Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Keepers Of The Kingdom

Watching Alistair Bruce being interviewed last week on the BBC documentary, Edward VII, Prince Of Pleasure, reminded me of the splendid book I have, entitled Keepers Of The Kingdom.

Alastair Bruce is Fitzalan Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary of the College of Arms. He works as an “Extraordinary” (meaning an “extra” herald who assists the “ordinary”
ones). Keepers Of The Kingdom is a splendidly illustrated book he authored on the ancient titles of the United Kingdom.

As Fitzalan Pursuivant (one who “pursues” knowledge of armory), Alistair focuses on three areas: royal heraldry; provenance and semiotics of state ceremonial; and representing the College of Arms to the media. From an early age he was fascinated by English history, particularly the living past: objects, jobs and people that link to an event in history.

This was the theme of the book he wrote entitled Keepers of the Kingdom and conta
ining splendid photographs (by Julian Calder and Mark Cator) of hereditary officers of state (Lord Great Chamberlain); holders of grand ancient offices both exalted (Lord Archbishops of Canterbury and Armagh) and modest (Lord High Admiral of the Wash); and many more. All the offices were created at a particular time for a particular reason.

In some cases, the need for them continues today; while in others the need has vanished. But, says Mr. Bruce, no one wanted to do away with the titles, which gave the bearers a sense of place and pride. The result is that the United Kingdom has a rich array of jobs with long histories, some still held by the original holder’s descendant.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Titanic Clash

Timothy Belmont finds it hard to resist a good fantasy movie; so, cognizant of this, I have reserved a seat this Saturday evening for the latest version of Clash Of The Titans.

I seem to recall viewing the 1981 version of the movie at the little cinema in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Is the cinema still there?

The 2010 version is in 3D and I have heard gossip that it might be part of a trilogy.

Intriguingly, some of the filming has taken place at Teide National Park in Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Monday, 29 March 2010

VISA Debit Card Charge

I've been stung, yet again, by the rip-off "handling" service charge incurred when I bought euros in a post office.

I innocently ambled into the city centre post office, inquired as to whether they had very large €500 euro notes, and paid by VISA debit card; not before I was advised that it may incur a charge.

Had I been warned that it would incur a charge, I'd probably have walked out and taken time to consider the strategy. I checked my bank statement a few days' later and, sure enough, my bank - not the post office - had deprived me of £22.41 as a "service charge DE". I'm possibly wasting my time, since I've caused a fuss and asked them for a full or partial refund; or I'll make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman. Here is their response, with requisite omissions:-

"Thank you for contacting (bank name) at Coventry.

I am sorry we are unable to refund the fee charged by VISA as this charge is set out in the rates and fees section of the personal homepage.

The information is also shown when you access your online statement, and we feel we have been clear about the VISA fees being charged.

I refer you to the Post Office, as they normally advise customers of any likely charges using debit cards to purchase currency online or purchases made over the counter.

I hope you can understand the reason(s) for my decision. If you are unhappy with my decision, you can refer your complaint to our Central Complaints team.

You can either write to: (bank name), PO Box 5129, Grafton Gate East, Milton Keynes, MK10 1PQ,
Email: complaints@(bank name) or,
Call: 0845 600 6014 or Type talk on: 18001 0845 600 6014.

If you are still unhappy with our outcome you may have the availability of referring your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

If we do not hear from you within 8 weeks we will consider your complaint closed.

If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

The moral for me is: do not use VISA cards to buy foreign currency. Always check the small print. Withdraw cash from any LINK machine and take it to the bureau de change, post office or wherever for currency; even if it means withdrawing a bucket-load of money.

Does this malpractice occur in North America and Europe; or only in the UK?

My predicament may not apply to all financial institutions; though I'm sure many high street banks operate this subtle, rip-off profiteering scheme for themselves.

Time to Change?

According to the Observer newspaper, the two main political parties, the Conservatives and Labour, are keen for British Summer time to become a permanent feature. I agree with them:-

"Plans to change the clocks to give another hour of daylight throughout the year are being advanced by Labour and the Conservatives. Both parties believe it would result in reduced energy consumption, fewer accidents and generally improved health.

