Wednesday, 23 December 2015

6th Earl of Erne (1937-2015)

I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of the Right Honourable Henry George Victor John Earl of Erne KCVO today.

Lord Erne was a true friend of Northern Ireland, particularly his beloved Couny Fermanagh and Crom.

He shall be sorely missed.

I convey my sincere condolences to Lord Erne's family.

Ormiston Restoration

I met an old school pal for breakfast at S D Bell's this morning.

I fancied the scrambled eggs and granary toast, which were tip-top.

Major restoration work is progressing today, 23rd December, 2015, at Ormiston, in east Belfast.

Ormiston was the former residence of Sir Edward Harland Bt; and the Viscount Pirrie.

The Hawthornden Road lodge of ca 1867 has a new slate roof and awaits further renovation.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Tesco Vintage Port

I happened to be at a massive Tesco store near me this morning at nine o'clock and bagged a bot of their finest vintage port, viz. the 1997 Vinho Do Porto, by Symington Family Estates.

Christopher Bellew, on his fine new blog, has apprised us - not to add tipped us off - about this.

It currently costs £16.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Connswater Progress

February, 2015

In February, 2015, I photographed the river Conn's Water at Holywood Arches health centre, Belfast, where the river is culverted for a short distance.

December, 2015

Today I revisited the same location and, as we can see, the Connswater Greenway scheme is progressing well.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Belvoir House

West front

I am grateful to the Northern Ireland Forestry Service for providing me with photographs of Belvoir House, Newtownbreda, Belfast, which enables me to share my passion and fascination of Belvoir with others.
BELVOIR HOUSE was a large, three storey, mid-18th century mansion set in a demesne of 6,348 acres in 1876.

The top storey was treated as an attic, above the cornice.

It had a seven-bay front and a three-bay break-front centre with four giant Doric pilasters supporting a pediment, flanked by two oculi.

East front

There was a curved bow on the eastern side elevation.

At the apex of the pediment the Bateson baronets' coat-of-arms was prominently displayed, their crest being a bat's wing; and their motto Nocte Volamus.

The great mansion boasted an impressive staircase hall and the stairs had a cast-iron balustrade.

The original owners of Belvoir were the Hill-Trevors, Viscounts Dungannon, who, in turn, sold the estate to the Batesons, Barons Deramore.
Lord Dungannon's seat at Belvoir was probably the largest and grandest private dwelling in Belfast, and remained thus until its deplorable demolition. The only other possible contenders would have been Lord Donegall's Tudor-Revival pile at Ormeau Park; or Orangefield, residence of the Houston family of bankers.
Belvoir House was demolished on the 18th February, 1961, by the NI Forest Service.

The site is now the main car park.

Today the forest park extends to 185 acres.

Belvoir House was considered a candidate for the new Parliament of Northern Ireland as a possible seat of Government before the Stormont Estate was chosen.

Belvoir was also contemplated by HM Government as the official residence of the new Governor of Northern Ireland (Hillsborough Castle, or Government House as it became known, was chosen instead). 
The two governments felt that the surrounding demesne and parkland was too extensive at the time.

The picture at the very top shows the west entrance front, which was opposite the present stable-yard where the RSPB has its office.

The west side of the house was long, so the actual door entrance would have been beyond the stables (the rear courtyard buildings and the conservatory attached to the House, at ground floor level, cannot be seen in the picture).

North front

The picture immediately above shows the garden front with its portico, facing northwards towards the motte and the formal gardens below.

The Irish Aesthete has written about the house and posted several good images.

Ben Simon has published A Treasured Landscape: The Heritage Of Belvoir Park.

First published in May, 2009.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Skillin's Wood

I spent the morning at Skillin's Wood, near Greyabbey, County Down, this morning.

I met Tomasz and other National Trust volunteers at the Mount Stewart schoolhouse, where we gathered the equipment and drove the mile or two to the wood.

Skillin's Wood overlooks the village of Greyabbey on the inside; and Mid Island to its west.

There were fourteen of us today.

Our task was to construct a wattle fence bird "lookout" at the shoreline.

We finished at about one o'clock, motored back to the schoolhouse, and all congregated for the annual Christmas party.

Sausage-rolls, cocktail sausages, chicken, quiche, chilli con carne, soup, more nibbles, a Yule log, chocolate cake, crisps and much more bore down on the table.

I think Maureen made the Yule-log and Christmas cake - sumptuous, Maureen; thank you!

One of the long-term volunteers, Sebastian, was leaving, so we presented him with two wildlife books and a card.

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce was made today at Belmont GHQ.

Having obtained the requisite main ingredient, caster sugar is dissolved with some water in a saucepan.

The juice of a clementine and its finely-grated zest is added; and a glass of port.

Thereafter the berries are added and the mixture is simmered for ten or fifteen minutes, until the desired consistency is reached.

The sauce will be refrigerated till required.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Killynether Woods

I haven't been to Killynether Woods since January, 2014.

Killynether, near Newtownards, County Down, has been a property of the National Trust since 1937, when it was bequeathed by Miss J H Weir.

It comprises 42 acres.

Today we were coppicing hazel, as we usually do.

There must have been about ten of us today.

We lunched under a birch tree; and, for a change (!) I munched on chicken and sweetcorn sandwiches.

Most of of spent five hours coppicing and gathering the branches, which will be used for fencing.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Man about Town

I ventured into central Belfast this morning.

The little grey cells have been chugging away, considering a special gift for my godmother.

Having alighted at Donegall Square North, opposite City Hall, my eyes were drawn to Molton Brown, supplier of toiletries to the royal household.

Their GHQ seems to be at Shaftesbury Avenue in London.

My mission has come to a happy conclusion, having been served by lovely Catherine in the said shop.

As it happens, I wasn't aware that they received a royal warrant in 2013.

Thereafter I darkened the threshold of possibly the longest established optometrists in Belfast, Petticrew's, of Cornmarket, established in 1887.

I was warmly greeted by Andrew Petticrew, who happened to observe my overcoat.

I was wearing a traditional olive covert overcoat, which I bought in 2001.

Andrew remarked that he owned a very similar one.

Andrew Petticrew is one of the most amicable optometrists you're likely to encounter in Belfast.

In fact, I was there to look at reading glasses and I was given a complimentary pair, despite offering to pay.

If you are reading this, Andrew, may I convey my sincere gratitude? They were put to good use within five minutes.

Belfast has its annual Christmas Market in the grounds of City Hall, so I had a brief look before going home.

Mourne Seafood Bar's Lobster Burger
I have to confess that the Mourne Seafood Bar's Lobster Burger sounded tempting at £7.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Spanish State Visit

His Majesty the King of Spain, FELIPE VI, accompanied by Queen Letizia, has accepted an invitation from Her Majesty The Queen to pay a state visit to the United Kingdom from the 8th until the 10th March, 2016.

Their Majesties will stay at Windsor Castle.

The last State Visit from Spain was by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in 1986.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh paid a State Visit to Spain in 1988.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

December Bride's Domain

Simmy Island from Island Taggart

Sam Hanna Bell, MBE,  the celebrated Ulster-Scot novelist and playwright, was brought up at Strangford Lough, County Down, a part of the Province that I know fairly well.

In 1951, he wrote the acclaimed December Bride, a story based in the vicinity of the lough about a servant girl and her relationship with two brothers in conservative Ulster.

Sadly, he died just before the said book's film première.

The 1991 movie was shot in and around Island Taggart, at the derelict farmstead on the top of the island.

Yesterday I was on the beloved 85-acre island again, with eleven other volunteers.

It has been owned by the National Trust since 1985, when it was the property of Paddy Mackie.

I shan't bore you with the details of what we were doing (gorse!), though I shall post a few photographs.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Museum Trip

Once Upon A Time, by Arlene McPadden

I visited the Ulster Museum briefly this afternoon.

Stranmillis Road was as busy as ever, so I drove across to College Gardens, almost opposite Deane's at Queen's restaurant.

There was an exhibition by the Royal Ulster Academy at the museum.

A painting of Paddy Mackie at Castle Espie, County Down, by Julian Friers particularly impressed me; as did an exhibit by Arlene McPadden.

Thereafter I went for a stroll at the University quarter.

Almost all of Upper Crescent is for sale or to let.

It's such a shame that the present owners allowed this fine terrace to deteriorate to such a degree.

Nevertheless, let us hope that new owners shall be more sympathetic to one of the city's finest terraces.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Princess Royal in Belfast

The Princess Royal, Patron, the Mary Peters Trust, accompanied by Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, attended a Fortieth Anniversary Dinner at City Hall, Donegall Square, Belfast, on Saturday, 28th November, 2015, and was received by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast (Mrs. Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE).

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Island Taggart Trip

I've spent the day with seven other National Trust volunteers on Island Taggart, one of the largest islands on Strangford Lough, County Down.

We met in Killyleagh and took the little boat from an old quay across to Taggart.

Today we were mainly gathering gorse and brambles for burning.

We have a new trolley cart. It is black, with collapsible sides, and can carry up to about 300 kilogrammes.

This cart, which has four pneumatic tyres, proved useful for the logs and tools.

I lunched on tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches today.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Judicial Damehoods

THE QUEEN has been pleased to approve that the honour of Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Civil Division) be conferred on Siobhan Roisin Keegan QC and Denise Anne McBride QC, following their appointment as Justices of the High Court. 

The Hon Mrs Justice Keegan was called to the Bar in 1994 and took Silk in 2006. She was elected vice-chairman of the Bar Council of Northern Ireland, 2014.

The Hon Madam Justice McBride was called to the Bar in 1989 and took Silk in 2011. She was vice-chairman of the Bar Council of Northern Ireland, 2012-14.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Patrick Carlin VC


Patrick Carlin was born in 1832 at Belfast. When he was about 26 years old, he served as a private soldier in 1st Battalion, The 13th Foot, later known as The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's).

In 1858, during the Indian Mutiny at Azumgurh, India, Private Carlin carried out the deed for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross:

The Commander-in-Chief in India directs that the undermentioned Soldier, of the 13th Foot, be presented, in the name of Her Most Gracious Majesty, with a Medal of the Victoria Cross, for valour and daring in the field, viz.: Private Patrick Carlin, No 3611, of the 13th Foot, for rescuing, on the 6th of April, 1858, a wounded Naick of the 4th Madras Rifles, in the field of battle, after killing, with the Naick's sword, a mutineer sepoy, who fired at him whilst bearing off his wounded comrade on his shoulders.
Patrick Carlin died in the Belfast Union Infirmary on 11th May, 1895, and was buried in the Friar's Bush graveyard, Stranmillis Road, Belfast. There is no memorial.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at The Somerset Light Infantry Museum, Taunton, Somerset.

First published in May, 2013.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Yakety Sax!

Last night we had hoped to dine at Avenida restaurant, Corralejo, though it was fully booked by six forty-five and there was a queue.

Consequently, we opted instead to walk the short distance to Calle Iglesia, where the street band La Familia Flotante would be performing later.

My friends and I ate at an Italian street restaurant called, I think, El Burro Loco.

Corralejo has a large Italian community.

We all had pasta and the wine, a little Sicilian number, was dearer than the food.

I find that pasta tends to cool very rapidly if the plate or dish is not hot.

Don't tell me that scorching hot plates are banned for Health & Safety reasons!

At any rate the meal was perfectly satisfactory, as was the €22 bottle of white wine.

Thereafter we strolled up the street to the Bar Bouganville and found ringside seats or, to be more precise, rattan chairs, for the performance by La Familia Flotante.

This great band consists of saxophonist, guitarist, drummer, tom-tom player, and female singer.

The final piece is usually Yakety Sax, better known as the Benny Hill theme tune.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

New DL


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

County Londonderry

to be a Deputy Lieutenant of the said County, her Commission bearing date 29th October, 2015.

Daniel Cambridge VC


Daniel Cambridge (1820-82) was born at Carrickfergus, County Antrim, son of Archibald Cambridge and Bridget (nee Murray).

Attesting at Lisburn, County Antrim, in 1839, he gave his occupation as labourer. He is recorded as being 5' 8" tall, with a fresh complexion, dark grey eyes and brown hair.
He enlisted four days later, as a Driver and Gunner in the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Artillery. Having served with 2nd Company, 4th Battalion, in Malta (1841-47), Cambridge was then posted to Canada with the 7th Battalion, in 1848.
In 1849, he married Ann Bigham, daughter of James Bigham, at Notre-Dame de Québec, Quebec, Canada.

In 1853, Cambridge's posting to Canada came to an end and he and Ann, now expecting their first child, found themselves on the way to England and the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, the home of the Royal Artillery.  

He was 35 years old and a bombardier in the Royal Regiment of Artillery when he carried out the actions during the Crimean War for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 8th September, 1855, at Sebastopol, Crimea, Cambridge volunteered for the spiking party on the assault on the Redan.

He remained with the party after being severely wounded twice, but had refused to leave until the general retirement was ordered, and even then he repeatedly went back into the open to carry wounded men to safety.

In the latter part of the day, he sprang forward to bring in another wounded man. While carrying the helpless infantryman to the safety of the trench, Cambridge was seen to stagger.

Subsequently, he was found to have been shot a third time, in his right jaw, and, incapacitated, he took no further part in the action.

...For having volunteered for the spiking party at the assault on the Redan, 8 September 1855, and continuing therewith, after being severely wounded; and for having, in the after part of the same day, gone out in front of the advanced trench, under a heavy fire, to bring in a wounded man, in performing which service, he was himself severely wounded a second time.
In 1857, Cambridge was promoted to Master Gunner with the 8th Coastal Battery, Athlone, County Roscommon; and in 1862 he was posted to Fort Tarbert, County Kerry.

Daniel Cambridge VC was pensioned as a Master Gunner after completing thirty-two years' service, in 1871.

In that same year he was appointed to The Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard.

Yeoman Cambridge died from the wounds received in the Crimean War in 1882, at 57 Frederick Place, Plumstead, aged 62 years.

He was survived by his wife Ann, and their children William (born in Woolwich in 1854), Mary (Athlone 1857), Agnes (Athlone 1859), Daniel (Athlone 1861), Catherine (Tarbert 1865) and Elizabeth (Tarbert 1865).

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich, London.

First published in May, 2013.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Ugly Duckling: III

I spent a delightful evening yesterday with friends at The Ugly Duckling restaurant in Corralejo, Fuerteventura.

We arrived at eight o'clock.

Henrik welcomed us warmly, as usual, and poured us a refreshing glass of Cava.

We decided to have two starters between he three of us: garlic prawns, and the green salad.

I chose the pork tenderloin, with creamed potato, spinach, and béarnaise butter.

We drank Rioja wine.

Henrik was ever the exemplary host, attending to our needs regularly.

Our meal concluded with a little shot glass of Henrik's own licorice liqueur.

Thence we walked round the corner of the street to a little pavement café, where we had coffee and enjoyed an outstanding performance by a local band, the saxophonist of whom seems to be the leader.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Constitutional

Taking the Constitutional in the morning, I frequently pass Corralejo's long-established Avenida restaurant.

The unassuming Avenida is off the beaten tourist track; though those enlightened cognoscenti know the reason for its deserved celebrity.

Further along the street, windmills are now a feature of the old town.

The first boutique hotel opened about a year ago. Today a second one is taking shape along the promenade at an old quay.

There once was an ugly duckling ...

... soon to be transformed at the premises of the erstwhile Café Lounge Bar where Stefan was Mine Host for many years.

This handsome little two-seater MG stood outside an apartment block en route.