Monday, 31 December 2012

Nomadic Restoration

SS Nomadic is being restored to her former Edwardian glory, as workers from Tracey Brothers work to restore her historic fittings.

The main restoration work on RMS Titanic's tender should be complete by January, 2013.

The organisation behind the scheme has promised she will open as a visitor attraction at Easter, 2013, to coincide with the annual Titanic Festival.

Joiners and plasterwork craftsmen work meticulously to restore the fine interiors of the Harland & Wolff-built steamship, which ferried passengers from the harbour at Cherbourg, France, to the doomed liner.

Outside, thousands of cobble-stones have been placed in position as part of the restoration of Hamilton Dock at Titantic Quarter.

The pumps in the original pump-house on the nearby quayside have also been restored, in order that visitors will be able to see them in action through a glass floor panel, lit with fibre optics.

Nomadic is the last remaining White Star Line vessel and was saved from the scrap-yard in 2006, when she was bought at auction in France by the NI Department for Social Development.

Dr Denis Rooney CBE, chairman of the Nomadic Charitable Trust, said that when the tender opens as a visitor attraction she will be managed by the SS Nomadic Trading Company, overseen by the Trust.

Dr Rooney was appointed CBE in 2008 for services to Economic Development and to the community in Northern Ireland.

Last year the restoration work began, when Harland & Wolff was appointed to undertake steelwork repairs on the vessel it had built a century earlier.

The £2 million contract involved recreating the missing bridge and flying bridge decks, hull repairs and a paint-work in its original White Star Line livery.

Dr Rooney added,

The upper deck is going to be used to interpret the Nomadic as it was in 1911. As visitors come on board, a virtual barman will introduce them to the ship and tell them what they are about to see. The second-class area and upper deck will tell the stories of some of the people involved with the Nomadic at the time.

In the stern of the lower deck there will be stories of people associated with Nomadic throughout her 101-year history - from her days as Titanic's tender, to her stint as a troop carrier in World War I; the years carrying stars such as film star Charlie Chaplin as she served the Cunard liners; and her retirement from sea to the Seine in Paris, where she became a floating restaurant.

Next door, in second-class, there will be a display charting her years in Paris. Visitors will then move down into the engine-room.

The next section will tell the story of how SS Nomadic came to be rescued from the scrapyard and brought back to the city where she was built, and in the bows will be an interpretation of the crew quarters.

Up on deck will be a table where people can try their hand at navigating SS Nomadic towards Titanic. Dr Rooney commented,

As you can see, we’re going to be using every inch of it. The link to the Titanic is a very significant part of the Nomadic story but it is only a part of the story. There has been a lot of interest in its role as a troop carrier. This has been a very complex project but there have been no problems found on the ship that couldn’t be sorted. The hull was pretty much intact, there was no significant rot, nothing that was particularly expensive to fix.

The team is beginning to look to the future and the next phase, such as potential restoration of the caisson gate, a listed structure used to control the flow of water in and out of the dry dock.

  • 50 tons of steel were used by Harland & Wolff during the restoration
  • 150,000  rivets were used to restore the superstructure
  • 115 cubic metres of wood were used in restoring the interior of the Nomadic
  • 230 tons of cobbles were required to create an authentic 1911 dockside

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Winter Apparel

I motored into town, keeping the roof of the two-seater firmly in place, parked at Royal Avenue, and walked the short distance to Castle Court shopping centre, a place I last visited quite some time ago.

Having refreshed myself with a cup of coffee and a raspberry & almond cake at Costa, I briefly toured Debenham's and a few other retailers, prior to the five-minute walk to Marks & Spencer, at Donegall Place.

Therein I sought a few "bargains", viz. a faux trapper hat, in order to keep the noble scalp heated; a set of white under-vests; a pair of moccasin-style, every-day slippers (I already have two pairs, one of which is made by Church's).

Last, though not least, a pair of black, knitted, thermal gloves (Mad Pierre still has one of my black leather gloves, which I dropped in his jalopy a month ago).

So there you have it. Now I am home, at Belmont GHQ. Christmas has been good, again.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Living Boil

I am sure that those who most generously offered Honours to Messrs Livingstone and Boyle shall be utterly devastated by their rejection.

Apparently Boyle was offered a K!

Livingstone refused to become a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE).

Boyle was "artistic director" of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Livingstone is a socialist politician and former mayor of London.

Gawd help us.

New Articles

Readership, you shall be glad to learn that Timothy Belmont has been scouring the country house lists of Ulster over the hols, for more articles in 2013.

Forthcoming pieces will include Corick House, County Tyrone; and Crossgar House, now called Tober Mhuire, County Down.

Alas, I am running out of sufficiently interesting places to write about in Northern Ireland; I have written articles on about 170 country houses in the Province.

New Year Honours 2013

The 2013 New Year Honours list for Northern Ireland has just been published. The most senior recipients are as follows:

Companion of the Most Honourable Order of Bath (CB)

Mr Oswyn George Paulin, Head of Government Legal Service, Northern Ireland Executive. For services to Government in Northern Ireland and voluntary service through the Scout Association.

Commanders of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)

The Hon Mr Justice Burgess, Lately, Presiding County Court Judge and Temporary High Court Judge and Recorder of Belfast. For services to the Administration of Justice.

Professor Joseph Stuart Elborn, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Consultant Physician, Queen’s University Belfast.  For services to Healthcare in Northern Ireland.

Professor Eileen Evason, For services to the Disadvantaged in Northern Ireland.

ON THE national list, the Lord Coe KBE is appointed a member of the Companions of Honour (CH).

