Thursday, 30 June 2011

New Flag Pole


A new flag pole, with a gilded artichoke-style finial, has been prepared for Flag Days.

The pole is wooden, coated a number of times with brilliant white gloss paint.

The gilding process used genuine, 24ct gold leaf and sizing, a special adhesive glue.

The finial is made of wood and has been attached to the pole by means of a double screw.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Domestic Self-Defence

The Right Honourable Kenneth Clarke QC MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, has said a householder who knifes a burglar will not have committed a criminal offence under plans to clarify the law on self-defence in England.

Timothy Belmont expects that this legal clarification shall be applied in Northern Ireland.

Human Rights legislation emanates from the European Union and primarily pertains to criminals, to my mind.

Colebrooke Video

Jenny Cathcart has, as ever, written a most engaging article about Colebrooke Park in County Fermanagh, seat of the Viscount and Viscountess Brookeborough.

Lord Brookeborough, a Lord-in-Waiting to The Queen, talks about his home in the short video above.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Ettington Park


Ettington Park, former seat of the ancient Shirley family, is a spectacular neo-Gothic mansion situated six miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, in the picturesque Stour Valley. The River Stour weaves its way through the estate.

The family of Shirley still own the Lough Fea estate in County Monaghan.

Behind the impressive mid-Victorian Gothic exterior of the house we see today lies a very complex building and family history of the Shirleys.

They are one of Warwickshire’s oldest families whose lineage, by uninterrupted male descent, can be traced back over a thousand years to the Domesday Book of 1086 and beyond.

In 1740 George Shirley, an army officer, made a series of alterations and additions to the house which included a new Entrance Hall, now the library. He redecorated the Dining Room which originally was the hall of the old house and also had a stable block built nearby.

In 1767 he added a new Great Drawing Room with its elaborate rococo ceiling and a bedroom over it.

In 1795, another George Shirley, a member of Parliament for Warwickshire, “enclosed” the estate by Act of Parliament.

The village was demolished and the inhabitants removed to a new site, two miles away at Upper Ettington, where a new church and village were built.

The mill was demolished and the church dating from 1198 partially demolished, leaving only the tower, the walls of the nave and the south transept chapel containing the family mausoleum. The bells and furnishings from the church were transferred to the new church at Upper Ettington.

The remains of the old village cross and village graves can still be seen today.

In 1820 the Entrance Hall was gothicised and converted into a library. Overhead a new storey was added.

A new chimney piece was installed in the library, a copy of one at Windsor Castle, and surmounted by a Gothic stain-glass window retrieved from a redundant chapel near Chipping Campden. At the same time a new conservatory was built.

 In 1858, Evelyn Philip Shirley, “finding the property in much need of repair”, decided to carry out a major rebuilding programme. He opted for the services of John Prichard the Llandaff diocesan architect.

Prichard regarded himself as a “true disciple of Pugin”. The work lasted from 1858 to 1862 and involved taking down the external walls and rebuilding around the core or interior of the old house.

The house was completed with the heightening of the roof-line and the addition of tall chimneys and contrasting round and square turrets. A Long Gallery was built on the second floor and features a carved star window based on a 15th century Venetian design.

The Gallery staircase in the square tower is made from teak and acacia wood grown on the estate. A carved Saracen’s head forms the end-piece of the banister rails.

The entrance hall was also enhanced by the building of a new glass vaulted cloistered conservatory of a classic 13th century French design, as well as a vaulted carriage-porch leading into the cloister from outside.

The Dining Room, now the Oak Room Restaurant, was also remodelled to a design by Prichard. Wood panelling by Charles Steinz of London was used extensively and was inlaid with the coats of arms of the many families into which the Shirleys have married over the centuries.

A private domestic chapel, also designed by Prichard, was built adjoining the Dining Room after 1865.This has painted glass windows depicting the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee.

On the side windows are the coats of arms of eight of  E.P. Shirley’s closest friends, with the motto: “True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice”.

A brass plate on the wall reads as follows:
“In the eight hundredth year from the Norman conquest of England, when Saswalo the Saxon was lord of Eatendone, his descendant, Evelyn Philip Shirley, built this chapel for the praise and worship of Almighty God, in whose sight a thousand years are but yesterday.”

Unfortunately, the chapel was severely damaged by fire in 1979 and the decorative wall paintings lost. On the exterior of the chapel are two verses from the 145th psalm on a band round the building.

Outside in the newly landscaped gardens the 17th century summer loggia was purchased nearby from the demolished Coleshill Hall and re-positioned in the gardens with adjoining glass houses, sadly no longer with us.

The overall result of Prichard’s design and work was a magnificent building which is perhaps the best example we have today of the French and Italian Gothic style of architecture promoted by John Ruskin and skilfully adapted by Prichard for domestic purposes.

The striking visual impact of the building on the eye was achieved by the use of layers of contrasting stone – yellow limestone from Gloucestershire, ironstone from Edge Hill, blue lias from Wilmcote and white lias quarried locally.

In keeping with the antiquarian interests of E.P. Shirley the house was further embellished with scores of statues and carved stone friezes by Edmund Clarke of Llandaff according to the designs of the well-known sculptor H. H Armstead.

