Thursday, 30 June 2016

Carrigoran House


This is a very ancient branch of the noble and illustrious race of the GERALDINES, seated at an early period at the castle of Pallas, County Limerick.

Family tradition relates that the descendant of that family and the direct ancestor of the Carrigoran Fitzgeralds was instrumental in saving the life of CHARLES I at the battle of Naseby.

Naseby House, Northamptonshire, was built by the FitzGeralds, lords of the manor of Naseby.

Of the Clare family there were two branches, the representative of one, that of Moigh Castle and Sixmilebridge, namely

COLONEL AUGUSTINE FITZGERALD, who died in 1776, having devised the reversion of his property to his kinsman, of Carrigoran.

The estate of Carrigoran was acquired by EDWARD FITZGERALD, of Rynana, County Clare, in 1667, from Colonel Daniel O'Brien, afterwards the Viscount Clare.

His son and heir,

JOHN FITZGERALD, of Carrigoran, County Clare, married Helen, daughter of Pierce Butler, Viscount Ikerrin; from whom descended,

COLONEL EDWARD FITZGERALD (c1736-1814), of Carrigoran, MP for County Clare, 1782, who was left a large estate by his relative, Colonel Augustine FitzGerald, of Sixmilebridge and Silvergrove, and was father of

SIR AUGUSTINE FITZGERALD (c1765-1834), Lieutenant-General in the Army, who was created a baronet in 1821, denominated of Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare.

Sir Augustine died without male issue and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR WILLIAM, 2nd Baronet (c1780-1847), who espoused, in 1805, Emelia Cumming, youngest daughter of William Veale, of Trevaylor, Cornwall, and had issue,
EDWARD, his successor;
Augustine, East India Company, 3rd Baronet;
William Thomas Burton, 4th Baronet;
George Cumming, 5th Baronet;
Emilia Mary; Georgina Mary.
  • Sir William Fitzgerald, 2nd Baronet (c1780-1847);
  • Sir Edward Fitzgerald, 3rd Baronet (1806-65);
  • Sir Augustine Fitzgerald, 4th Baronet (1809-93);
  • Sir George Cumming Fitzgerald, 5th Baronet (1823-1908).
The title became extinct on the death of Sir George Cumming FitzGerald, 5th Baronet, in 1908.

Other Seats - Trevaylor, Penzance, Cornwall; Killybegs House, Naas, County Kildare.

Photo credit: Clare County Library - Bluett Collection

Carrigoran House was the seat of the FitzGerald family in the 18th and 19th centuries.

An earlier house was reputedly destroyed by fire in the late 18th century.

Carrigoran was advertised for sale in 1856.

By the 1880s, the FitzGeralds had acquired the Trevaylor estate in Cornwall.

When Clara, Lady FitzGerald, widow of the last baronet, died in 1922, Carrigoran was sold to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.

It was still in use in the 1940s, though was demolished in the 1980s.

First published in May, 2012.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Glory of Westminster Abbey


It is over one thousand years old; the royal church of coronations, dedicated on December 28th, 1065; the first recorded coronation being one year later, in 1066.

This glorious kingly place of worship, the very embodiment of English and British history, final resting place of so many Sovereigns, where the shrine of St Edward the Confessor lies, is Westminster Abbey.

I do feel "carried away" here; I feel the history coming from the stones and walls of this place.

I feel at home here. This Abbey and Collegiate Church is a National monument; a precious treasure; even a ancient museum of tombs and monuments.

It is, to me, probably the most sacred, significant building in Christendom.

I arrived at ten twenty-seven; and left over three hours later, at one fifty-five, when I walked over to St Margaret's, parish church of Westminster and somewhat dwarfed by the great Abbey beside it.

St Margaret's itself is medieval; a "youngster" compared to the Abbey. 

In the Abbey, I marvelled at the innumerable monuments and tombs of our Kings and Queens; statesmen; poets; admirals and generals.

