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.

2nd Earl of Gosford



The Hon Archibald Acheson (1776-1849) was born at Markethill, County Armagh.

He was the second son of the 1st Earl and Countess of Gosford.

Lord Gosford's town residence was at 22 Mansfield Street, London.

Having been educated at Christ Church, Oxford, Acheson became MP for County Armagh from 1797-1807, when he became heir to the 1st Earl and was styled Viscount Acheson.

Lord Acheson succeeded as 2nd Earl in 1807 and held high office:
    • Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh, 1831-49
    • Privy Counsellor, 1834
    • Captain Yeoman of the Guards, 1834-35
    • Governor-General of Canada, 1835-37
    • Vice-Admiral of Ulster
    • Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Bath (GCB), 1838
      Lord Gosford's most illustrious appointment, however, was as Governor-General of Canada.

      His appointment took effect in 1835 as governor-in-chief of British North America; he was also selected because the ministers hoped that he might be able to apply in Lower Canada the techniques of conciliation that he had employed so successfully in Ireland.

      For agreeing to accept the appointment he had been created Baron Worlingham in 1835.

      A civilian, unlike his predecessors, Gosford was not appointed commander of the forces in the Canadas, but he was given unusually extensive authority over the lieutenant-governors of the neighbouring colonies, who were sent copies of his instructions.

      Gosford assumed control of the government of Lower Canada in 1835.

      Since his predecessor, Lord Aylmer, had become identified with the English, or Constitutionalist, party, Gosford kept his distance from Aylmer until the latter’s departure the following month.

      Subsequently he held a series of lavish dinner parties and balls, at which he established a reputation as a bon vivant and showered his attentions on the leading members of the Patriote party and their wives.

      Gosford was neither the good-natured incompetent nor the “vile hypocrite” that his critics proclaimed.

      He hoped to create in Lower Canada an alliance of moderate politicians from both parties and to hold the balance of power as the Whig administration did in the Kingdom of Ireland between Catholics and Protestants.

      Whig policy there was to distribute patronage to Catholics and liberal Protestants in order to remedy an historic imbalance in the higher levels of the administration. Gosford pursued the same goal.

      He increased appointments of French Canadians to the judiciary and the magistracy, insisted that a chief justice and a commissioner of crown lands should be chosen from among them, and gave them a majority on the Executive Council and a virtual majority on the Legislative Council.

      He substantially increased their numbers holding offices of emolument.

      Moreover, he refused to allow multiple office-holding, to condone nepotism, or to appoint to prominent positions persons known to be antipathetic to them.

      In 1838, Gosford learned that his resignation had been accepted.

      Back in the United Kingdom, Gosford was given a vote of thanks by the Whig ministry and appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (GCB) in 1838.

      He did not lose interest in Canada.

      On the appointment of Lord Durham as Governor, he commented that “a more judicious choice could not have been made.”

      He wrote to Lord Durham that the majority of French Canadians had not participated in the rebellion and warned against the English party.

      As Durham’s ethnocentrism became more pronounced, Gosford criticised him bitterly for appointing to office several outspoken opponents of French Canadians.

      Indeed, Gosford blamed the second rebellion, in the autumn of 1838, on Durham’s stupidity, and he was equally critical of Colborne and “those savage Volunteers.”

      During the 1840s his interests again focused on Ireland, where he split with O’Connell over the issue of repeal. In his declining years he devoted his primary attention to his estates.

      Gosford had left Lower Canada little loved either by the British minority or by the Patriotes.

      HM  Government ignored his advice and followed the recommendations of Durham, who declared that Gosford was “utterly ignorant . . . of all that was passing around him.”

      Nevertheless, Gosford had shown considerable administrative ability, more political sensitivity than his predecessors, and greater tolerance than his immediate successors. His sincerity is unquestionable.

      He probably did as much to limit the severity of the rebellion as it was possible to do, and if Lord Durham had followed his advice, the second rebellion might have been considerably less bloody.

      That Lord Gosford failed to achieve his goals is self-evident; that he ever had a reasonable chance of success is doubtful.

      First published in December, 2011.   Gosford arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

      Saturday, 28 November 2015

      The Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava

      When the 5th and last Marquess of Dufferin and Ava died in 1988, without issue, Clandeboye estate passed to his widow Serena Belinda (Lindy) Rosemary, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava.

