As the steps wind their way down the path, there is a wooden notice which is raised or lowered in order to alert users to the fact that this lavatory is otherwise engaged or not.

At the loo itself, there is a second notice (Belt & Braces approach).

view from loo-with-a-view

This little cubicle has a half-door, open to the elements, where occupants can enjoy the most splendid prospect (above) of Mew Island.

I concur with Nick: Lawnmower Man needs to prune a bush which is obscuring the view somewhat [in 2012].

Next episode ... The Last Day.

First published in September, 2012.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Lighthouse Island: III

IN SEPTEMBER, 2012, I SPENT A WEEKEND ON LIGHTHOUSE ISLAND, ONE OF THE COPELAND ISLANDS

Heligoland trap

After breakfast on Saturday morning, we gathered our tools, including pitchforks, spades, wire-clippers and heavy gloves.

We placed everything in wheelbarrows and made the short journey - perhaps five minutes - to the location of our day's task.

A Heligoland trap had been erected at one side of the island, though it was uncompleted.

A group of young people had built its framework, as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Our task was to begin where they had left off. We had plenty of wire mesh, nasty and unforgiving stuff.

It came in rolls of perhaps thirty yards by two yards.

Emma & Phil at the trap door

We had to construct the roof of the trap with this mesh, which necessitated manhandling, pulling and stretching it from one side of the trap to the other.

It is a particularly large trap and this task lasted the whole weekend.

Emma, Phil and self spent a fair amount of time time affixing the trap door.

We managed to do it, despite the Heath Robinson craftsmanship!

We used an ancient step-ladder, which began the day with three steps and ended with a mere one.

Of course we stopped for tea-breaks and lunch.

The weather was warm and sunny for most of the time, with a gentle breeze.

*****

DURING the day, one of the bird observers informed us that they had caught a Common Rosefinch, which was being ringed in the hut.

Its plumage was quite plain: Females, juveniles and first year males have streaked brown heads and somewhat resemble small corn buntings.

This species is a very rare visitor to Northern Ireland, I am apprised.

*****

IN THE EVENING, we all had a hearty steak dinner. Phil had brought enough rump steaks for everybody.

I assisted prepared and cooked the vegetables.

We all sat down to a great meal of rump-steak, chips, peas, tomato and onion.

Phil also brought two bottles of red wine, including a Chianti. Many thanks, Phil!

Pudding was delicious, too: sublime home-made blackberry & apple crumble with custard, made by Rosie & Nick. Many thanks, too!

The trusty nose-bag was firmly attached and the gnashers operated in overdrive.

Fret not, readers: I brought several miniature bottles of gin with me, and cans of tonic-water, with a lime.

After dinner we retired to the common-room, where a cheery log-fire was lit.

Thereafter restoratives were liberally consumed.

Some members of the group left at ten-thirty, in search of Manx Shearwaters on the island; whilst I remained at the fire with the others.

 Next episode ... The Throne-Room!

First published in September, 2012.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Lighthouse Island: II

IN SEPTEMBER, 2012, I SPENT A WEEKEND ON LIGHTHOUSE ISLAND, ONE OF THE COPELAND ISLANDS

The kitchen

On Saturday morning, most of us arose from the bunk-beds swiftly after seven o'clock.

There are sponge mattresses.

Bring your own sleeping-bag and pillow-case; abundant heavy blankets are provided.

It's wise to be self-sufficient here: Bring all food and drink, though there is a limited supply of fresh water from the well.

"Washing" water comes from a butt, and it is emphasised that this must not be used for consumption, even for boiling in a kettle.

So I got dressed and, armed with my wash-gear, found the male wash-room, which is outside in an old shed.

The stainless-steel sink is very large and, unfortunately, lacks a plug.

It has no running water, either; so you boil water and bring it from the kitchen to the wash-room outside.

There is no bath or shower in the wash-room.

Given that the island had not been occupied all week, the sink contained a few swallow droppings!

I decided not to avail of the facilities in the wash-room.

Instead, I boiled some water, poured it into a Pyrex bowl from the kitchen, took it outside to the front of the cottage, and washed myself in the open.