The growing likelihood of a political deal between the parties on the issue can be revealed today, after the country moved the clocks forward last night to British summertime, one hour ahead of Greenwich mean time (GMT).

The UK's clocks are currently set to GMT during the winter and GMT+1 in summer. But the Observer understands that both Labour and the Tories have been influenced by environmental, road safety and tourism campaigners, who have argued for a switch to GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in the summer.

Traditionally, opposition to such a move has come from Scottish MPs and lobby groups who fear that, because Scotland has shorter days in winter, the change would mean even darker mornings, creating greater danger for children going to school, as well as more road accidents."

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Abbatial Visit

Our Sunday drive took us to the Saltwater Brig bar and the village of Greyabbey at the Ards Peninsula in County Down. It is a long time since we last paid the Brig a visit; and we were not disappointed. Quite the opposite, in fact. A stalwart member of staff there, by the name of Olive, is exceptionally kind, cheerful and friendly; and she looked after us with a little table beside a roaring log fire.

Our meal was good value - better than the Strangford bars, in that sense - and the Dowager had a half portion of scampi with a good dressed salad; while I also had the scampi with garlic cube fries. We shared the vegetables. The tartare sauce came in a metal dish and seemed home-made.

I thought it was all very good. I'd certainly return.

Afterwards we motored back along the Portaferry Road to Greyabbey, where we parked near the ruined abbey itself. Here, inside the old abbey, are the graves of members of the Montgomery family. Close to the abbey there is a side entrance to Grey Abbey House, with a derelict gate lodge (pictured at the top). Wouldn't it be wonderful if the lodge were to be restored?

Chip Shop Closure

As I motored home from Minnowburn yesterday I noticed the For Sale sign attached to For Cod And Ulster at Holywood Road, Belfast.

It opened about the 10th February, 2009, almost exactly a year ago. I mentioned it here.

I tried it once and haven't been back since. It wasn't bad; simply not sufficiently excellent enough for me to transfer my patronage from John Dory's, the nearest competitor. It would seem that Dory's has seen their rival off and, indeed, given them a heavy battering! Or perhaps they would say that they are victims of the recession?

There have been two fish-and-chip shops in these premises within the past number of years; and neither of them has lasted for very long. Obviously anyone thinking of opening another chip shop must have very consistent and high standards of ingredients, frying techniques, hygiene and competitive costs. Quite a challenge!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Riparian Subsidence

I was at the National Trust's Minnowburn property this morning. There were only five of us. The task today was to repair a tiny section of river-side bank at the River Lagan path-way, where a tree had fallen and caused erosion and subsidence.

We hammered two sturdy stakes in to ground; prepared the area with spades; inserted three long, sturdy planks one on top of the other; and filled in the section with stones and gravel.

Back at the warden's office, I was given a cotton-fleece type of black sweat-shirt, long-sleeve with the National Trust logo thereon.

We finished early today so, after lunch and a natter in the office, I departed.

à la Clementine Perino

The old larder was replenished the other day with the most exquisite little tomatoes called Perino, "specially selected ... for its succulence and firmness and carefully ripened on the vine for a full, sweet flavour." I can vouch for that. Mind you, they are very small with a mere eight per pack. The variety is Dunne; the origin Spain.

Another pack of eight clementines were bagged too, viz. a variety called Clemengold. They originated from Spain. These have not been tried yet, so we shall see.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Times Online Levy

I see that the Times and Sunday Times are to start charging for online access to their websites from June. So I heard on Radio Four this morning, whilst listening in bed.

I have said it once and I'll say it again: I shan't be paying one pound, two pounds or whatever they intend to charge. Short of some sensational scoop, like a delectable blonde supermodel doing the splits in the nude at the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus; or Gordon Brown resigning forthwith in order to start a seedy night-club - and one would require cogent, irrefutable evidence of this, photographic or otherwise - I refuse to pay them. Does anyone find the overwhelming advertisements on their website a confounded nuisance anyway?

