Monday, 29 May 2017

Nostalgic Ballydugan

Yesterday I paid a visit to Inch Abbey, Downpatrick and Ballydugan.

It is such a long time since I have visited Inch Abbey, that extensive, ruined monastic site on the banks of the river Quoile, just outside Downpatrick, county town of County Down.

These visits always fill me with a sense of nostalgia, a taste of former times, picnicking, glorious meadows in the summer.

Inch Abbey, by the way, is an idyllic picnic spot, if the weather is clement enough.


It was a monastery from about 1180 till 1541, when it was dissolved by HENRY VIII.

The graveyard adjacent to the little car-park at Inch Abbey is dominated by the tomb or vault of the Perceval-Maxwells of Finnebrogue.

They were the landowners and presented Inch Abbey to the state in 1910.


Thence I jumped into the two-seater and made my jolly way in a south-easterly direction, over the river, to the historic town of Downpatrick.

Down Cathedral stands proudly to the extreme west of the town, overlooking Inch Abbey across the Quoile.

I made a bee-line for Down County Museum, which is located in the historic buildings of the former County Gaol of Down.

The Gaol was opened in 1796 until its closure in 1830, when it became a military barracks.

I ambled up the hill to the cathedral.

The cathedral's graveyard lies directly opposite the west front.

The most commanding vault, almost like a little chapel itself, boasts stone pinnacles (larger versions of which adorn the cathedral) and stands at a corner of the graveyard directly overlooking the cathedral's west front.



It has an inscription in capital letters, viz. HASTINGS.

A black cat was sleeping on a grave further along.

Any reader who knows me shall be aware that I never pass a cat without greeting it cordially, and this occasion happened to be no exception.

In fact I persevered and at length my feline devotee was roused and befriended me; to the extent that it followed me into a field and up to the threshold of the cathedral.

Incidentally, the Perceval-Maxwells, like many other landed families of County Down, were patrons of Down Cathedral.

Their armorial bearings are resplendent on large, carved, colourful plaques along the walls of the nave.

Thereafter I motored in a south-westerly direction towards the townland of Ballydugan, a truly heavenly spot in the county.

Ballydugan is a hop, skip and jump away from Downpatrick; yet you are struck by its tranquillity and "olde worlde" charm.


A cursory glance at the map shall indicate that we are within riding-distance of Downpatrick Racecourse.

I have already written about Ballydugan House.

The old flour mill of Ballydugan is now a guesthouse and undertakes weddings and other functions.

It was built in 1792 by one John Auchinleck of Strangford, County Down.

Rubble masonry was used in its construction.

It is six bays in width and six storeys in height, plus two attic storeys; an impressive, stone-walled forecourt and a gatehouse.

A lofty, tapered brick chimney stands behind the mill.


A mere thirty or forty yards along the road from the mill stands the Lakeside Inn, a former coaching inn, post-office and spirit grocer's.

Margaret Ferguson, whose family owns the inn, has traced the building back to 1840.

Margaret has run the inn for seven years, since the death of her mother Meta.

Her grandfather, Thomas Hutton, ran it in 1899; and his brother, Bernard, took over till 1890.

It came into the family in 1925 when Margaret's grandfather, Thomas Hutton, bought it after 26 years working there.

He died in 1959, and his daughter Meta ran it thereafter.

Meta Hutton died in 2012 and Margaret with her husband Geoffrey have taken the helm.


The two-seater was parked beside the charming little lake at Ballydugan.

I strolled along the road on its eastern side and several hundred yards further along The Old Town emerged.

It was almost akin to stepping back in time.

This is what the Irish call a clachan, a small cluster of buildings huddled together, usually inhabited formerly by extended families and neighbours.

A Christian community known as The Old Town Community is based here.

Ballydugan Cottages have been turned into holiday accommodation.

The Old Town overlooks Ballydugan Lake.

A wooden sign nailed to a tree declares that Belfast Anglers Club has the fishing rights.

Back at the lakeside car-park, I munched my sandwiches and gave a few crumbs to the sparrows outside.

The Lake House in 2014

At the north side of the lake stands an old cottage known variously as Lake Cottage, Ballydugan Cottage, and Lake House.

Its address is Drumcullan Road.

This building and its location interest me, and I intend to write an article about it and its inhabitants soon. 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Skipper Street, Belfast

Merchant Hotel

Skipper Street, Belfast, runs from Waring Street to High Street.

This is one of the the oldest streets in Belfast, where the River Farset used to flow openly along High Street itself (it still does, though it's culverted).

High Street ca 1830

The street was thus named because skippers of sailing vessels lodged here.

This street is mentioned as far back as 1685; it was, however, significantly affected by the 1941 blitz.

In 1974, The Albert Inn stood at 3 Skipper Street; then it changed its name to the Blackthorn Bar.

High Street

The buildings are now all relatively recent since many, if not most, were destroyed by bombing during the 2nd World War.

The most notable premises today are The Merchant Hotel - formerly the Ulster Bank head office - which now runs along the entire left-hand side of the street (the even numbers).