The broadcaster Jeremy Paxman's brother Giles is appointed Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George ~ CMG:

(Timothy) Giles PAXMAN LVO
HM Ambassador, Spain. For services to UK interests in Spain and Mexico 

The Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP is appointed a Dame Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, as the Rt Hon Dame Margaret Beckett DBE MP. 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Lord Williams

Pertaining to tradition, the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is to be accorded a life peerage.

His full title will be: The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Douglas [Williams], Baron Williams of Oystermouth, PC, in the City and County of Swansea.

The official notice is as follows:

The Queen has been pleased to confer a peerage of the United Kingdom for Life on the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams Lord Archbishop of Canterbury upon his retirement from the See of Canterbury.

1. Rowan Williams was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, having previously been Archbishop of Wales.
2. Rowan Williams will be created a Baron for Life by the style and title of Baron Williams of Oystermouth in the City and County of Swansea.
3. The Prime Minister retains the right to nominate up to ten people for Life Peerages each Parliament. These are awarded to people who have given significant public service.

Ballyclare Christmas

Timothy Belmont has spent a particularly agreeable Christmas with friends at Ballyclare, County Antrim.

Abundant food and drink was partaken by all; I even donned the chef's hat, in a figurative sense of course (!).

Last night we viewed a film called Happy-Go-Lucky.

I am now home at Belmont GHQ. I'll doubtless watch the drama this evening about Sir Alfred Hitchcock's infatuation with the actress Tippy Hedren.


"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

Winston Churchill

Friday, 21 December 2012

Belmont State Dinner

The Godmother was entertained to dinner at Belmont GHQ this evening, at a Belmont state banquet (!).

The menu was  as follows:

Brandy Alexander cocktails

Cream of mushroom soup with Porcini

Beef Wellington

Medley of traditional vegetables

Béarnaise sauce

County Down blackberry sponge pudding with double cream


Bendick's mints

Prandial Preparedness

Table in the Small Dining-Room: Almost ready for Godmother this evening!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Ethereal Nosh!

Timothy Belmont has spent half the day in town. I had a few (!) restoratives with a lady friend in a central bar.

Thence I strode over to Marks & Spencer's, where I bagged individual fillets of beef Wellington; a medley of vegetables; gratin of spinach and potato; and a half-decent bottle of red plonk.

The reason for this expenditure is the imminent arrival at Belmont GHQ, viz. Friday evening, of Godmother.

Home-made cream of mushroom soup; and County Down blackberry sponge are also on the menu.

I shall offer Godmother a well-chilled Brandy Alexander cocktail served in a crystal Martini glass on arrival.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Suits Patten

Who is the Lord Patten of Barnes's tailor, purely as a matter of curiosity?

That suit he is wearing today fits him like a sack of potatoes.

Crème de Champignons

Guillaume the chef (!) has just made a fresh cream of mushroom soup this morning at Belmont GHQ.

The ingredients used included large flat mushrooms, chopped; crumbled wholemeal bread; lots of parsley, chopped; stock; a little nutmeg; garlic; and seasoning.

Godmother is invited to dinner on Friday evening, so the cream will be added later when the soup is reheated.

Little Porcini mushrooms will also be floated on top.

The Ogilby Estate


The Ogilby estate was located near Limavady in County Londonderry.

John Ogilvie [sic] was a member of the vestry of Drumachose Parish in 1729. The family name was changed to Ogilby by his son Alexander, and the family lived in Catherine Street until John's great-grandson John built a manor-house at Ardnargle.

Ardnargle House today is plain, of two storeys with five bays; built ca 1788 by John Ogilby.

The house was given a porch, a three-sided bow, window surrounds with cornice brackets and a modillion cornice ca 1854 by Robert A Ogilby. There is Victorian Classical plasterwork in the hall and principal reception rooms.

Ardnargle was originally a dower house for Pellipar at Dungiven.

Pellipar House

Ardnargle is stated to be a good, commodious square house with its front facing southwards; and commanding beautiful views of the Roe Valley; good ornamental gardens with excellent fruit trees, now gone.

John Ogilby planted a great portion of the trees which now form the parkland. 

An artificial pond, supplied with spring-water, was used for skating during the winter months.

The Ogilbys were a Huguenot family who settled in Limavady at the time of the Ulster Plantation. 

All the records of the family were destroyed by fire in Scotland, in 1784. The original Ogilby residence was Calhame, Aberdeenshire.

The Ogilby family has had a proud military tradition: Major Robert Alexander Ogilby married Sarah Wheeler, daughter of Rev George Bomford Wheeler, a founder of the Irish Times, TCD classic scholar and contributor to Dickens' magazine, "All Year Round"; a DL for County Londonderry; captain 4th King's Own Regiment; and took part in the Zulu war (1879, medal).

The Ogilbys also owned land at Woolwich which was acquired from the Skinners' Company. Ogilby street in Woolwich is named after them.

In 1902, Maurice Marcus McCausland, of Drenagh, married Eileen Leslie, daughter of R A Ogilby DL, of Pellipar. 

There is a charitable Ogilby family Trust still extant: The Army Museums Ogilby Trust is a registered charity founded in 1954 by the late Lieutenant-Colonel Robert James Leslie Ogilby DSO JP DL (1880-1964), son of Robert Alexander Ogilby.

This made Ogilby a kinsman of both the Earl Alexander of Tunis and the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, through the line of the Alexanders of Limavady. He was also brother-in-law of Brig.-Gen. George Delamain Crocker.

Colonel Ogilby entered the Army as a 2nd lieutenant, 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards 1903-1905; a lieutenant, 2nd Life Guards; High Sheriff, 1911; 29 Aug 1914 joined the Special reserve Officers as lieutenant; 29 Feb 1915, captain (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards; 1916, Major and 2nd in Command of the 7th Norfolk Regiment; 1916, lieutenant-colonel commanding 2/114 London Regiment (London Scottish). He served with the British Expeditionary Force (dispatches London Gazette); served 1916-1919 in the war; Belgian Croix de Guerre, Star, 1914; DSO and bar, 1917.