This was easier and less fuss.

I don't know what the others did. Some, I suspect, didn't bother to wash at all!

Others let their beards grow. The duty officer, I noticed, used an electric razor.

I made the mistake of believing that we, as a NT group, would all be sharing all our food.

I brought plenty of ingredients for an Ulster Fry, including twenty sausages, potato-bread and soda-bread; while others provided fresh eggs, bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms.

Phil generously supplied rump steaks, oven chips, vegetables, and red wine.

The kitchen is well equipped, with three cookers and an abundance of kitchen knives, forks, spoons, dishes, baking-trays and so on.

Next episode ... off to Heligoland!

First published in September, 2012.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Lighthouse Island: I

IN SEPTEMBER, 2012, I SPENT A WEEKEND ON LIGHTHOUSE ISLAND, ONE OF THE COPELAND ISLANDS

Lighthouse Island jetty

Timothy Belmont has been incommunicado for forty-eight hours, mainly due to the fact that I have spent that time at Lighthouse Island, one of the Copeland Islands, opposite Donaghadee, County Down.

I arrived at Donaghadee on Friday afternoon at about four-thirty, parked the car, and swiftly made a bee-line for Pier 36, a well-frequented establishment on the sea-front near the harbour.

At Pier 36, I seated myself up at the bar and ordered a little restorative, viz. a Tanqueray and tonic-water.

Rosie and Nick, two fellow National Trust volunteers, arrived soon afterwards.

We had another drink, then ordered a meal.

 I had the halibut with buttery mash and asparagus tips, which was simply delicious.

Craig and his party then arrived, and we proceeded to make for our ferry, MV Mermaid, which took about fifteen of us, including eight NT personnel, to Lighthouse Island.

This compact little island lies behind the main Copeland Island itself.

The journey took about forty-five minutes. When we arrived at the small jetty, we disembarked and unloaded various provisions and tools for the weekend's task.

Wheelbarrows are used to take bulky items up the hill to the cottage, also known as Copeland Bird Observatory.

Having set up camp and having been told the basic house rules and regulations, I chose my bunk in the men's dormitory, which sleeps nine.


Later that evening, we were all invited to join Davy, the duty officer, for the evening catching and ringing juvenile Manx Shearwaters, quite remarkable sea-birds which live in burrows and are not great on the feet. Indeed, they are relatively easy to catch at night.

We also caught and ringed a fair number of swallows. We were all given the opportunity to release them outside the ringing office.

When darkness fell, these wonderful little birds sat on the palm of my hand for a few minutes, before flying away.

Next episode ... ablutions and eating arrangements

Wattling


By Jove, it became foggy yesterday morning as I motored in a southerly direction, along the Portaferry Road, towards Greyabbey, County Down.

I was meeting other National Trust Strangford Lough volunteers for some woodland maintenance.

Thompson's Wood, at Island View Road, is to the west of Greyabbey.

It overlooks Skillin's Point and Mid Island.

There were about eight of us today.


We were thinning young trees (22 years old) and working on a wattle enclosure.

Loppers and hand saws were used.

We finished our task at about twelve-thirty, and drove back to our GHQ, the old schoolhouse on the periphery of Mount Stewart estate.

The coast and countryside manager was conducting our biannual meeting to review progress and update us on developments.

I lunched (or munched) on an apple, mandarin, and banana!

*****

I PASSED a local B&M store the other day and they're selling Frank Cooper's raspberry conserve for, I think, 66p or thereabouts.

This sounds like a bargain; have any readers tried this jam?

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Ballymacormick Stonechat

Female stonechat

I've been outdoors for most of the day, at Ballymacormick Point, County Down.

This coastline belongs to the National Trust.

It comprises about thirty-three acres and was acquired in 1952 from Thomas Kingan.


Today, as is frequently the case, we were cutting gorse. 

I parked at Groomsport and we met at the entrance to the property.


Thankfully it was dry with sunny intervals, though there was a bitterly cold wind.