      The marquessate itself is now, sadly, extinct.

      Photo credit: Katybird

      Lady Dufferin inherited a considerable fortune at the time, not least due to the Guinness connection.

      She also inherited the beautiful Clandeboye Estate, near Bangor in County Down, and a London residence in Holland Park.

      Clandeboye Estate comprises about 2,000 acres of prime Ulster woodland and gardens, making it one of the finest private country estates in Northern Ireland.

      Lady Dufferin has a continuing interest in the Arts, painting and conservation.

      Clandeboye Golf Club has now become an integral part of the estate.

      There is a memorial to the 1st Marquess in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.

      I have written an article in April, 2009, entitled The Four Great Ulster Marquessates.

      First published in August, 2009.  Dufferin arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

      Friday, 27 November 2015

      Blarney Castle


      The founder of this family in Ireland was Colonel John Colthurst, who was murdered by native Irish rebels in 1607.

      His lineal descendant,

      JOHN COLTHURST, of Ballyally, County Cork, married Eliza, daughter of Sir Nicholas Purdon.

      In 1684, this gentleman was granted extensive land in County Cork. He had issue,
      Nicholas, a colonel in the army, High Sheriff of Cork, 1736;
      JOHN, of whom presently.
      His younger son,

      JOHN COLTHURST, of Ardrum, MP for Tallagh, 1734-57, High Sheriff of County Cork, 1738, who married firstly, Alice, daughter of James Conway; and secondly, Mahetabel, daughter of William Wallis.

      Dying in 1756, he was succeeded by his eldest son,

      JOHN CONWAY COLTHURST, who wedded, in 1741, Lady Charlotte FitzMaurice, daughter of Thomas, 1st Earl of Kerry, by whom he had five sons.

      Mr Colthurst was created a baronet in 1774.

      He died in 1775, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

      SIR JOHN CONWAY COLTHURST, 2nd Baronet (c1743-87), who was killed in a duel by Dominick Trant; and dying unmarried, the title devolved upon his brother,

      SIR NICHOLAS COLTHURST, 3rd Baronet, who wedded Harriet, second daughter of the Rt Hon David la Touche, by whom he had issue,
      NICHOLAS CONWAY, his heir;
      Elizabeth; Catherine.
      Sir Nicholas died in 1795, and was succeeded by his only son,

      SIR NICHOLAS CONWAY COLTURST, 4th Baronet (1789-1829), Colonel of the Cork Militia, trustee of the linen manufacture, MP for the city of Cork.
      The heir apparent is the present holder's only son John la Touche Conway Colthurst (b 1988).

      BLARNEY CASTLE, Blarney, County Cork, is an unusually large tower-house of 1446 which incorporates the famous Blarney Stone, high up beneath the battlements.

      The 4th Earl of Clancarty had supported JAMES II, with the result that his forfeited estate was granted to the Hollow Swords Company at the end of the Williamite wars.

      In 1704 the Mayor of Cork, Sir James St John Jefferyes, purchased the estate and built a new house attached to the original castle.

      This was greatly enlarged by his descendants and developed into large Georgian Gothic building with a central bow, rows of lancet windows and pinnacled battlements.

      In 1820 this house was destroyed by fire and not rebuilt, though its remains can still be seen today.

      In 1846 Louisa Jane, the Jefferyes heiress, married a neighbour, Sir George Colthurst, of Ardrum near Inniscarra.

      He was a man of property, with another large estate at Ballyvourney near the border with County Kerry, along with Lucan House in County Dublin.

      He also inherited Blarney on his father-in-law’s death.

      When her first children died, Lady Colthurst demanded a new house at Blarney on an elevated site.

      This was built in the Scots Baronial style, to the designs of Sir Thomas Lanyon of Belfast who, rather surprisingly, incorporated a number of classical details from Ardrum into the design.

      Their high quality shows that this must have been an important building.

      BLARNEY HOUSE is typical of its type, with pinnacles, crow-stepped gables and a profusion of turrets with conical roofs.

      The interior has a double height inner hall, lit from above, a pair of interconnecting drawing rooms and a massive oak staircase.

      The style varies from faux Jacobean to Adam Revival, and the rooms have tall plate-glass windows which overlook the lake.