The Royal Air Force has a tiny chapel at the east end, within the Lady Chapel (above).

Also in the Lady Chapel are the stalls and banners of the Knights Grand Cross - military and civil - of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

Here we have the Arms of our most senior admirals, generals and air chief marshals; and the most senior civil servants in the Kingdom.

While I passed close to the shrine of St Edward, I was approached by a truly lovely lady who, it transpired, was a member of clergy on duty in the Abbey that day. 

We chatted at length about the Abbey and also about her own church, St Bartholomew-the-Less in the City.

She said she'd noticed me spending time in wandering round the Abbey; and would have invited me to join her for prayers at the shrine of St Edward, which I'd have been honoured to do.

To my mind, Westminster Abbey is one of the the most important buildings in England.

A visit - or pilgrimage - to this glorious abbey church is essential.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Lismore House


ANDREW NESBITT, of Brenter (presumed to be son of Thomas Nesbitt, of Newbottle, and grandson of George Nesbitt, who died in 1590), assignee from the Earl of Annandale, of the estates of Brenter and Malmusock, County Donegal, was father of 

ANDREW NESBITT, who served in the army of CHARLES I in Ireland; whose eldest son,

THOMAS NESBITT, of Grangemore, County Westmeath, High Sheriff in 1720, and MP for Cavan, 1715-50, married twice.

His heir, 

COSBY NESBITT, of Lismore, born in 1718, MP for Cavan, 1750-67, High Sheriff, 1764, succeeded to the Cavan estates on the death of his father.

His eldest son, 

THOMAS NESBITT, of Lismore, a colonel in the army, MP for Cavan, 1768-99, High Sheriff 1769, married and was succeeded by his eldest son, 

COSBY NESBITT JP DL, High Sheriff, 1798, major in the Cavan Militia; whose second son, 

ALEXANDER NESBITT DL, of Lismore House, County Cavan, and Old Lands, Sussex, born in 1817, was High Sheriff of Cavan, 1862.

This gentleman died without issue and succeeded by his sister, 


THOMAS COSBY BURROWES JP DL, of Lismore, County Cavan, born in 1856, was High Sheriff, 1888, succeeded his uncle in 1886.

Mr Burrowes married, in 1885, the Hon Anna Frances Maxwell, sister of 10th Baron Farnham, and had issue,
Eleanor Mary (1886-1962);
Rosamund Charlotte, born 1891.
Rosamund Charlotte Cosby Burrowes married Major Shuckburgh Upton Lucas-Clements in 1922.

She was with Voluntary Aid Detachment during the 1st World War, where she was mentioned in dispatches.

She lived in 1976 at Lismore, and had issue,
Elizabeth Anne, b 1922;
Thomas, b 1925;
John, b 1930;
Robert Henry, b 1930.

LISMORE HOUSE, near Crossdoney, County Cavan, was built ca 1730.

The main block was of two storeys over a high basement, with a pediment breakfront centre and a widely spaced Venetian window in both storeys.

There were two bays either side of the centre, overlapping tower wings of one storey each.

The house had a solid roof parapet with urns and oculi in the upper storey of the office wings.

Lismore passed to the Lucas-Clements family through the marriage of Miss R Burrowes to Major Shuckburgh Lucas-Clements in 1922.

Having stood empty for many years, the house fell into ruin and was finally demolished ca 1952, with the exception of a tower wing.

The estate is three miles from the Farnham estate and hotel.

The office wings were used as farm buildings and appear to have been converted to modern living accomodation. The family moved to the former agent's house.

First published in May, 2012.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Moydrum Castle


WILLIAM HANDCOCK (c1631-1707), of Twyford, County Westmeath, descended from a family of considerable antiquity in Lancashire, MP for that county in the first parliament after the restoration of CHARLES II, was nominated one of the Council of Connaught, and obtained a patent, 1680, to erect his estates into a manor, under the designation of the manor of Twyford, with ample privileges.