Earlier generations of Ogilbys distinguished themselves as scholars: Lieutenant-Colonel Sir David Ogilby (1767-1834), who was a distinguished Orientalist; and his Kinsmen from the 'other' Ogilby castle, in County Tyrone, now in ruins, Altinaghree.

Robert Obilby (1790-1846), bleacher, owned the bleach field at Garvagh; resided at Woodbank, Garvagh; and donated the local village school.

Robert Ogilby was the son of Alexander Ogilby of Catherine Street, Limavady, and of Mary Alexander, daughter of James Alexander, of Roe Park, now a hotel on the outskirts of Limavady.

William Ogilby (1804-73), was a London barrister, zoologist, co-founder of the Royal Zoo in London, who knew Darwin and had a correspondence with him and his son, an ichthyologist, who migrated to Australia (1853-1925) and who identified and registered 5,000 different species and subspecies of fish.

The Ogilbys built the local School in Dungiven during the 19th century, amongst others charitable works.

I am particularly grateful to Londonconstant for kindly providing so much of the biographical information herein relating to the Ogilby family.

Male descendants of this family are alive and well in the USA. Amongst the worthies of this branch, more recently, was the Bishop of the Phillipines and Episcopalian Bishop of Pennsylvania, the late Right Reverend Lyman Cunningham Ogilby (1922-1990), whose great-grandfather, Leonard Ogilby, emigrated from Dungiven to the USA.

First published in February, 2010.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

HMS Caroline

I am delighted that more funding has been secured for HMS Caroline, the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland.

One million pounds has been granted by the Heritage Lottery Memorial Fund.

The grant will enable urgent repair works that will prevent further decay to the ship. The work will include making the ship wind and water-tight; and incorporate the removal of dangerous asbestos while the ship is afloat.

The grant has been awarded to the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN).

The NI Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Investment, Arlene Foster MLA,  said the funding marked the beginning of a two-stage rescue plan:

"The second stage will be driven by a funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore and preserve HMS Caroline. Our ultimate aim is to transform the ship into a world-class floating museum in time for the Battle of Jutland centenary in 2016, as I believe HMS Caroline has huge potential as a visitor experience." 

When World War One ended, Caroline became a static training ship based at Alexandra Dock in Belfast.

During World War Two, she was back in action, acting as a key base for operations to protect the North Atlantic convoys from U-boat attacks.

In 1945, she returned to her role as a static drill ship in Belfast until decommissioned in 2011, making HMS Caroline the longest ship in commission in the Royal Navy after HMS Victory.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Hands On

This small video from the British Heart Foundation is amusing and helpful.

Bangers & Mash

I simply felt like some comfort nosh this evening, so classic British bangers & mash hit the bull's eye.

I paid a fleeting visit to my local Marks & Spencer store this afternoon and bagged Great British 97% pork sausages and a pack of asparagus tips.

I mixed fried onion with the mash.

Everything is best of British, except the asparagus tips, which emanated from South Africa.

For the umpteenth time, the trusty nose-bag served me well and the grub was scoffed instanter.

The Primate's Castle

I've spent a little time researching on the Internet and have discovered that archbishops of Armagh once had an official residence at Termonfeckin, County Louth, known as The Primate's Castle.

This building was used for several centuries by the archbishops as an auxiliary residence to their archiepiscopal quarters in nearby Drogheda.

After the Reformation, several archbishops of the established church resided periodically at Termonfeckin.

The castle's most famous occupant was the Most Rev James Ussher, Lord Archbishop of Armagh from 1625-56.

He used the Castle for much of his term until 1640, when he departed for England, never to return.

The castle was damaged in the Irish rebellion of 1641 and was not repaired. It fell into disuse and was eventually demolished ca 1830.

New Archbishop

The Most Reverend Dr Richard Lionel Clarke, 105th Lord Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and Metropolitan, following his enthronement at Armagh Cathedral on the 15th December, 2012, with the Right Honourable Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The Archbishop chose not to wear the cope and mitre on this occasion.

I should like to put a question to readers: Where did archbishops of Armagh live ~ did they have an official residence ~ prior to 1770? I gather that they lived mainly in Drogheda and Dublin, though they must have had a residence at Armagh.

I really must pay a visit to the city of Armagh and stay for a few days. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Barton & Guestier

Next week I'll be posting my article about the Bartons of Straffan House, now known as The K Club, in County Kildare.

The K Club is owned by Sir Michael Smurfit KBE, born at St Helen's, Lancashire.

The lineage and prosperity of the Bartons is quite remarkable, Thomas Barton having established what is now the oldest wine merchant in Bordeaux, France.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Primatial Installation

The Most Reverend Richard Lionel Clarke shall be enthroned as Lord Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and Metropolitan tomorrow, Saturday, 15th December, 2012.

Dr Clarke, a widowed father of two from Dublin and 105th in the succession of abbots, bishops and archbishops of Armagh since St Patrick, will be enthroned at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.

He was educated at Trinity College Dublin and King’s College London.

The Archbishop-Elect began his career as a curate at Holywood, County Down; worked in Dublin, as dean in residence at Trinity; Dean of Cork; and Perth in Scotland.

Dr Clarke's wife Linda died in 2009, and he has a son and daughter, both of whom are medical doctors; and an 18-months-old grandson.

He lists poetry, biography and both classical and jazz music among his loves and has a keen interest in sport, especially rugby, cricket (Worcestershire County Cricket Club) and is an avid Arsenal football supporter.

Since becoming a bishop, he has been the author of two books - one on Christian belief 'And is it true?', and the other - 'A Whisper of God' - on the witness of the Christian in the world of today.

