Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Winecellar Cannon

Having inflated the tyres of the trusty two-wheeler to an appropriate degree, I rode into Belfast, the main purpose being to undertake a little research at the Linenhall Library.

It's convenient for me, given that I can park the bike opposite the side entrance at Fountain Street.

Afterwards I ambled across Donegall Square North in order to admire the grand lamp-posts which once adorned lord mayors' residences during their period in office.

The lamp-posts now stand outside the main gates to City Hall.

Diligent and faithful cherubs greeted visitors to mayoral homes; whereas now they welcome all from their prospect of the city's principal thoroughfare.

THE STUMP of a bollard of some antiquity survives in Winecellar Entry, at the corner of the courtyard near White's Tavern.

Marcus Patton, OBE, thinks that it might be what remains of an old cannon.

This entry, incidentally, dates from the 17th century.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Cullintraw Day

I have spent a lovely day with other National Trust staff and volunteers at Cullintraw, County Down, which is near the Castle Espie nature reserve.

The National Trust acquired the freehold of fourteen acres at Cullintraw in 1994 from Joan Morrow.

There were about seven of us today. We were cutting and gathering soft rushes in the field.

A small herd of Dexter cattle kept an eye on us.

After lunch - prawn mayonnaise sandwiches and tea for self - a few of us extracted some ragwort in a corner of the field.

It was quite remarkable to see how many Cinnabar caterpillars there were on the ragwort.

Heather cut the soft rushes with a powerful Allen scythe, which made light work of it.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Fermanagh DLs

The Viscount Brookeborough, Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, has been pleased to appoint:

Ms Roisin McManus, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh
Mr Shaun Pendry, Kesh, County Fermanagh

To be Deputy Lieutenants of the County, his Commission bearing date the 25th July, 2014.

Lord Lieutenant of the County.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ministerial Honours

Neck badge of the Order of Companions of Honour

THE QUEEN has been pleased to appoint the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke CH QC MP to the Order of the Companions of Honour.

The Prime Minister requested the honour be granted following the recent government reshuffle, in recognition of Kenneth Clarke’s longstanding public service to the country.


THE QUEEN has been pleased to approve that the honour of Knights Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) be conferred upon the Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan KCMG MP and the Rt Hon Sir Hugh Robertson KCMG MP, in recognition of their public service to the country.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Phantom Revival

Eureka! I wondered what had become of the City of Belfast's Rolls-Royce Phantom VI limousine.

David Irvine discovered it.

The navy blue colour partly remains, though the car is now painted two-tone, grey on the sides.

The car was re-registered as WVO 338G.

The mayoral limousine was probably ordered at Stanley Harvey & Company Limited, Clarence Street West, Belfast.

Note the well-upholstered leather hide seating, with occasional seats.

The upholstery befits, and has supported, many illustrious and esteemed posteriors...

...and the drinks cabinet: The Bristol Cream or a wee dram today, my Lord Mayor?

It is known that the car was for sale on Ebay recently.

First published in August, 2012.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Mayoral Phantom VI

In the late sixties and seventies, the Lord Mayor of Belfast's official mode of transport was a stately Rolls-Royce Phantom VI.

This car was, without doubt, the finest mode of transport the first citizen has ever used; nothing has matched it ever since.

I have attempted, in vain, to obtain information from Belfast City Council about earlier mayoral transport.

Remarkably enough, I gather that the Lord Mayor's was the very first Phantom VI ever produced and was the official mayoral car from 1968 until 1978, when Belfast City Council sold it. 

The Lord Mayor of London still uses one.

The then Councillor David Cook may have been Belfast's last mayoral occupant of the Phantom VI, which was navy blue in colour with the first citizen's registration number 1 WZ.

It even had a little pennant on the bonnet and a coat-of-arms mounted on its roof.

The Queen still has a fleet of trusty Phantoms, including at least two Phantom VI state limousines.

As a boy I was in awe of this car, a true symbol of authority, power and presence.

It really was quite a spectacle to behold (more so, perhaps, than some of its official occupants).

It must have been quite similar in appearance to the Queen's car, a 1977 Phantom VI presented to Her Majesty for the Silver Jubilee.

The Phantom VI was manufactured from 1968 until 1991 and a mere 374 of them were made.

The mayoral transport gradually became less grand when the Phantom VI was sold. I imagine it was simply too grand for some tastes.

The Council subsequently bought a Daimler Limousine for the first citizen; then another Daimler; then downgraded to a Jaguar car and so on. It's been in free-fall ever since.

The present mayoral transport is a BMW 7 Series - still navy blue and 1 WZ. 

First published in June, 2008.

Monday, 14 July 2014

HMS Caroline News

The Belfast Telegraph columnist, Linda Stewart, reported recently that the historic Pump House that served the dock where RMS Titanic was built is to be transformed into a visitor centre for HMS Caroline.

The listed building is the subject of a new planning application by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which is working towards reopening HMS Caroline to public view in 2016.

HMS Caroline is to be restored to her former glory and it is hoped she will reopen in time for the centenary of the Battle of Jutland at the end of May, 1916.