Mr Handcock married, in 1652, Abigail, sister of Sir Thomas Stanley, by whom he had, with other issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
William (Sir), Knight; Recorder of Dublin;
Stephen (Very Rev), Dean of Clonmacnoise;
Matthew (Ven), Archdeacon of Kilmore;
Stanley, drowned;
Hannah; Sarah; Elizabeth.
The eldest son,

THOMAS HANDCOCK (1654-1726), of Twyford, MP for Lanesborough, 1692-5, espoused, in 1677, Dorothy Green, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
Sarah; Abigail; Mary; Dorothy.
Mr Handcock was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM HANDCOCK (1676-1723), MP for Athlone, 1703-14, County Westmeath, 1721-23, who wedded Sarah, daughter of Richard Warburton, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
RICHARD, of whom hereafter;
John Gustavus;
Abigail; Susan; Dorothy; Susanna.
Mr Handcock was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM HANDCOCK (1704-41), MP for Fore, 1727-41, who espoused Elizabeth, second daughter of the Rt Rev Sir Thomas Vesey Bt, Lord Bishop of Ossory, though the marriage was without issue, and he was succeeded by his brother, 

THE VERY REV RICHARD HANDCOCK (c1716-91), of Twyford, Dean of Achonry, who married Sarah, only daughter and heiress of Richard Toler, of Ballintore, County Kildare, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
Sarah; Susanna; Dorothy; Mary; Elizabeth; Anne.
The Dean was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT HON WILLIAM HANDCOCK MP (1761-1839), MP for Athlone, 1783-1800, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1812, as Baron Castlemaine; and advanced to a viscountcy, 1822, as VISCOUNT CASTLEMAINE.

On his lordship's death the viscountcy expired, though the barony passed to his brother.
The heir apparent is the present holder's only son, the Hon Ronan Michael Handcock. 
The 5th Baron was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Westmeath, from 1899 until 1922.

 Roland Thomas John [Handcock], 8th and present Lord Castlemaine, MBE, lives at Salisbury, Wiltshire.

The heir is the present holder's son, the Hon Ronan Michael Handcock (b 1989).

MOYDRUM CASTLE, near Athlone, County Westmeath, was a seven-bay, two-storey over basement castellated country house, rebuilt ca 1812 (incorporating the fabric of an earlier house built c1750), having an advanced three-storey breakfront/gate tower (offset) to the west side of centre.

There were turrets on an octagonal plan to the corners of an advanced tower and to the west end of the front façade (north); a turret on square plan to the east end.

The house is now out of use, derelict and partially collapsed to the west side.

There were rough-cast, cement-rendered walls, now failing and exposing limestone rubble construction below, with cut stone plinth to base.

Clasping buttresses between bays to the east side of tower; extensive decoration to walls with incised cross loop motifs, cut stone quatrefoils and cut stone hoodmouldings over window openings.

The walls are now largely overgrown with ivy.

Square-headed openings to main body of structure, originally having cut stone surrounds and cut-stone tracery.

Tudor Gothic-arched doorcase to front face of tower, inset within a Tudor-Gothic arched recess and originally with cut stone surrounds (now gone).

Pointed-arched window over doorcase to first storey, originally with Geometric tracery.

Set back from road in extensive mature grounds with remains of a walled garden and ancillary structures to the rear.

These remain impressive and picturesque ruins of a large-scale, Gothic-Revival, castellated country house.

The scale and the attention to detail are still apparent, despite its ruinous condition; and fragments of the early cut stone detailing are still evident to a number of openings from behind the extensive ivy growth.

This important Gothic-Revival essay was built to designs by Sir Richard Morrison (1767-1849), who was commissioned by William Handcock to rebuild an existing house befitting of his new status as Lord Castlemaine, c.1812.

The house was burnt in 1921 and has remained a ruin ever since.
Moydrum Castle, given its status as the seat of HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Westmeath and a member of the House of Lords, was chosen as a suitably symbolic target for Irish republican reprisals: On the night of July 3rd, 1921, an assembly of IRA members marched on the castle.