The Spaniard Bar  is at number three and Jackson Sports is located at the corner of Skipper Street and High Street.

First published in July, 2009.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Wheaten Bannock


I do enjoy wheaten bread.

It's particularly popular here in Ulster, though many wheaten loaves or bannocks sold in the supermarkets don't enthuse me at all.

I decided to make my own.

I have been experimenting with various recipes and I think I've found a good one.

For this recipe I use a greased (buttered) baking-sheet.

Heat the oven to 200º C.


  • 280g coarse wholemeal flour (the coarser the better)
  • 20g rolled jumbo oat flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp treacle
  • 270ml buttermilk


Measure the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them.

Pour the treacle into the buttermilk and mix in another bowl or dish.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk and treacle.

Mix well with a wooden spoon.

With your hands make the mixture into a round and place carefully on to the baking-sheet.

Cut a deep cross on it.

Sprinkle the top with wholemeal flour (I often forget to do this).

Bake for about 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven, brush with melted butter and allow to cool on a cooling-rack.

Campbell Dinner

I had the most enjoyable evening last night. An old pal, NCS, picked me up at Belmont GHQ and took me the short distance to that venerable academic institution, Campbell College.

There were a couple of stinkers at Campbell during my time, though thankfully they weren't there last night.

It was such a glorious evening that some of the former staff and guests were standing in the quadrangle, drinking Pimm's.

I leapt out of NCJ's car and joined Keith and a few others.

The refreshing glass of Pimm's was duly collected at a side table.

A waiter offered delicious little canapés from a large tray.

It was truly a pleasure to meet my friend and teacher, Johnny Knox.

Johnny - Mr Knox as I knew him when I was a pupil - and his wife chatted with me in the warm sunshine.

After a while we all moved in to the Dining Hall.

Keith introduced me to the Headmaster, Robert Robinson MBE BSc. I can recall apprising him that my Number was "SIX ONE TWO EIGHT".

My name was on a place-card and I sat opposite Keith.

Johnny and Mrs Knox sat within roll-throwing distance.

This was a formal dinner, of course, and the meal was first-rate.

The main course comprised perfectly cooked salmon.

I wish I'd taken a few photographs: my camera was in my pocket, though I was enjoying myself so much that I was oblivious to it.

Keith very kindly gave me a lift home.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Prince Philip at Hillsborough

The Duke of Edinburgh, Patron, The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, attended Receptions at Hillsborough Castle, County Down, on Thursday, 25th May, 2017, for young people who have achieved the Gold Standard in the Award.

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

Marquess's Coronet


THE coronet of a marquess is a silver-gilt circlet with four strawberry leaves around it, alternating with four silver balls, known as pearls, on points.

The coronet itself is chased as if in the form of jewels (like a royal crown) but is not actually jewelled.

It has a crimson cap (lined ermine) in real life and a purple one in heraldic representation, and a golden tassel on top.

The alternation of strawberry leaves and pearls is what distinguishes a marquess's coronet from those of other ranks.

Coronets are rarely worn nowadays, although they are customarily worn at coronations.

They can, however, still be seen depicted on peers' coats-of-arms as a badge of rank within the five degrees of the hereditary peerage.


The coronet of a marchioness sits on top of the head (instead of around it).

A marquess is a peer of the second degree in the peerage, ranking above an earl and below a duke.

First published in May, 2010.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

1st Baron Beresford

LORD CHARLES BERESFORD WAS A MAJOR LANDOWNER IN COUNTY CAVAN, WITH 8,817 ACRES

ADMIRAL LORD CHARLES WILLIAM DE LA POER BERESFORD, BARON BERESFORD, GCB, GCVO, was born in 1846 at Philipstown, County Offaly.

He was the second son of John, 4th Marquess of Waterford, and brother of John, 5th Marquess.

Lord Charles married, in 1878, Mina, daughter of Richard Gardner, in London.

He was educated at Bayford School, and Mr Foster's School, Stubbington, Hampshire.


His distinguished career is very well documented already.

Admiral Beresford was elevated to the peerage, in 1916, as BARON BERESFORD, of Metemmeh and Curraghmore, County Waterford.

Lord Beresford died three years later, in 1919, when the barony became extinct.


He died at Langwell, Berriedale, Caithness, aged 73.

After a State funeral at St Paul's Cathedral,  Lord Beresford was buried at Putney Vale Cemetery in south London.


Lord Beresford inherited the County Cavan estate of his relation, the Most Rev Lord John Beresford.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Lord John George de la Poer Beresford (1773-1862), Lord Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, possessing great wealth, was known for his considerable largesse.

His patronage extended largely to Trinity College, Dublin; to the College of Saint Columba; and he restored Armagh Cathedral, at a cost of £30,000.

Furthermore, His Grace augmented the salaries of his clergy.

The bust of this distinguished prelate stands in the private chapel at Curraghmore, County Waterford.

He is interred in Armagh Cathedral.

The Archbishop bequeathed his County Cavan estate to Lord Charles Beresford.

Learmount Castle in County Londonderry, belonged to the same family through marriage.

First published in May, 2013. Beresford arms courtesy of European Heraldry.