The stone friezes are placed over the windows and illustrate important events in the family’s history. It can be truly said that the walls of Ettington Park tell a story of outstanding architectural and historical interest, the total cost of the work was £13,025!

The neo-Elizabethan oak mantle-piece installed in the entrance hall, now the reception area, was carved by Wilcox of Warwick in 1857. It features two shields bearing the ancient and modern coat of arms of the family.

The Shirley family motto “Loyal Je Suis” is carved over the window-heads in Reception. Note the shamrock design incorporated into the family motto. This is indicative of the fact that the family motto comes from the Irish side of the family.

The Shirleys acquired their Irish estates at Lough Fea, County Monaghan, in 1600 when Henry Shirley married Lady Dorothy, the daughter and co-heiress of Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex and favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.

The marble pillars framing the windows in Reception came from Lough Fea. The Irish estates have accounted for the bulk of the wealth that financed the expansion and rebuilding of Ettington Park throughout the 19th Century.

E.P. Shirley died in 1882 and his son Sewallis was the last member of the family to live at Ettington Park. For most of the 20th century and indeed to the present day, the family have resided in Ireland.

After his death in 1912, the house was leased to private individuals, at first to Mr. Robert Guinness and then to Constance, Duchess of Westminster.

In 1935 it became a nursing home and during the Second World War a prisoner of war camp for Italian prisoners. For a brief period Ettington Park was the venue for a night club/disco.

Unfortunately, in 1979 a fire did severe damage to the house. It remained locked up and left to deteriorate for three years.

However, in 1983 the house and forty acres of land were leased to the Isis Hotel Company and after a multimillion-pound restoration programme Ettington Park opened as a luxury hotel

Saturday, 25 June 2011

New Milk Supplier?

Beware: Competition for Dale Farm and Cravendale. Annie Hawkins-Turner has yet to decide on whether to start a new business supplying natural human milk to the Masses.

Annie's principal assets weigh in at a not inestimable eight stones.

Marcus Patton OBE

I attended a special BBC Musical Celebration at the Ulster Hall in Belfast last night, its purpose being to acknowledge the thirty-year relationship between the BBC and the Ulster Orchestra.

The programme was rich and varied, including plenty of Ulster talent, viz. the conductor, Courtney Lewis; Michael Trainor and Lynda Barrett; the Methodist College Chapel Choir, led by Ruth McCartney MBE; Philip Hammond; and music by Howard Ferguson and Joan Trimble.

All involved performed excellently, including Methody's brilliant choir and, naturally, the Ulster Orchestra. I noticed many familiar faces. Bandanna-man had moved from his usual position, as had the double-bassists and cellists!
I wish to pay a personal tribute to Marcus Patton OBE, whose wonderful illustrations have given us all so much delight for over a quarter of a century. I regularly consult his authoritative guide-book, Central Belfast, A Historical Gazetteer

Last night's programme (top) is resplendent with Marcus Patton's drawings and variations of the BBC coat-of-arms.

Goldfinch Origin


I heard an almighty bang against my bedroom window early this morning and realized immediately that one small bird must have scored a direct hit.

True enough, when I peered out later, there was a juvenile goldfinch lying dead on the ground.

Curiously, it has coloured tags on each leg, viv. red and pink. I have photographed the details.

Can any readers advise or help on how to discover where this little bird was tagged?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Princess Royal in Ulster

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal has arrived in Northern Ireland and in the first engagement of the day has visited The Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys (EST) at its new site near Templepatrick.

Her Royal Highness was greeted by
  • Mrs Joan Christie OBE Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim
  • Mr David Traill, Sheriff for County Antrim
  • Alderman Billy Webb, Mayor, Newtownabbey Borough Council
  • Mrs Pat Webb, Mayoress
  • The Rev William McCrea MP for South Antrim
  • Mr John Akers Chief Executive Officer, EST
  • Ms Tina Symington Manager, EST Belfast
At a reception in honour of the visit, HRH had the opportunity to meet around 70 guests representing EST, veterinary support services, local sponsors and supporters.
Her Royal Highness accepted a posy from 8 year old Miss Emily Payne from Portglenone and had the opportunity to meet other staff outside in the Donkey Barn who had gathered to bid farewell.

The Princess Royal, on the second engagement of the day, visited a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Module mobile laboratory and workshop at the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) Centre in Antrim.

HRH, worldwide President of The Mission to Seafarers, was later guest of honour at a reception hosted by the Mission at Belfast Harbour Office. 

Upon arrival HRH was greeted by
  • Deputy Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, Mr Jim McDonald CBE LVO KCSG DL,
  • Alderman Ruth Patterson, The Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast
  • Dr Ian Adamson OBE, Sheriff for the County Borough of Belfast
  • Mr Peter McNaney, Chief Executive, Belfast City Council
  • Mr Robert Ferris OBE, Chairman, Mission to Seafarers (Northern Ireland)
  • The Rev Colin Hall-Thompson, Senior Chaplin and Provincial Secretary, Mission to Seafarers 
  • Mr Roy Adair, Chief Executive Officer, Belfast Harbour.