The 5th Baron was out of Ireland at the time, but Lady Castlemaine and their daughter, together with several servants, were in residence and were woken from their sleep by knocking at the door.

They were given time to gather together a few valuable belongings before the building was set alight. The blaze completely destroyed the castle.
Following the establishment of the Irish Free State, much of the land belonging to Lord Castlemaine was acquired by the Irish Land Commission.

The Castlemaines were never to return to Moydrum.

These impressive and romantic ruins have been much photographed since and a picture of the remains featured on the cover of the U2 album 'The Unforgettable Fire'.

These ruins have now become almost a place of pilgrimage for U2 fans and the interior walls are now covered with graffiti relating to the band, giving this site a new cultural significance.

Castlemaine arms courtesy of European Heraldry.  First published in May, 2012.

Friday, 17 June 2016

HMS Caroline Tour

 I spent a marvellous morning on HMS Caroline today.

It was dry, so I unearthed the trusty two-wheeler from the garden shed, inflated the tyres till they were rock-hard, donned the high-visibily, sleeveless jacket, the cycle helmet, and ventured forth.

HMS Caroline, a historic 1st World War light cruiser, has been moored in the port of Belfast for over ninety years.

In excess of £12 million has been spent on her restoration.

I dismounted at Alexandra Dock, purchased a ticket, and ascended the gangway.

A pair of headphones and a very helpful audio device is included.

Caroline's self-guided tour comprises the two principal decks, viz. the Upper and Lower decks.

She must have five decks altogether, I suppose, though the two below sea-level were used mainly for storage, fuel and so on.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy has installed several elevators or lifts throughout the ship.

I began my tour with a pot of tea in the Mess Deck Café on the Lower Deck.

This cafeteria also exhibits a historic recreation of a light cruiser's mess-table, ready for the ratings to get tucked in to a meal.

The Stewards' Mess

The Lower Deck also contains the cable lockers, coal store, torpedo school, engineers' workshop, signal-room; and, at the stern, the marines' mess, ward-room, officers' cabins, and officers' bathroom.

Directly below the torpedo school are the mighty engine rooms.

Ascending the steps to the Upper Deck, we observe the restored Sick Bay, galleys, the drill-room and the Captain's quarters.

Incidentally, Caroline was commanded by Captain Henry Crooke RN during the Battle of Jutland.

Captain Crooke went on to become Admiral Sir Henry Ralph Crooke, KBE, CB.

The Ward Room

Close to the forecastle (fo'c's'le) is the Navigating Bridge, with its four-inch guns, Captain's day-cabin, and "crow's nest" mounted on a massive steel tripod.

I took my time and spent over two and a half hours on the tour.

I'm in no doubt that HMS Caroline will become one of Belfast's main tourist attractions. It deserves to be.

This is a floating, historic museum which we are proud to have in the port of Belfast.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

TRH in County Down

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Baron and Baroness Carrickfergus, are in County Down this afternoon.

Their Royal Highnesses were greeted by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant for County Down, Mr David Lindsay.

They are attending the annual Hillsborough Castle garden party, hosted by the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

15 Donegall Square South

The former Scottish Mutual Building was bought in 2013 by the hotel group Tullymore House, which also owns the Galgorm Resort and Spa in County Antrim.

This building, at the corner of Donegall Square South and Bedford Street, was originally known as Scottish Temperance Buildings.

It was built in 1904 by Henry Seaver, in dark red Ballochmyle sandstone, six storeys in height, with corbelled turrets at each corner.

It also boasts black polished granite pilasters.

The dormer windows and chimneys survive.

The listed Edwardian building, similar in age to City Hall, will contain forty bedrooms and ten serviced apartments, as well as two restaurants and bars.

Other hotels in the vicinity include Ten Square Hotel, also at Donegall Square South, and the Grand Central Hotel, set to open further down Bedford Street in a few years' time.

