Saturday, 30 June 2012

Castle Coole Anniversary

Julian Fowler, of BBC News, reports that Castle Coole, County Fermanagh, ancestral seat of the Earls of Belmore, opened its doors to the public on the 28th June, 1952, after it was transferred into the care of the National Trust.

To mark the occasion, a diamond anniversary tea party was held this week in the Grand Hall for 60 guests who have had an association with the house over that time.

The decision to open the doors to the public may have been due to the cost of keeping the house (which then had no electricity) and the payment of death duties but the 7th Earl also shared the National Trust's vision.

In its report on the opening in 1952, the Impartial Reporter newspaper quoted Lord Belmore as saying:
"I suppose that our country homes are the finest memorials we have of an age that has gone forever. Those days may have had their drawbacks, (but) at any rate they produced a standard of workmanship that we cannot even begin to compete with today. So it is obviously right... that everybody who wishes to should have the chance to see them. I very much hope that from now on Castle Coole will become a means of giving great pleasure to a very great number of people."
The guests at the afternoon tea included the 8th Earl, who believes his father's wish that the house gives pleasure to people has been fulfilled. Lord Belmore said:
"He would have been as pleased as punch. The National Trust has underwritten all the important work here with great professionalism. The park is a huge bonus for people who live in Enniskillen."

The property now attracts 35,000 visitors a year who come to tour the formal rooms of the 18th Century neo-classical mansion, to glimpse life of those who worked below-stairs in the basement and to walk through its 1,200 acres of woods, lakes and parkland.

Castle Coole was built between 1790-98 from Portland stone, shipped to Ballyconnell and carried by bullock cart to Enniskillen.

The whole façade had to be dismantled in the 1980s and the stonework restored.

Eddie McKibben worked on the project for more than seven years, making a daily return trip of 180 miles from Annalong, County Down.
"Every stone had to come down, marked off a drawing and then we had to cut nearly 70% new stones. I still love it, it's a beautiful building. After all the years we spent on it, they're talking about it lasting 200 or 300 years - I hope it lasts that long."

Another tea party guest was Nellie Scott, who worked in the house in the 1940s. She arrived as a teenager to work as a housemaid and remembers scrubbing the stone stairs, before working her way up to become head housekeeper:
"It brings back a lot of memories. It's changed a lot from when I was here of course. When I first came it was hard work, I was 15 or 16. You had to wait until somebody left to climb the ladder. It's beautiful, it's gorgeous, it's well-kept, it's good to see Castle Coole going on so well."
The National Trust is holding a number of public events at Castle Coole this weekend [30 Jun-1Jul] to mark the diamond anniversary.

HM in Scotland

Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, will mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a series of engagements in Scotland during Holyrood Week.

Monday 2nd July

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will attend
  • the Ceremony of the Keys, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
  • the Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Tuesday 3rd July
  • The Queen will hold an Investiture at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.
  • The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will give a Garden Party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.
Wednesday 4th July

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will attend a
  • Thanksgiving Service for Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee at Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow.
  • Visit George Square, Glasgow
  • St Margaret’s Hospice and afterwards attend a lunch in the grounds of Our Holy Redeemer Primary School, Clydebank
  • Cathcart Square and formally open Greenock Municipal Buildings
Thursday 5th July

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by The Princess Royal and The Countess of Strathearn,
  • will attend a Thistle Service at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh for the installation of The Prince William, Earl of Strathearn, as a Knight of the Thistle and attend a lunch as guests of the Knights of the Thistle

The Duke of Edinburgh will attend
  • The Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Presentations at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
Friday 6th July

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will visit
  • Perth, when Her Majesty will be presented with the Keys to the City and His Royal Highness will be presented with Freedom of the City, Perth.
  • RHQ Black Watch Museum, Balhousie Castle, Perth
  • Perth College, University of the Highlands and Islands, Perth
  • Luncheon at Scone Palace, Perth

Friday, 29 June 2012

HMS Caroline's Future

I am very supportive and eager that HMS Caroline is kept in Belfast as a museum ship. I have written about the vessel before on this blog.

The BBC reports that a former Northern Ireland Office minister, whose great-uncle, the 4th Earl of Kilmorey, was commander of the historic war-ship now berthed in Belfast, has said moving it to Portsmouth would be "inconceivable".

The National Museum of the Royal Navy have said they are planning to move HMS Caroline away from Belfast.

The historic World War One ship has been berthed at Alexandra Dock in Belfast since 1923.

The Rt Hon Sir Richard Needham (6th Earl of Kilmorey),  said "it would be a disaster to lose it for Belfast".

His comments came as a new campaign aimed at keeping the ship in Northern Ireland was officially launched on Friday.

Built in 1914 in Birkenhead, HMS Caroline was one of the fastest warships of the time, capable of speeds of up to 30 knots.

She is the last surviving ship, of any nation, that fought at the battle of Jutland in 1916.

Sir Richard said it was "vital" that the ship was kept in Belfast.
"Caroline is the only ship afloat that fought in the greatest sea battle in the history of the world. She has been the centre of the Royal Navy in Northern Ireland."

The former minister said people simply did not know enough about her.

Around 80% of the ship is original and it has what are thought to be the only surviving in situ World War I turbines in the world.

In later years, the ship was used as a training vessel for the Royal Navy reserve but was decommissioned in March 2011.

BT Infinity Installed

I've been off the old air-waves until now. A BT engineer phoned me this morning at about eight o'clock, advising me that he'd be calling with me in half an hour.

He duly called. It did him a while to install the new fixtures and fittings, though I am up and running.

Too soon to say, dear readers, re Infinity's performance, till it settles in.

Ergo, Timothy Belmont will review matters in a week or two.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Admirable, Your Majesty

The Queen's two-day visit to Northern Ireland has clearly been a resounding success. It has uplifted us all.

Her Majesty, supported steadfastly by Prince Philip, is so gracious. We love her dearly.