      Nearby, the Jefferyes family created the unique Rock Close, an early 18th century druidic garden layout of large rocks, boulders and yew trees; with dolmens, a stone circle and a druid’s altar.

      Today Blarney House is the home of Sir Charles Colthurst, 10th Baronet.

      In 2009, Sir Charles donated the family papers of the Colthurst family to the Cork City and County Archives, adding to a previous legal collection relating to this family already in the Archives.

      First published in November, 2011.

      Thursday, 26 November 2015

      Cassidi of Glenbrook

      The very ancient Celtic family of Úa Caiside or O'CASSIDY was for ages seated in County Fermanagh, where the village of Ballycassidy preserves the name.

      Their territory was called Cuil-na-n-Oirear, i.e. the corner or angle of harbours, situated on the eastern shore of Upper Lough Erne, immediately opposite some beautiful islets, whose indentations form the miniature haven that gave the place its title.

      It became known as the barony of Coole.

      The Úa Caiside were hereditary doctors in medicine, or state physicians of the Maguires, the former chiefs of Fermanagh; and they held their district ex officio, according to the laws of tanistry.

      In 1541, Roderick Cassidy, Archdeacon of Clogher, eminently versed in the historical records of his country, died.

      Besides having written part of the Register of Clogher, he also compiled the latter part of the Annals of Ulster.

      Among inquisitions in the Exchequer is one taken at Ballycassidy, County Fermanagh, in 1630, at which time the family had branched out widely in the counties of Fermanagh, Louth, and Monaghan.

      To one of these scions we refer

      HENRY O'CASSIDY MD, who had followed his ancestral pursuits in medicine, was of Greatwood, Mullaghbawn, and Drumkirk, County Louth, and of various estates in County Monaghan.

      He was born ca 1650.

      Dr O'Cassidy married and had issue, with others,
      FERGUS, his heir;
      Edmund, scholar of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1710;
      Margaret, m Eugene O'Docherty, of Newtown, County Leitrim.
      The elder son,

      FERGUS O'CASSIDY, of Greatwood, County Louth, and of "Derry", County Monaghan, had two sons, of whom the elder,

      PATRICK CASSIDY, of Derry, in the parish of Magheracloone, near Carrickmacross, espoused Catherine Flood, and had issue.

      Mr Cassidy's last will was dated 1753, and proved in 1757.

      Among other directions he desired "to be buried in my tombe at Carrick McCross".

      His youngest son,

      FRANCIS CASSIDY, born ca 1747, of Cashel, County Tipperary, wedded Sarah Magee, a first cousin of the Most Rev William Magee, Lord Archbishop of Dublin, and had issue,
      MARK, his heir;
      Francis Duff, captain, 60th Rifles, private secretary to Lord Castlereagh, the statesman;
      Francis, who died young.
      His eldest son,

      THE REV MARK CASSIDY (1777-1839), scholar of Trinity College, Dublin, 1797; chancellor of Kilfenora, and incumbent of Newtownards, County Down, ca 1808-39.

      He married, in 1808, Henrietta, daughter and co-heiress with her sister Esther, wife of the Rev Prebendary Cleland, of Samuel Jackson, of Stormount [sic], near Belfast, a West Indian planter.

      Mr Cassidy had issue,
      Samuel, of Glenbrook, Co Londonderry; m Esther Scott; d childless, 1843;
      FRANCIS PETER, of whom presently;
      Frederick (Rev), vicar of Grindon, Co Durham;
      Robert, LL.D., of Ballyhackamore House, Belfast, m Anne, daughter of Dr Ardagh;
      Loftus Tottenham, lieutenant-colonel, 18th Hussars;
      Sarah; Henrietta; Fanny; Emily.
      Mr Cassidy's second son,

      FRANCIS PETER CASSIDY JP, of Glenbrook, County Londonderry, a colonel in the 34th Regiment, married, in 1853, Maria Lucy Anne, daughter of Matthew Hayman, of South Abbey, Youghal, and had issue,
      FRANCIS RICHARD, his heir;
      Helen Hayman Henrietta;
      Mary Mortimer.
      Colonel Cassidy served with his regiment during the Indian mutiny, and was severely wounded at the battle of Cawnpore, in 1857.

