Sunday, 31 August 2014

Belfast's Cathedral Quarter

This morning I motored to what is now known as The Cathedral Quarter, Belfast.

I parked at Donegall Street and walked the short distance to Academy Street, which is dominated at one side by Belfast Cathedral.

In fact, the Cathedral is enclosed by Donegall Street, Academy Street, Exchange Street West, and Talbot Street.

Exchange Street West
I turned right at Exchange Street West, where the recent development, Saint Anne's Square, is directly opposite the east end of the Cathedral.

Standing in Saint Anne's plaza, there is a good prospect of the Cathedral's east end and pinnacle.
There was a proposal to build a lady chapel, 76 feet in length and 30 feet wide, holding a congregation of about 200 people, at the Cathedral's eastern extremity, though this plan was never realised, presumably due to financial constraints.
Hill Street ends at the junction of Exchange Street West and Talbot Street.

Gordon Street begins at 43 Hill Street
This is one of Belfast's most atmospheric and distinctive streets. It used to be known as Pott-house Lane.

The beginning of Hill Street

Hill Street leads from Waring Street to Talbot Street, with Gordon Street, Commercial Court and Exchange Place off it.

Commercial Court, from 31 Donegall Street to Hill Street

Commercial Court is celebrated, of course, for the Duke of York bar and the relatively new Hadskis restaurant, which is related to the opulent James Street South restaurant in Belfast.

Exchange Place, from 25a Donegall Street to Hill Street

Whereas Exchange Place is more of a narrow entry which leads from Donegall Street to Hill Street.

The Duke of York has a back entrance or exit at Exchange Place.

Whereas Hill Street and its entries used to thrive with commercial warehouses and premises, today they flourish with marvellous theme restaurants and bars.

There are several hotels in the Cathedral Quarter, including the august and luxurious Merchant Hotel; the Premier Inn; and the Ramada Encore.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Storm in A Teacup

My aunt and I caught up with each other this morning in Storm in A Teacup, at Massey Avenue, Belfast.

This bijou café is located in a former bank premises at the side entrance to Stormont, the seat of government in Northern Ireland.

We like it.

The room isn't large, though the loftiness of the ceiling, the plasterwork and ambiance enhance this place in an uncommon way.

Parking is easy.

This morning I ordered the toasted soda farls with butter and scambled eggs: perfectly seasoned eggs mixed with little cream, I reckon.

I enjoyed this breakfast with Earl Grey tea.

My aunt had a savoury scone with coffee.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Schoolhouse Barbecue: II

We all enjoyed a splendid day today at the old schoolhouse, Mount Stewart Estate, County Down.

The schoolhouse now serves as a base for the National Trust's Strangford Lough team.

In the morning fifteen of us tidied up the rear garden, digging, weeding and raking.

Fortunately for us it remained quite sunny, dry and mild.

There was an abundance of bangers, burgers, chicken legs, salad, puddings and good company.

During the afternoon we were delighted to receive members of the Trust's regional administration.

Later, we went for a stroll in the woodland behind the schoolhouse.

Schoolhouse Barbecue

We are having a late summer barbecue today in the gardens of the old schoolhouse.

Volunteers and staff of the National Trust Strangford Lough group have been invited.

We are meeting at the old Schoolhouse on Mount Stewart estate, County Down.

The former estate schoolhouse is located at Portaferry Road on the Ards Peninsula.

Half of it is now used as an office and tool-store; the other, as accommodation.

I made some fresh coleslaw as my modest contribution towards the occasion (white cabbage, onion, carrot, a little mustard, pinch of caster sugar, seasoning).

There is an interesting stone plaque at the front entrance, which proclaims 
This School was Founded ..... 1813 by the Viscountess Castlereagh. The Governors of Erasmus Smith Schools. 

Two years ago (in June, 2012) I was presented with a special badge and certificate for twenty-five years' voluntary service with the National Trust.

This thrills me and I do appreciate this kind gesture from a charitable establishment which is dear to me.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

BBC Concert

Ulster Hall

I motored into Belfast at about five-thirty yesterday, endeavouring to get into the right lane - or avoid so-called bus lanes - for Howard Street.

Last week I found a space on Brunswick Street, right outside Deane's; and yesterday the same space awaited me.

How remarkable.

Howard Street restaurant is a hop and a skip from here. In fact, it's opposite the Presbyterian Assembly building.

I enjoyed a really good meal at Howard Street, comprising Stilton Fritters, Pork Belly, and Rhubarb crème brûlée. Three courses cost £19.95.