The Hand-Shake was probably inevitable. It was well choreographed by the Northern Ireland Office, I am in no doubt.

Nevertheless, it emits a very strong signal to the rest of the world, a positive signal.

I personally have had grave reservations about The Hand-Shake. It took great fortitude and faith and the part of Her Majesty to fulfil the task required of her.

However, I simply wish to express my delight and hope that Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh return to the Province in the not too distant future.

Congratulations to the many people who made the Visit possible, including the Police and many public servants.

Well done indeed.

Jubilee Gift to The Queen

It is believed that the NI Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Investment, Arlene Foster MLA, has presented The Queen with a specially designed gift, on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, on the occasion of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.

The exquisite Oval Handled Basket, hand-made by Belleek Pottery, County Fermanagh, is a design which dates back to the 1890s and has not been made for a number of years. 

The unique basket has been inspired by wild flowers found in our local woodlands and hedgerows. Several types of familiar wild flowers feature on the basket:
  • Flax: found in pastures, represents Irish Linen Industry
  • Bluebells: found in deciduous woodlands
  • Honeysuckle: common in hedgerows and coastal rock faces
  • Primroses: winter flower usually in mountain areas and hedge banks
  • Fuchsia & Wild Roses: found in hedges
  • Daisies: found in Grasslands

Hidden through the flowers are honey bees, butterflies, ladybirds and dragonflies with a few of Belleek’s trademark shamrocks and a lucky four leaf clover.

The Basket, designed by Claire Rowe, made by Master Craftsman John Doogan and painted by Rachel Love, has an inscribed disk on the reverse, painted in 24 carat gold, numbered 1 of 1.

 It also has a unique Belleek back-stamp.

HM at Titanic Quarter

I rode into town this morning on the trusty two-wheeler. I usually go via Belfast's Titanic Quarter.

Cognizant that Her Majesty and Prince Philip were expected to visit the Titanic Belfast building, I made a bee-line for that place.


At 10am there were surprisingly few by-standers at the old Harland & Wolff head office. However, I installed myself on the footpath.

I enjoyed a good and amicable chat with two most agreeable ladies, who had travelled up from Dublin, especially to see the royal visit, for the day. They informed me that they had taken the train and would depart this evening, back to Dublin.

The royal party - there must have been about half a dozen range-rovers - arrived at about eleven forty-five, having been to a reception at the Lyric Theatre.

The Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast, Dame Mary Peters DBE, arrived well in advance, wearing a yellow outfit and a blue hat (I think). She can just be seen in the distance.

Despite being ten yards or less from the royal car, I only managed to obtain a fleeting snap of Prince Philip, whose waving hand can be seen.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

HM Opens New Hospital

Credit: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images 

Following a private lunch, The Queen and Prince Philip visited the brand new South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

They welcomed to the hospital by the NI Health Minister, Edwin Poots MLA, and by the Chairman of the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Mr Gerard Guckian this afternoon, during the second part of her official Jubilee Tour to Northern Ireland.

The Minister said:
"It is an honour to welcome Her Majesty The Queen to the new South West Acute Hospital to perform the official opening. This £276million development is a pioneering facility and is one of the most modern hospitals in Europe.
With state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, the South West Hospital will provide a range of services including accident and emergency, x-ray and imaging, coronary care, intensive care, maternity and children's services amongst many others.
This hospital is a beacon of health provision, not only in Northern Ireland and the UK, but in Europe. The new facility will ensure that all the people of this area can access the right clinicians and the right treatment as quickly as possible. We should be proud that we are leading the way in healthcare provision.
It will bring significant benefits to patients and staff and residents of the Fermanagh and Tyrone area and is a great example of the continued investment in health service modernisation in Northern Ireland."

Mr. Guckian said,
"The Western Trust is very proud of the new hospital which opened to patients last week. We are delighted Her Majesty The Queen has performed the official opening today. The opening marks the beginning of a new chapter for the hospital and signals the Western Trust's ongoing commitment to providing high quality care to patients."

Her Majesty heard about the history of hospital services and the new £276m South West Acute Hospital from Dr. Jim Kelly.

HM then visited the Children's Ward, while Prince Philip visited the physiotherapy unit and the MRI Scanner.

Royal Arrival

HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, escorted by the Dean of Clogher, the Very Rev Kenneth Hall, arrive at Enniskillen Cathedral, County Fermanagh.

 Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Crowds on Enniskillen's main street wave Union Flags as the royal entourage passes.

Queen visits Northern Ireland
Credit: Georgina Brewer
A black Range Rover, slightly more prosaic than the armoured Bentley State Limousine, flies the Royal Standard as Her Majesty and His Royal Highness arrive.

Her Majesty in Enniskillen

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have arrived at RAF Aldergrove, County Antrim.

Inclement weather conditions at St Angelo Airport in County Fermanagh prevented the Royal Flight from landing there.

The royal helicopter however, claret in colour, has arrived in County Fermanagh and Her Majesty wears sky blue. The State Bentley Limousine is not being used.

HM and HRH are greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, the Earl of Erne KCVO, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP.

The Royal Party travels directly to Enniskillen Carthedral, where crowds are lining the streets.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness are greeted at the Cathedral by the Lord Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Rev John McDowell, and the Dean of Clogher, the Very Rev Kenneth Hall.

The service of thanksgiving is attended by the Lords-Lieutenant in Northern Ireland; civic dignitaries, including the Lord Mayor of Belfast; divines, including the Lord Archbishop of Armagh, the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh; the Lord Eames OM; Bishop Jackson; bishops; representatives of military and civic Society, including the First Minister of Northern Ireland and the Lord Trimble PC, former First Minister.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Tickets Taken

The two free tickets I offered to readers have been taken already. I only wish I had more to give to my readers.

Free Tickets

I have two free tickets for The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration at the Stormont Estate on Wednesday, 27th June, 2012.

The Northern Ireland Office has issued information about the event here.

If any readers are interested, contact me at

Royal Visit to NI


The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, will arrive in Northern Ireland tomorrow, Tuesday, 26th June, 2012.

The Royal Party will travel to County Fermanagh, where they will attend a Diamond Jubilee service at Enniskillen Cathedral.

They will be welcomed by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, the Earl of Erne KCVO, and the Dean of Clogher, the Very Rev Kenneth Hall.

Her Majesty will officially open the new South West Acute Hospital.

The Queen and Prince Philip will be met in the City of Belfast by the Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast, Dame Mary Peters DBE, and the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Alderman Gavin Robinson.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will attend a function at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. A visit to the Titanic Quarter of Belfast is planned, too.

Later, HM and HRH will visit the Stormont Estate, where they are expected to spend one hour.

Sparrow & Spider

I was standing at the kitchen window on Saturday morning, looking at a spider on its web at the window.

Outside, on a fence, a little sparrow was perched.

It must have spotted me observing the spider, because suddenly it flew over and hovered at the web, its wings flapping franticly, about four feet from me.

The small bird proceeded to take aim and consumed the spider at once, whilst hovering.

Then it flew back to its perch; a wonderful sight and quite extraordinary.

Leonardo Drawings

A collection of ten rarely seen drawings by Leonardo da Vinci is on display in Belfast.

The works include designs for a chariot, anatomical sketches and a study of the head of Leda, the mythological mother of Helen of Troy.

They form part of the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

The touring exhibition will be at the Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast, till the 27th August, 2012, to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year.

A spokesman for the Royal Collection said the drawings were among the finest in its almost 600-piece collection and had been selected to show the scope of Leonardo's interests in painting, sculpture, engineering, botany, map-making, hydraulics and anatomy.

They form a mini retrospective of his career and complement his court works.

Martin Clayton, senior curator for prints and drawings at the Royal Collection, said the drawings represented a mix of preparatory studies for paintings as well as scientific research. Due to the risk of light damage, the drawings have never been on permanent public display.

He added:
"This group of drawings will hopefully give people a concrete sense of who Leonardo was. Often when people think of Leonardo they associate him with the Mona Lisa, a flying machine and an anatomical drawing, but his scientific interest is seen as something peripheral. Science and engineering was not just a dalliance for him him, they were serious fields of investigation in which we can see from his drawings that he achieved significant success. This also informed his paintings as he tried to present as accurate a representation of life as possible."
He said the drawings also had special significance for being among those the Renaissance artist most valued and kept.

They were found in his studio in the Loire Valley in France on his death in 1519 and have been kept together as a collection ever since, passing into the Royal Household in the 17th Century during the reign of CHARLES II.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

De La Cherois Vault

This vault was enlarged by Daniel Delacherois, Esqr JP, of the Manor House, Donaghadee, AD 1868 

Within rest the remains of  ~

Mary CROMMELIN, born -------died ----- unm aged 80 

Daniel Delacherois Esq, JP, born 23 June 1735, died 15 March 1790 

Marcy Delacherois, his wife, born ------- 17--, born -------, died 9 Nov 1844 aged --- 

Daniel Delacherois, MA TCD, DL, JP, born 10th July 1825, died 8th April 1905 

Daniel Delacherois, Esq, JP, DL, born 1 Dec 1783, died 1 Oct 1850, unmd 

Mary Delacherois, his sister, born 11 April 1790, died 10 March 1854, unmd 

Ellen, daughter of Geo LESLIE, Esq & wife of Daniel Delacherois, Esq, AM, DL, JP, born 7th Oct 1827, she died 4th Dec 1891 

Edmund Bourjonval Delacherois, Esq MD, TCD, of Brighton, second son of Daniel Delacherois, Esq, MA, TCD, DL, JP, born 20th January 1861, married 7th January 1893 and died sp 1st June 1901 at Sandford near Bristol, from a carriage accident, aged 40 [The blank spaces were never filled in] 

In memory of the members of the family of Daniel Delacherois, Esq, DL, JP, who lie buried in the Manor House Vault under the west aisle of this church  ~

Daniel Louis De La Cherois, Col 3 Bat RI Rifles, formerly Lieut 4 QO Hussars, eldest son of D De La Cherois DL, born 7 June 1855, died 26 Nov 1909 

Elizabeth Mary Angelica De La Cherois, eldest daughter of D De La Cherois, DL, born 3 Feb 1857, died 29 March 1910 

Helen Vaughan HAMILTON, wife of Edwin, MA, daughter of Daniel De La Cherois, DL, born 2 Dec 1859, died Nov 6 1911 

Catherine Charlotte De Lacherois, daughter of J McCance BLIZARD and dearly loved wife of Geo L De Lacherois, born 4 Aug 1888, died 17 May 1922 

Charles Hutcheson De Lacherois, 4th son of Daniel De Lacherois DL, born 18th Dec 1867, died 28th Sept 1933, 

George Leslie De Lacherois, DL, JP, 3rd son of Daniel De Lacherois, DL, born 31st Oct 1865, died 12th May 1948 

In memory of the members of the family of Daniel Delacherois, Esq, DL, JP, who lie buried in the Manor House vault under the west aisle of this church ~

Edmund Normal LESLIE dearly loved husband of Mary De Lacherois, born 7th August 1859, died 16th July 1930 

Mary Louise, third daughter of Daniel De Lacherois born 13th Feb 1863, devoted wife of E N Leslie, died 16th June 1949.

Edmund Bourjanval Delacherois’ death is reported as follows in the Belfast News Letter of Monday, June 3, 1901:
Much regret is felt in Donaghadee and neighbourhood at the sad intelligence of the lamented death of young Dr Delacherois, second son of Mr Daniel Delacherois, D.L., County Down, who died on the 1st inst., from injuries received from being thrown from a trap while driving with his brother, whom he was visiting, at Sandford, Somerset, England. He had a promising career ahead of him in the medical profession, into which he carried all the gentleness and sympathy that distinguished him in private life.

Donaghadee Visit


I visited Donaghadee, County Down, today.

My first stop was the parish church, which appears to have benefited from a good restoration very recently.

The ancestral tomb of the De La Cherois family is under the west aisle of the church.

The Manor House is at one end of the town's main street. Its walled garden is directly opposite the house, on the other side of the road.

Its side elevation runs down one of the streets.

A café, Café Manor, operates on the side street beside the walled garden, which is open to the general public occasionally.

On the way home, I stopped off at Lowry's Wood, adjacent to Portavo Reservoir. It was planted a mere four months ago by National Trust volunteers, and seems to be thriving.

The Jaipur Sword

, Royal Correspondent at the Daily Telegraph, reports that some of the most spectacular treasures from the Royal Collection will go on display at Buckingham Palace this week to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration, a new exhibition that will be part of the Summer Opening at the Palace, will explore how the gems have been used and worn by monarchs over the last two centuries.

Among the highlights will be the magnificent 2,000 carat Jaipur Sword and Scabbard.

Set with more than 700 white and yellow diamonds, the sword was presented to EDWARD VII by the Maharajah of Jaipur, Sawai Sir Madho Singh Bahadur, to mark His Majesty's coronation in 1902.

Made from steel and gold, enamelled in blue, green and red, the diamonds are set in a design of lotus flowers and leaves.

Queen Alexandra's Coronation Fan, a diamond-studded ostrich feather fan, made for Edward VII's consort for the coronation, will also be on display.

The exhibition will include several of the Queen's personal jewels, including the Cullinan III and IV Brooch, cut from the largest diamond ever found, and the Coronation Necklace and Earrings, created for Queen Victoria and worn by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and the Queen at their coronations.

The Diamond Diadem, set with more than 1,300 brilliant-cut diamonds, which is worn by the Queen on British and Commonwealth stamps and on certain bank notes and coins, will also be on display.

Other jewelled objets d'art from the Royal Collection that will feature in the exhibition include a snuff box, dated circa 1770, that was once owned by Frederick the Great of Prussia.

Encrusted with nearly 3,000 diamonds in elaborate flower motifs, the box is thought to have been inherited by Frederick during his 18th-century reign (1740-1786).

He later gave it to his daughter, the Tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna, the consort of His Imperial Majesty TSAR NICHOLAS I, who passed it to her descendants.

It was among the 1922 inventory of possessions of the imperial family confiscated by the Soviet authorities in 1917, and subsequently came to England, where it was later bought by Queen Mary in 1932.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

National Trust Pub

I am interested to learn that The National Trust (NT) has undertaken the management of its very first public bar, the Sticklebarn Tavern, Great Langdale, Cumbria.

The tavern was acquired by the NT in March, 2012. Its employees have officially been working for the charity since the property changed hands, making it the first time the Trust has owned and administered a public house.

While sixty other public houses are owned by the NT – including six other pubs and hotels in Cumbria – they are all tenanted.

Suzanne Elsworth of the NT explained:
“The National Trust has already got quite a strong presence in the area. When we heard that the pub was coming on the market, we just thought it was a great opportunity. It helps our visitors understand what we do here – and every pint that’s pulled, the profits go back to be invested in this landscape.”
The National Trust – which has more than four million members nationally – already owns several farms, car parks, a hotel and a campsite in Great Langdale, an area that is popular with hikers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

A new menu at the pub was introduced on the 22nd June, with the aim being to source as much food as possible from the Langdale Valley and Cumbria, while the majority of the beers on tap come from Cumbrian breweries.

There are also plans for the pub to generate its own electricity with a mini hydro power scheme, and National Trust managers have outlined a vision to make the Sticklebarn “the most sustainable pub in Britain”.

Perhaps the NT should consider a similar enterprise with regard to some of its tenanted or leased establishments in Northern Ireland.

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Errant Wallet

I have had an eventful twenty-four hours. I met Lady A and another friend at the Europa hotel in central Belfast, where we had a few snifters. We ordered a selection of sandwiches with a miniature basket of chips. This was very good indeed.

Thence across to the Grand Opera House, where we had a stage box for a very good production of 42nd Street.

Our box had a bottle of champers in an ice-bucket on the shelf.

At the interval, we all trooped down to the main bar, where we indulged in further refreshments (!).

When the show ended, we walked over to the Europa Hotel again and found a comfortable sofa in the Piano Bar. We hadn't a table booked anywhere for dinner, so decided simply to go across the road, to Brennan's Bar, for some comfort nosh and a few more restoratives.

I seem to recall that I had the ham with champ and cabbage, Lady A had lasagne, and B had chicken goujons.

When we got up to leave, my Big Problem began. I could not find my wallet. It had not much cash in it, though there were a few credit cards, a National Trust card, driving licence and store cards.

Well, we looked everywhere for the damned thing: The hotel, the opera house, Brennan's naturally; all to no avail.

Thus, as soon as I got home I contacted my bank and the police. This morning I contacted the places again. Nothing.

I took Lady A to the railway station this morning and she very kindly nipped in to Brennan's again.

She walked over to the hotel in the pouring rain, while I sat in the car.

Yes! Lady A came over with a brown envelope in her hand and a smile. The wallet, complete with all my contents, had materialised, presumably on the floor in the Piano Bar.

Thank heaven for that. I rang them to express my gratitude. All's well that ends well.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

9th Marquess of Londonderry, 1937-2012

I am saddened to hear of the death of the 9th Marquess of Londonderry.

The Most Hon Alexander Charles Robert [Vane-Tempest-Stewart], 9th Marquess of Londonderry, was the son of Robin [Vane-Tempest-Stewart], 8th Marquess (1902-55) and his wife, the former Romaine Combe (d 1951).

Alistair londonderry inherited his title and family estate in County Durham on the death of his father in 1955, when he was just 18.

But after devoting much effort to renovating the huge family mansion, Wynyard Park, the costs became overwhelming and in 1987 he was forced to sell the house and its 6,800-acre estate to the property developer Sir John Hall -- later Chairman of Newcastle United football club.

Inheriting the family titles in late adolescence had denied Alistair Londonderry a university life, so he created one for himself, becoming proficient in French, Italian and German, and knowledgeable about European literature.

An authority on Franz Liszt, he became an accomplished pianist, studying in America under Egon Petri, and was an early patron of John Ogdon and Leslie Howard.

Lord Londonderry was entertaining company, with a penchant for dreadful puns, but he also suffered from bouts of depression. Yet though his life was scarred by tragedy, he never succumbed to self-pity.

Alexander Charles Robert Vane-Tempest-Stewart, always known as Alistair, was born on September 7, 1937, the son of Robin Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, heir to the Londonderry title and Unionist MP for County Down between 1931-45.

His mother Romaine was a brewer's daughter. He had two older sisters, of whom the younger, Annabel, became better known as Lady Annabel Birley and later Lady Annabel Goldsmith, wife of Sir James Goldsmith and mother of Jemima Khan.

Lady Annabel Goldsmith recalled an idyllic, privileged childhood spent at the family's Irish seat, Mount Stewart, by Strangford Lough in Co Down, and at Wynyard, in the care of fleets of nannies and under-butlers.

Young Alistair, who suffered from a stutter as a child, was educated at Eton, where he founded a jazz band called the Eton Five. But in 1951, when he was 14, his mother succumbed to mouth cancer and his father embarked on a rapid descent into chronic alcoholism, eventually succumbing to liver failure in 1955.

The Londonderrys had been immensely rich, owning more than 50,000 acres, a colliery empire and three other houses in addition to Wynyard, Mount Stewart and Londonderry House.

But by the time Alistair inherited the title, mismanagement, taxation and the nationalisation of the coal mines had taken their toll.

Londonderry House was sold to Hilton Hotels and later demolished, while Mount Stewart, which had been bequeathed by the 7th Marquess to his daughter, Lady Mairi Bury, Alistair's aunt, was subsequently handed over to the National Trust.

He became secretly engaged to a 16-year-old blonde beauty called Nicolette Harrison, the daughter of a stockbroker. When they married in 1958, he and Nicolette, a vision in her Norman Hartnell satin gown, were hailed as an example of the new unstuffy aristocracy. The bride was barely 17 and the groom not quite 21.

They had two daughters and a son who, as heir to the Londonderry title, was initially styled Viscount Castlereagh.

When the baby was 18 months old, however, blood tests established that he was not, in fact, Lord Londonderry's, but the son of Georgie Fame, a Lancastrian weaver's apprentice-turned-pop star whose hits included The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde. Nicolette had fallen in love with him after spotting him on Top of the Pops in 1964 and had begun an affair.

The story featured on newspaper front pages for days. Fame was named as co-respondent in the Londonderrys' subsequent divorce in 1971 and the following year he and Nicolette were married.

They had another son together but in 1993 Nicolette committed suicide by jumping off Clifton Suspension Bridge.

In 1972 Lord Londonderry married Doreen Wells, former principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, but happiness continued to elude him.

After 17 years his second marriage, too, ended in divorce and more discomfort was to follow when Lady Cosima Somerset, whom Lord Londonderry publicly accepted as his daughter by his first wife, claimed that her biological father was the nightclub pianist and writer Robin Douglas-Home, nephew of the former prime minister and a close friend of Princess Margaret who had killed himself with an overdose of pills in the Sixties.

In the Sitxties Alistair Londonderry bought a house in Tuscany, which he renovated and where he did enjoy great happiness. After the sale of Wynyard Park, he moved to Dorset.

Although he held the title for longer than any of his eight predecessors, Lord Londonderry never took his seat in the House of Lords (where his coat-hook in the cloakroom bore his English title Earl Vane), and nothing gave him greater satisfaction than to be told that he did not "look like a lord".

Lord Londonderry is survived by the two daughters of his first marriage and two sons by his second. His eldest son, Frederick Aubrey Vane-Tempest-Stewart, styled Viscount Castlereagh, shall succeed to the titles as 10th Marquess.

The 9th Marquess will be interred at Tir nan Og, the ancestral burial ground at Mount Stewart, County Down, the details of which are to be announced in due course.

Londonderry arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Fulton's Nosh

I had a great lunch at Fulton's furnishings in Belfast today; chicken and mushroom tart, dressed salad and coleslaw. Highly recommended.

I had a brief look in Agnew's Mercedes showroom; pretty blonde receptionist, who'd be even more attractive were she to greet visitors with a smile.

Ad Infinitum

BT Infinity is being installed at Belmont GHQ on Friday, 29th June, 2012. The Earl of Belmont is reliant on BT for the satisfactory transmission of his blog website.

I am apprised that, unlike ADSL which typically delivers far lower speeds than the maximum headline speed marketed, BT Infinity usually delivers very close to the maximum possible.

While no reliable results for the new 76Mbit/s service are available, the previous up to 40Mbit/s service (now re-branded as up to 38Mbit/s) has been shown to deliver a median speed of 38Mbit/s.

The Dowager, 1925-2010

2nd OCTOBER, 1925 - 19th JUNE, 2010

Today is the anniversary of the death of my dearest mother, whom I affectionately called "The Dowager" on the Blog.

The photograph was taken in 1952, her wedding day.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Royal Humber

The Daily Telegraph has begun a new series about driving The Queen's cars. In Part One, the Humber Super Snipe Drophead is taken on a ride:-

In 1953 the Queen and Prince Philip embarked on the first-ever world tour by a reigning monarch.

They left London and visited Bermuda and Jamaica, where they boarded the SS Gothic and sailed through the Panama Canal and on to Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.

The 1953 Royal Tour was kept on the road by this very special Humber Super Snipe Drophead.

Humber Super Snipes gained a phenomenal reputation for toughness in the Second World War when they were used as staff cars, including Field Marshal Montgomery's 'Old Faithful'.

After driving the Super Snipe, the Telegraph's Andrew English reports:
'A few miles at the wheel of Denis Cunningham's royal drophead Super Snipe leaves you with the impression that royal chauffeurs must have been tiny. This conversion maximised rear leg room at the expense of a front bench seat so far forward that you are virtually on top of the big steering wheel. 
'The 100bhp, 4.1-litre straight-six provides oodles of torque virtually from idle, but the column-mounted four-speed change has not worn its years well. You have to hold it in second and that leaves you an arm short when manoeuvring on those big white-walled tyres'.

Top speed was quoted at 81.8mph with 0-60mph in 20.6sec and 15mpg. While this 15ft 7¼in long, 1.9-ton six seater is compact by contemporary limo standards, it still feels ponderous and huge on modern roads.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Ruddy Gore!

Last night was spent in central Belfast. Lady A and self met at the Europa Hotel, saw off a bottle of champers; made an appearance in the Lobby Bar, where a jazz quartet was playing; thence a cab to Molly's Yard.

Molly's Yard is a restaurant and micro-brewery located at the end of Botanic Avenue, beside Dukes Hotel.

We had a table booked for six o'clock, owing to a show at the Grand Opera House at seven-thirty.

Upstairs at Molly's, I had salmon as a first course; Lady A had the linguine. Both were very good.

Main course consisted of a delicious portion of lamb rump for self. Lady A opted for roast chicken. We shared spring greens and washed everything down with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

The bill came to £65.

This was the very first time I'd been upstairs at Molly's, having eaten in the bistro downstairs before.

From Molly's Yard, we took a cab to the Grand Opera House for Opera North's production of Ruddigore, by Gilbert & Sullivan. We sat in the front row of the Dress Circle.

I have to admit to the fact that I was beginning to flag by this stage, having consumed liberal amounts of wine. Indeed, we were both tired and took our leave at the interval.

We promised another pal that we'd make an appearance at their friend's birthday party, at Victoria's Bar in Chichester Street.

Inside, it was heaving with revellers dancing away to extremely loud music, the sort which prevents one from satisfactorily thinking, let alone partaking of a conversation. I had begun drinking orange juice anyway, by this stage.

We had one round and left; 'twas a fine evening.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Highest Ranks

The Queen has appointed The Prince of Wales to the highest rank in all three military services, coinciding with Her Majesty's official birthday.

The Queen appointed Charles honorary five-star rank in all three services to acknowledge his support in her role as Commander-in-Chief.

He becomes  Admiral of the Fleet, Field Marshal and Marshal of the Royal Air Force in the honorary promotion decided by the Queen.


Two members of the royal family currently hold five-star rank - the Duke of Edinburgh in all three services and the Duke of Kent, who is a Field Marshal.

The convention of promoting service chiefs to five-star ranks was stopped after a report in 1995 suggested abolishing them as part of recommendations for financial savings in the armed forces' budget. They are now reserved for special circumstances.

General the Lord Guthrie was the first officer not to be promoted upon appointment as Chief of the Defence staff - a role he held from 1997 to 2001. He was appointed to the honorary rank of Field Marshal.

The appointments coincide with the Queen's Birthday Honours, but a Buckingham Palace spokesman said they are not related.

The honorary promotions will incur no cost to the Ministry of Defence and will not have an impact on the promotion prospects of serving personnel or the honorary appointments of other Members of the Royal Family.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Ham-String Ping!

I was pushing the calf press in the gymnasium awhile ago, when I felt a sudden ache in my left calf. Ceasing the activity forthwith, I sought advice and, it transpires, I have pulled a ham-string or whatever it's called.

Ardent female readers, you shall be relieved to know that all is in good condition north of the aforesaid juncture.

Within five minutes, a packet of the choicest garden peas was propping up the noble knee-joint.

I hobbled to the two-seater and made straight for Belmont GHQ, where the intention is to apply more vegetables to the faulty limb.

If any duchesses happen to encounter me imminently, do not accost me with any droll phrases such as "break a leg".

By Royal Appointment

A nice little piece by Julie McCullough of BBC news has caught my eye, having just scoffed three Pancetta rashers with buttered wholemeal toast and removed the nose-bag.

None other than my good friend David Anderson MVO MBE has been interviewed about Her Majesty The Queen's imminent visit to the Province.

David is, incidentally, a Member of both the Royal Victorian Order and the British Empire.

For 25 years he was the household manager at Hillsborough Castle, County Down, the official residence of the Royal Family when they stay in Northern Ireland.

He now works at the Montalto Estate, in the same county, not far from Hillsborough - but still remembers what it was like to look after Her Majesty. According to him, she was not a difficult guest:
"All she insisted on was somewhere quiet, somewhere private, somewhere comfortable to sit in between engagements. A blanket, a footstool, things that made it comfortable and more cosy. A table to set her glasses on or if she wanted a drink.... and of course, very importantly, a selection of local books."
When it came to food, he said The Queen liked it to be sourced locally.

It was the same for the flowers placed in her room which, incidentally, had to be removed before she slept at night.

Although David said there were no hard and fast rules about how you should behave if you met Her Majesty, he thinks it is well-mannered to use the traditional forms of greeting.
"For the gentlemen it was always very easy because it was always just a simple neck bow; but for the ladies it was deemed appropriate that they should curtsey at the point of introduction and it's always a very elegant thing to do."

Of course, it is only elegant if you know what you are doing. Basically, David said a real curtsey is putting one leg behind the other, bending your knee and bowing your head at the same time.

He thinks it is something that should be done as she walks past or if you are introduced to her formally.

And if you are one of those who get to speak to the Queen and if you do want to follow the rules - remember it is "Your Majesty" the first time you address her and "Ma'am " subsequently.

Here is fifteen minute documentary of David Anderson at the Castle.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Regular readers shall have noticed that I am tending to issue "repeats", particularly in my Baronetcy series. As an example, I will shortly be reissuing my article on the extinct Molyneux Baronets of Castle Dillon.

When I issue a Repeat, I revise it comprehensively, using a formula that I now apply to new articles. I usually refer to Burke's for a family's lineage. I often add more facts and extend the article, where possible.

This evening I have spent about an hour revising The Molyneux Baronetcy.

Incidentally, the Blog has generated between 1,700-1,800 visits today.

The Honourable Ian?

The National Trust was established in 1895. It is dedicated to preserving the cultural or environmental treasures of England, Northern Ireland and Wales (Scotland has its own separate Trust).

The Hon Ian Paisley MLA (the Lord Bannside's son), a Northern Ireland politician, has attacked and bullied the National Trust in a particularly vicious and scurrilous manner.

Obviously The National Trust has very good reasons for objecting to the so-called Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort, adjacent to the Giant's Causeway, County Antrim.

The Trust remains convinced that the planning application is contrary to a range of the department's planning policies.

Moreover, the Trust has consistently opposed the planning application.

The National Trust is particularly concerned that the entire development is on land zoned in the draft Northern Area Plan as the "distinctive landscape setting of the World Heritage Site in which no development should take place":-
  "This is based on a recommendation by UNESCO - the body responsible for World Heritage designations - that there should be a buffer zone to protect the special landscape surrounding the Causeway."
The charity added that having "carefully considered" all the information relating to the planning decision, there remained "fundamental issues of concern".

It said it had "no option" but to seek leave for a judicial review, so that the decision could be given the "fullest possible consideration."

Perhaps the Honourable Ian and his ilk ought to pay more attention to the repeal of planning laws in Northern Ireland. I wish to see more protection for historic buildings and the Environment.

Letter from the DG


I received this letter with my little badge yesterday. The presentation took place in the Grand Hall of Mount Stewart House, County Down.

I'm keen to learn more about the old schoolhouse on Mount Stewart estate.

Reminder:- Country House Rescue, tonight, Channel 4, 8pm: Colebrooke Park, County Fermanagh.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Wessexes in Gibraltar

The Earl and Countess of Wessex have arrived for a three-day visit to Gibraltar, as part of the Diamond Jubilee tour.

The royal couple were welcomed by His Excellency the Governor of Gibraltar, Vice-Admiral Sir Adrian Johns KCB CBE, and the Chief Minister, the Honourable Fabian Picardo.

Their Royal Highnesses planted an oak tree at the Governor's residence.

Gibraltar has 28,000 residents.

Free Public Wi-Fi

The most interesting headline that caught my eye this morning was that the City of Belfast is to have free public wireless internet available in future.

Belfast City Council wants to offer free wireless internet to all residents and visitors.

Belfast is one of ten cities in the UK which have secured super-connected status from the government.

The city council has already received £6m in funding and is hoping to more than double that in a forthcoming bid.

It will use that money to put a wireless network in place covering an area stretching out from City Hall in a three mile radius.

It also plans to ensure that ultra-fast broadband internet connections are widely available - making the city an attractive investment location for media and technology firms.

The plan is to have the new networks in place by 2015.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Folk Museum Outing


I have spent the whole day - seven hours - at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, County Down. I chose a fine, sunny day and wore shorts and my shirt sleeves pulled up. An adult ticket for both museums costs £8. Lunch cost me £6.75.

Armed with their map, I followed the entire route, comprising over fifty exhibits in the Folk Museum itself.

This is a prime tourist destination in our Province, so allow plenty of time to absorb the atmosphere.

Some of the farms have livestock, including pigs, piglets, geese, hens, donkeys and goats.

Six terraced houses were once part of a 22-house terrace at Tea Lane/Rowland Street, originally built in the late 1820s for the workers in the nearby textile mills and brick-yards of the Sandy Row area, then a mill village on the southern outskirts of Belfast.

They pre-date the first local government housing regulations. From 1845 houses had to have larger rooms and from 1878 a back entry, so waste from the backyard toilet did not have to be carried through the living quarters for disposal.

It was not uncommon for two families to share a house, one family downstairs subletting the upper floor to another family.

The larger house in the centre of the terrace has a passage through to the yard, enabling the occupants to keep a horse or donkey.

Ballydugan Weaver's House (above) is a replica of a mid-19th century house, the original being at Ballydugan, County Down.  The front and rear walls are of stone with clay mortar, while the gable and interior walls are of solid earth (mud walls) except for the brick chimney.

The roof is carried on fir poles resting on the gables and interior walls. This arrangement gives height and clear space, uncluttered by cross-timbers holding roof trusses in position.

This arrangement gives a feeling of airiness and space in the kitchen but, more significantly, allows tall Jacquard looms to be installed in the weaving shop.

I lunched at the Ballycultra Tearoom, where I had the beef stew with wheaten bread and a pot of tea.

The Manor House, now used mainly for functions and more formal meals, has been restored recently.

The Kennedy graveyard, alas now neglected, is close to the main entrance. The last grave I noticed was dated 1970.

At the Transport Museum I admired a wonderful dress chariot, manufactured for the 2nd Marquess (later 1st Duke) of Abercorn. It is on loan from the present Duke of Abercorn.

The 2nd Marchioness was a daughter of the Duke of Bedford.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Prince Philip Discharged

It comes as good news to those of us who care about the Royal Family that Prince Philip has been discharged from hospital, following five days as an inpatient suffering from a bladder infection.

HRH will celebrate his 91st birthday at Windsor Castle tomorrow.

We particularly look forward to The Duke of Edinburgh accompanying HM The Queen, during the royal visit to Northern Ireland later this month.

Regal Jewels

Catherine Duchess of Cambridge is a quite remarkable young lady. An article in the Richard Kay column tells us that the dazzling earrings she wore at St Paul's Cathedral the other day were mere replicas.

They cost the modest sum of £48.

In fact, they were a very good copy under the description ‘fabulous fakes’ designed by Belinda Hadden, ex-wife of top PR man Abel Hadden.

She was astonished to learn that Kate had worn her creations on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Belinda Hadden, who set up little-known Heavenly Necklaces in the 1990s as a hobby when her daughters were small, elaborated: ‘I was at a wedding, so I had no idea Kate had worn my earrings until another client sent me an email asking: “Are they the same as mine?” ’ 

It wasn’t long, however, before the ‘Kate effect’ began to work, with internet chat-rooms abuzz.

Says Belinda, daughter of the late Conservative MP for Gosport and Fareham, Hampshire, Sir Reginald Bennett: ‘Within the next 24 hours, I had sold out. I sold 60 on my website, which is the amount I would usually sell in a whole year.’ 

Belinda, who sources her fakes from India, China and Hatton Garden in London, says: ‘They are made of finest grade cubic zirconia, but what makes them look authentic is the settings they are in.’

Friday, 8 June 2012

Rathlin Departure

We spent most of the evening in The Auld Kitchen last night. This is the little snuggery bar in the former kitchen of the manor house. Fifteen would be a crowd.

One of the islanders produced a guitar and proceeded to sing for us all. Another lovely lady called Mary, originally from America, arrived and told us that her home was a log cabin on the island. Mary explained that she'd been experiencing some difficulty in obtaining planning permission for a modest extension to her cabin.

This morning, after a good cooked breakfast, we packed up, checked out of the Manor House and went for a stroll towards St Thomas's church. St Thomas's now forms part of the parish of Balintoy and, in fact, we encountered the Rector yesterday at the RSPB's West Lighthouse base.

There are a few more vehicles on Rathlin than three years ago. Can they obtain fuel on the island at a tank? Or must they drive (or take a can) over to the mainland?

A few new buildings are being erected, too, close to Church Bay or Mill Bay.

So we departed on the 12 noon sailing and I am home.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Rathlin Lobster

We have had a hearty cooked breakfast at the Manor House this morning. I have removed to the Auld Kitchen bar in order to obtain a wi-fi signal.

Last night we had the lobster and salmon. Today we hope to see more of the island.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Auld Kitchen

I am presently in The Auld Kitchen bar at the Manor House, Rathlni Island. It is quite fine and sunny intervals.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Queen's Message

     "The events that I have attended to mark my Diamond Jubilee have been a humbling experience."

      "It has touched me deeply to see so many thousands of families, neighbours and friends celebrating together in such a happy atmosphere."

     "But Prince Philip and I want to take this opportunity to offer our special thanks and appreciation to all those who have had a hand in organising these Jubilee celebrations."

     "It has been a massive challenge, and I am sure that everyone who has enjoyed these festive occasions realises how much work has been involved."

     "I hope that memories of all this year’s happy events will brighten our lives for many years to come."

      "I will continue to treasure and draw inspiration from the countless kindnesses shown to me in this country and throughout the Commonwealth."

     "Thank you all."

Royal Transport in NI

The Queen has just left the gates of Buckingham Palace in her car en route for St Paul's Cathedral.

It would mark a further step towards "normalization" were Her Majesty to travel in the Bentley State Limousine during her visit to Northern Ireland on the 26th and 27th June.

Alas, a more prosaic Range-Rover is the preferred form of transport these days, presumably at the behest of the Northern Ireland Office and police.

It is believed that, during a visit to the Province in the 1966, Her Majesty's Rolls-Royce State Phantom's roof was damaged by a brick thrown from a building in central Belfast.

A 17 year-old plumber and 44 year-old chambermaid were arrested for dropping a twelve-pound cement block from the fourth floor of a building under construction.

In 2010, the Silver Jubilee Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, carrying TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to the Royal Variety Performance, was damaged by paint being thrown at it.

I do hope, too, that the Lord Mayor of Belfast has sufficient decorum to wear mayoral ceremonial attire on the occasion of Her Majesty's jubilee visit, including tricorn hat.

My Lord Mayor, look to the Lord Mayor of London for inspiration, if necessary.

Colebrooke Spa

Andrew Triggs has drawn my attention to the forthcoming Channel 4 Country House Rescue series, which will feature Colebrooke Park, County Fermanagh, in the first episode. It will be broadcast on Thursday, 14th June.

The programme will focus on Lord and Lady Brookeborough's possible conversion of Colebrooke into a health and well-being business that includes a new spa in the former stables.

The presenter elaborates:
"The Viscount and Viscountess Brookeborough have lived in Colebrooke Park, a neo-classical mansion in County Fermanagh, for over 30 years.

Having rescued the property, built in 1820, from near ruin, Alan and Janet have devoted their lives to maintaining the house, raising the funds they need by hosting exclusive shooting parties.

But their work isn't sustainable. Simon believes the answer lies in the conversion of the house and grounds into a health and well-being business that includes a spa in the former stable."

Monday, 4 June 2012

Tribute to Her Majesty

I have just watched Prince Charles paying a wonderful and personal tribute to his mother, Her Majesty The Queen, on the stage of the Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace.

Such a heartfelt, straightforward homage to a very special person, whom we all hold in the highest esteem.

The Prince of Wales also paid tribute to his father, The Duke of Edinburgh, whom I hope has been able to view the spectacle from his bed in hospital. I wish Prince Philip a speedy recovery.

Our Armed Forces were not forgotten, either: Prince Charles especially mentioned those on active service abroad.

Beacons have been lit throughout the United Kingdom in order to celebrate The Queen's diamond Jubilee, including one at Northern Ireland's highest peak, Slieve Donard.