The future Lord Primate, who owns a 1979 MG sports car, will bring it to Armagh, along with his boxer dog.

It is expected that Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh, the Earl of Caledon; the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; and many other personages, civic and spiritual, will be in attendance.

NT Belfast Dinner

I attended the annual Christmas bash of the National Trust Belfast properties today, at the Ramada Hotel, Shaw's Bridge.

It was a jolly occasion and we were all in good spirits, despite the fact that Timothy Belmont was as sober as an archbishop.

I knew about 10% of the forty members present. The function took place on the second floor of the hotel. I opted for the traditional turkey dinner.

The function lasted about three hours or so; and the Belfast property manager, Mike Dobson, gave a speech at the conclusion.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Free Trade?

I have been informed today that Alan Coffey, of Portavogie, purveyor of seafood to the household, has been prevented from carrying out his trade by the Health & Safety police.

Coffey's parked their van in my vicinity most Thursdays, at a strategic position.

Readers might spot the Belmont two-wheeler.

They received a visit recently from Health & Safety officers, and were asked where they washed their hands; and that the van was parked too close to the main road.

I strongly suspect that the European Union has a hand in this.

When will we be rid of this unwanted creature? I have never heard such stuff and nonsense in my life, preventing decent, honest traders from their livelihoods.

The sooner we leave the EU, the better.

1st Prize

Young Belmont prevails again. First prize in the race to the food-trough. The premium nose-bag.

It no longer exists in its present form, by the way.

City Foray


Timothy Belmont paid the usual weekly visit into central Belfast today, gracing the revered Linenhall Library with one's presence, don't you know (!).

I unearthed some wonderful facts relating to the Keane Baronets of Cappoquin; the Power Baronets of Edermine; and the Gun-Cuninghames of Mount Kennedy.

The Power Baronets established their own distillery in Dublin.

Afterwards, I strode over to Marks & Spencer, via Fountain Street, Queen's Arcade and Donegall Place, where I purchased a small French baguette and a tub of their "softer" butter.

Colonel Maundrell

Richard Kay reports this morning that Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Maundrell MVO is about to become affianced.

Colonel Maundrell, Grenadier Guards and ex-equerry to The Duke of Edinburgh, has been head of the Queen's University of Belfast's Officer Training Corps.

Dropping through the letterboxes at Buckingham Palace and Gatcombe Park shortly will be a wedding invitation from Prince Philip’s former equerry Lt Col Richard Maundrell, a Grenadier Guards officer.

Richard, 47, known as Tricky to pals, has proposed to Scots beauty Lucy Cameron of Lochiel, 32.

She is a goddaughter of Princess Anne and works for a specialist travel company for Chinese tourists, after spending three years there.

Lucy’s sister, Catherine, was a bridesmaid at Prince Charles’s marriage to Lady Diana Spencer and Richard worked at the Duke of Edinburgh’s right hand for three years until 2009.

Says a friend: ‘He is tall and handsome and will leave a lot of broken hearts behind.’ 

A popular figure in the Royal Household, Maundrell, then a mere major, was invited to spend summers at Balmoral where he became a dab hand at barbecuing.

Adds the pal: ‘Despite his nickname, he isn’t the least bit tricky.’

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

New Blog

The National Trust Strangford Lough Group has started a new blog. It is called Mud, Sweat and Volunteers.

Craig, Hugh and the team are amongst the most dedicated and diligent people I know.

I've been involved in a voluntary capacity with the Trust for a number of years myself.

It's a terrific opportunity to get out into the great outdoors; see some wonderful and beautiful locations; unique islands on Strangford Lough; and meet fellow volunteers.

Schoolhouse Bash

We had our informal Christmas party this afternoon at the Old Schoolhouse, the National Trust Strangford Lough Group's GHQ at Mount Stewart, County Down.

The former estate schoolhouse directly overlooks Strangford Lough; Portaferry Road is a mere several yards in front.

The Gothic style windows are mainly original, though there is secondary glazing.

There must have been about fifteen of us altogether.

Phil kindly brought a home-made game pie; Anna, delicious home-made ginger cake; while I brought some salad, coleslaw, mustard dip and cocktail sausages. Rosie and Nick brought vol-au-vents; while others supplied various nibbles.

There was plenty for all of us. Many of us were driving, so I stayed off the Devil's Brew.

After the grub, some of us retired to the sitting-room, where we had a natter.

I managed to fill two sacks of logs in the yard to bring home.

8th Earl of Belmore


The 8th Earl of Belmore succeeded his father, the 7th Earl, when he was nine years old.

Although the title is officially registered as the Earl Belmore (without the "of"), it is thought that this was an historical discrepancy, since Belmore is a place.

Lord and Lady Belmore live at  Castle Coole estate, near Enniskillen in County Fermanagh.

In fact they live close to the great mansion house itself, at the Garden House within the grounds.

Lady Belmore is a daughter of the 6th Earl of Clanwilliam.

I recall Lord Clanwilliam, whose seat was then Montalto House near Ballynahinch in County Down: he was, I think, the president of the Scout Association in the county and Lord-Lieutenant. Lady Belmore would be familiar with Montalto.

One of Lord Belmore's sisters, Lady Anthea Forde, lives at Seaforde House in County Down.

Lord and Lady Belmore have three children: the eldest son and heir John, Viscount Corry (below); the Hon Montagu Lowry-Corry; and Lady Martha Lowry-Corry.

Lord Belmore's interests include fishing and fine art.

Castle Coole was completely restored by the National Trust in September, 1987, at a total cost of £3.07 million. It was officially re-opened in 1988 by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

First published in August, 2008.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Fulton's Closure

I am saddened to learn of the imminent closure of Fulton's fine furniture retailers in Belfast.

I, personally, shall miss their in-store restaurant, the Hawthorne.

