Wednesday, 31 July 2013

War on Ragwort

Today was spent at the southern-most tip of the Ards Peninsula, County Down, viz. Ballyquintin Point.

We all met at the old schoolhouse on Portaferry Road and proceeded by National Trust trucks to our destination.

Today we were uprooting the remaining ragwort in a field known as Spence's Field.

Although we only numbered about eight, we all managed to complete the task.

It was clement enough weather till lunchtime, when the rain arrived, so we had our packed lunches in a large barn.

Salmon and cucumber sandwiches were on the menu for self today.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Hans Sloane, 1660-1753

Should we, in Northern Ireland, not be even more proactive - viz. tourism and marketing authorities - in generating enthusiasm and knowledge about one of our greatest sons?
  • Born at Killyleagh, County Down, in 1660 
  • Lived in a thatched house close to Killyleagh Castle 
  • Credited for introducing drinking chocolate to the British Isles 
  • Founded the British Museum 
  • Pre-eminent royal physician 
  • President of the Royal Society 
  • Baronet 
  • Sloane Square, Hans Crescent and other places named after him.
I am, of course, alluding to Sir Hans Sloane Bt.

The Hans Sloane website contains a wealth of fascinating information about Sir Hans and his numerous accomplishments.

Let us rejoice and remind those whom we ever encounter at the British Museum that it was founded by an Ulsterman.

First published in September, 2011.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Divis Trek


I took it upon myself to motor up to the National Trust's Divis & Black Mountain, in the Belfast hills, this afternoon.

Light (!) showers were a possibility and, true enough, I managed to get saturated in the middle of nowhere.

I passed the Long Barn and Divis Lodge (below), before turning left onto a track which seemed to lead to Nowhere.

Half way along, there was a kind of construction site. Heavy platforms had been laid over the bogland to - you guessed it - Nowhere.

Later I was apprised that this is a film set.

Striding back to the car-park, it began to rain heavily. I was wearing a shirt, shorts, ankle socks and light walking boots, and a peaked cap.

I got soaked to the skin. Still, no harm done and all is well.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Clanbrassil Arms

An old illustration of the armorial bearings of Hamilton, Earl of Clanbrassil.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Erne Arms

A wonderful old illustration of the armorial bearings of the Earl of Erne, drawn ca 1884.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Mature Port

Can any readers suggest a port, vintage or otherwise, eminently suitable for laying down, for eighteen or twenty-one years?

Air Conditioning

Whilst out on the open roads in the two-seater last weekend, I turned on the air conditioning.

Despite turning the knob fully to its lowest setting, warm air blew out.

I asked a pal about this and he suggested that the air conditioning unit needed to be "gassed".

Consequently, I drove this morning to a local garage which specialises in such matters.

They plugged the air conditioning into a machine which does the requisite business, and after about twenty-five minutes Hey Presto! It was re-filled.

The problem for me was that this did not fix the problem. It continues to blow hot air.

If I wish the air conditioning to be fixed, I shall need to have the two-seater booked in again.

The "gassing" cost £50. I shudder to imagine what the next bill will be.

INCIDENTALLY, a rather flashy Bentley saloon passed me in County Fermanagh, on the road to Crom. It was a silvery grey, with the distinctive registration number "W1".

Palatial Pictures


Several days ago, I passed the village of Clogher, County Tyrone, en route to County Fermanagh.

I took the opportunity of visiting the former episcopal palace, which is directly adjacent to the little cathedral.

This elegant Classical mansion house of 1819-22 was begun the the great Lord John Bereford, during his tenure as Bishop of Clogher before becoming Lord Primate and Archbishop of Armagh.

The Rt Rev and Hon Percy Jocelyn, who succeeded Lord John, continued the task; and his successor, the Rt Rev Lord John Tottenham, completed the building of the palace.

Lord John was almost certainly the final Bishop of Clogher to live at the palace before the Church sold it.


The old palace is now a care home. A fine gate lodge is in excellent condition and remains inhabited.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Old Walled Garden

I revisited the old walled garden at Crom estate, County Fermanagh, on the 22nd July, 2013.

The Walled Garden lies deep within the grounds of Crom. You cross the White Bridge and walk several hundred yards until it appears, the former head gardener's lodge being opposite it.