The building was sold by the Irish government's National Asset Management Agency (Nama), with an asking price of £1.75m.

The new hotel's main entrance will be at Donegall Square South.

Colin Johnston, Project Manager, said:
"This truly magnificent, iconic city centre building has all the key ingredients - location, beauty, space and heritage - for a welcome and sympathetic restoration into a luxury, boutique hotel."
First published in June, 2013. 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Royal PCs

THE QUEEN has made the following appointments to Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council:-

  • His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, KG, KT 
  • Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, GCVO

Friday, 10 June 2016

Birthday Honours

Warmest congratulations to all of the Northern Ireland recipients of awards in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, now Sir Malcolm McKibbin KCB, has been appointed Knight Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

Rotha Geraldine Diane Johnston CBE has been advanced to Dame Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

The Right Hon (Sir) Jeffrey Donaldson MP has been appointed a Knight Bachelor.

Peter Lunn becomes a Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

The Mikado

It's not often that I use the train, though it suited me yesterday because I was going to see The Mikado at the Grand Opera House in Belfast.

There was no sign of a conductor on the train I took from Sydenham to Great Victoria Street; nor was there a conductor on my train home at about ten thirty or so.

As a consequence I was unable to buy a ticket.

Some might think I'm "having a go" at Northern Ireland Railways, though generally I find their service most satisfactory.

Mind you, the diesel fumes were unpleasant on the platform in the city centre.

Would any future Diesel Tax affect the running costs of this public service, I wonder?

Alighting at Great Victoria Street station, I made a beeline for the celebrated Europa Hotel, a mere few minutes' walk away.

I'm fond of the Europa.

It has withstood many years of civil turmoil and unrest in this city; multiple bombings; major damage.

And yet, despite that, this hotel has survived and, I am glad to say, flourishes as Belfast's most renowned and esteemed hotel.

I was at prep school with Howard Hastings and his family has invested a very considerable amount of money in upgrading and extending the hotel.

I ambled up the spiral stairs to the Piano Bar, where I ordered the customary (!) restorative, accompanied by smoked salmon sandwiches.

The Europa is ideally placed for pre-theatre refreshments because it is virtually beside the opera house (only Glengall Street divides them).

Having spent a good hour or more, happily installed with my iPad, overlooking the famous Crown Bar across the street, I made my way towards the Grand Opera House, one of Belfast's finest buildings.

The Grand Opera House boasts one of the most opulent auditoriums (or should that be auditoria?) in the United Kingdom.

It was designed by Frank Matcham in 1895.

Every time I visit the Grand Opera House in Belfast I always admire the ceiling.

It originally had six painted ceiling panels, the blue sky with stars above the oriental balcony with its small potted palms.

When the opera house was being restored in the 1980s, an artist was sought who could recreate the scene in a sympathetic manner.

Cherith McKinstry was selected.

It was felt that her re-interpretation complemented the four surviving painted roundels, which were re-mounted on fibreglass saucer domes, and the cartouche of female musicians inside the segmental arch over the proscenium opening.

The roundels and cartouche were exquisitely restored and cleaned by Alexander Dunluce, now the Earl of Antrim.


At length the red curtain raised and the show began.

The co-production was by Scottish Opera and D'Oyly Carte Opera.

I'm sure many readers will recall such Gilbert & Sullivan songs as "Three Little Maids", "Tit-Willow", and "I've Got A Little List".

The entire cast was excellent, not least the baritone Richard Suart as Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner.

I managed to get home in time to be entertained by a particularly animated (!) edition of the BBC's Question Time.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Killynether Visit

I spent another fine and sunny day at Killynether Woods, near Newtownards, County Down, yesterday.

The grounds - comprising 42 acres -  and Killynether House, a substantial mansion (since demolished) were donated to the Trust by Miss J H Weir in 1937.

I was with thirteen other National Trust volunteers.

We were in a field beside the road, gathering and burning tree cuttings.

Several wooden fence posts were also hammered into the ground.