The company, which is best known for its 60,000 sq ft showroom on Belfast's Boucher Road, was placed into administration in July.

The administrators said they had received "a number of serious approaches from interested parties".

However, it said it had not been able to reach a deal.

It was stated that while the business had been trading successfully in administration that could not continue indefinitely without a new owner,

What is described as a "managed wind down" will now take place over the next few months.

The administrators said new orders will be taken until 17 December and all existing orders will be fulfilled.

All floor stock has now been reduced.

Fulton's employs a total of 45 people who can now expect to lose their jobs.

The business began in Lurgan over 50 years ago and there is still a Fulton's shop in the town.

It opened a Belfast operation in 1991 and moved to its new purpose-built premises in 2006.

The furniture and homeware sector in Northern Ireland has suffered in the recession with several local retailers going out of business.

The Wee Nook

One of the rooms at Belmont GHQ today, with a cheery little fire.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Portavogie Scampi

Sawers' battered Portavogie scampi, chunky chips, onion rings and garnish.

Spent Cartridge

... another one bites the dust.

Netherhall House


The Lord Kelvin was one of Ulster's most distinguished sons. I have written about him here.

His new wealth afforded him the opportunity to purchase land in Ayrshire, in 1874, on which he planned to create a fine mansion house.

Soon after his second marriage, Sir William Thomson ~ later elevated to the peerage as Baron Kelvin ~ built his new home, Netherhall House, at Largs, Ayrshire.

The mansion house was largely designed by Thomson himself at a cost of £12,000, and was in the Scottish-baronial style.

It has now been converted into apartments.


True to Thomson's love of progress, Netherhall was one of the first houses in the area to be fitted with electric light.

His association with Largs extended over fifty years as a holiday resort and he was well known throughout the district.

The relationship between Lord Kelvin and the local community often proved a close one. It was here, in his beloved Largs, that he would eventually pass away at the age of 83 on December 17, 1907.

It was decided that he should rest "with so many of the other illustrious sons of Britain" in Westminster Abbey.

He was buried in Westminster Abbey, with national honours, on the 23rd December, 1907, next to Sir Isaac Newton's tomb.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Military Appointments

Buckingham Palace

7th December, 2012

THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following Honorary appointments in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces:-

Admiral His Royal Highness THE PRINCE OF WALES, KG, KT, GCB, OM, AK, QSO, ADC, as Admiral of the Fleet.

General His Royal Highness THE PRINCE OF WALES, KG, KT, GCB, OM, AK, QSO, ADC, as Field Marshal.

Air Chief Marshal His Royal Highness THE PRINCE OF WALES, KG, KT, GCB, OM, AK, QSO, ADC, as Marshal of the Royal Air Force.

(To be dated 16 June 2012)

THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following Honorary appointment in Her Majesty’s Army:

Charles Ronald Llewellyn, General THE LORD GUTHRIE OF CRAIGIEBANK, GCB, LVO, OBE, DL, as Field Marshal.

(To be dated 16 June 2012)

Westminster Abbey


I'm plugging another mini-series which starts this evening on BBC2 and BBC HD at 9pm; and I am not receiving a penny for it, either.

Westminster Abbey. Or, to accord the venerable place its full name, The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, a royal peculiar, viz. it comes under the jurisdiction of the Sovereign.

The programme features interviews with members of the 250 staff who oversee the Abbey’s spiritual mission, to ensure the upkeep of a World Heritage site and coordinate 1,500 services a year.

These services range from regular daily worship to high-profile events like royal weddings, revealing the Abbey’s iconic role at the heart of national life.

The Lady Chapel, top, contains the banners and stalls of the knights grand cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

The first programme features the Dean, The Very Rev Dr John Hall, who describes its thousand-year history, its intimate relationship with the monarchy, and its status as a Royal Peculiar - and offers an insight into its spiritual life.

The programme follows the architect Ptolemy Dean as he is installed as the latest Surveyor of the Fabric, treading in the footsteps of Sir Christopher Wren.

We gain an insight into the often unusual daily life of the 30 boy choristers who attend the Abbey's choir school, as they rehearse and perform in moving musical events.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Spaghetti Bolognese

A fresh Spaghetti Bolognese, made mainly with large mushrooms, plum tomatoes, minced steak, Parmesan cheese, and garlic.

Timothy Belmont has devoured it, with nose-bag firmly affixed; and it was superb.

Christmas Cards

Beneath the Snow Encumbered Branches by Joseph Farquharson, 1901  

What rotten weather! I haven't ventured outside at all today, except to fetch a few logs.

It has been a most opportune time to get stuck in to the Christmas card list, viz. printing address labels, writing cards and all the usual paraphernalia.

I prefer traditional Christmas cards. The National Trust used to sell classic ones, with pictures of their country houses thereon, twenty or thirty winters ago; though now, alas, they appear to be contemporary.

I like pastoral scenes, too, like the card above which I bought in 2011.

Why, on earth, don't they make more use of their wonderful properties, by having them on cards?

I no longer purchase my cards from the Trust; though I'll certainly change my policy if they reintroduce country house cards. 

I cycled into town yesterday, dismounted at Fountain Street, and hand-delivered a card to the Lord Mayor at City Hall.

Thence, I made a bee-line for the Linenhall Library, where I researched the Nicholsons of Balrath Bury; the Knoxes of Creagh; and the Bennetts of Thomastown Park.

I have today moved my main computer and printer into a south-facing room upstairs ~ no more chill factor! That is the intention, at least.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Royal Pregnancy

It has been announced today that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting a baby.

Members of the royal family and Her Royal Highness's family, the Middletons, are said to be delighted.

A spokesman said HRH has been admitted to King Edward VII Hospital in central London with very acute morning sickness and is expected to stay for several days.