      Dying in 1859, he was succeeded by his eldest son,

      FRANCIS RICHARD CASSIDI MBE JP MD (1858-1939), of Glenbrook, Director of Transport, First Line Hospitals, Derbyshire, in 1st World War; Associate of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

      Dr Cassidi wedded, in 1887, Marion Elizabeth, daughter of Dr John Duncanson, of Alloa, Clackmannanshire, and had issue,
      FRANCIS LAIRD, b 1889;
      Robert Alexander, Lt-Cdr, RN; b 1894;
      Marjorie May, 1888-90.
      The elder son,

      FRANCIS LAIRD CASSIDI VRD MB (1889-1963), of Glenbrook (which property he made over to his son, 1950); surgeon captain, RNVR; honorary surgeon to HM King GEORGE VI.

      Dr Cassidi married, in 1924, Phyllis Mary, daughter of the Rev A C Haviland, of Lilley Rectory, Hertfordshire, and had issue,
      FRANCIS PAUL, of whom we treat;
      Oonagh Teresa, served during 2nd World War in WRNS;
      Catriona Elspeth, b 1955.
      The only son,

      FRANCIS PAUL CASSIDI TD MB, of Glenbrook, born in 1925, married, in 1953, Barbara Geraldine, daughter of Major W T Temple RA, of 118 Shorncliffe Road, Folkestone, Kent;
      He graduated from St Thomas Hospital Medical School, London, in 1948, with a Bachelor of Surgery; RMO, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Territorial Army); major, Royal Army Medical Corps (Territorial Army); Police Surgeon, KCC; Medical Officer at HM Prison, Canterbury, Kent; Territorial Decoration, 1968.
      Dr Cassidi lived, in 1976, at St Dunstan's House, Canterbury, Kent, and at Glenbrook, Magherafelt, County Londonderry, and had issue,
      Francis James, b 1962;
      Penelope Jenetta, b 1954;
      Alison Ruth, b 1955;
      Melian Geraldine, b 1959.

      GLENBROOK HOUSE, near Magherafelt, County Londonderry, is a somewhat Gothic, late-Georgian house.

      Its entrance is in a three-sided, battlemented bow between two gables with finials and small, overhanging oriels.

      The house had become neglected and derelict for a period.

      It was completely restored and enhanced in 2013 by Des Ewing Architects for the new owner.

      First published in November, 2013.

      Ross of Bladensburg


      ROBERT ROSS, of Rostrevor,
      derived from SIR DAVID ROSS, commissioner of Ulster under JAMES I, High Sheriff of County Down, 1709, MP for Killyleagh, 1715-27, and for Newry, 1727 until his decease in December, 1750.
      Mr Ross married firstly, Anne, eldest daughter and co-heir of Robert King MP, of Lissenhall, Swords, and by her had issue,
      ROBERT, his heir;
      Mary; Anne.
      He wedded secondly, Jane _____, and by her had further issue. The eldest son,

      ROBERT ROSS, of Rostrevor and Dublin, MP for Carlingford, 1723, 1727, 1761 and 1768, Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1748-9, High Sheriff of County Down, 1771, had issue by his wife Anne,
      Robert, a colonel in the army, b 1728; d unm;
      DAVID, of whom hereafter;
      Anne, b 1732.
      The younger son,

      DAVID ROSS, (1729-), major in the army, espoused Elizabeth, half-sister of James, Earl of Charlemont, and daughter of Thomas Adderley, of Innishannon, and had issue,
      THOMAS, of whom presently;
      Robert, of Bladensburg, major-general, father of DAVID ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG;
      James, lieutenant RN, drowned at sea;
      Mary, m Rev Dr Blacker.
      The eldest son,

      THE REV THOMAS ROSS, of Rostrevor, County Down; High Sheriff, 1837;  wedded, in 1796, Maria O'Brien, granddaughter of Sir Edward O'Brien Bt, of Dromoland Castle, County Clare, and had issue,
      DAVID ROBERT, his heir;
      Edward, m Anne, daughter of Rt Hon TP Courtenay, niece to the Earl of Devon;
      The Rev Dr Ross died in 1818 and was succeeded by his elder son,

      DAVID ROBERT ROSS JP DL MP (1797-1851), of Rostrevor, married, in 1819, Harriet Anne, daughter of the Hon and Rt Rev Edmund Knox, Lord Bishop of Limerick, by his wife, Charlotte, sister of Sir Thomas Hesketh Bt, of Rufford Hall, Lancashire, and had issue,
      THOMAS, in the Royal Navy;
      Edward Charles (Sir), CSI;
      Jessie; Harriet Adele.
      David Ross was Governor of Tobago, and died in 1851.

      After his death, the part of his property in which is Rostrevor was purchased by his cousin,

      DAVID ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG JP, of Rostrevor (1804-66), who married firstly, in 1838, Mary Anne Sarah, only daughter of William Drummond Delap, and by her had a daughter,
      KATHLEEN ELIZABETH, m, in 1861, Colonel Francis J Oldfield, Political Agent at Kolapore. He died in 1897; she died in 1907.
      Mr Ross-of-Bladensburg wedded secondly, in 1843, the Hon Harriet Margaretta Skeffington, sister of John, 10th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard KP, and by her had issue,
      ROBERT SKEFFINGTON (Rev), SJ, of Rostrevor;
      JOHN FOSTER GEORGE (Sir), succeeded his brother;
      Edmund James Thomas;
      Harriett Margaret.
      Mr Ross-of-Bladensburg was succeeded by his eldest son,

      THE REV ROBERT SKEFFINGTON ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG, SJ, of Rostrevor, erstwhile captain in the South Down Militia, who died in 1892, and was succeeded by his brother,

      Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, former major, Coldstream Guards, RA, ADC to the Earl Spencer when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ADC to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
      He espoused, in 1870, the Hon Blanche Amelia, youngest daughter of John, 10th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard KP.

      Sir John served in the Soudan Campaign, 1885, and was Secretary to the Duke of Norfolk's mission to the Holy See, 1889, and to Sir Lintorn Simmons' mission to the Holy See, 1890.


      Major-General Robert Ross, a major-general in the army, who, after serving with the highest distinction in the Peninsular War, was appointed commander-in-chief of the army sent against the United States, and after a short career of uninterrupted success, during which he achieved the victory of BLADENSBURG, and possessed himself of the American capital, fell in 1814, whilst advancing to attack the enemy's position near Baltimore.

      On his widow and his descendants was conferred by The Prince Regent, in 1816, the honorary distinction "of Bladensburg", to be added to the family name, and an augmentation of arms.

      General Ross married, in 1803, Elizabeth Catherine, eldest daughter of William Glassock.

      The Ross Monument (obelisk) in the General’s native village of Rostrevor, County Down, was restored in 2008.

      With uninterrupted views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains, the monument is situated almost on the exact spot where General Ross had planned to build his retirement home, had he returned safely from his expedition to America in 1814.

      Writing of Carlingford Lough and Rostrevor, the famous English nineteenth century writer, William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote,
      "were such a bay lying upon English shores, it would be a world's wonder; or if on the Mediterranean or Baltic, English travellers would flock to it". 
      Aware of Ross's importance as a figure in world history, Newry and Mourne District Council provided seed funding to assist the Rostrevor-based historian, Dr John McCavitt, with his research into the career of the General.

      Besides playing a pivotal role when British forces inflicted a morale-boosting first ever victory over Napoleon's 'invincibles' at the Battle of Maida (1806), Ross later carved out a highly distinguished career during the Peninsular War in Europe.

      As the bicentennial of the War of 1812 approaches, it is also hoped that a deeper understanding of the nature and impact of Ross's brief career in the USA is realised.

      Thus, besides the Battle of Bladensburg and the burning of the public buildings in Washington, it is also recognised that the manner in which Ross met his death at Baltimore in September, 1814, contributed in no small measure to inspiring the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner.

      The ties that bind Rostrevor to this pivotal period in American history are remarkable.

      There is some evidence that there were plans afoot to send an American privateer to burn Rostrevor in revenge for Ross's attack on Washington.

      The inscription on the Obelisk in Rostrevor reads as follows:-





      Neither Ross nor his immediate descendants were knighted or received a title of nobility.

      However, his descendants were given an augmentation of honour to the Ross armorial bearings (namely, a second crest in which an arm is seen grasping the American Flag on a broken staff) and the family name was changed to the Victory Title ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG which was granted to his widow.

      In honour of Washington DC's history, there is also a portrait of General Ross in the Capitol's rotunda.


      The Rostrevor demesne was very modest in size, comprising about 640 acres in 1870.
      The park and garden setting of this early Tudor-Revival house (1835-37) was the focus of one of the most important tree and shrub collections of late Victorian and Edwardian Ireland. 

      Although not maintained as a garden for some decades, many rare trees survive in these grounds, which are attractively located on the southern spur of the Mourne Mountains, overlooking Carlingford Lough. 

      Rostrevor demesne has 18th century origins.

      The original house, called Carrickbawn, was built by the Maguires and was known locally as ‘Topsy-Turvy’, because of the ‘unusual manner in which it had been built’. 

      It was acquired by Major David Ross in the late 18th century, and in 1809 passed to his famous second son, Major General Robert Ross (1766-1814), who is commemorated by the nearby obelisk built in 1826. 

      After the Major General's death in the American war in 1814, the property passed to his widow, Elizabeth Catherine Ross, while their descendants were granted the hereditary distinction 'of Bladensburg' in his honour by the Prince Regent. 

      With a generous government pension, Mrs Ross was able to considerably expand the parkland planting; in 1820 for example, she is known to have put down some 30 acres of larch, oak and Scotch Fir. 

      In 1835 the old Maguire house was demolished and the present Tudor-Revival mansion, one of the earliest examples of this style in Ulster, was erected in its place.

      It was most probably designed for Mrs Ross by the Dublin based architect William Deane Butler (d 1857). 

      After the death of General Ross's widow in 1845, the property passed to their eldest son, David Ross-of-Bladensburg.

      He made little impact on the demesne, spending long periods on the continent, while his eldest son, Robert, who inherited Rostrevor House in 1866, decided to leave Ireland in the early 1870s and become a Jesuit and later a priest. 

      Consequently, management of the property passed to his younger brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg KCB KCVO (1848-1925), who eventually inherited the place in 1892. 

      The famous tree and shrub collection at Rostrevor was begun by Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg in the 1870s, though he was not able to take up full time residence in Ireland until 1882, when he was assigned as a member of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland's staff. 

      His plantings were largely confined to the slopes to the north-east, east and south of the house, covering an area of about fifty acres.
      His collection of 'hardy, half-hardy and very tender shrubs, trees and to a lesser extent, herbaceous plants, became one of the best known in Ireland, if not the United Kingdom', and in 1911 a comprehensive catalogue of the 'Trees and Shrubs grown in the Grounds of Rostrevor House' was published [University Press, Ponsonby and Gibbs]. 
      This lists about 2500 plants, many of great rarity, and these numbers were to increase so considerably in subsequent years that in 1919 an article in Irish Gardening was able to state that the garden had 'the largest collection of plants growing in the open in the whole country'. 

      Not surprisingly, the garden was described in numerous Edwardian journals and books, while Sir John himself contributed many lengthy articles on plants growing in his gardens, mostly published in the monthly journal Irish Gardening.

      Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg had no male heirs and, after his death in 1925, the gardens went into decline. 

      After standing empty for a number of years, the house was acquired in 1950 by a missionary order, the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, who established it as an inter-denominational retreat house and novitiate. 

      In the 1960s they added a large extension to the north side of the house, but in 1998, due principally to insurance considerations, the house's role as a centre for retreat had to be curtailed, while at the same time the sisters decided to share the old house with a small Benedictine community. 

      It is believed that, as of 2011, Rostrevor House belonged to Ballyedmond Estates.

      While many trees and shrubs disappeared from Rostrevor in the 1930s and subsequent decades, many evidently dying because of livestock grazing, there are still many rare and important plants in the grounds.
      Most of these lie in the area south of the house and on the hillside above the house and drive. Some of the trees include a fine Nothofagus soalndri (70ft); a Nothofagus dombeyi (80ft), a Macedonian Pine (Pinus peuce- 90ft), Chilean Laurel (Laurela Serrata), Cupressus cashmiriana (30ft), a remarkably tall Pittosporum bicolor, an outstanding kowhai (Sophora tetraptera), a Sophora tetraptera (30ft), a Zelkovo carpinifolia and many others. 
      First published in June, 2011.  Use of the photograph of Rostrevor House by kind permission of  ANNEKA TEMMINCK.

      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.