I last saw Robin Birley, son of Lady Annabel and the late Mark Birley, grandson of Lord Londonderry, at Lady Mairi Bury's memorial service a few months ago. He features in the press today, about to open his first night-club, Birley's, at Shepherd Market in the metropolis. He already runs a chain of sandwich bars. Robin Birley suffered the most horrific injury as a little boy, mauled by a tiger at John Aspinall's private zoo and badly scarred for life. Some shall recall the Clermont Club in Mayfair, where Lord "Lucky" Lucan spent his time playing backgammon and eating lamb cutlets; and Jimmy Goldsmith, John Aspinall (the owner) occasionally indulged too, in the sixties. They were known as the Clermont Set.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Jolly Good Show!

I'm having great fun with this blog of mine, which is a primary motivation coupled with a zealousness for my idiosyncratic interests; at least in a few cases!

Eva, our well-beloved and right trusty Romanian paramour, persists in sending messages to me for Prince William, perhaps believing Timothy Belmont to be an equerry or courtier. Sorry, Eva!

I merely wish that I didn't feel the need for comment moderation; it's so easy simply letting comments be posted instanter. As long as Eva continues sending me her stereotypical messages - two yesterday and five at the weekend - I think I'll continue with moderation.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Brown's Purple Day

A Purple Day for the Prime Minister, at any rate. Brown does not normally amuse Timothy Belmont; though the cove did today. Budget Day.

He was sporting his purple number one tie again; and his ministerial colleague, the Right Honourable Harriet Harman, QC, MP, Mrs Jack Dromey, sat to his right wearing an equally purple jacket.

Do their minions contact each other, inquiring as to whom is wearing what?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Wheel to Roll Away!

We are to be rid of the so-called Belfast Wheel within weeks. Hurrah. I have been calling for its removal for over a year; and always found its location incongruous and unsympathetic beside the finest building in Belfast.

I had hoped that it would be relocated to a more appropriate location, viz. the Titanic Quarter.

I was in Town about a week ago and the Wheel was virtually empty; there weren't any customers in sight.

The current Lord Mayor of Belfast seemed to be supportive of the Wheel at its present location; or, at least, ambivalent. Did the Lord Mayor have a role to play in its fate? Or lobby for its relocation?


The Lord Mayor, Councillor Naomi Long, said that it was "disappointing" that the wheel may be on its way because it had added to the experience of visitors. Perhaps it is satisfactory that the current Lord Mayor will be on her way out in a few months' time; and she could even obtain a free ride on the Wheel as it makes its exit from Donegall Square!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Country Houses of Northern Ireland

I have always had a deep interest in country houses; particularly the ones in Northern Ireland, as many regular readers will be aware. When I first began writing articles about the most notable houses and country estates in the Province, my motivation was simply that passion I have always, somehow, innately held about our heritage. Many owners of the buildings I write about are custodians of this heritage: a proud, responsible and honourable state.

Notwithstanding that enthusiasm, since I started my County Series my ambition has evolved to the extent that I earnestly hope my articles will provide an elementary foundation to those with similar interests; and that what I feel is a unique guide to the Province's stately homes - and their owners, in most cases - will provide a definitive and free source on the Internet. I am no scholar nor intellectual, and have never claimed to be.

I have spent many hours compiling and researching my articles, a labour of love and, hopefully, integrity of purpose. I have initially concentrated on what I consider to be the ten greatest demesnes in each county of Northern Ireland; though I have added a few more, in some instances; and I hope to write about more estates in the future.

I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank readers for their encouragement and, in some cases, complimentary messages of support from North America and Australia.

Suiting Update

My tailor, David Young, phoned yesterday in order to inform me that my cloth had arrived. We exchanged a few pleasantries, discussing some minor details like the number of cuff buttons and exchange rates.

Mr Young inquired as to whether I'd be at home during the Easter period; and that the 2nd fitting may occur at that time, or after I return from being abroad on the 16th April.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Trusty Kneecap

Fool, Belmont. I was descending the stairs quickly last night when my kneecap hit the wooden post at the end of the banister. Absolute agony and anguish. It actually brought tears to my eyes. The very act of hitting the post made such a thud that the Dowager heard it in the adjacent room.

