Friday, 30 May 2014

Bushmills National School

I wish I could get some more information about the history of the former National School at Bushmills, County Antrim.

An inscription lozenge attached to the frontage, below the chimneys, proclaims that it was established in 1842.

Barely one century later, about 1950, it became the premises of The British Legion.

I'm sure it has been vacant for decades.

It's a fine old building and has to be worthy of restoration. 

The Environment agency has tidied it up of undergrowth and detrimental weeds etc.

This building has a drive leading up to it directly opposite The French Rooms, a new café restaurant in the village.

There is now a tourist office beside it, where the village library used to be.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Causeway Coast: I

I motored along the coast in a southerly direction this afternoon, towards Portbradden. My old historian pal, Con Auld, has a place there.

Alas, Con was not in residence. I hope he's keeping well. I had a packet of Tunnock's Teacakes for him; no pen, though! Blast.

Consequently, I brought them back to Portballintrae. 

AT Bushmills, I stopped again to have a look at the derelict former National School, directly opposite The French Rooms café restaurant.

Like so many of our historical buildings, it has been vacant for many years. I gather it was a British Legion hall before it was vacated.

THIS evening I dined at the Ramore Wine Bar, Portrush, County Antrim. It's at the harbour. You can't miss it, nor it's gastronomical siblings above, below, and across the street.

The proprietors of Ramore are presently fitting out a building opposite the Ramore, in preparation for opening shortly.

It's going to be called Neptune and something-or-other. May I send my compliments and congratulations to the McAlpines in their endeavours?

I had the Fillet of beef Wellington with garlic fries and home-made coleslaw, and it was superb.

The only snag is that I have to loosen the old belt by a notch!

The French Rooms

I motored into the beautiful village of Bushmills, County Antrim, this morning. Disappointingly, Causeway Books has closed down, apparently in September, 2013.

Nevertheless, I grabbed the chance to buy a half pound of my favourite fruit pastilles, viz. Lion Brand, in a little confectioner's at the Diamond.

There is a relatively new café restaurant in the village called The French Rooms; and since I fancied a coffee, I darkened the threshold.

This is a charming place, tastefully decorated, with a real fire burning brightly in the rear room.

I sat at the fire, took off the coat, and made myself comfortable, whilst perusing the all-day menu, the dinner and Sunday lunch menus.

I ordered the lemon and poppyseed scone and an Americana.

This arrived promptly. The scone had obviously been baked this morning, because it was so fresh that it came apart when I cut into it.

Everything was smartly presented: jam, whipped cream, butter, sugar cubes, all in their own little receptacles.

I chatted to the proprietor, a lovely lady who talked to me about Portumna Castle and Ashford.

Later another couple arrived, from Limavady. We established a rapport and I had another good chat with them.

I'm sorely tempted to dine at The French Rooms soon. I gather it is licensed.

Unfortunately I can't transfer photos from my Canon camera to the iPad, so next time I'll bring the iPad along.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Lindt Excellence 70%


I always used to shun dark chocolate.

Godmother always insisted on Black Magic chocolates, as she made clear on one occasion when I unwittingly brought her a box of milk choccies.

A decade ago, however, I purchased a bar of Lindt Excellence 70% (it was probably on offer), and haven't looked back since.

The flavour of the 70% is wonderful: Not bitter, nor too sweet; rich, almost like currants; with character and depth.

It's not bitter, unlike the 85% version which is a bit too earthy for me. The connoisseurs seem to agree, too. 

First published in March, 2013.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Sir John Gorman, 1923-2014

I am saddened to learn of the death of Sir John Gorman.

SIR JOHN REGINALD GORMAN CVO CBE MC DL was born at Mullaghmore House, near Omagh, County Tyrone.

He was educated at Rockport preparatory school and Portora Royal School.

Sir John served with distinction as an officer in the Irish Guards and, indeed, often wore his regimental tie.

He was a Deputy Lieutenant for County Down and received the honour of Knighthood in 1998.

In 2007, Sir John was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his actions during the 2nd World War.

Sir John also served public office as a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and sometime Deputy Speaker.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Mr Justice Macnaghten


FRANCIS MACNAGHTEN (1763-1843), younger son of his father, Edmund Macnaghten, of Beardiville, County Antrim, by his second wife Hannah, daughter of John Johnstone, of Belfast.

Mr Macnaghten received the honour of knighthood on his appointment as a judge of the supreme court of judicature at Madras, in 1809; from which he was transferred to that of Bengal, in 1815.

The Honourable Mr Justice Macnaghten retired from the Bench, to embark for Europe, in 1825.

He succeeded to the chieftainship of Clan Macnaghten, and the patrimonial estate of Beardiville, on the decease of his brother, Edmund Alexander Macnaghten, in 1832, which demise he made over to his eldest son.

Sir Francis had assumed the additional surname and arms of WORKMAN in 1823.

In 1806, CAROLINE WORKMAN (only surviving child of Meredyth Workman, and his wife, Mary Macnaghten, first cousin of Sir Francis), pursuant to the injunction of her father and mother, settled upon Sir Francis Macnaghten, and his heirs, the Workman estate of MAHON, in County Armagh; and on the death of the said Caroline, in 1823, Sir Francis, as he had stipulated, assumed the surname and arms of WORKMAN.

Sir Francis was deeply affected by the terrible death of his son, Sir William Hay Macnaghten, a baronet in his own right, in 1841.

He died two years later, in 1843.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Causeway Hotel

The Causeway Hotel, at the Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, was established in 1836.

It was known as Kane's Causeway Hotel.

The hotel has been owned by The National Trust since 2001; and, indeed, since 2014, the Trust has taken over the day-to-day management of it.

Unfortunately I have been unable to trace the history of the hotel, so far; though I intend to undertake some research.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Princess Anne in NI

The Princess Royal is in Northern Ireland for a two-day visit.

Her Royal Highness began her visit on the 13th May, in County Londonderry, where she was greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Londonderry, Mr Denis Desmond CBE.

HRH was met at the First World War Centenary Wood, at Faughan Valley, by Mr Patrick Cregg, Northern Ireland Director, the Woodland Trust.

TODAY, 14th May, The Princess Royal was met at the City of Lisburn by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Down, Mr David Lindsay, and the Right Worshipful the Mayor, Councillor Margaret Tolerton.

In County Antrim, Her Royal Highness was welcomed by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie OBE; Julie Jordan, regional chairman of Ride For The Disabled Northern Ireland; and Shirley Lee, group chairman.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Belmont Tweets

Belmont is slowly edging his stately way into the 21st century: And I can now be followed on the social networking and micro-blogging service, Twitter.

I now tweet (!) at @earlofbelmont

Friday, 9 May 2014

Bath Service


THE QUEEN, Sovereign of the Order, and The Prince of Wales, Great Master of the Order, are attending the quadrennial Installation of Knights Grand Cross (GCB) of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, in the Lady Chapel of HENRY VII at Westminster Abbey.

Although the Order as we know it today was created by Letters Patent under the Great Seal on the 18th May, 1725, the origins of the ceremony which takes place in the Lady Chapel – the Chapel of the Order of the Bath - can be traced back to the 14th century.

GCB ~ Military Division

Today it can take years between the award of a GCB and a Knight’s formal installation in the Chapel.

The service is being conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev John Hall DD.

Twelve Knights are being installed in seats vacated by members who have died since the last service, four years ago.

GCB ~ Civil Division

Those being installed include Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, Field Marshal The Lord Inge, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon.

The Order is generally reserved for senior members of the armed forces and civil service.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Scotch Fillet

Belmont has done it again. The mighty gnashers have worked wonders. Mind you, the exquisite fillet of beef did not require my robust teeth.

My old, late pal, Bedford, used to send his lovely Duchess out for a Big Mac and a few fries; so, I ask myself, why, on earth, should Belmont not attach the old nose-bag for a dainty beef fillet, with chunky chips, the onion rings, a little coleslaw with celery, broccoli, and tomato?

There's a considerable spoonful of bearnaise sauce, for good measure.

Too late, my friends, for if you darken the threshold of Belmont GHQ instanter, the plate is empty and the noble earl is satisfied, in a gastronomic sense, at least.

Caledon Wealth

I've been researching James Alexander, 1st Earl of Caledon. The BBC programme about the East India Company whetted my appetite.

Lord Caledon (1730-1802), merchant and landowner, amassed an absolute fortune of ca £700,000, with an equivalent net annual income of about £235 million.

He made his fortune with the East India Company, mainly based at Bengal.

At Patna and Mushidabad, the young Alexander, in his own words, made a "rich harvest out of the early revenue administration".

When he left Bengal in 1772, Mr Alexander reckoned he was worth about £150,000; a gross underestimation.

In fact, he returned to his native Ulster to purchase estates for ca £600,000.

Alexander was elected MP for Londonderry, 1775-90.

He derived an income of £7,000 from his 9,000 acre estates.

Mr Alexander was elevated to the peerage, having ceased to be an MP, in 1790, as Baron Caledon; and eventually advanced to an earldom, as EARL OF CALEDON, in 1800.

Lord Caledon was, needless to say, a staunch Unionist until his decease in 1802.

The conclusion is that Lord Caledon's personal estate was worth ca £700,000, or £3.2 billion in today's terms.

Caledon arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Ulster's Nabob

I've been viewing the BBC documentary about The East India Company, presented by Dan Snow.

Ulster's most distinguished Nabob was, in all probability, James Alexander, advanced to an earldom, in 1800, as Earl of Caledon.

Do we know exactly where he lived in India?

Alexander (1730-1802) joined the East India Company in 1752, and over the next twenty years as a merchant in India and a company official amassed a fortune which he estimated at £500,000 (almost £80 million in today's money).

Dr Peter Marshall CBE has written:
"[Among the great fortunes which were amassed in Bengal before the end of the 1760s] ... were [those] made by Francis Sykes, Thomas Rumbold and James Alexander, who had all taken a rich harvest out of the early revenue administration, Sykes as Resident at Murshidabad, Rumbold at Patna, and Alexander..."
On his final return to Ulster in 1772, he purchased an estate at Moville (Donegal) and also Boom Hall near Londonderry.

A mere three years later, however, in 1775-76, he bought the 9,000 acre Caledon estate on the borders of counties Tyrone and Armagh from the Lord Cork for about £90,000.  

Caledon Castle was rebuilt on a new site in 1779 to the designs of James Wyatt and Thomas Cooley.  

Mr Alexander became MP for Londonderry in 1774 and, in 1790, was advanced to the peerage, as Baron Caledon; followed by a viscountcy in 1797; and an earldom in 1800.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Visitor Numbers

Visitor numbers have today exceeded one million, five hundred thousand since December, 2007, when the blog began.

Ballygawley Park: 1914

Photo credit © Kenneth Allen

I have received a most fascinating message from Nick Stewart, a son of Sir Hugh Stewart, 6th Baronet.

Sir Hugh (1897-1994) was a major in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, High Sheriff, 1955, and a DL for County Tyrone in 1971.

At that time, Sir Hugh lived at Loughmacrory Lodge in Carrickmore.

Photo credit © Kenneth Allen

I have written about Ballygawley House and the Stewart Baronets of Athenree here.

Nick, whose half-brother is the present Baronet, has kindly sent me two old photographs of Ballygawley House taken by Sir Hugh in the winter of 1914.

The demesne was occasionally known as the Greenhill Estate.

Colour images courtesy of Kenneth Allen.   First published in April, 2012.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Yard Breakfast

I motored into Holywood, County Down, this morning and, having found a parking space off the High Street, met my aunt and Pat at The Coffee Yard café.

For a change I ordered the pancake with bacon and maple syrup today; and a cup of coffee.

We found our usual place on the ground floor. It was busy this morning.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Prawn Open Sandwich

I've just tucked in to a splendid open prawn sandwich, made with buttered Ulster wheaten bread, mature cheddar coleslaw, mature cheddar cheese, pickled onion, baby beetroot, celery, lettuce, and tomato.

It's a long time since I had this meal and I really enjoyed it.

Decanal Confusion

A few months ago I received a message, sent to my "official" email address, from a Church of Ireland dean.

The Dean addressed me as Lord Belmont and invited me to lunch with him at the Deanery.

He said he'd written to me.

He even suggested two dates in May; and that, if I preferred, we could lunch at a local restaurant.

I replied immediately, apprising the Dean that I had not received a letter. I wrote my address at the top of the email I sent him.

I accepted his invitation and agreed a date.

About a week later, I received another email from the Dean, advising me that his secretary had been endeavouring to contact me in County Fermanagh.

This puzzled me.
Since the blog was established in 2007, I have made it quite clear that I am not a peer of the realm and that the title is, in fact, fictitious. I've made no secret of that fact and anybody who thinks otherwise risks foolishness!
It dawned on me the the Dean was confusing me with the noble earl who lives at Castle Coole estate, near Enniskillen.

I replied to this effect.

He responded within hours, concurring that he had confused me with the nobleman who lives in County Fermanagh, and politely withdrawing his invitation to me.

My entertainment, not to say amusement, at this gaff cannot be overstated.

The Dean shall remain nameless.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Shopping List

Whilst motoring over to my aunt's this morning, I stopped off en route at my local Marks & Spencer food store.

At the bakery counter, they had some morsels of bread for customers to sample. 

It was delicious; so good, in fact, that I inquired about it. It looked rather akin to the kind of dough used in croissants. 

They call it a cheese and onion twist, I think.

I bagged one of these, and half a wheaten farl, for my cream of vegetable soup this evening.

I also purchased a fine little steak of beef fillet.

ON arrival at my aunt's house, I left a carton of my soup at her back door.