Its old, red-brick walls are in good condition, the National Trust having re-built at least one side some years ago.

It extends to roughly three acres in size; and it has been utterly overgrown since its demise after the second world war.

Exotic fruits, which are nowadays taken for granted, were a rarity then and only the wealthiest families could afford to cultivate them.

In fact many people may never have seen a pineapple or a peach or known they existed.

On one side of the garden there were raspberries; while strawberries grew on the other.

Heated glasshouses contained peaches, nectarines, pineapples, grapes and tomatoes; not to omit lettuce, marrows, cucumbers and orchards with apples, plums, pears and greengages.

There were also beehives, sweet-pea, daffodils, dahlias and magnolias.

In the middle of the garden there was a large palm-house, now sadly gone, about thirty feet high, where the weather reading was taken every morning. The lily pond remains, though.

The whole garden swarmed with butterflies, bees and other wild insects; birds flitted in and out to help themselves to Nature's goodness. It must have been heavenly.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Infant Prince

I am delighted to hear the news that The Duchess of Cambridge has this afternoon been safely delivered of a new Prince.

Enniskillen: III

Well, dear readers, I have arrived back at the Belmont GHQ, having enjoyed myself for a few days in our beautiful county of Fermanagh.

In answer to your queries, there were no soda farls, alas. There were, nevertheless, baked beans.

Whilst Timothy Belmont would never include baked beans on the breakfast menu at the GHQ, I have to confess that I do like them!

After the same substantial breakfast, I packed up and motored in a south-easterly direction, over the border and into the Irish Republic, where I sought Lanesborough Lodge.

En route I passed Castle Saunderson, the grounds of which are now a scouting centre. The big house, sadly, is roofless and largely ruinous.

Further along the main road was a smaller road leading to the former Lanesborough Lodge, known locally as Quivvey.

A fine gate lodge, complete with the Lanesborough arms, still stands, greatly extended now.

I wished to gain access in order that I might view the ruinous house itself, though the owners were away and their son was unable to say Yes or No; so I drove back over the border, back home to the United Kingdom.

I drove straight to Crom estate, where I spent a wonderful few hours. Either the Northern Ireland flag or St George's flag was flying from a turret of Crom Castle. I couldn't quite make it out in detail.

Suffice it to state that Lord Erne was in residence.

I have taken a number of photographs of places I've visited and I will post them in the next day or two.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Lough Erne Resort

I'm presently at the Lough Erne Resort Hotel, about four miles outside Enniskillen. Having indulged in a snifter more than my usual complement last night, I've decided to stick to orange juice this evening.

The hotel appears to be fairly busy.

Killesher Church

Having visited Florence Court, I motored the shortish distance along the country road to the closest place of worship within what used to be the vast Florence Court estate.

Killesher parish church sits loftily on a hill. Its spire can be seen from the big house.

I wished to see evidence of the Enniskillens. Their plot is beside the little church, where there are several members of the Cole family buried, including two or three Earls.

David, 6th Earl, MBE, is interred here.

I  encountered an elderly member of the congregation, a former school teacher. he told me about Herbert Moisley, the last member of staff to serve the 5th Earl (I think). Mr Moisley is buried beside the Coles, quite an honour for him and his family; a measure of the esteem with which he was held.

The old schoolmaster also recounted how he taught the 7th or 8th Earl to read and write, prior to the boy's entrance exams for Eton.

Killesher church suffered a disastrous fire about thirty years ago, the result of an accident on the roof, caused by a workman. Only the spire has survived; the rest of the structure was reconstructed following the fire.

Enniskillen: II

Timothy Belmont this morning, at eight-thirty, indulged in a fully cooked County Fermanagh breakfast, comprising two sausages, two rashers of bacon, mushrooms, tomato, fried egg, baked beans, potato farl and toast.

I accompanied this feast with a pot of tea and orange juice.

I have been unable to obtain a wi-fi connection until now, hence the tardiness of this missive.

After breakfast, I jumped into the two-seater and made a bee-line for Florence Court estate, one of the National Trust's first properties in the Province.

I like to revisit the Trust's Fermanagh properties every time I happen to be in the county.

I began my visit with a walk round the grounds. The Earls of Enniskillen used to be one of the greatest landowners in the county, with about 28,000 acres.

I passed the original Florence Court yew tree, dating from the mid-18th century, I gather.

The first tour of the house started at eleven fifteen, so we mustered in The Colonel's Room within one of the pavilions.

I took a tour of Castle Coole yesterday and I don't know whether any readers have had a similar experience, though the guides carry on with their narrative, not always absolutely accurate in detail, embroidered to an extent in some cases.

I offered a comment this morning which did not illicit any response. Perhaps visitors are discouraged from making positive comments.

When I returned to Enniskillen, I perused a map and only then realised that I could have carried on towards Belturbet, a town just across the border in the Irish Republic.

Lanesborough Lodge was close to Belturbet and I'd like to see what's left of it at some future time.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Enniskillen: I

Having breakfasted on bran flakes with honey and tea, I took it upon myself to motor down to County Fermanagh, Ulster's lakelands.

En route, I stopped in the village of Clogher, where I took the opportunity of photographing the former Clogher Palace, now a nursing home.

Since I was passing Castle Coole, I paid it a visit, too. It was very quiet this morning. 

Although I've visited Castle Coole many times before, it's a delightful place. Seemingly there are fourteen bedrooms on the attic floor.

Now I am comfortably installed in Fermanagh's county town which, incidentally, is one of my favourite Ulster towns.

I'm having a modest restorative, prior to inspection (!) of the town.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


Architectural detail of the former National Bank building at 62-68 High Street, Belfast.

14th Earl of Antrim

The Rt Hon Alexander Randal Mark, Earl of Antrim, was known for a large part of his life and career as Viscount Dunluce, a courtesy title now held by his son.

The McDonnell family declares Lord Antrim to be 14th Earl, with some validity since there have been several creations, countesses in their own right and, indeed, two marquessates in 1644 and 1789.

The history of the McDonnell family is, indeed, intricate. Nevertheless, Lord Antrim remains officially the 9th Earl.

Having worked at the Tate Gallery in London for most of his career, both he and his father, the 8th (13th) Earl, have held directorships with Ulster Television.

His other interests include painting and vintage cars.

Lord Antrim lives on the Glenarm Estate in County Antrim and also has a residence in Somerset. He has three children: Lady Flora Pennybacker; Lady Alice McDonnell; and Randal, Viscount Dunluce.

First published in June, 2010.  Antrim arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Burning Documents

Timothy Belmont was particularly involved in the stately affairs this morning, viz. that mundane or banal chore of filing and even the destruction of documents.

The said papers are not particularly sensitive, though, you know the sort of old statements, insurance forms, invoices of a pecuniary nature; that kind of rot.

Belmont GHQ has gone through a few electric paper-shredders and one finds that the super-economy non-professional type are simply not up to the task. They tend, in my experience, to become jammed with staples or some other foreign object.

Instead, I opted for the time-honoured, fail-safe, method: Burning.

Thus, brandishing a good box of matches, I found an old wheel-barrow, threw the requisite items therein, and incinerated the lot.

I have to admit that I had been procrastinating the filing of the rest of these documents for a very long time.

I receive invoices, many of which emanate from Amazon, and they tend to accumulate on a table in my bedroom.


The BBC has announced it plans to launch five new high definition channels by early 2014.

There will be HD versions of BBC News, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies and CBBC.

They will be available over rooftop aerials via Freeview receivers as well as satellite and cable services.

The news coincides with regulator Ofcom's announcement that is making it possible to launch a total of ten new HD channels using airwaves freed up by the switch off of analogue TV.

The Lord Hall of Birkenhead CBE, Director-General of the BBC, commented:
BBC One HD and BBC Two HD have already proved to be highly valued by our audiences and I'm delighted that we're able to follow this with the launch of five new subscription-free BBC HD channels by early 2014. These new channels will allow us to showcase more of our programming at its very best.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Broughshane Visit

Two years ago I paid a visit to the picturesque little village of Broughshane, County Antrim. I wrote a bit about the White memorial in the church graveyard.

What a fine village Broughshane is. It's very close to Ballymena in County Antrim. I parked the two-seater on the main street and went "walkabout".

One of the local hostelries, The Thatch Inn, was the first place to catch my eye (at this point I can hear regular followers gasping and thinking his lordship craves a gin).

As the name indicates, it is thatched (though does not have a website at time of writing); it is atmospheric.

The arms of the 1st Earl O'Neill (1779-1841) proudly adorn the front of the inn. The landlord obtained consent from the present Lord O'Neill (4th Baron) to display the arms.

The village has always enjoyed a close association with the O'Neills: Lord and Lady O'Neill live at the Shane's Castle estate; while Lord and Lady Rathcavan's home is Cleggan Lodge, from where the Cleggan Shoot is based.
I ventured in, ordered a fruit juice (!) and had a brief chat with staff behind the counter.

On leaving the inn, I ambled up the street and saw a notice pointing to the village pond.

This is directly behind the 1st Presbyterian Church; and the pond is a haven of peace and tranquillity abounding with various water-fowl (name those birds above!).

In the 1st Presbyterian Church's graveyard there is a memorial to Field Marshal Sir George White VC GCB OM GCSI GCIE GCVO JP DL (1835-1912), whose ancestral home was at Broughshane.

White was probably the most highly decorated officer in the Army.


The White plot is, unfortunately, somewhat neglected and in need of attention; a good dose of "tender loving care" and a liberal lick of paint would do wonders.

The heavy iron railings, the gate, the flag-stones, the stone cross and the memorials could all be spruced up.

The White Memorial must be one of the most important features of heritage in the village.

First published in April, 2011.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Alan Whicker, 1925-2013

I am saddened to learn of the death of the journalist and broadcaster, Alan Whicker CBE.

Seaport Lodge Wing

Another aspect of Seaport Lodge, former seaside villa of the Leslies of Leslie Hill, County Antrim.

The wing to the rear can be seen.

Clare Park Visit

Whilst staying at Portballintrae several days ago, I paid a visit to the site of Clare Park, former seat of the McGildowny family.

It has the most beautiful prospect of Rathlin Island, which it faces, and the sea in general.

Clare Park is situated on an elevated position above cliffs. The old estate wall survives though, alas, nothing remains - not even a trace - of the mansion house, and courtyard, though some retaining walls exist.

At time of writing, Clare Park is for sale.

The McGildownys were substantial landowners in this area, just outside Ballycastle, in County Antrim. They once owned 3,811 acres, including what is now Clare Forest.

A grave and memorial with railings survives within the former grounds to HUGH McCALMONT McGILDOWNY JP (1854-1923), of Clare Park.


He married, in 1905, Mary Rose, daughter of the Rev Thomas Alexander Cameron VD, honorary chaplain, 2nd Volunteer Battalion, The Black Watch, of Farnell, Forfarshire.

This gentleman died in 1923, as the result of an accident on his horse, and is buried at Clare Park.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Dundarave House

An aspect of Dundarave House, Bushmills, County Antrim, seat of the Macnaghten Baronets, taken from Bushmills Garden Centre.

Bushmills Garden Centre

I stopped of at Bushmills Garden Centre for lunch today, en route to Belmont GHQ, thus signalling the end of my break at Portballintrae, County Antrim.

My preferred choice of nosh today was simple salmon, accompanied by mashed potato, carrots and cabbage; with lashings of Ulster butter.

Earlier I paid a brief visit to the National Trust's visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway.

Their shop is spacious and pleasing. Excepting the proliferation of tourist souvenirs, they had a rather good selection of reading material, viz. books and guides.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Portballintrae: III

I've spent an interesting few days at Portballintrae, the popular seaside resort on the Causeway Coast, County Antrim.

Yesterday I paid a visit to the remnants of Clare Park, former seat of the McGildowney family. Today, I drove to Portstewart, in County Londonderry, where I parked the jalopy and walked along the coast, past the convent school once called Rock Castle.

Further along the coast, I came to a modern dwelling, built some years ago on the site of Low Rock Castle, which was the birth-place of the hero of Ladysmith, Field-Marshal Sir George White VC.

I've taken photographs of these places, which I shall publish when I return to Belmont GHQ.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Tartine Staff


The first course at Tartine Distiller's Arms, Bushmills, County Antrim.

Seaport Lodge

It's another glorious day here at Portballintrae. I strode out on my constitutional after breakfast this morning, past the former Sweeney's Bar, along the track which leads to the Lodge and old quay.

The track remains closed to vehicles and access. It is private, as is Seaport quay, which is now barred by means of a wooden gate.

I used to enjoy a stroll down to the quay. Never mind.

Later I motored in the two-seater, with its roof firmly down, in a southerly direction. I sought Clare Park, former seat of the McEldowneys.

I found what's left of it, a wasteland with flat ground and some rubble here and there.

There is no sign of Clare House at all. A memorial remains, though, within its own railings to a member of the family, who suffered a tragic accident whilst on his horse at the cliff.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Aboard Nomadic

The Earl of Belmont has today visited SS Nomadic, Hamilton Dock, Belfast.

Lord Belmont was attended by members of the Crew aboard the ship, where he spent an hour. 
A touch formal, what? We Belmonts are renowned for our great sense of decorum on certain occasions.

I mounted the trusty two-wheeler this morning and cycled through Titanic Quarter, to the former tender of RMS Titanic.

I was greeted at the restored pump-house by two lovely female staff, whom I chatted and joked with.

Nomadic is truly wonderful. She has been beautifully restored. I was apprised that the vessel has an Entertainment Licence for weddings and other functions.

There is availability now, for that special matrimonial occasion! Presently the Weddings Diary is unbooked, I am advised.

The Men's Final

Timothy Belmont has breakfasted on a very toothsome slice of toasted wholemeal plain loaf, spread liberally with butter.

Atop were two rashers of the fine Black Bacon, cured from singularly contented pigs on an island somewhere on Lough Erne, in County Fermanagh.

I trimmed a fair bit of the fat from each rasher. Rather than frying, I grilled the bacon and this produced a good result.

THE BELMONT ATTENTION shall be focused on Wimbledon's centre court this afternoon, for the epic battle ~ one expects ~ between Andy Murray, OBE, and the Serb, Novak Djokovic.

Naturally I wish Mr Murray the very best of good fortune, as the standard-bearer for the British interest.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Consul Shoe

The Consul shoe, by Church, in black crocodile. It costs £2,900.

I think I shall stick to the traditional British calf leather. Mine are thirty years old.


I received the second card within a week from the Royal Mail, viz the postman, advising that the item in question for delivery was too large.

As before, one merely goes online and fills in a form for it to be re-delivered.

Presumably this service causes a degree of additional work for them. It's baffling and frustrating at the customers' end.

The reasonable course of action in such instances must surely be to leave larger items with one's neighbour.

One of my neighbours is always at home.

I PURCHASED a new pair of black Oxford shoes today (top). They will serve as my Number Two pair.

I already possess a pair of old Church's Consul Oxfords (above), which were acquired thirty years ago.

I think I purchased them in Harrod's.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Ballyquintin Point

I have spent a wonderful day on the Ards Peninsula, at its southern-most tip, to be precise.

Much of Ballyquintin Point is property of the National Trust, as is the coastline at Barr Hall Bay, where we were filling in pot-holes on a lane.

We were uprooting ragwort in a field. We also painted the main entrance to Ballyquintin Farm, as well as a fence.

This townland is called Tullycarnan.

My fodder today was cheese & onion sandwiches and tea. Heather supplied us with Tunnock's caramel wafer biscuits.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Princess Alexandra

There are concerns about Princess Alexandra's health, following reports that Her Royal Highness has cancelled all engagements "for the foreseeable future".
Princess Alexandra, the Hon Lady Ogilvy, KG, GCVO,  is the youngest granddaughter of GEORGE V, a cousin the The Queen, and sister of The Duke of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent.
HRH is suffering from polymyalgia rheumatic, a particularly debilitating type of arthritis.

It can cause not only the typical, painful joint stiffness but it can actually lead to blindness.

HRH is believed to be undergoing treatment by taking steroids which can cause the bones to become thin and the face to become puffy.

A Palace spokeswoman added:
Her Royal Highness had a viral infection at the end of last year and was advised to rest. We do not know when she will next appear in public.” 
Public concern has been heightened as Princess Alexandra has not been seen all year and even missed the coronation anniversary activities.

Her husband, the Rt Hon Sir Angus Ogilvy KCVO, died in 2004.