Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Island Taggart Visit

Island Taggart is one of the largest islands on Strangford Lough, County Down.

Today we all mustered at Balloo, Killinchy, and motored the short distance, via Rathcunningham Road, to the quay.

This is a cul-de-sac which terminates at Rathcunningham Quay.

From here, Simmy Island and Ringdufferin are adjacent.

About ten of us boarded the little motor-boat from the quay and made the five-minute trip over to Taggart in two runs.

This island has been a property of the National Trust since 1985, when it was donated by Patrick and Kathleen Mackie.

There is a derelict farmstead in the middle of the island, which was used for the film production of The December Bride (by the Ulster author, Sam Hanna Bell).

Taggart is about 85 acres in extent.

Old orchard at back of farmhouse

Today we were cutting down gorse bushes.

I had my favourite cheese-and-onion sandwiches for lunch.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Glorious North Antrim

I've already said it many times though, for the benefit of new readers, I shall reiterate and reaffirm my great fondness for the village of Bushmills in County Antrim.

I stayed at my aunt's holiday home in Portballintrae for a few days and, driving past the little railway halt, a huge - not to mention grand - marquee came into eyesight in a large field beside the river Bush.

It was directly opposite the Bushmills Inn Hotel.

I should fill you in on a few preliminary details first.

The landlords of Bushmills and the entire area used to be the Macnaghten Baronets, of Dundarave estate (beside the village).

The Macnaghtens owned about 6,700 acres of land during the Victorian era, including the Giant's Causeway.

A few years ago the present Baronet sold his estate, including Dundarave House, to Dr Peter FitzGerald CBE, founder of Randox Healthcare.

Dr FitzGerald's plans for the development of his land (now 1,300 acres) include corporate hospitality, shooting, fishing, and his personal passion, polo.

Still with me? The massive marquee outside the village was erected by Randox for a charity polo tournament in aid of - correct me if I'm wrong - The Prince's Trust.

I had been informed of the cost of the tickets and speculation that a member of the Royal Family might attend.

Belmont, dear reader, was a mere bystander.

I did spot Mrs Joan Christie OBE, the Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim; and the local constabulary looked exceptionally smart, wearing shirts and ties etc.

Speaking of the Northern Ireland police, they have a very good pipe band.

They marched proudly along the field, entertaining the spectators.

Judging by four flags flying from the marquee, there were four teams, namely, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Irish Republic, and South Africa (I gather that Dr FitzGerald's sister is a horse-trainer or owner there).

Basement room at Downhill House ca 1930s

EARLIER in the day I motored through Coleraine and over the river Bann to Downhill Demesne, a property of the National Trust.

Downhill House, Castle, or Palace, whichever you prefer, was a seat of none other than the Right Honourable and Right Reverend Frederick Augustus Hervey, Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry.

Let's abbreviate that to the Earl-Bishop.

The Bishop's Gate

I parked outside the Bishop's Gate, had a chin-wag with the staff in the lodge, and ventured forth into the glen.

Not, however, before I paid homage to the headless statue of the Earl-Bishop's brother George, 2nd Earl of Bristol.

The Earl-Bishop erected a magnificent mausoleum or monument to his brother (and patron) in the grounds, within eyesight of Downhill House.

The 2nd Earl's statue stood within this monument.

I walked towards the coastline, where the roofless shell of a belvedere or summer-house now stands.

It was built for one of his daughters, the Lady Mary Hervey (who married the 1st Earl of Erne).

Back at the Bishop's Gate, where the stonework is embellished with an earl's coronet, crests, mitres etc, there is a secondary entrance in the form of a tunnel, for the use of servants and tradesmen.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Portballintrae Visit

I spent a few hours at the Bayview Hotel, Portballintrae, County Antrim, last night.

I had a Nero Wolfe detective novel and, of course, the iPad.

The Bayview Hotel is well established in the village and, in my experience, the staff are generally very welcoming and friendly.

Earlier in the day I'd been to the seaside resort of Portrush, in the same county.

