Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Blue Tit Nest

I cleared out the blue tit nest-box today.

It's located on a wall at the north side of the house.

As can be seen, one chick didn't manage to fledge.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Police Memorial Service

THE PRINCE OF WALES, Patron, is this afternoon attending the National Police Memorial Day Service in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.

His Royal Highness was received by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast (Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE).

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Drinks Cabinet

Here's another chance to admire the drinks cabinet in the Lord Mayor of Belfast's official limousine, a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI.

You will notice the attention to detail, viz. the slots where the glass stems fit neatly into.

This photograph was taken between 1968-78, at which time Belfast City Council sold the stately automobile.

The registration number was 1 WZ (as it remains on the present mayoral car).

Friday, 26 September 2014

Rangership Success

Cordial congratulations to my friends and colleagues, Tomasz Ciesielski and Will Hawkins, on their rangership with The National Trust.

Tomasz and Will are currently based at Strangford Lough, County Down.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Hidden Window

The National Trust's Northern Ireland autumn and winter newsletter has a very interesting section about the continuing restoration of Mount Stewart House, County Down.

A formerly blocked-up window has been discovered in the Genoa bedroom.

This was once Lady Londonderry's bedroom; and then her daughter, Lady Mairi Bury, used it.

The blocked-up area behind the bed was revealed as having been a fully-functioning sash window.

There is a signature etched into the paintwork which dates to 1883.

As a consequence of this discovery, the Genoa bedroom now has four windows.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Skillins Wood

I've spent a lovely day with other National Trust staff and volunteers at Skillins Point, County Down, where there is a fine oak and ash wood.

There were about nine of us today.

Self brandishing an axe

We were dismantling an old barbed-wire fence and removing the wooden posts.

We all lunched at the shore, not far from Mid Island and Greyabbey, on the Ards Peninsula.

Before we left, we all managed to take some ash logs with us.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Prince Edward in NI

The Earl of Wessex has begun a two-day visit to Northern Ireland.

His Royal Highness was greeted at Belfast City Airport by the Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast, Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE.

Prince Edward arrived at The St Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, County Down, where he met the Centre's Director, Mr Tim Campbell.

After lunch, HRH visited Down Cathedral, where he was greeted by the Dean of Down, the Very Rev Henry Hull, the Lord Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Rev Harold Miller, Mrs Hull, Mrs Miller, and the Organist and Master of the Choristers, Mr Michael McCracken.

His Royal Highness then proceeded to the Downpatrick and County Down Railway Museum, where he was greeted by the Vice-President, Mr William Gillespie, and the Chairman, Mr John Wilson.

THIS EVENING, The Earl of Wessex was guest of honour at a special event in the headquarters of Belfast Education and Library Board, Belfast.

HRH was met on arrival by Dr Clare Mangan, Chief Executive, Rosemary Rainey, BELB board member, and Claire McCollum, freelance presenter.

Prince Edward then made his way to the Belfast Harbour Commissioners’ Offices for his final engagement of the day,  a reception to celebrate Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Joint Award Initiative Leaders.

His Royal Highness also had the opportunity to meet and present Bronze awards to a small number of recipients who had completed the programme under the Joint Award Initiative with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Distiller's Arms

I enjoyed a fine, hearty meal at The Distiller's Arms (Tartine) on Sunday evening. It's located at one end of Bushmills' Main Street, County Antrim.

I do like this place. The staff, particularly the manager, always welcome me cordially.

I had a chin-wag with some of the staff, particularly about Dundarave and its sale.

One of the staff is involved in the game activities within the Estate, and I told him that this ought now to be secure.

Back to my dinner: Firstly I had the Seafood Platter, a dish comprising two or three large prawns, crab pâté, smoked salmon, salad garnish, and wheaten bread.

The glass plate itself was very large and opaque.

I relished this starter with gusto.

My main course was the lamb shank with spring onion of scallion mash, carrots and parsnip.

This was a hearty meal, perfect for an early autumn evening.

Despite a sore temptation for pudding or Irish coffee, I resisted, settled the bill, and bade Tartine farewell.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Portballintrae Visit

The weather has been fine here at Portballintrae, County Antrim: Sunny and dry.

I had no idea of the salmon and whiskey festival taking place in the adjacent village of Bushmills.

Part of the main street was closed to traffic, in fact.

I ventured in to the popular little confectioner's shop for a half pound of my favourite fruit pastilles.

During the afternoon, HM Coastguard were training several of their staff at Portballintrae harbour.

Later, I dined at The French Rooms, which isn't far from the inn.

The ancient nose-bag was treated to smoked salmon, giant capers, rustic bread; guinea fowl; and Tarte tatin with whipped cream.

TODAY there is a gymkhana just outside Bushmills.

Friday, 19 September 2014

New DL


Mr Denis Desmond CBE, Lord-Lieutenant of County Londonderry,  has been pleased to appoint:

Mr Peter SHERIDAN OBE, Eglinton, County Londonderry

To be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County, his Commission bearing date the 11th day of September 2014.

Lord Lieutenant of the County

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Cullintraw Day

I've spent a wonderful day in the lovely County Down countryside, at a field near Castle Espie known locally as Cullintraw.

This field is beside an estuary, in the Ulster townland of Cattogs.

There were about fourteen National Trust volunteers and staff today.

Our task was to clear the field of rushes which we had cut a month ago.

These rushes had been made into stacks, so our tractor and trailer took most of them away.

I lunched on banana sandwiches and coffee; and some of us brought some treats, viz. buns and crunchy biscuits.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Carrickfergus Visit

I have visited the historic town of Carrickfergus, County Antrim, this afternoon, as part of the European Heritage open days.

The Barony of Carrickfergus is a subsidiary title of HRH The Duke of Cambridge.

The Castle hasn't changed greatly (!) since my last visit several years ago.

It retains its fascination, though, having stood here for over eight centuries.

Dobbs mural plaque in St Nicholas's Parish Church

AFTERWARDS I ambled across the road, to the parish church of St Nicholas, an ecclesiastical building of considerable antiquity.

This church is celebrated for its association with the Chichester family, Marquesses and Earls of Donegall.

The Chichester Monument is located at the end of the Donegall aisle.

Many members of the family are interred here.

There is also a mural monument to Thomas Legg, Mayor of Carrickfergus in the late 18th century.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

McCutcheon's Field

I've spent the day with other National Trust volunteers at a place known as McCutcheon's Field.

This comprises several acres of coastline at Brigg's Rocks and close to Sandeel Bay, in north County Down.

There's a holiday park here called Windsor Caravan Park.

This field is close to Groomsport.

Today we were gathering old gorse cuttings and burning them.

We were joined by a small herd of Dexter cattle.

Finnebrogue House

I'm delighted to learn that Finnebrogue House, near Downpatrick, County Down, has been fully restored.

Cordial congratulations to the owner for such an admirable undertaking.

This is an important country house, originally dating from the mid to later 17th century; but extensively remodelled internally, and to a lesser extent, externally, in the 1790s, with some changes to the rear in ca 1880s; largely cleared away in the 1930s.

The building is roughly H-shaped, with a recessed central entrance section and projecting side wings.

The central portion contains two floors; whereas the wings have three.

The attic level (and dormer windows) to the centre was removed in the 1790s to permit the heightening of the first floor rooms.

The walls are rough-casted, the roof slated; almost all windows Georgian-paned sashes, and the remaining tall prominent chimney-stacks rendered.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


In October, 2013, I spent the day at the historic ciudad of Betancuria on Fuerteventura, Canary Islands ~ Islas Canarias.

Betancuria was once the capital of Fuerteventura, hence its status as a town; though it's really the size of a small pueblo or village.

It is situated in the centre of the island.

Having ambled round the Main Street of the village, which boasts several souvenir shops, a heritage centre, and a couple of bars, I walked up the paved hill to the main attraction of Betancuria, the ancient ecclesiastical complex of Santa Maria.

The old Church of Santa Maria is at the centre of this charming cultural Mecca.

I spent perhaps twenty minutes in the church, admiring its artifacts and religious icons.

I lunched at the Santa Maria café, where I enjoyed a plate of mixed tapas (€8) and a refreshing glass of chilled white wine. 

This proved to be a charming little haven of tranquillity.

Afterwards, I wandered down to a local bodega, where I enjoyed a reinvigorating gin and tonic.

This bodega has a wonderful prospect of the Santa Maria church.

First published in October, 2013.