Established in Belfast in 1860, the Mission to Seafarers now welcomes thousands of seafarers each year. The Princess Royal has a long association with the organisation which numbers her father, the Duke of Edinburgh, among its previous Presidents.

HRH launched an appeal in 1987 to help defray the costs of the new Belfast Centre, raising £107k. She also opened the new centre in 1988 and returned in May 1992 to open the Hurst Extension. The centre provides a satellite computer telephone system, a bespoke international telephone card, internet and E-Mail facilities and a ‘next-to-new’ clothes shop.

Later, in the Barnett Room, Princess Anne met around 100 invited guests attending a reception in honour of the visit.

Following a few words of thanks from Mr Robert Ferris, he invited The Princess Royal to sign the Mission to Seafarers and Harbour Commissioners’ visitors’ books prior to departure.

New Royal Portrait

A new portrait photograph of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, the first to be commissioned of the two together, has been released.

Commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, London, and unveiled as part of its touring exhibition The Queen: Art and Image.

The large-scale portrait, measuring 1.5m by 2m, shows the Queen and Prince Philip seated together in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle.

The photograph, which was taken on 7 April 2011, was commissioned to mark the Queen's forthcoming Diamond Jubilee and in the year of the Duke's 90th birthday.

"I wanted to leave them both in their royal environment, and of course not try to disguise who they are, but also show them as an elderly couple who are together,"  the artist Thomas Struth told arts editor Will Gompertz.

"I selected what in America you call a love seat, which is a small two-seater sofa which would make them sit together, and yet both in their own aura."

Duke of York in Lisburn

The Duke of York yesterday morning visited F. G. Wilson (Engineering) Limited, Old Glenarm Road, Larne, and was received by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim (Mrs. Joan Christie).

HRH was yesterday welcomed to the Island Civic Centre in Lisburn, County Antrim, and undertook a series of engagements, meeting representatives from The Royal Irish Regiment Museum, Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) and the UDR Memorial Trust.

HRH also visited the recently dedicated UDR Memorial in Lisburn City Centre.

Prince Andrew was greeted on arrival at Lisburn City Council buildings by Alderman William Leathem, Deputy Mayor, and Mr Norman Davidson, Chief Executive. HRH went on to meet the Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley.

Inside, the first engagement was with Lieutenant-Colonel Charlie Bennett UD (retired), Chairman of the Royal Irish Regiment Museum, and Ms Amanda Moreno, Museum Head of Collection.

HRH who also holds the role of the UK’s Special Representative for International Trade and Industry was then welcomed by Mr Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive of Invest NI and was invited to join him and his Senior Management Team for a working lunch and presentation on trade and investment.

His Royal Highness then went on to meet Lieutenant-Colonel Wesley Duncan (Retired) who presented representatives of the UDR Memorial Trust. The regiment had around 50,000 men and women from all walks of life serve in its ranks from its formation in 1970 until it was merged with the Royal Irish Regiment in 1992.

Following the meeting, HRH accompanied by Colonel Duncan went on to view the recently dedicated UDR Memorial in Lisburn city centre.

Prince Andrew in Hillsborough


His Royal Highness The Duke of York yesterday was Guest of Honour at the annual Garden Party in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle hosted by the Secretary of State.

On arrival HRH was greeted by
  • Mr David Lindsay, Lord-Lieutenant of County Down 
  • The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 
  • The Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland 
  • Ms Hilary Jackson, Director-General, Northern Ireland Office.

Accompanied by the Secretary of State, HRH met Matt Baggot Esq CBE QPM, Chief Constable, Northern Ireland Police, and a number of officers and their guests in the Rose Garden.

Prince Andrew went on to meet Brigadier Edward Smyth-Osbourne, Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade and a number of personnel serving in Northern Ireland and their guests.

Arriving in the Main Garden the National Anthem was played by the Band of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and HRH was invited to plant a tree, assisted by the Hillsborough Castle Financial Administrator, Ms Nikki Edgar, to commemorate the visit.

HRH went on to meet around 2,000 invited guests including bereaved family members and injured personnel of the Royal Irish Regiment.

His Royal Highness attended a Dinner at Hillsborough Castle given by the Rt. Hon. Hugo Swire MP (Minister of State for Northern Ireland).

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Tesco's Lamb Shank

I bagged this meal yesterday. It's called Tesco "Simply Cook" Lamb Shank in Mint Gravy. It takes about eight minutes to cook in the microwave oven, in its bag.

It is utterly delicious, yummy, mouth-wateringly tender; literally slides off the bone with the gentlest touch of a knife or fork. It serves one, though they are doing a deal of  two packs for £6.

Recommended at the Belmont GHQ. Go for it.

The PLACE Centre

I rode into Town this morning on the Proprietary Belmont Two-Wheeler. Parking it at Fountain Street, I made for the Linenhall Library, where I undertook a spot of research on Borris House and several others.

I  purchased a few items in Marks & Spencer's store, viz. Greek Style Yoghurt with Honey, Fruit Pastilles and Coleslaw.

However, on vacating the Library, my attention was caught by a diminutive premises adjacent to Boots the Chemist: PLACE, the Architecture and Built Environment Centre for Northern Ireland.

PLACE is an acronym for Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Community and Environment.

I had a lengthy chat with the receptionist, who explained their programme. They also have a good reference section (including C E B Brett's books), where visitors can peruse or, indeed, purchase, the books.

I must visit this "place" more often when I'm in Town. Sorry about the pun!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Pigeon Pie?

I have a slight problem with feral pigeons. Anyone care to send over a hawk?  Seriously, though, a flock numbering about eight come regularly to peck away underneath my feeders. They are hard to eradicate.

I have the feeders suspended from a large, prickly berberis bush and, today, I have taken to cutting several branches and placing them at strategic points along the ground.

I am hopeful that this action shall produce the desired effect! We will see.

I've spotted bullfinches more often lately.

Top Ulster Golfer

I am utterly delighted that, at a mere twenty-two years of age, Rory McIlroy, from Holywood in County Down, has won the US Open golf championship.

He becomes the youngest in a long line of British and, specifically, Ulster golfers and sports people to bring esteem and honour to the British Nation.

Of course, our other Ulsterman, Graeme McDowell MBE, won the Championship in 2010; and Tony Jacklin CBE was the last British golfer to win, in 1970.

I have already recommended Rory McIlroy to be an OBE. Nominations are made here.

We are very proud of him. To send congratulations would be an understatement.

Of course, Northern Ireland boasts some of the very finest golf courses in the British Isles. Golf tourism plays an important role in our economy.

I expect Rory McIlroy will take his rightful place as a top sports personality among all the other great sports men and women, all now admitted to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

True Love

Thank you so much to all my friends for your support throughout the past twelve months. I appreciate it.

I charming lady from Belmont Church arrived this afternoon with a bouquet of church flowers in memory of the Dowager.

I was so taken aback with gratitude that, Timothy Belmont must admit, I did indulge in a tiny blubber when she left.

Apart from that, I've been fine all day. I went for a drive to the town of Antrim today.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Scottish Rigoletto

I was at the opera this evening. Specifically a performance of Verdi's Rigoletto at Belfast's Grand Opera House.

My first port-o-call was the Piano Bar on the first floor of the Europa Hotel, where I had a quick restorative prior to the show.

At this time of year I'd normally have been at Castleward Opera, though this was impossible since funding for it was shamefully axed by whomsoever sat on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland two years ago. I expect they are proud of that.

This evening I had a good seat in the front row of the Dress Circle. Timothy Belmont had good company, too, viz. Lord and Lady Hutton beside me. We had a terrific chin-wag about Brackenber, London and Belgrave Square. I last saw Lord Hutton at the Old Brackenbrian annual dinner earlier this year.

Re the production: Opera purists may not have been entirely content, given that this production, by Scottish Opera, was a modern variation on the traditional, 16th century Mantua original. The cast were all dressed up in 20th century attire.

Still, despite that and the austere props, it was very well done. Indeed the cast received an ovation at the end which lasted for perhaps five minutes.

When I vacated the Opera House at Great Victoria Street I noticed Lord and Lady Trimble making their exit.

Imperial Stout

I am fascinated in a heady tale, brought to us by BBC News, about a group of British brewers endeavouring to re-introduce a kind of beer to the Russian market.

Not any old beer, mind you: The choice of the Tsars, Emperors of all the Russias.

It is Imperial Russian stout.

British brewers have sailed a beer-laden clipper to St Petersburg, retracing a centuries-old trade route. They hope to rekindle interest in imperial stout - once one of the British Empire's best-loved exports to Tsarist Russia.

It is a beer that 200 years ago we exported east in large quantities, particularly to the Russian imperial court - a trade that stuttered and then died more than 100 years ago due to war and revolution.

"It all started in 1698 when Peter the Great was on a tour of Europe and discovered a fondness for British beer in London," explains one of the crew, beer historian Pete Brown.

"When St Petersburg was built, British beer was served at banquets there and it was mandatory to drink it. Later on, Catherine the Great was enthusiastic for Imperial Russian stout. She was proud she could drink as much of this strong, sweet beer as any Englishman."

The stout needed to be strong. Beer with a lower alcohol content often froze on the journey over.

The brewers are hoping Russians will rediscover a taste for it. That could be good news for British business - and British diplomacy.

"We have lots of smaller brewers represented here," says project organiser Tim O'Rourke. "It may be really quite important for small brewers who are looking to expand and who are suffering a bit from sales in the UK.
"It's not an easy market for us to penetrate but I think this is engendering goodwill. It's almost like the ping pong diplomacy we had with the Chinese."

"Stout is synonymous with Guinness, but Imperial Russian stouts (and porters) are a different beast.
Mad Monk brewed by Wigan brewery All Gates is a modern take on the strong dark beers that travelled east in the 18th Century.

Guinness has a dry, bitter edge and less alcohol. These imperial beers are muscular heady brews, less bitter, many even darker than Guinness, and rich with the aromas of roasted coffee beans, milk chocolate, plums, currants and even leather. Some evoke childhood memories of tobacco boxes.
Mad Monk, at 7.1% alcohol, has a mocha-like quality to the nose allied with a wisp of citrus.

The luscious palate has coffee, chocolate, a burnt toast roastiness, plus a creamy and fat mouth-feel leading to a lingering finish.

Lucky St Petersburg".

Friday, 17 June 2011

Royal Visitors in 1951

I've found a little gem of a booklet at home. It's entitled The Royal Visit; dated the 1st June 1951; and it's a supplement to The Campbellian, Campbell College's school magazine.

Just to whet readers' appetites, I have scanned one of the many photographs which shows HM Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) and her younger daughter, HRH The Princess Margaret. They are posing at the College's Quadrangle.

Directly behind the royal couple, His Excellency the Governor of Northern Ireland, Vice-Admiral the (4th) Earl Granville can just be seen, wearing naval uniform. Lord Granville was Queen Elizabeth's brother-in-law.

I intend to write a comprehensive article, including more pictures, about the royal visit to Campbell shortly.

2nd Pox Outbreak

BBC Northern Ireland reports that a second outbreak of a fatal red squirrel disease has been confirmed in Glenarm Forest in County Antrim.

It follows an outbreak of squirrel pox in County Down three months ago.

The disease is carried by the non-native grey squirrel which is immune to its effects. Infected red squirrels die within 15 days of contracting the virus.

The disease has already had a devastating effect on native red squirrel populations across the UK.

Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) Senior Wildlife Inspector, Dr Declan Looney, said it was becoming a real cause for concern: "The previous outbreak was three months ago and over 80 miles away in County Down,"  he said.

"We are monitoring the situation but would ask for the public to remain vigilant and immediately report any squirrels showing signs of the disease to the NIEA wildlife team or to a member of the NI Squirrel forum.

"Many of our native species such as the red squirrel are increasingly under pressure and it is very important that we do all we can to protect them".

John Griffin from the Forest Service, added: 

'We will urgently begin work with the adjacent landowner Antrim Estates [Lord Antrim], the Glens Red Squirrel Group and the other partners within the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum to implement control measures to safeguard the local red squirrel population at Glenarm. "We acknowledge the dedication and vigilance of the Glens Red Squirrel Group which resulted in the discovery of the two suspect cases.'
The decline of red squirrels in the UK is blamed primarily on the effects of squirrel pox as well as the loss of woodlands and competition from grey squirrels.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

St Paul's Restored

The Daily Telegraph reports that St Paul's Cathedral, glorious seat of the Right Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Bishop of London, has finally been restored. 

Three hundred years after it was declared complete by Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral is once more as resplendent as when it was first built.  

The London landmark has been covered in scaffolding on at least one aspect for the past 15 years and today marks the end of a £40m restoration to bring both the interior and exterior back to its former glory. 

The Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, Dean of St Paul’s, said he was "thrilled" with the work:  "The two million worshippers, pilgrims and visitors who come to St Paul’s each year can now witness Wren’s original vision,” he said.   

Stonemasons used state of the art conservation techniques to restore the blackened stone and windows. Martin Stancliffe, surveyor to the Fabric, who oversaw the restoration project, said the building   "probably looks better than at any time since its completion in 1711”. 

A service to commemorate the Cathedral's 300th anniversary will be held on June 21.

Carrick-a-Rede Cottage

I am glad to learn that the National Trust is to restore the old fisherman's cottage on the isle of Carrick-a-Rede in County Antrim.

The tiny cottage is stated to be 300 years old and it was last used in 2002. History is scattered both inside and outside the weathered whitewashed walls, from anchors and boat winches to buoys, ropes and eel traps.

The National Trust is appealing for volunteers to help in the restoration.

The scheme commences on the 18th June, when the interior features of the cottage will be documented before work starts.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Sir Timothy Laurence


Vice-Admiral Timothy Laurence was received by The Queen at Windsor Castle on the 14th June, 2011, when Her Majesty invested him with the Insignia of a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

Sir Timothy is married to HRH The Princess Royal.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Tesco D-Lock

Thank you, Belfast City Airport, for providing me with adequate motivation to purchase a new cycle lock!

Since Timothy Belmont's original combination lock for the Proprietary Two-Wheeler was unceremoniously broken by staff at Belfast City Airport last week, I have treated the old girl to a brand new one.

The original lock didn't owe me anything at any rate.

I was in Tesco's large store at Knocknagoney this morning and bagged what they term their "Active Equipment" D-Lock for the princely sum of £6.

It seems fairly robust for the price, weighing in at 2½lbs. It has a 12mm hardened steel shackle; an easy-fit mounting bracket; and two keys.

No prizes for guessing where it was made!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Flybe Puctuality

My flight back to Belfast City Airport from London Gatwick Airport with Flybe was delayed by about twenty minutes today, though they never mentioned it to passengers.

I continually watched the flight monitor at Gatwick and Flight BE966 went straight from "please wait" to "final boarding"; so we all trooped the longish walk from one part of the airport to Gate Five immediately.

My flight with Flybe five days ago was also delayed, by an hour. What is their punctuality record like from Belfast City to London Gatwick?

On arrival at Belfast City Airport, I walked out of the terminal to discover that my bike had disappeared! It had been removed by staff - the lock broken - and taken to a compound.

Someone has decided that they don't like cycles parked directly outside the entrance, despite it being all right five months ago.