Still, all is well with Timothy Belmont, you shall doubtless be relieved to hear. the old knee still aches a touch; nothing I cannot cope with, though.

I'd had one mere standard-measure restorative, by the way. I definitely was not in a state of demi-inebriation, lest you think I had raided the drinks cabinet.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Royal Daimler

Her Majesty The Queen's personal Daimler, formerly used to motor round the Windsor Estate between 2001-04, is for sale.

Peter Ratcliffe, a memorabilia dealer, bought the car from Jaguar and is now selling it via his website here.

The car has extra window switches, sliding tray and magazine-holder covers installed. It is a 2001 Daimler Majestic V8 Long Wheelbase with a mileage of 14,000. Don't ask the miles per gallon; and the highest bidder bags it!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Establishments' Hygienic Standards

I thought I'd have a little look at the standards of hygiene re several establishments within the Earldom. The ones I have scrutinized seem to be reasonably hygienic, I am glad to say:-

  • Castle Gardens Chinese Takeaway - Five Stars
  • S D Bell's Café - Five Stars
  • Seasons Restaurant - Five Stars
  • Alden's Restaurant - Four Stars
  • Gourmet Burger Bank - Four Stars
  • The Point, Ballyhackamore - Four Stars
  • The Fryar Tuck - Four Stars
  • Chopsticks Chinese Takeaway - Four Stars
  • Belmont Tower Coffee Shop - Four Stars
  • John Dory's - Four Stars
  • Park Avenue Hotel - Three Stars
  • Stormont Hotel - Three Stars
  • Mandarin City Chinese Restaurant - Three Stars
  • Belmont Bethany - Three Stars
  • Bennett's on Belmont - Three Stars
  • Silver Leaf - Two Stars
  • For Cod & Ulster - Two Stars
  • Castle Hill Chinese Takeaway - One Star
The above list is selective and ratings may have changed since premises were last inspected. Five Stars would indicate a high standard.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Anna's House

When I was chatting to Craig this morning, he told me about a wedding present they'd been given: A mini-break at a guest-house between Comber and Killinchy in County Down called Anna's House; rather apt, since Craig's wife is also called Anna.

I "Googled" it and had no problem finding it at all. It certainly sounds wonderful, what with themed bedrooms and organic breakfasts; a lovely lake called Lough Tullynagee; and a choice of several restaurants in the vicinity.

Has anyone else heard of Anna's House?

Anne's Point Revisited

I, with fifteen others, was at Anne's Point once again today. We were continuing where we left off, with the construction of natural willow wattle fencing; and some hedge maintenance, too.

There was a working party with us today, which swelled our numbers and enabled us to achieve more then usual.

We ate our packed lunches whilst seated on plastic fish boxes: they have their uses! I had precisely the same sandwiches today, as the ones last Saturday; except that white bread was used on this occasion.

I took a photograph of the little stone tunnel, complete with ugly blue pipe, which runs underneath the main Portaferry Road.

The others took a stroll in Mount Stewart afterwards, though I decided to motor straight home.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Comment Glitch

I am still encountering difficulty with readers' comments. I have taken action forthwith, though I'd be obliged if any comments sent today could be re-sent. Thank you.

I have made the operator, Google Blogger, aware of this fault; and, to date, they have taken no action to remedy the matter.

Papal Visit

At the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will pay a Papal Visit to the United Kingdom from the 16th-19th September 2010.

His Holiness will arrive in Edinburgh on Thursday, 16th of September and will be received by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

His Holiness will also visit Glasgow, London and Coventry during the four-day Papal Visit.

Brain-Train Progress

My daily brain-training with Dr Kawashima is doing well. Yesterday I performed the Brain Age Check, which consisted of three tests: The Stroop Test; Speed Counting; and Connect Maze.

My score gave me a cerebral age of 28; and I still find it hard to believe! I was reminded that that is 22 years less than my actual age.

On two previous occasions, my age was given as 34.

I have been gradually improving since I began using the little Nintendo player three or four weeks ago, which must be good. Essentially though, I enjoy it.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The Wigs Have It!