We spotted stonechats, a sparrowhawk, and lapwings today.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

OM Appointments


CENTRAL CHANCERY OF THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD

THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased to make the following appointments to the Order of Merit:
(To be dated 31 December 2015):

The Rt Hon Ara Warkes, Baron DARZI OF DENHAM, KBE PC;

Professor Dame Ann Patricia DOWLING, DBE;

Sir James DYSON, CBE.

The Order of Merit, founded by 1902 by EDWARD VII, is a special mark of honour conferred by the Sovereign on individuals of exceptional distinction in the arts, learning, sciences and other areas such as public service.

Appointments to the Order are in the Sovereign's personal gift and ministerial advice is not required.

At any point in time, there can only be a total of 24 members of the OM.

This has been the case since EDWARD VII established the Order in 1902 to reward those whose accomplishments in the arts, sciences and learning may go unsung.

Also, the honour does not come with a title, so there's no immediately obvious way of knowing someone has been bestowed with it.

Members are given a red and blue enamel badge, which reads "For Merit".

When a member dies the badge is returned to The Sovereign, who receives the next-of-kin personally.

The Sovereign also has a portrait painted of each member, which becomes part of the royal collection, and hosts a gathering for the entire Order every five years.

In Northern Ireland, the Right Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Eames, OM, former Archbishop of Armagh, is a member of the Order.

People who have been awarded the honour include Florence Nightingale - who was the first woman - TS Eliot and Sir Winston Churchill. There have been 11 honorary members from foreign countries, like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Although nearly all prime ministers of the 20th Century have been knighted, only six received the Order of Merit.

The late Baroness Thatcher was a member of Order.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Sheriff Appointments

APPOINTMENTS BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

APPOINTMENT OF SHERIFFS FOR NORTHERN IRELAND FOR 2016

COUNTY ANTRIM

Mr James Ernest Perry
Ballymena
County Antrim


COUNTY ARMAGH

Mr James Arthur Crummie
Portadown
County Armagh


COUNTY DOWN

Mr Philip Baxter
Lisburn
County Down


COUNTY FERMANAGH

Mrs Roisin Smyth
Enniskillen
County Fermanagh


COUNTY LONDONDERRY

Mr Damian John Heron
Magherafelt
County Londonderry


COUNTY TYRONE

Mr Patrick John McGowan MBE JP
Omagh
County Tyrone


COUNTY BOROUGH OF BELFAST

Alderman Jim Rodgers OBE
Holywood
County Down


COUNTY BOROUGH OF LONDONDERRY

Mrs Patricia O'Kane
Londonderry
County Londonderry

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Castlereagh: Statesman

Thank heaven the sun is finally showing its face.

It has been raining consistently and quite heavily in Belfast today.

Hence, I decided to pay St George's Market a visit.

This market, located in central Belfast in an island site between Oxford, May, Verner, and East Bridge streets, is one of the city's main attractions.

It was built between 1890-96.

The Sunday Market opens at 10am  and closes at 4pm.

There is a mixture of the traditional Friday Variety Market and Saturday’s City Food and Craft Market.

It has a particular emphasis on local arts and crafts, offering local craftspeople the opportunity to show off their talents.

Live music from top local bands and solo artists also ensures that visitors are kept entertained.

Products on sale include local, continental and speciality foods, scented candles, clothes, handmade jewellery, antiques, art, and souvenirs.



Whilst passing a book stall, my eyes were immediately drawn to a large hardback book entitled Castlereagh, by John Bew.

As it transpires, a fellow browser accosted me with the item in my hand, and remarked upon its considerable size.

I retorted by advising him that it was required for bashing a persistent ganglion on my wrist; in lieu of The Holy Bible.

I think he thought I was blaspheming. There's Belfast humour for you.

I'm assuming - and I stand to be corrected - that the author is the Hon John Bew, son of the Lord Bew.

I encounter Paul, Lord Bew, occasionally at Old Brackenbrian annual dinners in the Ulster Reform Club.

I'm expecting that Castlereagh shall be a very "good read" for me, given my interest in, and fondness for, Mount Stewart and the Londonderrys.

Lord Castlereagh succeeded his father as 2nd Marquess of Londonderry in 1821.