The well-known Belfast architect, Dawson Stelfox MBE DL said his company Consarc has drawn up plans for restoration work to the Pump House for its client, the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

These plans have now been lodged with the NI Planning Service. Mr Stelfox added,
"It goes alongside the restoration of HMS Caroline. The Pump House was originally built for the Alexandra Dock and it serviced both the Alexandra Dock and the Thompson Dock. Part of the Pump House will be used as a visitor reception area for HMS Caroline.
The whole fabric of the building will be restored, the brickwork and the stonework, and internally it will be fitted out as a visitor reception and interpretation for when people arrive at the site.
The whole of the dockside is going to be restored with cobbles and square setts – it will take away all the tarmac and restore the traditional features. At present the site is owned by Northern Ireland Science Park, but the planning application has been lodged by the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
Eventually the Pump House will be taken over and run by either the National Museum of the Royal Navy or the Titanic Foundation. This is part of an overall plan to get all of the historical assets in the area restored. It started with the Hamilton Dock and the SS Nomadic which was finished last year.
The idea is that the Alexandra Dock and the Thompson Dock would both be restored and a walkway would be created along the river, connecting the two together."
After Caroline was decommissioned in 2011, there were proposals to move her to Portsmouth, but following a hard-fought campaign, the National Museum of the Royal Navy announced that she would stay in Belfast and be restored to her former glory.

In May, 2013, the Heritage Lottery Fund approved an £845,600 grant to support conversion work as a museum.

The former boiler room of the Pump House has been converted into a modern cafe and visitor centre which is open to the public.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Downhill Mausoleum

I visited the Downhill Mausoleum recently, at Downhill demesne, County Londonderry.

Downhill House, Palace or Castle - whichever nomenclature one prefers - was built by the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Frederick Augustus [Hervey] Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry, commonly known as The Earl Bishop.

This august monument, several hundred yards from the mansion house, was erected for the Earl Bishop between 1779-83.

It was built in memory of his lordship's elder brother George, 2nd Earl of Bristol, who died a bachelor in 1775.

The 2nd Earl was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a highly esteemed viceregal position with very considerable power, patronage and influence.

The mausoleum stands between the Lion's Gate and the Bishop's Gate.

It was based on the Tomb of the Julii.

Sir John Soane produced a sketch design (above), based on the Roman model, for the Earl Bishop, though the work was undertaken by the Irish architect Michael Shanahan.

Shanahan's version was said to be very similar to Soane's, though less elegant.

It comprised a square-planned, cross-vaulted structure, with arched openings and eight corner columns, standing on a high plinth.

The monument was crowned with a domed monopteral tempietto, contained a fine statue of the Earl Bishop's brother, in Roman dress, by John van Nost the younger.

Neither the timpietto nor the statue could withstand the storms of 1839, since when the fragments have lain around the base of the now stunted monument, awaiting restoration.

The 2nd Earl's statue is located near the Bishop's Gate in the grounds, though the head and part of the right arm are missing.

Seemingly the Earl Bishop 's intention had been to create an open-air museum, centred round the mausoleum, of reconstructed antiquities within the grounds of Downhill.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Magilligan Drive

This morning I drove across the bridge at the River Bann, at Coleraine, County Londonderry, and towards Bellarena, passing the Desmonds' admirable Bellarena estate (above).

Magilligan Point isn't far from here, so I made a detour towards the little ferry terminus.

There's a fine Martello tower of 1812 here, close to the beginning of Lough Foyle.

I stopped at Downhill, the property of the National Trust, and admired the grounds.

I made a point of visiting the mausoleum, built between 1779-83, in memory of George William [Hervey], 2nd Earl of Bristol, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1766, brother of the Earl Bishop.

The mausoleum stands proud, though many of its finely-carved stone blocks lie on the ground.

Would this edifice make a future project for the Follies Trust?

Mussenden Temple

A reader informed me that the centaur statue, which used to greet visitors to Downhill Palace (or Castle), is now at Spencer House, in London.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The French Rooms

I dined at The French Rooms yesterday evening. This charming restaurant is located in the centre of Bushmills, County Antrim, not far from the Bushmills Inn.

They have a very good selection of spirits.

My starter of goat's cheese with fig chutney and rustic bread arrived promptly.

This was nicely presented, on a wooden platter. The cheese was enveloped in a little paper pouch, tied.

The small disc of butter had a sprig of mint. The chutney complemented the cheese beautifully.

The trusty gnashers were champing above the long-suffering nose-bag by this stage.

The staff here are charming. Chef here is a monarch of the profession.

My sea-bass duly arrived. I also ordered garlic potato bites and garden peas a la Francais. 

Needless to say, the fish was tender, moist, and boneless.

Alas, I'm too full to do justice to a dessert. I have the pudding menu in front of me: Tarte au citron; croque banane; pear, chocolate and almond tart; clementine cake ...

There's also a crepe collection, various cheeses, and liqueur coffees.

Indeed it was a memorable evening.

Don't forget to look upwards to see the central rotunda.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

New Lord-Lieutenant

County Borough of Belfast

THE QUEEN has been pleased to appoint Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle, CBE, DL, as Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for the County Borough of Belfast, to succeed Dame Mary Peters DBE when she retires on the 6th July, 2014.

Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE DL
Born in 1960 and has had a varied career, including Communications, PR and Marketing Director, Bryson House Ltd; Director of PR and Communications, Andras House; and Project and Development Officer, RAIL (Northern Ireland Rape and Incest Line). She founded Jay Associates Public and Government Affairs in 1991, an independent consultancy specialising in government affairs.

For many years she has been involved in public and voluntary service, including the Belfast Civic Trust, the Belfast Buildings Trust, the Esme Mitchell Trust which assists organisations involved in social welfare, and the Prince’s Regeneration Trust. She is currently Chairman of the NI Schools Debating Competition.

She is the founding Patron of Teachers of Singing in Ireland, the only cross-border organisation in Ireland for the professional development of singing teachers at all levels. She is also Vice Chair of Northern Ireland Opera and was a member of the Historic Royal Palaces Hillsborough Working Group (now the Hillsborough Advisory Committee).

Mrs Jay-O’Boyle was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant in 2009.