The royal infant will be born third in line and in direct succession to the throne.

He or she will one day be head of the armed forces, supreme governor of the Church of England and head of the Commonwealth, and subsequently head of state of 16 countries.

The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron MP, wrote on Twitter that he was "delighted by the news", adding: "They will make wonderful parents."

Lord Belmont is delighted to hear such wonderful news and naturally wishes Their Royal Highnesses most cordial congratulations on a truly joyful occasion.

Flight-Lieutenant Wales

The Daily Telegraph reports that The Duke of Cambridge, KG, KT, might leave the Royal Air Force in 2013 and return to the Household Cavalry, in order that he can fulfil more royal duties.

Flight-Lieutenant William Wales, as he is known in the armed forces, is second in line to the throne. HRH is presently on secondment from The Blues & Royals. His Royal Highness will decide by the end of this month whether to sign up for four more years with the RAF, in which he serves as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot in North Wales. The role involves a strict flying rota, which would make taking on more royal duties very difficult.

“William knows that, once he becomes a full-time working royal, there is no turning back,” says one source. “That is why a switch to another of the Armed Forces is seriously being considered. It will allow him the life he loves while freeing him for more royal duties – a sort of happy compromise.”

Were Prince William to return to the Household Cavalry, in which he served with the Blues and Royals as a troop commander in an armoured reconnaissance unit in 2006, he would be based at London or Windsor.

Members of his household begin moving to his apartments at Kensington Palace later this month.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Kettyle Success

I enjoyed a rasher of Kettyle back bacon this morning with my wholemeal toast and it was superb; sublime; sumptuous.

Now one cannot say fairer than that.

This is the first occasion that I have consumed Kettyle bacon. I'm wondering if their streaky variety crisps well in the microwave oven, were it to be stretched.

Quite frankly, it's so much easier to cook streaky bacon in the microwave and thin rashers crisp up wonderfully

Full marks to Maurice Kettyle, of Lisnakea, County Fermanagh; a great Ulster success story, especially having achieved a contract with a leading Dutch supermarket chain.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Killynether Coppicing

Yet another terrific day was spent by fifteen or twenty of us today at Killynether Wood, near Scrabo, County Down.

We were coppicing an area which was last coppiced eight years ago; hence re-growth has been successful.

We were joined today by some experienced coppicing woodsmen and others.

There was a fair amount of logs, so we all shared them and brought them home for fires.

I had the usual cheese & onion sandwiches today.

We are having an informal Christmas party at the Old School-house later in December; and Phil has generously offered to provide a game pie, complete with guinea-fowl and rabbit.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Sir Mark Horner

The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of Knighthood be conferred upon Thomas Mark Horner Esq, QC, on his appointment as a Justice of the High Court in Northern Ireland.

The Honourable Mr Justice Horner was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1979 and took Silk in 1996.

Mr Justice Horner was a Bursar of the Bar Library and Chairman of the Personnel Committee with responsibility for, respectively, overseeing the Bar Library’s finances and staffing.

From 2008, until his appointment to High Court Judge, Mr Justice Horner was an Independent Assessor for Compensation in victims’ cases in relation to miscarriages of justice.

Additionally, from 1996, he has been a Governor of Campbell College where he has been involved in the Curriculum and Pastoral Committee.

Glorious Goodwood

One programme I am determined to view this evening is a documentary about Charles, Earl of March and Kinrara, and the challenges he faces in the maintenance of his ancestral seat, Goodwood House, near Chichester, West Sussex.

The Aristocrats is on Channel 4 this evening at 9pm.

Lord March is heir to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon.

Charles, 1st Duke of Richmond, 1st Duke of Lennox, 1st Duke of Aubigny (1672-1723) was the natural son of CHARLES II and his mistress Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth.

The trouble is that it clashes with two other programmes I've been watching, Goodnight Britain and Great Continental Railway Journeys, which I shall have to record simultaneously.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Gibb's Revisited

Five or six of us spent another glorious day at Gibb's Island today.

We were burning the reminder of the gorse. The task is now largely complete.

Lunch for a contented Timothy Belmont was chicken & bacon sandwiches, washed down with a flask of tea.

Royal Photos

 Picture: Carl Court/PA

The state arrival and welcoming of the Emir or Amir of Kuwait at Windsor Castle yesterday.

The Prince Philip, wearing a heavy, black, double-breasted, Chesterfield overcoat, top hat and carrying a Swaine Adeney umbrella ~ with its distinctive silver band  ~ escorted the Emir of Kuwait to inspect the guard of honour lined up in two rows in front of the royal party.

I wrote about my umbrella collection here.

Picture: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images 

The Sovereign's escort provided by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in their breastplates and plumed helmets.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Killynether Copse


Coppicing involves cutting the trees right down to the stump at ground level.  If done correctly, rather than killing the tree, this can actually encourage fresh regrowth and actually extend the lifespan of the tree.

But more importantly, it temporarily opens up the canopy and allows light to reach the forest floor, which benefits a great deal of woodland plants and insects.

It is a traditional method of woodland management that our volunteer group has spent the last 8 years recreating at Killynether.

This year, the National Trust Volunteer Group will be joined by some crafts-people who will show us the techniques they use to harvest some of the hazel to use in their crafts.   

The Group will meet at the Killynether car park (round the corner from Scrabo country park) at 10am.

Contact Craig McCoy on 07776 462537 for any further details.

Charles Eager McDowell, 1923-2012

I am greatly saddened to learn of the death of my first cousin, once removed, Rear-Admiral Charles Eager McDowell, US Navy (retired), on Sunday morning, 25th November, 2012.

My cousin Charles was born at Manchester, New Hampshire, on 9th September, 1923.

He lived for a large part of his life at Alexandria, Virginia.

He served as  Judge Advocate-General of the US Navy from 1978-80.