I sought a full-size wetsuit and tried on one that fitted me like a glove, so decided to buy it.

Back at the hotel I was reliably informed that the healthcare company, Randox, is organising an event in a large field beside Bushmills, beside the river Bush.

An enormous marquee has been erected and I'm wondering if this would be an equestrian event, such as a polo match.

I motored into Coleraine, County Londonderry, this morning.

I'm fond of Coleraine, particularly the Diamond where the town hall is situated.

There's a very strong wind blowing today, so I may not christen the wetsuit (!)

Thursday, 15 September 2016

On Gibb's Island

I was at Ballyquintin last week; and yesterday was spent with a dozen National Trust Strangford Lough volunteers at Gibb's Island, a truly beautiful property beside Delamont Country Park, County Down.

The closest village, Killyleagh, is merely a few miles away and is worth a detour itself, with the romantic, turreted Castle (private) and the celebrated Dufferin Inn a stone's throw away.

As many will know, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, is also the Baron Killyleagh.

The term "island" is perhaps a slight misnomer for Gibb's nowadays, given that there's now a permanent causeway and track which lead over to it.

No matter; it's one of the most picturesque places in the county and certainly in Strangford Lough.

Gibb's was formerly part of the Delamont Estate (which I've already written about elsewhere).

It's a very small island, and a large wooded area covers the entire top of Gibb's.

It is particularly popular with local dog-walkers; in fact the grass path round the island is so well trodden that there's no need to mow it.

During certain months of the year Galloway or Angus cattle graze Gibb's; and we do mow it once a year to encourage the wild flower meadow.

Yesterday we were at the top of the island, cutting down sycamore saplings and small trees; thereby encouraging the growth of other flora.

We also collected acorns for future planting.

A group of us lunched on a wooden bench directly opposite the Quoile Yacht Club.

The weather was heavenly: more akin to late summer than early autumn.

Prince Henry of Wales


His Royal Highness Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, KCVO, is the younger son of the Prince of Wales and is fifth in line to the Throne.


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Brackenber Images

Do any readers possess photographs of Brackenber House School?

There are bound to a few colour ones from the time before the house was demolished.

Could you have a look at an old album, perhaps, and send it to me by email?

Thank you.

Friday, 9 September 2016

New DLs


Mr David Lindsay, Lord-Lieutenant of County Down, has been pleased to appoint:-
  • Mr Peter Campbell CONWAY, Warrenpoint, County Down
  • Professor Neil McCLURE, Holywood, County Down
To be Deputy Lieutenants of the County, his Commission bearing date 2nd September 2016.

David Lindsay
Lord Lieutenant of the County

Monday, 5 September 2016

New Belfast DLs


Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE, Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, has been pleased to appoint the following to be Deputy Lieutenants of the County Borough of Belfast, their Commissions bearing the date, the 31st day of August, 2016:-
  • Professor Alastair Samuel ADAIR, CBE, Newtownards, County Down
  • Mrs Judith Mary EVE, CBE, Newtownbreda, Belfast
Signed: Gary Smyth MBE, Clerk of the Lieutenancy

Friday, 2 September 2016

Madame Valerie

I spent some time in central Belfast this morning.

I had hoped to find more heraldic information about the Chearnleys of Salterbridge, though my search in the library proved to be fruitless.

A couple of vintage advertisements in an early 20th century Burke's amused me.

Even the apostrophe is missing on Burberry's name (the founder was a certain Thomas Burberry), so this poor grammatical habit began many decades ago.

I don't suppose too many readers shall recall Hooper & Co of 54, St James's Street.

I did, however, nip into Mark and Spencer's Donegall Place store and made a beeline for the food hall.

On the way home, I passed the new Patisserie Valerie café, located opposite City Hall, at Donegall Square West, where their display of hand-made cakes proved to be irresistible.

I fancied the Mixed Berry Tart.

Incidentally, Patisserie Valerie was established in 1926 by Madame Valerie; and her first café was situated at Frith Street, London.