Thursday, 31 May 2012

Royal Visit to NI

The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, will visit Northern Ireland as part of the Diamond Jubilee tour of the United Kingdom.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will visit Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, and Belfast on 26th and 27th June.

Further details of the programme will be confirmed in due course.

During their visit to Enniskillen, HM and HRH will be accompanied by the Lord-Lieutenant for County Fermanagh, the Earl of Erne KCVO, who retires the following month.

In 1952, Lord Erne was briefly a Page of Honour to GEORGE VI and continued as such under ELIZABETH II until 1954.

On a personal note, I'd only wish to add that the royal visit to County Fermanagh is a wonderful tribute to the county and particularly to Lord Erne, who has given such admirable and sterling service as Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant for a quarter of a century.

Jubilee Service

Hello magazine reports that when The Queen walks into St Paul's Cathedral for the thanksgiving service on the fourth day of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Her Majesty will be preceded by those who will carry on her work.

Accompanying the Sovereign and the Duke of Edinburgh down the aisle will be The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Henry of Wales.

The Queen has decided that the focus of the service should be on the accession.

Other members of the royal family, including The Princess Royal and The Earl and Countess of Wessex, will not join the procession and will have less prominent roles in the other events of the Jubilee weekend.

Nevertheless they will be in the congregation, along with forty members of the Royal Family taking their seats before the The Queen's entrance.

A spokesman for the Cathedral said:

"The decisions on the order of service began with the Palace and we were told that the theme should be about the accession rather than the coronation." 

Clergymen accompanying the royal procession down the aisle will include the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London, who gave the sermon at Prince William's wedding.

During the proceedings, the Prime Minister will read from the New Testament, on the theme of duty and sacrifice.

Prayers will be read by a number of inspirational young people, and are to be led by the Rev Jason Rendell, a Minor Canon of St Paul's. They will give thanks for the "lifelong service of Her Majesty".

Beginning at 9.50am:-

Members of the Royal family arrive at St Paul's Cathedral

10.28am: A fanfare is sounded as The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh arrive. They walk down the aisle, following the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Henry of Wales.

The Bidding: The Dean of St Paul's welcomes the congregation, who then join the Lord's Prayer.

Hymn: All People That On Earth Do Well

Old Testament reading: Proverbs 8: 1,6-12 read by the Rt Rev Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor

New Testament reading: Romans 12: 1-18, read by the Rt Hon David Cameron MP

The Sermon: Given by the Archbishop of Canterbury


Hymn: O Praise Ye The Lord

The Collect: Given by the Bishop of London

Hymn: Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer

The Blessing: Given by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Family Lineage

I cycled into town today, spending most of my time at the Linenhall Library, Donegall Square North.

I was researching the Lefroys of Carrigglas Manor, and the Bellingham Baronets, of The Castle, Castlebellingham.

The lineages of these families are quite remarkable.

I shall be featuring them in forthcoming County Landowner series, viz. Longford and Louth.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Gift to The Queen

The Earl of Belmont considers it most desirous that the Northern Ireland Executive presents an appropriate gift on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland to Her most gracious Majesty The Queen, on the occasion of Her Majesty's diamond jubilee.

Good Deed

Timothy Belmont has been working like a pit bull terrier today, thrashing away at my aunt's garden in leafy south Belfast.

My dear uncle passed away recently and I promised her I'd tidy up the garden.

Methinks I shall use the rest of the chicken this evening, for a risotto.

Belmont's exercise today: Cycle to gym and back; gardening for three hours at my aunt's; sixty length swim tonight.

Satisfied, readers?  Ha ha!

Monday, 28 May 2012

New Thistle Knight

 25 May 2012

The Queen has been pleased to appoint His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, KG, to be a Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle.

Appointments to the Order of the Thistle are entirely in the personal gift of The Queen and are not made on the advice of the Prime Minister, as are most other Honours.

The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle represents the highest honour in Scotland.

Revived by King James VII, the Order has a complement of 16 Knights (KT).

In 1987, The Queen decided that ladies should be eligible for the Thistle in the same way as men.

The Motto of the Order is Nemo Me Impune Lacessit (No one provokes me with impunity).

Sunday, 27 May 2012

British Pride

This is the year to celebrate proudly our achievements and the Diamond Jubilee of our Most Excellent Majesty QUEEN ELIZABETH II.

This is the year to celebrate our great heritage and common identity which binds together the Kingdom.

Let us rejoice when the Olympic Games take place in our great metropolis, London.

On this theme, Timothy Belmont enjoyed a dinner of Coronation Chicken, home made in the Belmont kitchen, followed by strawberries and cream.

Dunnyneill Islands

Dunnyneill Islands are located in southern Strangford Lough, close to the village of Killyleagh, County Down. The Dunnyneill Islands consist of the main island (measuring 100 yards in diameter) and a second, smaller island linked by a short stone causeway.

Island Taggart lies to the north-west of Dunnyneill Islands.

Laura Burns of BBC NI has produced the story.

Excavations on Dunnyneill have revealed a 7th century "trading emporium" frequented by merchants from as far afield as modern day Russia, Germany, Iceland and France.

Back in early medieval times, there was no cash economy, few buyers, and even fewer sellers, but there are surprising parallels between these ancient trading outposts and modern shopping centres.

Dunnyneil Island

According to the archaeologist Dr Philip MacDonald, who led a dig on Dunnyneill, merchants would have brought wine and other luxury products to Ulster to exchange at emporia for furs, seal skin, slaves and famed Irish wolfhounds.

"High status members of the Dal Fiatach [the local dynasty whose royal centre was Downpatrick, County Down] and local traders, would have frequented the island," he said.

In medieval times, the king controlled trade and wealthy merchants travelled the seas to buy and sell goods. The trade in imported prestige items would have been important for the king of Dal Fiatach, to signify his status and power.

"This little speck of an island had a very high significance to the wealth of the Ulster Kingdom," explains Tom McErlean from the Centre for Maritime Archaeology.

"Dal Fiatach, or the Kingdom of Ulster, was a great maritime kingdom. It was fairly cosmopolitan with connections all around the North Sea."

The particular kind of pottery found at Dunnyneill is evidence that luxury goods were imported in some quantity from the continent.

"Dunnyneill played a big role in creating their wealth … [it] would have been a profitable stopping point for foreign wine merchants. The Irish kings valued wine very much. There was a big market for wine here. It would be very much worthwhile," said McErlean.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Viva Europa!

Well I've been incommunicado for twenty-four hours. I have been with good friends at the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

I enjoyed a most hearty breakfast of bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, baked beans, potato bread, soda bread and mushrooms; orange juice; and plenty of tea.

We had modest refreshers in a city centre bar and I introduced my pals to Sawers delicatessen in College Street.

We had coffee in the lovely sunshine at an establishment called Caffe Nero at the corner of Fountain Street.

Later we had a few snifters at a well-known bar in Howard Street, outside in the warm sunshine.

The day concluded with a final snifter or two on the Lobby Bar of the Europa, whilst listening to a lively jazz quartet.

Friday, 25 May 2012


Today has been spent attending my uncle's funeral. A service of thanksgiving was given at St John's parish church, Malone; followed by a reception at Shaw's Bridge club-house.

The Right Rev Edward Darling officiated at the church service and my cousin gave a splendid eulogy.

My late uncle was a man with a very wide circle of friends, many of whom went to RBAI - INST.

St John's is one of those churches which seems to be a stepping-stone for many clergy towards higher offices, viz. the Archbishop of Armagh, the Bishop of Limerick, the Dean of Belfast to name but a few.

I motored over in the two-seater, hence remained teetotal for the duration.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Royal Card


A card I received today from Buckingham Palace, on the occasion of Her Most Gracious Majesty's Diamond Jubilee and Accession to the Throne on the 6th February, 1952.

It shall have pride of place on the mantelpiece.

God Save The Queen.

HM at The Royal Academy

Twenty-Four Dame Commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire were among hundreds of people from the arts world who attended a Diamond Jubilee celebration at the Royal Academy of Arts. Rear from left, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Dame Kiri te Kanawa, Dame Jillian Sackler, Dame Vivien Duffield, Dame Liz Forgan, Dame Emma Kirkby. Middle from left, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Dame Janet Suzman, Dame Diana Rigg, Dame Harriet Walter, Dame Gail Rebuck, Dame Rosalind Savill, Dame Joan Bakewell, Dame Felicity Lott. Front from left, Dame Shirley Bassey, Dame Beryl Grey, Dame Penelope Lively, Dame Antonia Byatt, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright, Dame Antonia Fraser, Dame Fanny Waterman, Dame Janet Baker, Dame Gillian Weir.

The Queen visited the Royal Academy of Arts on Wednesday 23 May. On arrival, Her Majesty was met by the Presidents of the Royal Academy of Arts, Dance, Music and Dramatic Art.

 Her Majesty proceeded to the Weston Gallery, where she heard citations from David Hockney, Matthew Bourne, Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Kiri te Kanawa and Sir Jonathan Ive to outstanding students.

The Queen presented Diamond Jubilee Awards for those who have made a special contribution to national culture. She toured the Galleries where she met artists, musicians, and the Awards’ benefactors before departing the Royal Academy.

Poignant Week

The week for Timothy Belmont has been one blending poignancy with the uplifting phenomenon of fine, sunny weather, cycling into town, mowing the front lawn and the greatly-loved swimming.

I receive the final blast of that remarkable stuff, viz. liquid nitrogen, this afternoon on the moribund verruca. Whoopee!

Tomorrow I attend my dear uncle's funeral.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

My Onoto Pen

Amongst the many and various pens I possess, one of my favourites is the Onoto. I think it dates from the 1930s. It belonged to my father.

 It writes beautifully. It has an unusual plunger filling system which I've had repaired in 2003, by sending it to two pen specialists.

I have a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck 149 fountain pen and ball-point; but my lovely, little Onoto has a special place in my heart. There's an image of it here.

First published in 2008.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Duchess of Gloucester in Belfast

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester attended the “Hope for Youth Northern Ireland” Gala Ball at Belfast City Hall, on Monday evening, 21st May, 2012.

Upon arrival HRH was greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, Dame Mary Peters DBE, and went on to meet Alderman Ruth Patterson, Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman May Campbell, Sheriff of the County Borough of Belfast and Mr Ion Montgomery, Chairman Hope for Youth Northern Ireland.

Upstairs, in the Great Hall, HRH met a number of Trustees and friends of the Hope for Youth Charity over pre-dinner drinks. Background music was provided by Ms Patricia Tracey.

Later Her Royal Highness, accompanied by the Deputy Lord Mayor, proceeded to the Lady Mayoress's Parlour and accepted an invitation from the Deputy Lord Mayor to sign the visitors’ book.

Returning to the Great Hall for dinner, HRH listened to a few words of welcome from the Deputy Lord Mayor and, prior to Grace, heard a brief overview of the Hope for Youth Charity from Mr Montgomery.

HRH departed following the Loyal Toast, bringing the engagement to a close.

Three Candlesticks

Given that the highly esteemed position of PRIVATE SECRETARY TO THE EARL OF BELMONT is presently vacant (!), and that I am compelled to fulfil the duties myself, I have experienced a spot of difficulty with the old printing.

More specifically, Getting the smart printer-cum-scanner-cum-copier to behave appropriately, when it comes to doing what it is instructed to do.

For thirty years or more, I have been using Three Candlesticks writing-paper. At least thirty summers ago I received a letter from the Hon Desmond Guinness. I noticed the distinctive water-mark on the heavily-laid paper, viz. the three candlesticks.

The envelope was similar and had the added distinction of being lined with tissue-paper.

This Timothy Belmont appreciated.

Hence I have been using headed Three Candlesticks note-paper ever since. The snag is that the dimensions of the paper are unusual and the printer, even with custom settings, misbehaves to the extent that several sheets of the aforementioned paper have been wasted.

The margins are the problem. I tell it to begin an inch - three centimetres if you speak European - from the left and it begins three inches away.

As a consequence of this tiresome exercise I have brought down the honourable electric typewriter. I've decided to use this instead for my Three Candlesticks.

Incidentally, I am seeking ways of generating a little income from the blog, hopefully in a dignified manner, which shall not compromise its integrity. 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Royal Visit to Canada

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall have arrived in Canada to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with the Canadian people.

The four-day trip is at the request of the Canadian Government.  It will take place from 20th to 23rd May and will see Their Royal Highnesses celebrate Victoria Day.

Canada has received frequent visits from its Royal Family in recent years. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their first overseas visit as a married couple to the country last summer; The Queen visited in 2010; The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited in November, 2009.

The Airbus jet arrived at Fredericton International Airport in the province of Brunswick in hazy summer sunshine.

Flying from the cockpit window, as the plane taxied to a stop, was His Royal Highness's new Canadian standard featuring the Prince of Wales's feathers and the maple leaf, the Commonwealth country's national symbol.

At the bottom of the plane's steps a line of regional dignitaries greeted TRH, who will receive an official welcome full of pomp and ceremony tomorrow at the Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

Prince Charles received an aboriginal welcome gift of sweetgrass, twisted strands of the plant, from Graydon Nicholas, Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick.

A military display of pomp and pageantry will be staged later today at Gagetown to welcome Their Royal Highnesses, who will later meet the families of Canadian servicemen killed on operations.

Later TRH will fly to Toronto, the second leg of their visit, where they will meet members of emergency services and their families to highlight the importance of service in communities, before watching the city's fireworks display in honour of Victoria Day.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Lord Belmont's Success

The blog is doing well and so far this year there have been 166,000 hits. The blog began in December, 2007 and we're on course for one million cumulative visits by the end of 2012.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

HMS Queen Elizabeth

It is the second biggest engineering project in the United Kingdom behind the Olympics, generates enough energy to power every home in Swindon and has been a topic of political debate for years - the building of Britain’s new aircraft carriers is continuing apace.

Lower Block 02 will be an integral part of the front of the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

 This week the aircraft carrier will take a key step towards completion, when Lower Block 02 is shipped 600 miles on a barge to Rosyth in Scotland, where the blocks of  Queen Elizabeth are being assembled in a dry dock. 

But, even on its own, Lower Block 02 is like nothing else in the Kingdom. It is 70 metres long and weighs 6,000 tons, making the giant Dauntless Building in which it is held look inadequate. From keel to masthead, Queen Elizabeth will be 19.5ft taller than Nelson’s Column. 

Alongside the giant section of the hull, the ship’s forward “island” is also taking shape. This will hold the Queen Elizabeth’s bridge, captain’s cabin and key navigation systems. 

Some 300 workers can be seen climbing over the blocks in these pictures taken over the last few months. The Queen Elizabeth is like a bee hive – its scale does no justice to the intricacy required to construct it, while inside the workers move between hundreds of compartments.

Construction is already so advanced that workers can walk through finished corridors and stand in the missile room, the engine room, and the crew’s accommodation. “It is a jigsaw puzzle coming together,” says Mr Bowsher.

The block was built in five parts around the ship’s engines and then welded together by highly skilled engineers over a 12-week period, often working upside down inside the vessel.

HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, will be three times larger than our Invincible Class Aircraft Carrier and, at 65,000 tons, will be the second biggest in the world behind America’s 90,000-ton Nimitz class.

10,000 British workers across six dockyards and three companies – BAE, the owner of the Portsmouth dockyard, Babcock International and the electronics group Thales – are building the ships.

The scale of the £7bn project means it has attracted significant political attention. The Government initially wanted to scrap the second ship to save money in the defence spending review and earlier this month made an about-turn on the type of aircraft that will be used by the carriers.

It decided to order the short take-off and vertical landing (Stovl) version of the F-35 joint strike fighter, rather than the carrier variant, which would have required costly electromagnetic equipment to help the planes launch and land – so-called “cats and traps” .

Friday, 18 May 2012

Royal Luncheon

The Queen has held luncheon at Windsor Castle for other royalty on the occasion of Her Majesty's diamond jubilee.

Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh greeted their guests personally when they arrived, patiently waiting outside the Waterloo Chamber, where the pre-lunch reception was held.

First to arrive was Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, soon followed by Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg.

The Grand Duke and Duchess were warmly greeted by the Queen and Duke with handshakes and double kisses - a display of affection that set the tone for many of the welcomes.

King Harald V of Norway kissed the Queens hand when he and his wife Queen Sonja met the monarch and she replied with a beaming smile.

Prince Albert II of Monaco was more formal with just a handshake while his wife Princess Charlene gave a low curtsey.

The most extravagant welcome came from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who flung open her arms as she approached the Queen before kissing her.

HM and HRH were accompanied at the lunch by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Henry of Wales and The Duke of York.

A British-inspired menu was prepared using many ingredients sourced locally, comprising,

  • Tartlet of poached egg with English asparagus
  • Windsor Lamb with braised potatoes, artichokes, peas, carrots, broad beans, cabbage, and a tomato and basil salad
  • Kent strawberries and vanilla Charlotte
  • Dessert 
  • Cheese 
The group photograph attendees were (front row, left to right):-
  • His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Japan
  • Her Majesty The Queen of the Netherlands
  • Her Majesty The Queen of Denmark
  • His Majesty The King of the Hellenes
  • His Majesty The King of Romania
  • The Queen's Most Excellent Majesty
  • His Majesty The King of Bulgarians
  • His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei
  • His Majesty The King of Sweden
  • His Majesty The King of Swaziland
  • His Highness The Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein. 
The middle row (Left to right):-
  • His Serene Highness The Prince of Monaco
  • His Royal Highness The Grand Duke of Luxembourg
  • His Majesty The King of Lesotho
  • His Majesty The King of the Belgians
  • His Majesty The King of Norway
  • His Highness The Emir of Qatar
  • His Majesty The King of Jordan
  • His Majesty The King of Bahrain
  • His Majesty The Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia
 The top row (left to right):-
  • His Highness Nasser Mohamed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait
  • His Highness the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
  • His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Yugoslavia
  • His Majesty The King of Tonga
  • His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Thailand
  • Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco 
  • His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia 

Lady Mairi Bronze

I am delighted to see that the bronze fountain, depicting the late Lady Mairi Bury, has been restored by the National Trust.

Lady Mairi was the youngest child of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Londonderry.

The fountain is in the formal gardens of Mount Stewart, on the Ards Peninsula, County Down, ancestral seat of the Londonderrys.

It is more than 80 years old and was modelled on Lady Mairi when she was a toddler.

The bronze is around two feet tall and has a number of water jets radiating from it.

The head gardener of the property, Neil Porteous, said it was commissioned in 1925 and put in place three years later.
"The gardeners built the plinth around which has Mary Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow. I think it is a lovely thing to have everything working in a garden, as it should do. It's perfect for kids to play in."
Lady Mairi died at Mount Stewart at the age of 88 in 2009.

Mr Porteous said much fun could be had when the jets in the fountain are turned up in warmer weather: "With the spring we have been having, people would be getting hypothermia if they got wet, but you can turn it right up on a sunny day just for a bit of fun," he said.

The 7th Marquess commissioned the famous sculptor Margaret Wrightson to design the work.

Lady Mairi fountain
Mr Porteous said her sculptures can be seen at locations all over the world, including Hyde Park in London. The water flow can be turned up in warmer weather for children to play in.

The fountain is rarely turned on, but Mr Porteous said it would be in full flow on Saturday during the annual craft fair.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

RVO Luncheon


A luncheon was held in Northern Ireland on the 13th February, 2012, for members of the Royal Victorian Order, at the Ulster Reform Club, Royal Avenue, Belfast.

Those attending included:-

The Lord O'Neill KCVO TD (lately Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim) - 4th from left

Sir William Hall KCVO  (lately Lord-Lieutenant of County Down) - 3rd from right

Julian King Esq CMG CVO  (lately HM Ambassador, Dublin; Director-General, NIO) - 5th from left

The Lady Carswell CVO (lately Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast) - front right

Eric Rainey Esq CVO MBE DL,   (lately Director, Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, NI) - 4th from right

Lady Moyra Campbell CVO  (Duke of Abercorn’s sister; Lady-in-Waiting to HM The Queen 1964-69), - front centre -   and

Commander Peter Campbell LVO OBE DL RN (Ret'd)   (Equerry to HM The Queen 1957-60) - 1st right

Jim McDonald Esq CBE LVO JP DL  (lately The Prince's Trust; RUC GC Foundation) - 3rd from left

Cecil Graham Esq LVO OBE  (lately The Prince's Trust) - 1st from left

Miss Valerie Steele LVO OBE  (NIO, retired, Private Secretary) - front left

David Anderson Esq MVO MBE (lately Household Manager, Hillsborough Castle) - 2nd from left

Alfred Curral Esq MVO MBE  (lately close protection officer, RUC) - 5th from right

Lieutenant-Colonel  Denys Rowan-Hamilton MVO DL - 2nd from right

Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Maundrell MVO (ex-Grenadier Guards; lately Equerry to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh)

Kenneth Eccles Esq MVO (lately close protection officer, RUC, PSNI)

Samuel Fitzsimons Esq MVO (ceremonial section, NIO)

The Earl of Erne KCVO
Sir John Gorman CVO CBE MC DL 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Prince Edward in County Down

His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex today attended the 20th Anniversary, Integrated Education Fund Reception in Hillsborough Castle, County Down.

Prior to the Reception HRH was greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Down, Mr David Lindsay, and went on to meet The Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, Mr David Montgomery, Campaign President, Integrated Education Fund (IEF), the Baroness Blood MBE, Campaign  Lady Chairman, IEF, and Ms Marie Cowan,  Lady Chairman of Trustees, IEF.

In the Drawing Room and Throne Room Prince Edward met a large number of invited guests representing the following areas: IEF Board of Trustees; Former IEF Board of Trustees; IEF Campaign Council Members; IEF Donor Groups; Integrated Primary School Principals; Integrated College Principals; Integrated Education Support Groups; Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education/All Children Together; and Founding Parents/School Governors.

During the Reception musicians from New Bridge Integrated College and Lagan College provided the background music.

Following a few words of thanks from Mr Montgomery, Ms Cowan presented HRH with a gift of  a specially commissioned 20th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet containing personal reflections from people impacted by the work of the IEF.

The Minister of State, Mr Montgomery, Lady Blood and Ms Cowan bade HRH farewell.

Prior to departure HRH signed the visitors’ book.

Strangford Lough Day


The gentle sea breeze was upon us today as we cruised on the National Trust launch from Whiterock to Island Taggart, on Strangford Lough, County Down.

Five of us departed at about nine-thirty, passing Conly Island, which is heavily forested and has a dwelling at the shore, and Dunsy Rock, where we checked the tern population.

Alas, I cannot remember the species of tern! There was a large blackish one in the middle of the island which the others stayed clear of, seemingly with a tendency to prey on the others' eggs.

We passed Castle Island and Islandmore, Faulkner Country. Sir Dennis Faulkner CBE VRD UD DL lives on or beside Castle Island, where the ruinous Ringhaddy Castle stands picturesquely.

Ringhaddy Castle is one of the most completely surviving tower-houses in the county, retaining its gables and one original wooden window. There are two periods of building here. 

The ground floor, which had a stone vault, dates from the 15th century, while the upper parts were rebuilt in about 1600. It is rectangular in plan with small turrets at the north-east and south-west angles, one with the stair and the other with a latrine chute. 

There are large fireplaces on the first and second floors, and an attic in the roof. The castle seems to have changed hands between Bryan McArt and the English in the early 16th century, and it is likely that the earlier castle was McArt’s stronghold, slighted when he withdrew, and rebuilt by the new English owner. 

Underwater investigation has confirmed the presence of a stone slipway beside the castle, and water transport was clearly of great importance in this location. 

Sir Dennis's nephew, (the Hon) Mike Faulkner lives with his wife opposite, on Islandmore, in the Blue Cabin. Sir Dennis has a fine old boat moored between the islands.

Ringdufferin estate, beautifully situated directly to the north of Island Taggart, is splendidly maintained and landscaped.


Our purpose today was to declare war yet again on the invasion of gorse on Island Taggart. Much still remains, though we have a good part of it under control and chemical spray must be used to destroy the stumps and roots of any we have cut down.

We lit several bonfires as well.

I stopped at the Balloo post office earlier, where the lovely Nadine made me a delicious roast beef salad sandwich.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Prince Edward in NI

His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex today visited Lagan College, Belfast.

Upon arrival HRH was greeted by Mr David Lindsay, Lord-Lieutenant of County Down.

Moving inside and accompanied by Mrs Amanda McNamee, Principal, Lagan College, Prince Edward met Desi McNally, Deputy Principal, Roisin Harbinson, Vice Principal, Gareth Bartlett, Assistant Head Boy, and Rhiannon Stewart, Deputy Head Girl.

HRH went on to meet  Year 11 and 12 Bronze holders and participants in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, led by Dave Ewart.

Moving on, His Royal Highness met the World Challenge Group led by the Rev Robert McKee, who has been involved in the World Challenge Programme for a number of years.

Later Prince Edward met Mr Reavey from Graham's Construction, who are  responsible for the planning and construction of a £30m build and refurbishment of the College due to be completed in June 2013. The company and college students were also involved last year in a project focusing on Japan and the recent Tsunami.

HRH was invited to cut a cake to celebrate the College’s 30th Anniversary, before the Deputy Head Girl, Rhiannon Stewart, presented him with a gift of a book.

Prior to bidding farewell and departure for the next engagement, HRH signed the visitors’ book.

In attendance:-
His Worship the Mayor and the Mayoress of Castlereagh
Mr Stephen Reid, Chief Executive, Castlereagh Borough Council
Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA, MP for South Belfast
Dr Ian McMorris, Chairman, Board of Governors, Lagan College
Mrs Amanda McNamee, Principal, Lagan College 

Monday, 14 May 2012

New Lord-Lieutenant

The Queen has been pleased to appoint the Rt Hon Alan Henry [Brooke] Viscount Brookeborough as Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for the County of Fermanagh to succeed Lord Erne when he retires on the 9th July, 2012.

The 3rd Viscount was born in 1952 and succeeded his father to the title in 1987.  On the death of the 2nd Viscount, Lord Brookeborough took up his seat in the House of Lords, and in 1999 was returned as an elected peer, where he sits as an independent cross-bencher.

Lord Brookeborough was commissioned into the 17th/21st Lancers in 1970 and later served in the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Irish Regiment and was Honorary Colonel of 2nd Battalion (TA), The Royal Irish Regiment, 1997-2008.

He is President of the Soldiers Charity (The Army Benevolent Fund) Northern Ireland, and was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for the county in 1987 and served as Sheriff of County Fermanagh in 1995.

He has been a Personal Lord-in-Waiting to Her Majesty The Queen since 1997.

The Viscount and Viscountess Brookeborough live in the ancestral seat of Colebrooke Park near Brookeborough, County Fermanagh.

Chatsworth Documentary

I'll be glued to the first episode of BBC One's new documentary series Chatsworth at 9pm this evening on high definition.

For the first time ever, the palatial Chatsworth House in Derbyshire has opened its doors to the cameras for a whole year. It is a unique opportunity to take an in-depth glimpse of life upstairs and downstairs in the 21st century.

The first programme joins the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire as the house is being prepared to open to the public.

Chatsworth's farm shop is managed by Andre Birkett, who has worked for the family his whole life, starting in the kitchens of the house. He is now responsible for 120 staff and an annual turnover of over five million pounds.

As winter turns to spring it is lambing season on the estate's 62 farms. The farm manager, Ian Turner, who has 32 years service under his belt, takes us on a tour of the farm, where we get to see first-hand a sheep adopting a rejected lamb.

For four and a half centuries Chatsworth has been owned by the Cavendishes.

Many, if not most, of the great country estates of Northern Ireland are open to visitors, with few notable exceptions. 

Access is available in the form of events, occasional house tours, tea-rooms, gardens, functions, accommodation or shoots.

I am, however, aware of one historic country house and estate in east County Antrim which shan't even countenance photographs! 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Percy's Peanuts!

Percy, my new name for the grey squirrel which visits the peanut feeder close to the house, made an appearance again this morning at eight-thirty.

He clings on to the feeder, seemingly wrapping his bushy tail round a branch above, and munches away to his heart's content.

Alas, there's been no sighting of any red squirrels at all.

I've had a quiet weekend. I grilled a rasher of Marks and Spencer's finest back bacon this morning and ate it with Irwin's Nutty Krust High Fibre bread, butter and honey.

I prefer to grill the bacon at the highest setting, keeping a close eye on it, so that the fatty rind crisps up, while the lean meat remains unburned.

Friday, 11 May 2012

New DL


The Earl of Caledon, Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh, has been pleased to appoint:-

Mr Antony Jackson, Tandragee, County Armagh, BT62 2ET

To be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County, his Commission bearing date 11th May, 2012.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Jewellery Auction

My attention has been drawn to an important auction being held at Geneva, Switzerland, on the 14-15th May, 2012.

Sotheby's are holding a Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale comprising over 580 lots, including jewellery which once belonged to Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry DBE.

The sale will also feature jewels signed by the greatest makers of the 20th century, including Bulgari, Cartier, Harry Winston and Van Cleef and Arpels.

Lots 480-488 shall be of particular interest because these items once belonged to the late Lady Mairi Bury, youngest child of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Londonderry.

In this Diamond Jubilee Year, I feel the item to highlight would be Lot 484 (above), being Edith Londonderry's diamond and blue enamel brooch with the "RHG" monogram of the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues) which was her husband Charles Viscount Castlereagh's (subsequently 7th Marquess of Londonderry) regiment - and into which regiment both Prince William & Prince Harry were commissioned in recent years.

On the back of this regimental brooch is the inscription "To Lady Castlereagh from Four brother Officers - Windsor 1901".

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I can confirm that I heard the distinctive sound of a great spotted woodpecker in the woods close to the sea-shore at Delamont Park, County Down, today.

Craig Nash tells me that the first breeding pair in Ireland was at Finnebrogue and they started to breed about four years ago.

Here is link to one of the Finnebrogue Birds:-

The Gordon Estates

I went for a drive today, to Delamont (top) and Florida Manor, in County Down. Both demesnes were once owned by the Gordons.

Parking at Gibb's Island (above), I walked into Delamont Park.

A little further on, Salt Island came into view.

Delamont House is still in use, as a youth and outdoor pursuit centre of some sort. I ambled round the grounds, passing the derelict farm-yard.

It is, to my mind, a pity that Delamont wasn't acquired by the National Trust, which would doubtless have restored the fabric and integrity of the estate.

I motored homewards and turned into a country road at Lisbarnett House, eventually reaching Florida Road. Florida Manor (above) came into view immediately. This old mansion dominates the area.

The manor-house itself appears derelict, though the grounds, extending to two hundred acres, are being restored and the outbuildings have already been restored by the new owner, Mr Michael Lagan.

These outbuildings form the basis of well-appointed new apartments.

There is a pretty little gate-lodge with Gothic windows within several hundred yards of the house.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

At Panini's

I met my aunt and Pat for coffee this morning at Panini's café and pizzeria in Holywood, County Down, the first time I'd visited it for many years. It has changed considerably since my last visit, in fact.

We all ordered scones, cherry or fruit being the only varieties left. These were seriously deep scones. We had them with butter and jam.

I encountered an old swimming pal in Panini's, Dr David Lennox.

Earlier, I popped into Knott's bakery for a boiled cake.

Dominant Ocean

HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy's largest warship, edges through the Thames Barrier to Greenwich as it prepares to defend the London Olympics against any potential terrorist attacks. 

HMS Ocean, commanded by Captain Andrew Betton RN, will be docked at Greenwich where it will act as a launch pad for eight Lynx helicopters and a base for Royal Marine snipers.

Their job will be to divert, or if necessary shoot at, aircraft which enter the air exclusion zone.

En route to Greenwich the amphibious assault ship, which is 125ft wide, had some difficulty sailing through the Thames barrier with only around a 20ft margin of error each side.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Mount Stewart Structure

I have received an interesting message and photographs from a reader who visited the site adjacent to the former swimming-pool at Mount Stewart estate recently:-

     "There is a long pond running along the inland side and the floor of the building is under water, making me wonder if it wasn't some sort of boat house, but there were no doors big enough to support this theory."

     "I was able to get a look in through a window this time and was amazed to see a vaulted ceiling with quite good brickwork. Upon exploring the other end I found what was left of some ornate stonework."

     "I am now drawn to the conclusion that it might have been some sort of "Ice House", and that the stairs and stone columns may have been added at a later time than the original building, turning it into some sort of summer house with views over the lough."

     "As if this wasn't enough, I also spotted another building that was built on stilts at the most northerly corner of this strip of land."

     "However this one had a more military look about it. It was built of red brick and looked like some sort of observation platform, perhaps related to Ards airfield or something. But it just adds another bit of interest to this area for me."

     "I would be most grateful if you could use a few of your contacts to find an answer to the mystery buildings for me."

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Princely Breakfast

Never one to be found wanting in the race for the food-trough, Timothy Belmont has been amused by a piece in today's Daily Telegraph about the Cambridges, who stayed the night at The Crown in Westleton, near Southwold, Suffolk, enjoying a glass of champagne on arrival with friends.

I relish a full English breakfast, second only to the highly esteemed Ulster Fry. The traditional British Breakfast is a national institution of which we ought to enjoy a degree of pride.

Do not get me wrong, readers. I indulge in such feasts only occasionally.

     "Even those of us who do not usually have a proper cooked breakfast – and statistics put it at more than 90 per cent – change our behaviour when staying at a B&B. It’s “Full English” then. 

So it was no surprise when The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, staying at a nice old pub near Southwold after the wedding of some friends, enjoyed bacon and eggs the next morning. 

In fact, this was restrained of them, for they could have claimed a plate piled with bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding, tomatoes, fried bread, mushrooms, baked beans and sautéed potatoes. Or there were kippers, a challenging morning menu. 

Perhaps Prince William is used to such breakfasts in the officers’ mess. It is hard to think Her Royal Highness tucks in daily. 

Like the Royal family, the English breakfast is a benign survivor from history. For us commoners, acquaintance with either is welcome but rare."

HM Royal Marines

I was listening to the radio a mere five minutes ago and heard a most beautiful rendition of the hymn, Eternal Father (For Those In Peril On The Sea), by the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines.

Such a haunting tune, played with such pathos by one of the finest military bands.

Town Foray

I cycled into town for a spot of research at the Linenhall Library this morning. Unusually, a fire alarm was sounding and everybody was required to evacuate the premises.

While I waited outside, at Donegall Square North, I admired the top of the Scottish Provident Building, one of Belfast's finest late-Victorian edifices.

Opened in 1902, its six-storey Glasgow sandstone façade contains four panels reflecting Belfast's industrious roots of shipbuilding, printing, rope-making and spinning.

Dolphins, sphinxes, lions' and queens' heads, and yet more carved heads denoting England, India, Canada, Sudan, Ireland and Scotland, can also be spied on its exquisite Edwardian exterior. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Back in Business

The BT technician has come and gone. The fault was at their end, viz. the Stormont Exchange. I'm getting a fair 4.49 mbps speed at present.

Now I shall write a letter to the Customer Service Director.

Still No Broadband

Timothy Belmont remains without the broadband connection, reliant on BT Fon (a connection from another BT customer). I do the best I can with the means available. In the interim, I await a BT technician.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

BT Complaint

About time British Telecommunications plc pulled their socks up and looked after their long-standing customers.

I am still without BT Broadband, after thirty-six hours. They are sending a technician to Belmont GHQ tomorrow morning, not without warning me that the privilege will cost me £100, if the fault is not at their end.

My draft so far:-

I should begin by explaining that I have been a BT customer for very many years indeed. This household has had BT services since 1962.

On Monday morning, 30th April, 2012, I turned on my computer as usual. I have a BT Home Hub 2.0. The lights were a steady blue, except the broadband light, which as flashing yellow.

I phoned BT  and reported this. I was advised to unplug and re-plug in various sockets, which I duly did. I took the hub to the master socket, where I unscrewed it and attempted to get it to function, in vain.

The adviser told me that the fault would be reported to the technical department and I’d receive a phone-call. I was called and told that they would phone me on Tuesday morning, 1st May.

At some inconvenience, I waited at home on Tuesday morning till 12 noon and there was no call, so I spent about 40 minutes waiting on the phone in order to speak to another adviser, who apologised and agreed that I should have been phoned back on Tuesday.

I was advised to go through more checks, including unscrewing the master socket; then I was told that an technician would call on Wednesday morning, 2nd May. Furthermore, I was politely warned that if the fault was at my end, I would be charged £100.

I have been without Bt Broadband for... to be finalized.