Since the 2nd December, 2007, visits to Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland stand at 1,000,166.

The one million mark was passed early today, Tuesday, the 27th November, 2012.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Countdown: IV

500 hits more and the target of one million will have been surpassed.

Kuwaiti State Visit

His Highness Sheikh Sabah IV bin Ahmad Al-Sabah, Emir of the State of Kuwait, will pay a state visit to the United Kingdom tomorrow:

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Morning - The Amir of the State of Kuwait is accompanied to Windsor by The Prince of Wales on behalf of The Queen. 

Afternoon – The Amir will be met by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal Dais in Datchet Road, Windsor, and take a State Carriage Procession to Windsor Castle where The Amir and The Duke of Edinburgh will inspect the Guard of Honour; luncheon and exchange of official gifts and viewing of an exhibition of Kuwaiti items from the Royal Collection. 
Evening - Visit to Sandhurst; call at Windsor Castle by the Leader of the Opposition; call at Windsor Castle by the Convenor of the Liberal Democrat Peers; State Banquet hosted by The Queen.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Morning - Visit to Clarence House; Visit to Lancaster House. 

Afternoon - Meeting and Lunch at No. 10 Downing Street. 
Evening - Presentation of an Address of Welcome and Banquet at Guildhall.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Morning – The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh bid farewell to The Amir of the State of Kuwait at Windsor Castle; Visit to Westminster Abbey; Address at the Palace of Westminster.

Lobster Pot Appeal



I have read with much interest your commentary on the old LP. My first visit to the LP was in or around 1974. My father (a publican) had sold some items from an old pub he owned in Belfast to another publican.

The purchaser was the owner of the LP; probably at that time Seamus McMorrow. Some weeks later my father bundled us into his Austin 1800 and we headed to Strangford to enjoy a Sunday lunch. It was the first of many visits.

For the next thirty years members of my extended family made many visits. During my frequent summer holidays in Cloughy I would travel with friends to Strangford (packed in like sardines in an old VW Beetle) to indulge in a generous portion of battered scampi.The memories run deep.

Since then I am reliably informed the bar has stayed open two days a week to protect the license. No food is served.

Travelling in Strangford's general direction last month I decided to take a detour. I found the Pot in a sorry state.

Reflecting on the past and finding a pair of rose tinted glasses in a drawer at home I decided to buy it. We expect to close the purchase during December. Having a daughter in the catering business who is keen to take on something new I thought what the heck it's only money. I think my father would be delighted.

Given the substantial renovations, the patina of the old Pot is long gone. Alas, the days of the crisp white table cloth, the inch thick A4 size menu and bulging wine cellar are to a large degree extinct (unless you are after a Michelin star). 

Casual dining using fresh local ingredients is the prevailing mantra.

We can't bring the old LP back but I like to think we can instil in those working in it some of the excellent qualities for which it was previously renowned. The aim is to provide good wholesome food, a friendly and courteous welcome, attention to detail and reasonable prices.

I hope over the next few months to reconstruct some of the Pot's history.

Anything you can provide in that regard would be appreciated. Perhaps you could send the message out to those you have had responses from asking for their memories. Perhaps they will have photos stashed away somewhere.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Countdown: III

We are 1,600 short of the one million mark, judging by StatCounter.

The current prediction is that 1,000,000 shall be reached by Tuesday, 27th November, 2012.

Breakfast Cereals

The vast array of breakfast cereals currently available simply does not enthuse me at all. There appears to be a vast proliferation of every conceivable kind.

My preferred choice of breakfast ~ with the exception of a full, cooked British breakfast  ~ remains wholemeal buttered toast with home-made marmalade, honey or crispy bacon.

I like an Ulster speciality, the "plain" loaf, viz.  high-fibre Nutty Krust. This is a true Ulster-Scots tradition.

I had a fondness for honey and nut bran flakes, now no longer available in Northern Ireland. Apparently they are not sufficiently popular.

I like Alpen original muesli. though there are too many currants or hard raisins for my liking.

I feel that standard corn-flakes and honey nut corn-flakes lack nutritional value.

I have tried other cereals, though so far nothing has appealed to me.

The Lobster Pot




HERE HE GOES again, I hear you groaning. Timothy Belmont has wandered down Memory Lane and dived into the pond of Nostalgia. I'm permitted a spot of nostalgia now and again.

Heaven knows how many gallons of gin I have consumed since the mid-seventies; a fair amount of it within the walls of the revered Lobster Pot in the picturesque village of Strangford, County Down. 

Those were the days indeed. A perfect day started with the sun rising and waking me from my slumber very early on a Saturday or Sunday at Castle Ward.

Our boat, the Dolphin, was ship-shape and ready for action. The tide was right and a day was spent on Strangford Lough, the sea as calm as a mill-pond, perhaps visiting an island and having an Ulster Fry or fillet steak - from Duffy the butcher - whilst basking in the sunshine.

Incidentally, the Hon William and Mrs Ward (now the Viscount and Viscountess Bangor [Sarah Bradford]) beat us to it, on one occasion, by buying a whole fillet of beef, thereby leaving young Duffy with nothing. They were served just before us in the shop.