Having detached the ancient nose-bag an hour or so later, I strode briskly onwards, along Brunswick Street, taking a sharp left turn at James Street South, emerging at Bedford Street and the august Ulster Hall.

This Victorian edifice looks particularly impressive at night, though my photograph has not done justice to the lovely colour-scheme.

Last night's concert was for BBC Radio 3. It comprised works by Sibelius and Nielsen.

Sharon Bezaly and Esa Heikkilä

The conductor was Esa Heikkilä and the soloist was the celebrated flautist - with her golden flute - Sharon Bezaly.

Our Ulster Orchestra performed excellently as usual. I particularly enjoyed the final piece, The Wood Nymph, by Sibelius.

Friday, 15 August 2014

New DL

Mr David Lindsay, Lord-Lieutenant of County Down, has been pleased to appoint:


To be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County his Commission bearing date the 6th day of August 2014.

Lord Lieutenant of the County

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Hamilton Crest

During my perusal of Burke's genealogical and heraldic dictionary of 1834 - I was researching the Hamiltons, Dukes of Hamilton and Brandon - I encountered the legend of the Hamilton crest, viz,
"Out of a ducal coronet, an oak-tree, fructed, and penetrated transversely in the main stem by a frame-saw."
The legend is as follows:
having expressed himself at the court of EDWARD II in admiration of King ROBERT THE BRUCE, received a blow from John le Despencer, a favourite courtier of the King, which led, the following day, to an encounter, wherein Despencer fell; and Hamilton sought security in Scotland, about 1323.

Being closely pursued, however, in his flight, he and his servant changed clothes with two woodcutters, and taking their saws, were in the act of cutting through an oak-tree when his pursuers passed by.

Perceiving his servant notice them, Sir Gilbert hastily cried out to him, "Through"; which word, with the oak, and saw through it, he took for his crest, in commemoration of his deliverance.
"This detail is, however, liable to many objections", according to the narrative.

First published in November, 2013.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Steinway Model D-274

I enjoyed a splendid concert at Belfast's Ulster Hall last night, as part of the BBC's summer series for Radio 3.

Earlier I found a parking space at the beginning of Brunswick Street, adjacent to Deane's Restaurant.

I enjoyed an "Early Bird" meal at the Grill Bar of James Street South Restaurant, which is at the corner of James Street South and Brunswick Street.

The music, soloist and conductor were all Scandinavian, viz. Niklas Willén, the conductor; Christian Ihle Hadland, pianist; and music by Grieg, Tellefsen, and Alfvén.

The Hall was almost full and I managed to get my usual seat on the balcony overlooking the double bassists.

It's always a joy to watch this mighty instrument disappearing into the basement on the stage during the inrterval.

Does the Ulster Orchestra possess the same Steinway Concert Grand piano, the model D-274, that I wrote about five years ago?

The Orchestra's piano was most generously funded five years ago by a local charity called Ulster Garden Villages.

Similar Model D-274 pianos cost approximately £100,000 in 2009.

Steinway and Sons hold a royal warrant.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Chapel Island

I spent this afternoon with four other National Trust volunteers and staff on Chapel Island (above) today.

Chapel Island lies directly west of Greyabbey in County Down.

This is a small island on Strangford Lough, barely a dozen acres I imagine, with the remains of a ruined chapel, once attached to Movilla monastery.

Strangford Lough has another island of the same name further south, beside Jackdaw Island and near Audley's Castle.

At low tide, the island is accessible by foot from the mainland, the short walk taking about fifteen minutes.

All that remains of the chapel is a pile of stones spread across a small area; and it's totally obscured by bramble, nettles and other weeds.

Today we removed electric fencing in preparation for a new fence.
EARLIER we spent some time weeding the garden at the old schoolhouse, Mount Stewart estate.
There remains an old water pump, manufactured by Miskelly & Co, of Ards.
Can anybody recognize the tree below?
This Blonde kept her eye on me.

Monday, 4 August 2014

WW1 Commemoration

The Duke of York will attend a service of Commemoration at Belfast Cathedral later.

The Cathedral, at Donegall Street, will be closed to visitors today after the 8.30am service and will remain closed until the service this evening to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the 1st World War.

The Commemoration Service at 7pm is open to invited guests only.

It will be attended by His Royal Highness; the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP; The First Minister, the Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA; and other representatives of civic and political life.

The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor shall not be in attendance.

The preacher is the Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke, Lord Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.