Here's a photograph of three of Northern Ireland's most senior judges, past or present. Perhaps the lawyers amongst my readership could keep me on the "straight and narrow" here: the former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, the Right Honourable Sir Brian, now the Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore PC, is in the middle; is that the Rt Hon the Lord Carswell PC on the right, wearing the attire of a Law Lord?

Seemingly Lord Kerr was the last ever Law Lord to be appointed; and his lordship now belongs to new Labour's Supreme Court.

Little Bercow, who ought to have more respect for the Office of Mr Speaker, refuses to dress properly for his role and his attire would be similar - or should a double negative be preferred, not dissimilar - to the black and gold clothing on the right. Let us pray that little Bercow is booted out of office imminently.

Who is on the left of the grainy image? I must say I admire their wigs; I could do with one of those to cover the pate!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Shutter Island Movie

It was a full house last night for the psychological mystery thriller, Shutter Island. I invariably look for a central seat, about two-thirds of the way back and in the middle of the row. And I usually get it, as I did last night at the Movie House Cinema on the Dublin Road, Belfast.

I had my little Nintendo player with me and had begun a new Soduko game, when a couple came and sat right beside me; then another couple came from my right-hand side and did likewise! Most unusual, since I normally have space free to myself. The place was full.

Shutter Island is not a film I'd care to view again. That's not to say I considered it a bad movie; I simply found it too clever and ingenious. Too clever by half; too taxing on my brain. The synopsis can be read here. The viewers are left wondering who the protagonists really were, in real life. Was Teddy Daniels really Andrew Laeddis? Was the woman in the cave really there? Or a figment of Teddy's psychotic imagination? Having said that, the movie generally gets the "thumbs up" and the consensus is 67% positive from Rotten Tomatoes.

It was very well done indeed; acting tip-top. Confusing for Timothy Belmont, though.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Wattling at Anne's Point

Cognizant that the stimulation a day's toil and fresh air does to the soul, Timothy Belmont is presently sitting down to a modest restorative at the left hand.

There was a good turnout today. Ten of us met at the Mount Stewart car park, and proceeded by foot to the headland due south of the estate, known as Anne's Point. It has a man-made lagoon which is popular with many kinds of bird.

We have constructed a willow tunnel and natural willow wattle hedging; and today we continued with this task. The National Trust intends to create a shore path from Mount Stewart to this spot.

Attention, keen ornithologists! This is fast becoming a rural version of the RSPB's Belfast Harbour Reserve; though, admittedly, we cannot boast their excellent luxury viewing hide!

We lunched beside our handiwork, self enjoying home-made ham and cheese sandwiches on granary bread.

The Original Royal Blog

I got a most welcome email the other day from my great fellow blogging pal and former royal blogger on the Daily Telegraph, Tim Heald.

I never missed an entry from Tim's blog; always very well informed, with a depth of knowledge acquired over decades. To be truthful, I have missed it.

Nevertheless, Tim has his own personal blog which I've added to my side-list, should anyone wish to keep up to date with him.

Tim, perhaps you might even consider the odd royal entry?

Friday, 12 March 2010

Ducal Interview

Country Life has recently interviewed His Grace the Duke of Devonshire KCVO, CBE, as Chatsworth prepares to re-open.

Coat-of-arms by kind permission of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Comments Glitch

I've encountered a slight problem with comments on the blog, whereby there are three comments waiting for moderation; and, when I click on this, a message informs me that "there are no unmoderated comments."

I tried to delete the three comments yesterday, which were from Eva, and an error occurred in the process; so I am sure that the difficulty has something to do with this.

If anyone has had trouble sending comments, please email me directly on the "contact me" link; otherwise I shan't be aware of it!

Honorary Colonel

I had absolutely no idea that Lord Ballyedmond had been appointed Honorary Colonel of the Second (Volunteer) Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment. I read the article here.

According to the newsletter, they, "Sat down to a sumptuous banquet in the Shooting Lodge at Corby Castle. It was a night to remember being thoroughly enjoyed and much acclaimed by all present and the success of such a prestigious evening given by our Patron is deeply appreciated ... All of us were delighted to learn that Her Majesty The Queen has approved the appointment of the Right Honourable the Lord Ballyedmond as Honorary Colonel, 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion Royal Irish Regiment in succession to Lieutenant-Colonel the Right Honourable the Viscount Brookeborough as from 1st December 2008. This is indeed a most prestigious appointment for our Patron and we hasten to send hearty congratulations together with our best wishes that Lord Ballyedmond has a happy, healthy and enjoyable tenure of office with such a fine Regiment."

Does he wear an honorary Number One Dress Uniform for the role?

The image above shows HM The Queen accompanied by HRH The Duke of York.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

To the Manor Born

Evocative of those powerful and formidable magnates in their day, viz Lord Pirrie or Lord Dunleath; men who were largely self-made and became princes of Industry; ultimately elevated to the ranks of the Nobility. Edward Haughey, now sitting as a life peer, as the Right Honourable Edward Enda Baron Ballyedmond, OBE.

As if one didn't already know, Lord Ballyedmond does not need to win the Lottery: his lordship is sitting on an enormous fortune estimated, at the last count, to be worth four hundred and forty million pounds. Cognizant of this fact, he can afford to indulge his lavish tastes. Why not?

The latest acquisition is his London town-house at 9, Belgrave Square. Read all about it here.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Homage to Sir Charles

During my travels (mostly to the Linen Hall Library in Belfast) in search of information about the country houses of Northern Ireland, one author stands out among others, to my mind: The late Sir Charles Edward Bainbridge Brett CBE.

The Times wrote an informative obituary here.

Sir Charles had a true passion for our heritage, being one of the principal founders of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society in 1957 with Dorinda, Lady Dunleath.

Furthermore, he was a most accomplished author and his publications included books about the buildings of Belfast, County Armagh, County Antrim and North County Down. Indeed, these books hold their value well, even on Amazon.

Regrettably I do not possess any of his volumes; instead, I refer to them in the library. However, I'd be tempted to acquire them!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Strangford Drive

The weather was so fine today that we decided to go for a drive to Strangford and Castle Ward, in County Down. Traffic on the roads was light, thankfully. I was minded to call in to the Lobster Pot bar and restaurant in the village for a snack lunch.

This we duly did. It wasn't busy at all, at about one fifteen. We ambled into the little bar immediately to the left, as one enters. I have to admit to a prejudice: I have fallen out of love with the establishment which now trades as the Lobster Pot. It is not the place it used to be. I should know, because we first set foot in the place over thirty-five summers ago.

Aesthetically, it lacks the character and atmosphere it used to have, having been gutted out some time ago. This is not the fault of the present owners, it must be said. The Lobster Pot is now a pale shadow of its former self, and those glorious hay-days of the 70s and 80s.

The posters and notices plastered onto the windows (above) regrettably obscure the otherwise fine prospect towards the sea.

Enough of that. We ordered scampi, chips and side salad; and I requested more tartare sauce. Service is prompt and courteous enough. There was one other party of four at the window; nobody else, except three regular fellows enjoying their drinks.

The meal was perfectly acceptable. I cannot really criticize it, except the knives were a peculiar shape, which made them awkward to hold! Also, the bench seating was a few inches too low, for diners at any rate (as at the Lonely Poet). The two meals and two beverages came to £26.50.

We motored on to the harbour, and I strolled over to see the rival establishment, the Cuan, also in the Square. I noticed that "gourmet" breaded scampi cost £14.95 here, including vegetables. I walked in, in order to view the lounge bar: this seems more traditional and comfortable to me, so we shall eat there next time.

Incidentally, I noticed a waitress in the Cuan who used to wait in the Lobster Pot all those decades ago. She was pleasantly surprised when I spoke to her about this; and I asked about the other waitress called Julie; who, it transpires, is her cousin!

The slate plaque in the wall below is of interest:-

We drove on into the Castle Ward estate, where I had a walk; then drove home.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Baronetcies in Northern Ireland

The first British baronet was an Ulster Planter. In 1611 King James I created the order of Baronets of England to encourage "undertakers" to colonize Ulster. Two hundred such appointments were made, and the heraldic symbol chosen for the Baronetage was O'Neill's Red Hand of Ulster. The Red Hand has, ever since, remained the device of a baronet appointed in any part of the United Kingdom.

I've been pondering my next substantial project, following the county series. I have, accordingly, decided to focus on the baronetcies associated with Northern Ireland. Almost 80% of the baronets on my list now live outside the Province. The oldest baronetcy still extant is that of Staples, of Lissan in County Tyrone, which was created in 1628.

The youngest baronetcy is Graham, of Dromore in County Down, which dates from 1964.

Two baronetcies, Musgrave and Heygate, were created outside Northern Ireland; though I will include them because they have had links with the Province.

I expect to begin the new series in May, 2010.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Bald as a Coot

I have done it again. Yet another moment of insanity. I did it about two years ago and received mixed comments. In the end, I let it grow back.

The amount of hair can be seen on the palm of my hand. Not a huge amount, is it?

The bald pate is resurrected; for the time being, at least.

Record Numbers

Lord Belmont had 582 "page loads" yesterday: 226 unique visitors, 55 returning visitors. This represents the highest daily number of visitors since my blog began in December, 2007. 60% of visitors were from Canada yesterday, as a matter of interest. I am particularly pleased to welcome our Canadian cousins to the Earldom!

I just wish to express my gratitude to readers and friends, many of whom doubtless encounter me by accident!

As ever, I am delighted to receive positive contributions from everyone. I am sorry that I have had to continue with comment moderation because Eva from Romania still sends the odd love epistle to Prince William; and I received one mere irrelevant comment from someone calling themselves "Lady Rich Bitch", which was singularly offensive and obnoxious.

Thank you.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Brief Newtownards Visit

Seeking out one of those chainsaw sharpening file-guide contraptions I saw yesterday, I used this as a convenient excuse (as if I needed one) to venture to that fine market town at the head of Strangford Lough in County Down: Newtownards.

For the benefit of some readers, Newtownards is relatively prosperous. There was a cattle market on Mondays; and a annual harvest fair in September. There are numerous houses made of the distinctive pink Scrabo sandstone; and a large, Georgian town hall - formerly the market-house - at Conway Square, which was where I took two photographs of the town's most distinguished Son, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Blair "Paddy" Mayne, DSO.

I ambled in to Warden's department store and, although they did sell the files, the essential sharpening "guides" were missing! I see one on Ebay, anyway. I enjoyed a little repast in Knott's: roast, stuffed pork with all the trimmings.

At the eastern end of the High Street is the old market cross, somewhat the worse for wear. It was set up in 1636 by the founder of Newtownards, Sir Hugh Montgomery, afterwards 1st Viscount Montgomery of the Great Ardes. Lord Montgomery's successors were further elevated as Earls of Mount Alexander (which was associated with the Manor of Comber). Both titles became extinct on the death of the 5th Earl in 1757.

This cross has a chamber inside, once used by the local watch (police); though the stone-work with coats-of-arms has almost totally worn away.

Great Antrim Landowners

County Antrim has doubtless had many country estates: some relatively large; many more modest in size. I intend to concentrate on the largest estates, in terms of acreage, initially at least. Of course, the biggest estates were not, necessarily, the most beautiful nor the finest. Nevertheless, I hope that my series shall provide the reader with a fair indication of the most important demesnes in the county.

Dundarave, residence of the Macnaghten Baronets, which sits right beside the fine village of Bushmills, is worthy of a place on my top list.

Kilwaughter Castle, near Larne, was at the centre of a substantial estate. Now ruinous, it dated from 1807 and was built for E J Agnew, Esq.

Antrim Castle and demesne was beside the town of Antrim, parts of which dated from 1613. Seat of the Viscounts Massereene and Ferrard.

Castle Upton, at Templepatrick, originally called Castle Norton, became the seat of 1st Viscount Templetown; then home to the Kinahan family.

Lissanoure Castle, near Killagan, was built for the 1st and last Earl Macartney. The estate now belongs to the Mackie family.

Garron Tower, at Garronpoint, was once thought to have been built to rival Glenarm Castle, a few miles away. It originally belonged to Frances, Marchioness of Londonderry.

Lord Donegall still owned almost 15,000 acres in the county, a tiny amount of land compared to what the Donegall family formerly possessed. They relocated from Ormeau Park in the southern outskirts of Belfast to Belfast Castle, to the north of the city.

The Langford estate near Crumlin, including Langford Lodge, passed to the Pakenhams through marriage of 2nd Viscountess Langford's daughter to 2nd Earl of Longford. Now demolished.

The Earl of Antrim's historic Glenarm Castle and estate was one of the largest in the county; one of what I call The Big Three.

Sir Richard Wallace, 1st and last Baronet, natural son of the 4th Marquess of Hertford, inherited his father's Ulster estates making Sir Richard the penultimate landowner in the county.

The Lords O'Neill, whose seat was Shane's Castle, between Antrim and Randalstown, were the largest landowners in the county, with vast estates extending to 64,163 acres. This made the O'Neills amongst the largest landowners in Ulster, too.

The Houses of County Antrim, a guide by the late Sir Charles Brett CBE is probably the definitive work on the subject.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Chainsaw Guide

Whilst munching our sandwiches at lunchtime today, I noticed Craig sharpening the chainsaw manually with an implement I'd never seen before, which turned out to be a small, tubular file enclosed within a kind of guide contraption.

We have a small chainsaw here, at home; so this interested me. Of course chainsaws must be razor-sharp, or else they are practically useless.

I intend to buy one of these guides, which have markings for the appropriate angle for filing. McMaster's hardware store in Church Lane, Belfast, was mentioned as being a likely supplier.

Coppicing at Killynether

I'm back to the old routine again and, today, we all met at Killynether Wood which is near Scrabo in County Down. There were seven of us today, and the task was to continue coppicing a slope in the middle of the woods.

The tools were a chainsaw, saws and loppers. We lit a fire, which took quite a long time to become established owing to the damp kindling (despite the fire-lighters we'd brought with us).

Lunch was home-made ham and cheese, mayonnaise and chutney sandwiches on granary bread; accompanied by tea.

We got finished early today, at about three o'clock.

The Trafalgar Project

I was trawling the Web for information about the Belle Isle estate in County Fermanagh, when an entry from the Woodland Trust caught my eye.

The Trust worked with the Society of Nautical Research to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. The Trafalgar Woods project formed part of the Trafalgar Festival, endorsed by the Official Nelson Commemoration Committee and Sea Britain 2005. A new wood for each of the 27 ships of the line in the fleet (plus a wood for at least 6 of the support vessels) at the Battle of Trafalgar.


BELLEISLE - County Fermanagh

DREADNOUGHT- Holywood, County Down

EURYALUS - Newtownabbey, County Antrim

Monday, 1 March 2010

The 1st Fitting

I collected David Young from the central bus station in Belfast at about three-thirty yesterday afternoon. Mr Young is a bespoke tailor, and had travelled quite a distance to meet me.

We motored back to my house where, without further ado, he produced two folders of cloth swatches. I'd intimated that I'd most likely opt for a dark grey shade. David Young is a very agreeable, soft-spoken person and there was no pressure to make a hasty decision at all. I usually know what I want, at any rate.

Subsequently, over some coffee and biscuits, and with a little guidance from him, I chose a dark grey worsted cloth, 12 ounces in weight, by a company called Holland and Sherry. I already have a woollen flannel mid-grey suit, so I wanted a slightly darker shade.

My preference is for a three-piece suit which does add considerably to the overall cost. Seemingly, waistcoats are not cheap to create. Mr Young took the requisite measurements - I still had the measurements from my 1983 suit - so the process was relatively straightforward. We discussed pockets, how the trousers would be held up, lining etc.

Mr Young finally requested a £200 deposit and advised me that he would return for a second fitting in about six weeks' time. Incidentally, he told me that another client, from the University, had phoned him to place an order for a dinner jacket.

So, at about five forty-five, we drove back to the bus station at Glengall Street where his bus was due to depart at six o'clock.