Monday, 27 July 2015

The Royal Train

The Queen's Bedroom

The Royal Train  is used regularly throughout England, Scotland and Wales to carry senior members of our Royal Family.

It has been said that The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales all have Roberts radios in their saloons, usually tuned to BBC Radio Four, as they like to wake up in the morning to the Today programme.

The Prince of Wales's Study

The joys of awakening from one's slumber by the mellifluous tones of Mr John Humphrys!



First published in October, 2008.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Prince George of Cambridge

HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge is two years old today.

Prince George, third in line to the Throne, was born at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

County Londonderry Visit

Ballyronan House

I arose from the heavenly slumber about seven-thirty this morning, made the customary breakfast of tea and toast, and decided it was time to pay Ballyronan, County Londonderry, a visit.

Ballyronan lies on the north-western shore of Lough Neagh, the largest inshore lake in the British Isles.

Ballyronan is, or has been, a charming little village of sorts.

Its nucleus seems to be at Ballyronan House, former seat of the Guassens, which itself is close to the shoreline.

I ambled for perhaps half an hour, wandering over to the main street, where there are several public bars and a little supermarket.

I might have stayed for lunch, though, since no particular hostelry appealed to me, I motored onwards towards Springhill.

Springhill from the rear

Springhill, in the same county, is, of course, the property of the National Trust.

Old Market-house, Moneymore

It is close to the village of Moneymore, itself a delightful little village possessing considerable charm; though traffic seems to pass right through the main street, at a steady pace, without stopping.

New Market-house, Moneymore

Moneymore, to my mind, has always afforded great potential, given its heritage, including two market-houses, a former dispensary, the manor house, and former inn or public bar opposite the new market-house.

Springhill demesne is a few minutes' drive from Moneymore.

The new visitor centre, housed in a former barn, is beside the car-park.

Incidentally, they have free BT wifi.

I chatted with a number of staff, in the barn, the tea-room, and the House itself.

I lunched in the tea-room and enjoyed a delicious bowl of thick soup, viz. carrot and coriander, with a generous, thick slice of Ulster wheaten bread and butter.

This was well worth its £3.50.

The house tour guide was particularly witty and enthusiastic. We all appreciated her fascinating tour, especially her rapport with the kids.

Thence I walked up the slope to the old corn mill at the top of the hill; and onwards along the Sawpit Hill Walk, a distance of one mile.

I passed the former walled garden here, which now seems to be used as allotments.

Having browsed briefly in the second-hand book-shop, in a little gate-lodge, I headed home.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

St Cuthbert's

After the constitutional breakfast of tea and wholemeal granary toast with butter and marmalade, I felt the urge to revisit St Cuthbert's church, ruinous for a very long time indeed, and not used as a place of worship for two centuries.

This little church was used by worshippers at and within the proximity of Dunluce Castle.

I gather that it used to have a thatched roof.

There is a porch at the west end.

St Cuthbert's is today surrounded by gravestones, apart from the north side, where there is a solitary grave.

It's notable that the window openings are all (wisely) on the south side; the north side is solid.

I hope to write an article about St Cuthbert's at some stage.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Portballintrae Visit

I've been spending a few days at the County Antrim seaside resort of Portballintrae.

For those who don't know, Portballintrae is very close to Bushmills, a larger village, celebrated for its whiskey distillery.

Today, after breakfast, I motored along the coast to Portbradden, a spectacular old cluster of fishermen's cottages at the bottom of a cliff.

There is a National Trust holiday cottage here; and my acquaintance Con Auld was in residence at his charming cottage, decorated and beautified in his inimitable style.

I brought Con an apple pie, though I was a bit early for him. I might call again some afternoon.

Thence I drove further along the coast, to Ballintoy harbour, another spectacular place, renowned nowadays as a Game Of Thrones setting.

The little tea-room and cafeteria, Roark's Kitchen, was open; and I noticed that fresh chowder and wheaten bread was on the menu for lunch.

Two well-coiffured elderly ladies were seated outside, apparently "people-watching"; because, as I passed, I overheard one of them - a woman of some corpulence - make a remark about the "scallywag wearing skinny jeans". 

The irony of it.

On my way back to Portballintrae I stopped at the whitewashed little Ballintoy Parish Church, where I took the opportunity of photographing several headstones in the adjoining graveyard.

Names included Trail, Macartney, and Stewart.

IN the afternoon I visited Dunluce Castle, a historic monument well worth a visit. It is well preserved.

At the car-park there is a charming little cottage which sells souvenirs and provides meals and refreshments. 

Somebody has a keen sense of humour!

The bridge over to the old castle originally had a drawbridge, though this was later replaced with an arched bridge.

I ambled across the main road to the ruinous and roofless St Cuthbert's church, which presumably was once used for divine worship by family or servants at Dunluce Castle.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Sir George White VC

© National Museums Northern Ireland

George Stuart White was a son of James White, of White Hall, County Antrim, and his wife Frances Ann, daughter of George Stewart, Surgeon-General to the Army in Ireland and his wife Frances (daughter of Colonel William Stewart MP, of Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone).

He was born at Low Rock Castle, Portstewart, County Londonderry, in 1835.

He was educated at Bromsgrove School, Worcestershire, and later at King William's College on the Isle of Man.

From 1850, he attended the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, where he was commissioned into the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot in 1853, prior to serving at the Indian Mutiny.

In 1874, he married Amelia, daughter of the Ven Joseph Baly, Archdeacon of Calcutta, with whom he had one son and four daughters.

Major White fought in the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War in 1879 as second-in-command of the 92nd Regiment of Foot (later The Gordon Highlanders).

He was 44 years old when the following deeds took place in Afghanistan, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross:

For conspicuous bravery during the engagement at Charasiah on the 6th October, 1879, when, finding that the artillery and rifle fire failed to dislodge the enemy from a fortified hill which it was necessary to capture, Major White led an attack upon it in person.

Advancing with two companies of his regiment; and climbing from one steep ledge to another, he came upon a body of the enemy, strongly posted, and outnumbering his force by about 8 to 1. His men being much exhausted, and immediate action being necessary, Major White took a rifle, and, going on by himself, shot the leader of the enemy. This act so intimidated the rest that they fled round the side of the hill, and the position was won.

Again, on the 1st September, 1880, at the battle of Candahar, Major White, in leading, the final charge, under a heavy fire from the enemy, who held a strong position and were supported by two guns, rode straight up to within a few yards of them, and seeing the guns, dashed forward and secured one, immediately after which the enemy retired.
He became the commanding officer of the 92nd Foot in 1881.

He commanded a brigade during the 3rd Anglo-Burmese War of 1885, as a result of which he was promoted to major-general and was knighted in 1886.

In 1889 he took command at Quetta District.

Sir George became Commander-in-Chief, India, in 1893.
He was appointed Quartermaster-General to the Forces in 1898, holding that post until the following year. He was commander of the forces in Natal during the opening of the 2nd Boer War; and commanded the garrison at the Siege of Ladysmith 1899–1900, for which he was appointed GCMG.
General White became Governor of Gibraltar, 1900-04, and was promoted to field marshal in 1903.

He was Governor of the Royal Chelsea Hospital from 1905 until his death there in 1912.

Sir George was buried at Broughshane, County Antrim, his ancestral home, where a memorial now stands.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen.

First published in May, 2013.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Tall Ships Belfast 2015

A stiff restorative is now the Order of the Day for self.

I spent the afternoon at the Tall Ships festival at the Belfast docks.

I cycled in the trusty two-wheeler through Titanic Quarter and found a discreet parking space under the Lagan railway bridge, at Queen's Quay.

Thence I joined a queue for the shuttle bus, which took us to the County Antrim side of the river Lagan, specifically Pollock Dock, where HMS Northumberland is presently docked.

Northumberland, a Type 23 frigate, was commissioned in 1994; has a complement of 185; and weighs about 5,000 tons.

The queue for Northumberland was hundreds of yards long and it took an hour to reach the gangway, or whatever it's called these days.

Alas, Belmont was not whistled aboard (!), though we had a fairly free run of the main deck.

The interior messes, cabins and quarters were closed to the general public today.

A number of the ship's crew hail from Northern Ireland.

I gather that the new captain is Commander Patricia Kohn RN, and judging by the duty rostrum, she was aboard or afloat this afternoon.

You shall be relieved to hear that the two-wheeler was in situ when I walked back (quicker to walk - the bus queue was hundreds of yards long).

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

McCutcheon's Field

I was out with the National Trust Strangford Lough Group of volunteers today.

We met at a property called McCutcheon's Field.

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

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

We declared War on a considerable number of thistles today.

Earlier I bought a freshly-made egg salad sandwich from the Sandwich Den, a new shop close to Belmont GHQ; and most wholesome and delicious it was, too.