There is a Cycle Park in the short stay car park, adjacent to the Sydenham By-Pass where the disabled section is, as I have now discovered!

New Dean

Best wishes and congratulations to the newly-appointed Dean of Belfast, the Very Reverend John Mann, who succeeds the Rev Houston McKelvey, who retired as Dean at the end of March.

The new Dean, 56, was born at Blackheath, London. He was ordained a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1981. He was educated at Clark’s College, Romford, Essex; the Royal Liberty School, Romford; Queen’s University, Belfast, and the Church of Ireland Theological College.

He is married to Helen, a Practice Nurse, and the couple have a daughter, Rowan and a son, David.

the Dean was curate assistant at Cloughfern Parish, Diocese of Connor, from 1979-1982 and at Knock Parish, Diocese of Down, from 1982-1985. In 1985 he was appointed rector of the grouped parishes of Ballyrashane and Kildollagh, Diocese of Connor, where he remained until 1989 when he went to the Diocese of Winchester as rector of the Parishes of Bentworth, Shalden and Lasham.

In 1993 he returned to Connor and the Parish of Cloughfern as rector, and in 2002 he moved to Malone.

In his ministry, the Dean has been a rural Dean of Alton (Winchester); a chaplain to Whiteabbey Hospital; a tutor for the lay reader course in South Connor and General Secretary of the Church of Ireland Men’s Society.

He has been Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Connor since 1994, and Director of Continuing Ministerial Education in Connor Diocese since 2001.

In 1999 he was installed a Prebendary of Clonmethan in the National Cathedral of St Patrick’s, Dublin, representing Connor Diocese.

The Dean has been speaker at a number of retreats, quiet days and clergy conferences. He has led pilgrimages to the Holy Land, most recently taking a large group from Connor Diocese in March this year, as well as to Oberammagau and Iona.

The new Dean has an interest in music, and for pleasure and relaxation plays the violin and piano and enjoys singing, playing tennis, walking, studying natural history and gardening.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

UDR Memorial

Writing from London, I am pleased and proud to remember the valiant role that the Ulster Defence Regiment  played in Northern Ireland.

The Ulster Defence Regiment memorial group of statues has been unveiled  today in Lisburn, County Antrim, by the Viscount Brookeborough DL.

HM The Queen and the six counties of Northern Ireland were well represented by several Lord-Lieutenants and Deputy Lieutenants.

It was acknowledged at the ceremony that "It was unfortunate that there were members who did bad things and we're not trying to hide that. But what we would say is that there's almost 50,000 people who didn't do bad things - who did good things, who were ordinary decent people who wanted to do the best they could for their country."

The memorial, by the sculptor John Sherlock, shows members of the regiment operating a vehicle checkpoint.

The Royal Irish Regiment was formed by the amalgamation of the UDR and the Royal Irish Rangers on the 1st July, 1992.

Mall Statues

It has been cool and rainy in London so far today. My friends took me into central London, where we had a stroll round the front of Buckingham Palace.

Thence we ambled up the Mall, carrying our umbrellas, where we stopped to admire the statues of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Due to the inclement weather, we didn't linger.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Soane's Museum

Whilst en route to Sir John Soane's museum at Lincoln's Inn Fields in London yesterday, I spent longer than expected at the exit hall of Holborn Underground Station.

It was pouring with rain, which seemed to last for ages and ages!  The station staff kept reminding us on the Tannoy that Exits must not be obstructed. Well, Timothy Belmont was tucked away beside a wall, observing the scene.

To aggravate matters, I'd been "caught short" and desperately needed to make a "call of nature". Eventually I decided to make a move, despite the rain still falling, so I made a bee-line for the nearest pub which, I think, was called the Sail Inn and asked if I could use the loo, which was downstairs in the basement.

Thence I was ready to resume my journey to the museum. Sir J Soane's museum is somewhat bijou, by museum standards, so there was a small queue outside when I arrived.

After about ten minutes, I was given the green light, so to speak, and proceeded to make a leisurely tour of the town-house. Old Soane certainly was an avid collector of this and that.

NI Birthday Honours

Cordial congratulations to all the worthy NI recipients of Honours. I have singled out a few:

The newly-knighted Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor of the Queen's University of Belfast.

William Thompson Wright OBE is appointed CBE For services to the Bus industry in Northern Ireland. (Ballymena, County Antrim). Just consider all those new London buses!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Goring Advisory Card

"Take a rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop."

43BC - 17AD

Thursday, 9 June 2011

At Belgrave Square

Having taken the Tube from Northwick Park into central London this morning, I proceeded to revisit several of the old haunts, viz. St James's, Belgravia etc.

I photographed Wilton's menu. Click on images to enlarge them.

I see that Trumper's have a branch beside Turnbull & Asser, up a little side street. I walked through the Green Park, towards the Palace, where a band of the Irish Guards was playing; thence past the Royal Mews - where I inquired about an official souvenir programme for the Royal Wedding (out of stock).

I discovered the splendid little Goring Hotel nearby, so ambled into the lounge-bar - most civilised - where I partook of a Tanqueray snifter. I do like the lounge here, just like a demi-grand country house. Dear readers, one Tanqueray - 25ml - and tonic-water costs the princely sum of £11.81, including 12.5% service.

Thence I asked for the gentelmen's cloakrom: "past the Queen Mother and hard right!". A bronze of Her late Majesty, that is.

I walked out on on to Belgrave Square, where I admired Downshire House, very grand erstwhile residence of the Marquesses of Downshire; and latterly the Viscount Pirrie; and now the Spanish Embassy. I am told that the good Lord Ballyedmond has a modest pad here, though I cannot recall the number.

BP commended a charming little bar called the Star Tavern, at Belgrave Mews West, so I eventually found it and sampled a Bombay Sapphire and tonic on this occasion. This establishment is renowned in the metropolis for its hanging baskets.

I was imbibing on Grosvenor Estate property, all owned by His Grace the Duke of Westminster, Ulsterman born at Omagh, County Tyrone.

And so I made for the Victoria tube and back to Northwick Park on the "Met Line".

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Bushmills Bar

The menu at the Bushmills Bar in Belfast City Airport today. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Flag Sale

I have sold the venerable old Union Flag - unearthed in a wardrobe - on Ebay. The winning bid was for £89, most gratifying.

It measured about 9' x 4½'.

There was much interest in it, with nineteen bidders and fifty "watchers".

I have bought another vintage Union Flag made of Hessian-type cloth, sewn constituent parts, un-faded bold colours, for £58 on the same auction site. It measures a more modest 6' x 3'.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Cambridges' New Home

The Daily Telegraph reports today that TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Baron and Baroness Carrickfergus, are to make Kensington Palace their London home.

TRH are expected to move there imminently, before their first official royal engagement, a tour of Canada and California later this month.

The royal couple have chosen rooms that have been unoccupied for some time and needed refurbishing and redecorating, including sorting out problems with asbestos.

The move there will be temporary, a spokesman for St James’s Palace said, with TRH understood to want a larger home in the capital for the long term. They intend to move out in about a year.

It is understood that Prince William did not specifically ask to move to Kensington Palace because of his and his mother’s ties there, but it was the only royal residence that had space available.

When they want a longer-term property, they will look at what space is available at all the other royal palaces. The spokesman said: 

“A number of options for longer-term solutions are still being considered.

“The couple’s main home will continue to be their house on Anglesey, and their household office will continue to be based at St James’s Palace. The property in question at Kensington Palace into which the couple are temporarily moving is small.

“While it more than suffices for occasional visits to London for now, and the royal couple are very grateful for it, the Duke and Duchess are considering options for a more permanent official London residence. No suitable properties are currently available.”

Show of the Week

This excellent series on BBC Two and the BBC HD channel, presented by the admirable Dan Cruikshank, features Clandeboye in County Down this week. It is shown at 9pm on Tuesday (except NI (analogue); Wales (analogue)).

I have written about Clandeboye.

The Most Honourable Sheridan Frederick Terence Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood was the 5th and last Marquess of Dufferin and Ava. The Marquessate became extinct in 1988 on his death.

The late Lord Dufferin's widow Lindy, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, has been châtelaine of Clandeboye since 1988.

There are few other houses in Britain like Clandeboye - a monument to a man (1st Marquess) whose life was like a Victorian fairy tale of adventure, and a monument to the golden age of the largest and most far flung empire the world has ever seen.

Clandeboye House and estate was, like the empire itself, an epic creation - but unlike the empire, it still endures, a vignette of a now almost forgotten age and surprisingly little altered since the 1st Marquess died in 1902.

The house is overflowing with relics from the empire and Dufferin's aristocratic adventures - stuffed baby bears, Egyptian monuments, tiger skins and weaponry from India, Canada and Burma to mention just a few, with extraordinary photographic albums that document the collecting of these unique 'souvenirs'.

Clandeboye is a genuine treasure trove and remains one of Northern Ireland's greatest private homes.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Sweeney's V Rivals

I have lost count of the number of publicans who have "had a go" at running Sweeney's bar in Portballintrae, County Antrim. There is no question that the premises have great potential.

As I opined a few months ago, all it needs is some enterprising person with an excellent, imaginative chef and the Midas Touch. The premises themselves, an old coach-house, are charming and full of character.

I had a snack at the Smuggler's Inn, near the Giant's Causeway last night; thence motored back to the Port, where I took the little netbook into the Bay View Hotel for a tonic at the bar.

Be in no doubt: The Bay View has become the established emporium for food and drink in Portballintrae, not to mention accommodation.

It boasts generally a nice, buzzing "in" crowd; families are welcome; even last night there was a peat fire blazing in the bar; they have a decent range of drinks, including Tanqueray gin; it seems to be well run.

I could go on; however, dear readers, you get the drift.

And yet I still prefer the ambiance of the Bushmills Inn, despite my recent criticism of its restaurant. I don't find anything special about the Bay View's menu, other than standard fare; though if that's what the "punters" want, who am I to take exception?

The Bay View was thriving, as usual, last night. To my mind, Sweeney's needs to become more exclusive, or "upmarket", and provide more of a gourmet menu; or transform itself into a so-called gastro-pub. The menu must be selective, with prime Ulster seafood, game and beef; seasonal vegetables from local farmers; home-made chips of an appropriate variety; and good, hearty, classic puddings.

They must offer fine wines, spirits and cuisine , yet remain a lounge-bar for those who simply wish to have a drink. The standard pub fare of burgers and chips isn't adequate enough to beat the rivals.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Sweeney's Armchairs

There is a pleasant little seating area directly outside Sweeney's bar at Portballintrae, County Antrim. The sturdy wooden armchairs boast sufficiently wide arms for a glass.

Regrettably there is only one brand of gin available at time of writing: Gordon's. It's not that Timothy Belmont is a Gin Snob; it's simply that I prefer to imbibe premium gin whenever I'm drinking out.

Mail Update

Ooops!  Did readers know that the Royal Mail has re-delivery schedule service online?  I only discovered it two minutes ago. Here it is: 

I've arranged for them to re-deliver the parcel on Tuesday (unless I am out; in which case I'll go through the rigmarole again).

Royal Failure


Dear Moya Greene,
I’d prefer that you handle this matter personally, rather than passing it to someone else within the Group:
Kind regards,

Since it would be an utter waste of time complaining to Royal Mail themselves, I intend to vent the old spleen through the medium of Lord Belmont.

I missed the delivery staff by twenty minutes this morning. They came with a parcel at eleven forty.

Instead of handing it to a neighbour, they left me a note instead asking me to do their job and collect it at Prince Regent Road in Belfast.

How infuriating; how inconvenient.

I accepted a parcel yesterday from Parcelforce on behalf of a neighbour. They simply got me to sign an electronic pad.

Royal Mail is not the service it used to be.

To make matters worse, I motored over this morning - which took fifteen minutes' worth of fuel - only to be told that the parcel would not be available for forty-eight hours.

Another wasted journey.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Royal Victorian Order

3 June 2011

THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased to make the following appointments to the Royal Victorian Order:

To be a Commander:
Julian Beresford KING, CMG (HM Ambassador in Dublin)

To be a Lieutenant:
Karen, Mrs. RAE.
(To be dated 20 May 2011)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Diamond Jubilee

Buckingham Palace has today announced plans for the central weekend to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. 

The main programme will take place from Saturday 2nd June to Tuesday 5th June with celebratory activities throughout the United Kingdom and across the Commonwealth. 

Further details of these events and of other national and regional Diamond Jubilee events will be announced in due course.

Saturday 2nd June, 2012
 The Queen will attend the Epsom Derby.

Sunday 3rd June, 2012
The Big Jubilee Lunch: Building on the already popular Big Lunch initiative, people will be encouraged to share lunch with neighbours and friends as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This may take the form of a traditional street party or a picnic lunch in small or larger groups. This event is being organised by the Big Lunch,

Monday 4th June, 2012
BBC Concert at Buckingham Palace: There will be a televised Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace with tickets being available to UK residents by public ballot.

The musical programme for the concert is still being planned and is expected to feature British and Commonwealth musicians. Details on how to apply for the concert will be available in due course. This event is being organised by the BBC.

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Beacons: A network of 2,012 Beacons will be lit by communities and individuals throughout the United Kingdom, as well as the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Commonwealth.

As in 2002, Her Majesty will light the National Beacon. The beacons project is being organised by Diamond Jubilee Beacons Ltd.

Tuesday 5th June, 2012
Service of Thanksgiving and Carriage Procession: There will be a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral and a formal carriage Procession by Her Majesty The Queen.

Commonwealth Realms and other Commonwealth nations will be creating their own events in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee. In addition, they will be represented at, and involved with, the events taking place over the central weekend, including the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3rd June and the Service of Thanksgiving on 5th June.

Further details for all Diamond Jubilee events will be released early in 2012. The Government has today launched its dedicated Diamond Jubilee Directgov website - - which will feature regularly updated public information about the Diamond Jubilee.

Nest-Count Day

Wednesday morning began with a drive to Whiterock, near Killinchy in County Down, where I parked the two-seater and met Hugh, Craig and the others.

We boarded the National Trust's Strangford Lough cruiser Carbo, with its 100 horse-power outboard, and made off towards Round Island, our first destination.

The day was spent nest-counting on Round Island, Bird Island, Drummond Island, Great Minnis's Island and Little Minnis's Island.

The National Trust has special permission to monitor bird numbers on the Lough, even on private islands. As far as I am aware, the general public is not allowed on the islands during the breeding season.

Bird numbers must be monitored on behalf of government agencies. Nest counts do, indeed, disturb breeding birds for a very short period; though, of course, the Trust does it sensitively and with the least disturbance possible.

Most of the nests on these islands belonged to Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Eider Ducks, some Oystercatchers and Common Gulls.

Bird Island, near Kircubbin, has a large colony of cormorants and I acted as a scarecrow in order to deter the gulls from swooping down and taking cormorant chicks, while the others counted the nests.

When we left the island in our boat, one juvenile paddled out and followed us. It was struggling, so we motored along and grabbed it; swathed it in a towel; and took it back to Bird Island, where there are 437 cormorant nests in 2011.

That's me, squatting on the bow above. Our boat, Carbo, is named after Phalacrocorax carbo, the cormorant species.

It was a wonderful day.