There are three horses in an adjacent field and it is expected that they will be grazing in the field we worked in today.

This field has a large pond, where we sat and had our packed lunches.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Kilronan Castle


This family is derived from the same stock as was the celebrated divine, DR THOMAS TENISON, advanced, in 1694, from the bishopric of Lincoln to the archiepiscopal see of Canterbury.

RICHARD TENISON, DD (1642-1705), born at Carrickfergus, County Antrim (eldest son of Major Thomas Tenison, one of the sheriffs of the town of Carrickfergus, 1645), was stated to have been a cousin of the said Primate.

He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1659, of which he eventually became Vice-Chancellor.

Dr Tenison was appointed to the deanery of Clogher in 1675; and, in 1681, he was consecrated Lord Bishop of Killala and Achonry, from which see he was translated, successively, to those of Clogher and of Meath, of which latter diocese he died in 1705, having had issue,
HENRY, MP for Monaghan, 1695, and for Louth, 1703;
RICHARD, MP for Dunleer, 1715;
THOMAS, of whom we treat;
Elizabeth; Maria.
CAPTAIN THOMAS TENISON, the third son, married Alice, daughter of the Rev William Mosse, rector of Maryborough, Queen's County, by whom he had issue,
Mary Jane; Ann.
Captain Tenison died in 1764, and was succeeded by his only son,

THOMAS TENISON, born ca 1730, MP for County Monaghan, 1780, who wedded, in 1758, Mary Anne, second daughter of Colonel John Daniel Degennes, of Portarlington, Queen's County, where he resided for some years afterwards at Rosefield, County Monaghan.

By her he had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
Frances, died unmarried.
His only son,

THOMAS TENISON, of Castle Tenison (now Kilronan Castle), MP for Boyle in 1792, and afterwards lieutenant-colonel in the Roscommon Militia, married firstly, in 1803, the Lady Frances Anne King, daughter of Edward, 1st Earl of Kingston, and by her had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
EDWARD KING, successor to his brother.
He wedded secondly, Mary Anne, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Coore, of Scruton, Yorkshire, and by her had an only daughter, Thomasine Sophia, who espoused Robert Saunderson, of County Cavan.

Mr Tenison died in 1835, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

THOMAS TENISON, of Castle Tenison, who died a bachelor at Florence, Italy, in 1843, and was succeeded by his brother,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL EDWARD KING-TENISON JP DL (1805-78), of Kilronan Castle, who wedded, in 1838, the Lady Louisa Mary Anne Anson, eldest daughter of Thomas William, Earl of Lichfield, and had issue, two daughters, 
Louisa Frances Mary, b 1868;
Colonel King-Tenison's younger daughter,

FRANCES MARGARET CHRISTINA KING-TENISON (1845-1907), of Kilronan Castle, espoused, in 1872, Henry, 8th Earl of Kingston.

KILRONAN CASTLE, near Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon, was formerly called Castle Tenison.

It was built in the early 19th Century and replaced a house near the site of the present outbuildings.

The entrance to the earlier house was by the short avenue later used as the farm yard entrance.

The new building was a three storey, three bay symmetrical castellated block, with slender corner turrets or minarets.

The rooms were well proportioned and there was delicate fan vaulting plaster-work on the stairs and landing.

Isaac Weld visited the place in the late 1820s and referred to the castle as a spacious and costly modern built edifice of three storeys in height, in form nearly square with a round minaret tower at each angle; the whole embattled at the summit.

This was the castle to which Lady Louisa came to make her home.

The castle was extended by the 8th Earl of Kingston in 1876, with a five-storey over basement baronial tower and battlements.

During the Edwardian period, Lord and Lady Kingston enjoyed the estate until political and social change saw the closure and sale of Kilronan.

Kilronan Castle, although furnished, was seldom occupied.

In 1939, the contents of  the castle were sold by auction.

Eventually the Irish Land Commission acquired the property.

Kilronan Castle is now a hotel.

First published in April, 2012.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Hampshire II

I cycled into town on this beautiful, sunny day in Belfast.

I customarily cycle over the stylish, broad, sweeping new Lagan pedestrian and cycle bridge, which takes us from Donegall Quay in County Antrim to Queen's Quay in County Down.

Whilst admiring the view I saw an exceptionally large motor yacht - I gather these kinds of vessels are known today as superyachts.

I accosted two of the crew aboard HAMPSHIRE II, as it's called, though they were obviously sworn to secrecy.

HAMPSHIRE II is registered in Bloody Bay, Cayman Islands, and flies the red ensign of the Cayman Islands.

I have since discovered (on the web) that the owner is Jim Ratcliffe, seemingly a big player in the Shale Gas industry.

HAMPSHIRE II was built in 2012 and is 258 feet in length; a beam of 43 feet; and a gross tonnage of 1,887 tons.

She has a crew of 23 in 11 cabins; 7 cabins for 14 guests; and a helicopter deck.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Coronation Reminiscences

Sixty-three years ago, the Lady Moyra Hamilton (now the Lady Moyra Campbell CVO, sister of the present Duke of Abercorn) walked up the aisle of Westminster Abbey behind the soon-to-be Queen Elizabeth II - one of just six Maids of Honour.

Lady Moyra has kept her Norman Hartnell gown, her beautiful long white gloves and the glittering tiara - souvenirs of a day that stands out in a life-time.

Lady Moyra, who now lives in Randalstown, County Antrim, said it was one of the "most thrilling days of a lifetime."

"Television made it a world-wide happening. You felt that everybody was there and with this very young lady who was making these incredibly solemn promises which she has fulfilled with the utmost grace and integrity for 60 years. 

"There were so many highlights. The amazing feeling in the abbey; the incredible prayerfulness throughout and the sight of all those crowds who had been waiting in appalling weather all night; some of them had been there overnight, others had been there from early the day before. 

"The rain was teeming down and yet there was this joyful feeling and the abbey was full of people from all over the globe."

All this happened in the days when not everyone had a television set at home, she said, and people invited others to cluster around their sets, gathering in living rooms across the country to watch the glamour and the ceremony, to toast the new young Queen.

The Queen's maids of honour had a rehearsal where they practised holding the long train which had six secret silk handles.

"We met the coach on arrival, from then on, we were holding the train because it was very very long," said Lady Moyra.

"The mistress of the robes, the Queen's senior female servant, was in charge of us. She had to officiate when the train came off and the Queen had this very simple white linen dress put over her highly embroidered dress for the sacred anointing of the oil that has gone on from time immemorial.

"We heard the Queen Mother whispering to Prince Charles, telling him what was happening. He behaved impeccably. It was a lovely moment," she said.

Later back at the palace, he and Princess Anne were running about.

"He was wearing his father's hair lotion to smooth his hair and we had to sniff it and admire it," she laughed.

Other proud moments stand out in that day, 2 June, 1953.

"In the morning, before I was collected, we all had to have make-up put on. Just as the lady was putting on the make-up, someone burst into the room and said: 'Thrilling news, Mount Everest has been conquered. Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing have conquered Mount Everest. 

"I was so excited that the tears poured down my cheeks and the poor lady had to have a quick mopping up of the mascara, replacing it. I heard rumours later that the news had been kept back for the day, but it was a wonderful feeling."

The maids of honour had very long gloves and were given capsules which contained a substance like smelling salts in case any of them became faint.

"Anne Coke did begin to droop and I was able to crush the thing and it let out an enormously strong smell but she gallantly revived," she explained.

For Lady Moyra, the day will always stand out as a wonderful occasion. She kept her gown in a darkened room and it is still very beautiful.

"Hopefully, I will be able to make the dress available for people to see ... Any schools who wish to bring their pupils can do so, as long as it is somewhere where it can be well protected against eager fingers," she said.

And she hopes to raise money too, for charities that help young people.

First published in April, 2012.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

McCutcheon's Revisited

We were back at McCutcheon's Field today.

This is a nine-acre property belonging to the National Trust, which is close to Groomsport, County Down.

There were thirteen of us today and we got the gorse cuttings burned in no time.

Everything was bone dry and there was a breeze: great conditions for a bonfire.

The yellow isises are abundant in this field.

Do any readers recognize the other plant?

We lunched at the seaside and I had my banana sandwiches.

The Hon Barry Bingham VC OBE


The Hon Edward Barry Stewart Bingham (1881-1939), of Bangor Castle, County Down, third son of John, 5th Baron Clanmorris JP DL, ADC to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Matilda Catherine, daughter of Robert Edward Ward JP DL, of Bangor Castle.

This is a branch of the noble house of BINGHAM, Earls of Lucan.

The Hon Barry Bingham joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman, after school at Arnold House, Llanddulas, Carnarvonshire; and a spell on HMS Britannia, a permanently-moored training ship at Dartmouth, Devon.

He was commissioned Lieutenant RN and served a year (1904-5) on HMS Cormorant based at Gibraltar; then was given his own command, of the torpedo boat destroyer HMS Star.

In 1915, Bingham was promoted Commander RN, and given HMS Hornet, a destroyer.

Clanmorris arms

In May, 1916, during the Battle of Jutland, Commander Bingham commanded a destroyer division.

He led his division in their attack, first on enemy destroyers and then on the battle cruisers of the German High Seas Fleet.

Once the enemy was sighted Bingham ordered his own destroyer, HMS Nestor, and the one remaining destroyer of his division, HMS Nicator, to close to within 3,000 yards of the opposing battle fleet so that he could bring his torpedoes to bear.

While making this attack, Nestor and Nicator were under concentrated fire of the secondary batteries of the German fleet and Nestor was subsequently sunk.

For his actions, Commander Bingham earned the Victoria Cross, one of relatively few awarded for naval bravery during the 1st World War

The citation reads:
For the extremely gallant way in which he led his division in their attack, first on enemy destroyers and then on their battlecruisers.
He finally sighted the enemy battle-fleet, and, followed by the one remaining destroyer of his division (Nicator), with dauntless courage he closed to within 3,000 yards of the enemy in order to attain a favourable position for firing the torpedoes.
While making this attack, Nestor and Nicator were under concentrated fire of the secondary batteries of the High Sea Fleet. Nestor was subsequently sunk.
Bingham was picked up by the Germans at Jutland, and remained a prisoner of war (latterly at Holzminden) until the Armistice.

After the war, he stayed in the Royal Navy, was promoted several times and retired in 1932 with the rank of Rear-Admiral, having for a year held the position of Senior Officer of the Reserve Fleet, Devonport.

He had several commands, including HMS Resolution, in the Mediterranean.

Admiral Bingham served as Chief of Staff in the Nore Command, 1927-9, and was appointed ADC to GEORGE V.

Outside the Navy, he interests were equestrian; he was a keen jockey and polo player.

In addition to his VC, Bingham was also awarded the OBE and was mentioned in dispatches.

He was also awarded the (Tsarist) Russian Order of St Stanislaus.
He published a memoir of his naval career in 1919, notable for his description of the worst part of naval life being, not nearly being blown to pieces in battle, nor the nervous hours and minutes before battle; it was the ordeal, in that pre-diesel age, of coaling.
Bingham had, in 1915, married Vera Temple-Patterson; this was dissolved in 1937 though they had a son and a daughter.

His nephew, the 7th Baron Clanmorris, was a successful novelist, as John Bingham, whose daughter Charlotte in turn would follow in these of her father's footsteps.

Some maintain that his espionage activity during the 2nd World War provided a model for the fictional writings of John le Carré, the successful English writer of spy fiction.

Admiral Bingham, who latterly resided at Evershot, Dorset, died in London.

First published in May, 2013.