Evenings were invariably spent in the Lobster Pot. Here are some memories of that wonderful place:-
  • Driving down in our Mums' Minis, with petrol costing 70 pence a gallon
  • Celebrating exam results in the lounge-bar
  • The lounge-bar was carpeted, with brown or blue velour buttoned banquettes lining the walls and down the centre too, crescent-shaped
  • Memorabilia on the walls like stuffed game-birds in cabinets, a ship's wheel, port and starboard lights, a lobster-pot, lifebelts
  • A telly high up in a corner & inconspicuous
  • Spirits served in french-style wine glasses
  • Really large, fresh scampi - langoustines - & chips cost £3.65; tartare sauce in minute, sealed plastic packs but...
  • In the Dining-room sauces were served in stainless-steel dishes with spoons
  • A grand a la carte menu enclosed within a leather padded A4-size folder
  • The main menu was exhaustive in terms of choice; vegetables ranged from asparagus tips to sweetcorn or cauliflower, fresh peas, sauté mushrooms, leeks - almost everything
  • The main dining-room was at the front and a second one was at the rear
  • Great staff like Ann the head waitress and Jim the bar manager, both defecting to the rival across the Square when Walter became Mine Host
  • Two pretty waitresses in the bar in 1976 when I was sixteen and I fancied Julie. I sent her a Valentine card and addressed the envelope to "Julie the Sensuous Barmaid". Julie, if you're reading this now you know the secret; I know it's been preying on your mind for thirty years (!)
  • The Chicken Maryland was great; my favourite dinner was scampi, french-fried potatoes, french-fried onion rings, asparagus tips, perhaps sauté mushrooms too
  • We ate in the main dining-room occasionally; it was a toss-up between the LP or Aldo's in Ardglass (the late Samuel (Sammy) Crooks, a former Dean of Belfast, always recalled Aldo's green curtains!).
The Lobster Pot closed down in September, 2008. Here is an official Notice.

I have written about our last meal here.

It is inconceivable that the Lobster Pot's doors shall remain closed for good.

Recent owners, Messrs Johnson, McMorrow & Dabbernig excluded, have spent a small fortune in gutting out and dumping any vestiges of the original restaurant, which was renowned as being one of the most successful establishments in County Down during the 1970s and 1980s.

To my mind, it was a fundamental error of judgement to do this. Whilst it may have needed some minor redecoration, new upholstery and paintwork in keeping with its ambiance, it was foolish to spend money gutting the heart out of the dear old girl.

They may as well have changed the name. Her heart was mercilessly ripped out, thus making her utterly unrecognisable and a faint shadow of her former glory.

The Lobster Pot was never the same, to me, as a consequence of this action. It thrived in the safe hands of Dr Johnston in the sixties; and Seamus McMorrow during the seventies and eighties.

Things changed during the nineties, and I believe the Lobster Pot was never the same again.

I deplore the fate of the Lobster Pot, because I cared about it and still hold many happy memories of former times spent there with friends and family. 

I have such wonderful memories of the old place as it used to be.

First published in 2008.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Peaceful weekend

I stayed with friends at Ballyclare, County Antrim, last night. We enjoyed Thai cuisine ~ home-made scallop and prawn curry ~  wine and convivial company.

This evening I am at home, catching up on a few recorded programmes. I am minded to watch The Wolfman on Channel 4, which was partly filmed at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Countdown: II

Visitor numbers stand at 996,000 as I type. The One Million mark shall be attained within five days.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Pizza Etiquette

reported in the Daily Telegraph that Debrett's launched a new Guide to Modern Etiquette [or dining in pizza restaurants!].

In a world of ever-changing standards, a Debrett’s guide to etiquette could be considered the last bastion of old-fashioned social decorum.

So it may be with some bemusement that readers behold their newest guide, on how best to eat with your fingers.

The list of modern “dos and don'ts” declares our “more informal times” mean it is now “acceptable” to eat with the hands rather than silverware.

Table manners “are no longer about adhering to a rigid, and outdated, code of conduct”, it proclaims, with the use of a knife and fork no longer an essential part of dining.

The guide, which includes a ten-point plan to eating with fingers, is a marked departure from previous guidance from Debrett’s, which emphasised the proper use of cutlery in polite company.

Jo Bryant, etiquette adviser at Debrett’s, has now insisted table manners do “exist for guidance”, but should not impact unnecessarily on the enjoyment of dining with family and friends.

The new guide, published today, states: “In our more informal times, it is acceptable to eat certain foods - such as pizza and calzone - with you hands.”

It goes on to explain the aim should be to create “as little mess as possible”, with food cut into manageable pieces and sufficiently cool.

“When eating with your hands it can be tempting to hunch over your plate,” it states. “Try to sit up straight, don't intrude into your neighbour's space and never put your elbows on the table.”

Critically, it stipulates diners must take “plenty of small bites”, with any food spilling down on the plate being dealt with using a fork.

Don’t pick it up with your fingers,” the guide warns.

According to the new rules, which concentrate on Italian cuisine, diners should make use of napkins, placing it on the lap to ensure clothes remain pristine.

“Wipe your hands as you need to; but remember it's likely to be a bit messy. If your hands get food on them, try to avoid licking your fingers clean.”

Other pitfalls, such as getting food on the lips, should be dealt with in a discrete “dabbing” motion rather than “grand wiping gestures”.

In a point which would no doubt appear obvious to Debrett’s regular customers, it specifies: “Never wipe your mouth with your hand or talk with your mouth full - even if you have a conversational gem up your sleeve.”

The final point of the guide to modern table manners states:

“Eating with your hands is a relaxed and convivial style of dining, but don't let your standards slip. Remember your manners and, above all, never use your phone at the table.”
Jo Bryant, etiquette adviser at Debrett's, said:

"The British traditionally use a knife and fork when tucking into most meals. But the influence of other cultures and new foods, such as Calzone, means eating with our hands is a growing trend.Table manners are no longer about adhering to a rigid, and outdated, code of conduct. They exist for guidance but shouldn't take away from the pleasure of sharing a meal."

Debrett's traditionally prides itself on being “the modern authority on all matters etiquette, taste and achievement”, “recognising people of distinction and the finer things in life”.

The latest guidelines, which are to be published in Pizza Express restaurants nationwide, will join more traditional publications including the A-Z of Modern Manners, Etiquette for Girls and Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage.