Tuesday, 31 July 2012

No Dope!

How can any human being beat their personal best in a swimming competition by seconds? Is it humanly possible without some kind of unfair advantage?

Surpassing one's best time by milliseconds would be more credible.

The Chinese swimmner Ye Shiwen took seconds off her personal best to break the world record and win a gold medal in the 400m medley on Saturday, swimming faster in the last 50m than the winner of the men's event.

There is no evidence against her and all medal winners are drug-tested.

John Leonard - the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association - said her performance was "unbelievable".

I do have my suspicions. 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

No Balls!

I jumped into the two-seater and drove in a south-easterly direction towards Kircubbin, County Down.

My purpose was to visit Rubane (Echlinville) House, and it's not hard to locate. I spoke to the owner, who is restoring the property; and I am hopeful of acquiring some photographs for the blog.

Incidentally, readers, I shall be posting my Echlinville article next week.

Later I stopped off at Mount Stewart, which was heaving with Sunday jazz patrons; the overflow car-parks were filled.


Attention, conservators! The marquess's coronets atop the gate-posts are devoid of their pearls or balls. The so-called heraldic pearls are between the strawberry leaves. The property is currently undergoing a major restoration project.


The 9th Marquess of Londonderry was interred at Mount Stewart about three weeks ago; it is said that about forty family members attended a private service at the family chapel in the house.

I had a slightly disappointing bar meal at the Saltwater Brig pub earlier. The scampi and chips bore no comparison to the equivalent dish at another bar I've frequented before, the Dirty Duck Ale House.

The staff, including the lovely Olive, were friendly and attentive, though my meal was served too promptly - within five minutes - given how busy it was. It must have been done hurriedly.

The scampi pieces were small - make that tiny - in some instances; and the chips did not appear entirely home-made to me. I could be wrong. This meal and a glass of orange juice cost about £13.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

At Gibb's Island

Timothy Belmont was out in the field again today, at Gibb's Island on this occasion. Gibb's Island, formerly part of Delamont estate, now belongs to the National Trust.

There were about eight of us today. We were uprooting ragwort and creeping thistle.

We have made wonderful progress at Gibb's and the wild flower meadow is thriving. There's still some way to go, though weeds have been uprooted manually, in order that the precious wild flowers are protected.


Before lunch we planted an oak sapling, donated by Richard, a veteran volunteer. Salt Island can be seen in the distance.


Later we painted a wooden fence with preservative.


I noticed a fledgling wren chick. Click on any photo to enlarge it.


During our lunch break, a grasshopper landed on my haversack.

XXX Olympiad

I viewed the entire Olympic ceremony last night and it was indeed spectacular. So it ought to have been, given the cost, some might say.

One of the most remarkable moments for me was the short film featuring a cameo role at Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty met a certain Commander James Bond CMG RNVR, Agent 007. He did not kick the corgis.

Her Majesty gave a reception for the Olympic heads of government:-

"On the occasion of the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games, Prince Philip and I would like to extend a very warm welcome to you all.

As leaders of the many nations competing in the Games, you have come from around the world to witness this global festival of sport.

I hope that you will enjoy your time in the United Kingdom, and I am sure that you will find a warm reception awaiting you, your athletes and the visiting spectators.

This will be the third London Olympiad: my great-grandfather opened the 1908 Games at White City; my father opened the 1948 Games at Wembley Stadium, and later this evening I will take pleasure in declaring open the 2012 London Olympic Games at Stratford, in the east of London.

Over recent months, many in these islands have watched with growing excitement the journey of the Olympic Torch around the United Kingdom.

As the Torch has passed through villages and towns it has drawn people together as families and communities.

To me, this spirit of togetherness is a most important part of the Olympic ideal; and the British people can be proud of the part they have played in keeping the spirit alive.

Many sports played in these Games have their historic roots in this country; and as a nation we have an abiding passion for sport, as well as a tradition of fair play and a good-natured sense of fun.

In all our national Olympics teams there is so much of which we can be proud: groups of young men and women dedicated to excellence and achievement across numerous sporting disciplines.

And these teams are ably supported by thousands of organisers, volunteers, and supporters who will be following the action not just at the Olympic venues here in the United Kingdom but throughout the world.

For all these reasons, I wish you and your countries a successful, enjoyable and memorable Games."

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Golden girl

It was a pleasure to listen to Dame Mary Peters, Ulster's Golden Girl of the 1972 Munich Olympics, who was interviewed by James Naughtie at seven forty-five this morning on BBC Radio Four.

Dame Mary spoke, with great eloquence, of her memories: the Olympic village; the medal (which, incidentally, is on display at the Ulster Museum); her fondness and empathy with the present generation of sports men and women; her pride at competing for the country and the playing of the National Anthem.

We, in Belfast and Northern Ireland, are all so fortunate in having such a wonderful ambassador in Dame Mary Peters DBE.

Dame Mary Peters DBE is HM Lord-Lieutenant for the County Borough of Belfast.

The Red Arrows will perform a fly-past in Belfast today. They will fly past the city centre, over City Hall and Donegall Place, at one o'clock.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

New Radio

I have ordered a new clock radio for my bed-side table. It is manufactured by Roberts Radio and the model is called ChronoDAB.

Do any readers own DAB radios? 


Roberts, a subsidiary of Glen Dimplex, hold two royal warrants, as suppliers of radios to HM The Queen and to HRH The Prince of Wales.

Roberts has offices in both Surrey and Yorkshire. Glen Dimplex Group is based in the Irish Republic.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Darragh Island Trip


I spent the day on Darragh Island with seven other National Trust staff and volunteers.

Darragh Island, a NT property on Strangford Lough, lies east of Killinchy. Its shape reminds me of a lobster. It comprises almost 19 acres and was acquired in 1978 from John Metcalfe.

We passed Conly Island on the way, a heavily wooded isle with a holiday cottage in a secluded location overlooking Darragh.


Our task today was to create three new ponds for livestock. Some of us did this, while others strayed Azulox on the bracken. White body suits had to be worn for this.


This little island has many butterflies and we also spotted burnet moths.

BURNET MOTH ON DARRAGH ISLAND

Darragh Island has few features, though there is a small kelp kiln, ruinous, and a kelp store (seen in the picture), partly used for other purposes nowadays. It is believed that there are the remains of a dwelling at the northern end of the isle.

Potato Farls


Authentic potato bread, or farls, made simply with potatoes, flour, butter and salt. It was produced in the kitchen yesterday.

They are all uneven, the sizes varying; obviously not produced by a machine!

What remains to be established is whether they were worth the time and trouble expended, viz. buying potatoes, peeling and boiling them; mashing them etc.

It also takes time to mix the requisite amount of flour; then roll it out on a board.

Doubtless nothing beats the home-made variety, though I suspect that this experiment shall be short-lived and that Belmont GHQ will resort to shop-bought farls.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

8th Earl Castle Stewart

The Castle Stewart coat-of-arms provides an indication of the Stuart family's ancient and historic lineage: Split into four, the first quarter depicts the royal arms of Scotland; the second quarter, Stuart; the third, Lennox; and the fourth, Macduff.

During the 15th century, Andrew Stuart, the founder of the Castle Stewart/Stuart family, whose progenitor was none other than ROBERT II, King of Scotland; hence the Earls Castle Stewart can boast an illustrious pedigree.

The Rt Hon Arthur Patrick Avondale [Stuart] is the 8th Earl Castle Stewart and 15th Baronet.

Lord Castle Stewart is a retired farmer. He served as a lieutenant in the Scots Guards in 1949; Fellow of the Institute of Management, 1978.

His mother Eleanor, Countess Castle Stewart, was daughter of Solomon R Guggenheim of New York, USA.

Lord Castle Stewart for the second time in 2004, at City Hall in Belfast, Gillian Savill, now the Countess Castle Stewart. He lists his hobbies as being woodland management, travel, walking and singing.

The 8th Earl has one son, Andrew Richard Charles Stuart, styled Viscount Stuart; and one daughter, Lady Bridget Wadey.


Lord and Lady Castle Stewart have homes in London and at Stuart Hall estate, near Stewartstown in County Tyrone, the ancestral seat. The mansion was destroyed by the IRA in 1972 and a bungalow was built in its place in 1987.

I have compiled a collection of photographs of the old mansion here.

The illustration of Stuart Hall courtesy of BQ Postcards. First published in December, 2009.

Sir Paul Maguire QC


The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of Knighthood be conferred upon Paul Richard Maguire Esq, QC, on his appointment as a Justice of the High Court in Northern Ireland.

The Hon Mr Justice Maguire was called to the Bar in 1978 and became Queen’s Counsel in 2006.

He was elected to Belfast City Council for the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland in 1981; then elected at the Northern Ireland Assembly election, 1982 for North Belfast.

He stood for the party in the Westminster constituency of North Belfast at the 1983 general election, taking 9.1% of the vote, then again at the Belfast North by-election, 1986, when he increased his vote share to 16.7%.

In the mid-1980s, he left politics and focused on his legal career, rising to become Queen's Counsel by the 2000s, and representing the Government in a number of high-profile cases.

In 2010, he was appointed to head an inquiry into Peter Robinson's knowledge of his wife's improper financial affairs.

He is also a member of the human rights advisory committee of the Bar Council.

Wright's Buses


I am delighted that Wright's of Ballymena has secured the contract for London buses for the next four years.

The BBC's Stephen Walker reports that, in a letter to the Hon Ian Paisley MLA, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said he remains committed to "the roll-out of 600 production vehicles between now and 2016".

Mr Johnson said the deal marked "good news for manufacturing jobs in NI and for travellers in London".


There are currently eight prototype buses being used across the streets of London, built by firm Wrightbus. If the trials go well, staff at the County Antrim company hope a substantial order will be placed.

Discussions are ongoing between Wrightbus and Transport for London, the organisation which has responsibility for public transport in London.

Wrightbus was originally awarded the contract in January, 2010, to design a new bus for London. It was the first time in 50 years that a new bus has been designed for London commuters.

A team of engineers at the factory's plant at Galgorm outside Ballymena came up with a design for the double decker which has three entrances and a double staircase.

The design is similar to the classic Routemaster bus which was withdrawn in 2005.

Mr Johnson, who has long campaigned for a new bus for London, visited Wrightbus last November
and described the design as a piece of "world class technology".

He said: "I remain committed to the roll-outs of 600 production vehicles between now and 2016."

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Fulton's Fate

Fultons on Boucher Road


I am surprised and dismayed to learn that Fulton's furnishing stores have been placed in administration. I missed the local news yesterday and the development caught my eye this morning.

I was in the Belfast store a mere few weeks ago, enjoying one of their delicious lunches in the Hawthorn self-service restaurant.

According to David Elliott of the Belfast Telegraph, staff face an uncertain future after the company went into administration.

Fultons Fine Furnishings, which has traded for fifty years, is the latest locally-owned store to hit financial difficulties during the recession.

The furniture division consists of two shops at Balmoral Plaza in Belfast and another at Queen Street in Lurgan, from where the company was established half-a-century ago.

The move puts a total of 57 jobs across both the retail and property divisions at risk, but administrators PwC in Belfast have pledged to continue trading before deciding whether to sell the business or liquidate it.

Stephen Cave, joint administrator, alongside Paul Rooney at PwC, said,
“The intention is to continue trading. Once the immediate assessment of the trading and financial position is complete, we will have a clearer picture of future options. Our immediate priority is to communicate with the key stakeholders of the business, including employees, customers, suppliers and tenants.”

Fultons’ downfall follows a perfect storm consisting of downturn in the retail sector, in particular at the high-end level, and in both the commercial and residential property sector which the company has also been heavily involved in.

Still, the property business recorded a profit in the latest accounts filed at Companies House for the year ended February 2010 of just over £12,000, but that is sharply down on the £1m it made in the year to the end of February 2007.

The opulent Boucher Road unit in Belfast, which houses both a retail offering and a popular restaurant, epitomises the high-end flavour of the brand.

Its furniture found willing buyers throughout the boom years in Northern Ireland up to 2008, but tightening disposable income over recent years has meant fewer people are able to afford such tastes.

Donald McFetridge, a retail analyst at the University of Ulster’s Ulster Business School, said customers are nowadays becoming increasingly canny.
“Consumers have been forced to shop around for bargains in all sectors — including furniture and electrical — and, unless they find attractive or tempting deals, they are reluctant to part with their cash. Competition in Northern Ireland in the furniture sector is extremely tough with Lurgan (where Fultons have their base) possibly being one of the main towns in the region with an over-abundance of furniture outlets.”
Fultons’ demise follows on the heels of Dekko, another relatively high-end furniture retailer, which didn’t go in to administration but decided to close its doors in 2011, blaming cheaper competitors.

Another locally-owned store, Laser Direct, went into liquidation in 2010.

To my mind, there is no comparison, in terms of stock and customer base, between Fulton's and Ikea. Chalk and cheese. Nevertheless, I'd concur that it is a sign of the tough economic times we live in.

Donald McFetridge felt more retailers could go the same way as Fultons.
“This latest casualty will come as something of a blow to retailers trading at the high-end of the market. It is now clear and apparent that no one is exempt. Every retailer in every sector remains vulnerable as markets, nationally and internationally, remain volatile.”
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said local stores experienced the worst of the recession.
“The non-food retail sector is experiencing the worst of the recession as people don’t have the same disposable income and those who do are putting off buying non-essential major household furniture. With Ikea and the UK supermarkets taking a large part of this market, it is putting immense pressure on furniture retailers.”

And he was worried that if Fulton's close, the trend could continue: 
“In 2011, over a thousand independent traders in Northern Ireland closed. We are worried that this trend could double in 2012,” Mr Roberts added.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Weekend Activity

Timothy Belmont is now at home, having spent the last twenty-four hours on the prowl with Lady A and another couple in central Belfast. We certainly enjoyed ourselves.

On Friday afternoon, I met my pals at the Premier Inn, Alfred Street, where we spent a few hours in the lounge bar.

Later, we attended a musical show at the Lyric Theatre. The Lyric has improved greatly and now has a more spacious auditorium and bar. Lady A adores the theatre and accosted several of the actors after the show.

Today, we rose later than usual and had a substantial breakfast, consisting of fruit juice; cooked breakfast ~ sausage, bacon, egg, plum tomato, baked beans, mushroom, hash browns and toast; and tea.

There was no potato bread and soda bread. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it.

After breakfast, we got a cab to the Ulster Museum, where we saw the dinosaur exhibition and the Leonardo da Vinci paintings, courtesy of the Royal Collection.

I have had my quota of gin for the weekend, so the preferred beverage this evening shall be tea, whilst viewing Henry The Fifth on television.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Blue Uniform

I allude to that item of apparel as worn by those of the political class who aspire to greatness. It is, of course, the plain, dark blue, single-breasted suit.

Most senior politicians wear The Blue Uniform nowadays. It consists of the aforesaid suit, probably bespoke. Other essential accessories include a white shirt, a loudish, plain coloured tie in some primary colour (purple is in vogue currently), and shiny black traditional shoes.

I can just imagine one of these statesmen opening their wardrobe to find a row of Blue Uniforms, presumably numbered or identified in some form, because they are all identical.

It is evocative of old communist Chinese regimes, whereby the old boys lined up and waved at military reviews, wearing their standard issue grey outfits, something akin to tunics.

The Blue Uniform, too, is egalitarian, cautious, aware of public relations, so-called "spin-doctors".

What would happen, were they to arrive for work one day, wearing a fine, subtle, grey flannel chalk-stripe suit? This could not happen, because they would look different from their peers.

What is my point? Individuality in these circles has vanished. Anybody who dresses differently is castigated as being eccentric, not fitting in.

I do not possess The Blue Uniform, I am glad to say. I have a wardrobe with a two flannel chalk-stripe double-breasted, one navy and one grey; an Oxford grey flannel three-piece flannel; a dark grey three-piece; a summer linen suit.

They are all quiet in colour, they do not shout at you, if you know what I mean. They are, however, individual and to my own personal taste, unlike the neutral Blue Uniform (it would be unkind to call it tasteless).

Indeed, I have white shirts. I have very few plain coloured ties. most of my ties are quiet in colour and pattern. I detest those ghastly purple ones as worn by many within the political class.

So there you have it. To our current political leaders, I say Take some inspiration from statesmen like Sir Winston Churchill, a gentleman who dressed well, with gravitas and decorum, with style.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Homage to Potato Bread


I crave potato-bread; ever since I began to wear short trousers. I imagine, in a culinary sense at least, potato bread epitomizes the very essence of Ulster and, indeed, has remained a great Ulster staple for centuries.

I relish it with crispy bacon; or baked beans; or as part of the traditional Ulster Fry. Sometimes I substitute sausages and bacon with fillet steak instead, though I never omit potato bread.

I have to admit that it is now bought ready-made in bakeries or stores for Belmont GHQ.

Nevertheless, here is a classic recipe for potato-bread:-

INGREDIENTS

Six potatoes, boiled
Flour
Salt
Butter

METHOD

Mash the potatoes well; add a teaspoonful of salt; a good knob of butter. Blend the mixture; roll to a thickness of a quarter inch.

Use a cake lid to make a round circle; cut into four neat segments; cook on a moderate griddle or large dry frying-pan until lightly browned on each side; cool on a baking-rack.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

£50 Choccies!

The fifty pound box of chocolates!


I owe a pal the said sum of money, and inserted the bank-note under the cellophane.

McNeill Research

I popped into town this morning, the principal purpose to undertake research on the family of McNeill and their most distinguished son Ronald, 1st and last Lord Cushendun.

Since the peerage was created in 1927 and Lord Cushendun died in 1934, I required a Burke's or Debrett's peerage running between those years.

Belfast Central Library produced a 1931 Burke's Peerage for me, with the McNeill lineage and an illustration of his lordship's armorial bearings.

Incidentally, Lord Cushendun had a town residence at 18 Cadogan Place, the street where the Rausings reside.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Wall Crack

I got an email from a neighbour this afternoon, letting me know about a bay tree of mine, the branches of which were causing such stress to a retaining wall that a large crack has emerged.

Cognizant of this occurrence, I sent round old Edmund Tuttle the gardener (!), armed with long-handled lopper and saw.

The tree has been largely removed, including branches, though they remain under the ground at the wall.

It appears that some kind of root-killer might be necessary, in order to stop the said tree in its tracks.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Salmon Supreme

Timothy Belmont is feeling tip-top this evening, having once again affixed the old nose-bag and scoffed a delicious baked salmon mayonnaise au parmesan, creamed potato and asparagus tips.

This was a repast most congenial for the dentally challenged, since the said fish virtually melted in the mouth.

I hasten to assure readers, however, that I still have my original gnashers.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Quiet Week

I had been expecting to be away this weekend though, alas, the arrangement fell through several days ago.

Perhaps it's for the best. I have had very little to drink all week, which is fine.

Hence I have been at home instead and the weather has been agreeably clement.

I still haven't made a decision on the new ipad computer, so continue to use the great little Dell Mini 9 netbook.

Lissan House, County Tyrone, is another place I still must visit soon.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Kathy Clugston


Kathy Clugston is the well-known Ulster newsreader and continuity announcer on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service.

Born in Belfast, she attended Methodist College and then studied French and Russian at the Queen's University of Belfast.


Kathy Clugston worked as a continuity announcer and transmission director at BBC Northern Ireland from 1996 to 2003, announcing for BBC One Northern Ireland, BBC Two Northern Ireland, and appearing as one of three in-vision announcers on BBC Choice Northern Ireland between 1999 and 2001.

Prior to starting at BBC Radio 4, Kathy spent some years in Amsterdam, working as a reporter and presenter for Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

She began working on Radio 4 in 2006, and first read evening news bulletins in 2007.

In April 2008, she began news-reading duties on the flagship Today programme.

As well as being a ukulele player who made a documentary for Radio Four in 2009, she came up with the idea for "Radio4minus1letter", taking a radio programme title and dropping a single letter to create a new title, while using Twitter.

The idea resulted in Kathy's book  A Brief History of Tim: The World Minus One Letter, based on the game.

Neuberger Appointment

The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of the Right Honourable David Edmond [Neuberger], Baron Neuberger of Abbotsbury PC, as a Justice and President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom upon the retirement of The Rt Hon the Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers in September 2012.

Lord Neuberger was appointed as Master of the Rolls with effect from 1 October 2009.

The Master of the Rolls is the Head of Civil Justice and the second most senior judge in England and Wales.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Foray into Town


Managing to avoid the showers, I popped into town this morning in the trusty two-wheeler and spent some time at the venerable Linenhall Library which, incidentally, currently has a photographic exhibition of several old stately Irish country houses.

They've a bit of catching up to do, in Timothy Belmont's estimation (!).

I gathered fascinating information about the lineage of the Earls of Egmont, landowners in County Cork and originally granted an extraordinary 101,000 statute acres of the kingdom of Ireland.

Thereafter I ventured in to Marks & Spencer, where I bagged the following groceries for Belmont GHQ:-

  • Vetivert room spray, for the bedrooms
  • Greek style honey yoghurt
  • Chocolate brazils
  • Jelly babies
  • soft butter, for toast
  • Asparagus tips
  • Belgian chocolates, for Lady A
  • Beef, potato and onion pasty
The pasty is "made in Yorkshire with crisp all butter pastry, British beef, Romano potatoes, swede and onions."

I have tried this pasty before and it is delicious, probably superior to most shop-bought Cornish pasties.

Beating Retreat Event


ABF, the Soldiers' Charity, is holding a Beating Retreat event in the fine grounds of Hillsborough Castle, County Down, on Friday, the 17th August, 2012, at 7pm.

The occasion will feature the Nottinghamshire Band of the Royal Engineers (TA).

The dress code is formal, viz. black tie, mess dress and miniature medals.

Supper and drinks are included in the price, £30. Call 028 9267 8112 to order tickets.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Old Belfast Castles


OLD CASTLES SURROUNDING BELFAST, AN EXTRACT FROM THE ULSTER JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY.


     AN OLD CASTLE existed until lately on one of the Castlereagh hills (from which, indeed, those hills obtained their name), belonging to the celebrated Con O'Neill; but it met met with a truly Irish fate.

Not many years ago the occupying tenant of the land received orders from his landlord, Lord Downshire, to build a wall round the ruins, with the laudable intention of preserving them from further dilapidation.

The tenant, indeed, built a good and substantial wall, but unluckily he employed the materials of the old castle itself for the purpose!

The name Castlereagh, which far pre-dates the beginning of local government, is derived from the  ‘Grey Castle’ of the O’Neills that once perched on the Castlereagh Hills.The castle is said to have been built in about 1350 by Aodh Flann O’Neill during the reign of EDWARD III.

The Grey Castle, once called the ‘Eagles Nest’ due to its situation and the powerful influence of Conn O’Neill, the last great chieftain of the Clandeboye O’Neills, was lost to the family in the early 17th Century.

The Castle, town and lands of Castlereagh were sold to Sir Moyses Hill, the founder of the family of the Marquessses of Downshire, in 1616, along with most of Conn’s remaining lands.

The Castle fell into ruins after this, but survived until the early years of the 19th Century. It is said that the landowner directed his agent to build a wall around the site and the mason who was entrusted with the work demolished the remains of the castle in order to find sufficient stones to build the wall.

Nothing now remains of the castle, and it is impossible to identify the site even though it must have been a substantial building.  It was said to have been a ‘square building, one hundred feet square each way and with turrets at the angles’.

 
     ANOTHER CASTLE was at STRANMILLIS, on the River Lagan, which was the property of the Hill family, and of which some vestiges remained at the close of the last century, under the name of Sir "Moses Cellars". The Stranmillis Castle was designed to guard the ancient fording place on the River Lagan, close to the present King’s Bridge.

    AT THE SPOT where Shaw's Bridge now crosses the Lagan, there was formerly a ford, protected by two high forts, one on each bank of the river.

There was afterwards a strong castle built there (it is believed by Sir Moyses Hill), near Malone House, which was called Castle Combe. In 1610 it had been called Freerstone.

The principal part of the walls was removed when Shaw's Bridge was built.

     LISBURN CASTLE is too well known to need particular notice.

     THERE STILL REMAINS the square tower or "keep" of CASTLE ROBIN, two miles north of Lisburn, which was built by Sir Robert Norton in the reign of ELIZABETH I, the same individual who built Castle Upton, at Templepatrick.

     The [aforementioned], with the two castles erected to defend the fords, are all of which we have any record on the south side of Belfast.

     ON THE NORTH there was a chain of FORTS, apparently for the purpose of keeping up a communication with Carrickfergus, as well as defending the Antrim side of the Lough; viz. Greencastle, where appears also to have been a fortified camp; Whitehouse, at the site of the present church, the remains of which are now converted into a stable.

It seems to have been merely a large square tower. An immense fire-place still remains.

     ANOTHER CASTLE, of which the name is now lost, was about three miles further down along the shore: and there was lastly Carrickfergus Castle itself.

     THE RUINS of a castle in Islandmagee, at the mouth of Belfast Lough, are still visible, and are known as Castle Chichester or, vulgarly, Castle Chester.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Pub Crawl

Timothy Belmont was out and about in town last night. My first port of call was the venerable old Linenhall Library, though my timing was such that they were closing at five-thirty , not long after I'd arrived.

Thence I made a bee-line for The Cloth Ear, the bar which is part of The Merchant Hotel. Most of this bar runs along Skipper Street, though I entered on Waring Street.

I sat on a bar-stool up at the counter till the drinking compadre turned up; perused the menu - many of the items were about a tenner - and simply decided to have a Tanqueray and tonic instead.

A couple arrived and sat beside me; and it transpired that they lived close to me, so we chatted about this and that.

Philip arrived and we had a drink. Then we left, ambled up Waring Street and ventured in to the Premier Inn Hotel's bar at the corner of the said street and Donegall Street. It's not a bad place at all and we overlooked the War Memorial Building.

Our next venue, the Commercial Buildings at the corner of Waring Street and Bridge Street, was visible too. I had never knowingly been into this establishment before. However, there were plenty of blondes who didn't escape the Belmont attention.

As a consequence of last night's escapade, the old epistle is slightly tardier than usual, and one has a slight hangover.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

New Thistle Knight


His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, has been installed at St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, as a knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of The Thistle (KT).


The Thistle is the second highest order of chivalry in the United Kingdom.

Prince William is also a Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of The Garter (KG).

Thistle Service

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh arrive at St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, for divine service and the installation of The Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, as a knight of The Thistle.

WILLIAM III at Hillsborough


KING WILLIAM III's PROGRESS TO THE BOYNE


KING WILLIAM III ARRIVES AT HILLSBOROUGH


In the evening of the 19th June, 1690, King William III arrived at Hillsborough, County Down, nothing remarkable having occurred during the march from Lisburn.

The town, which was then the property of the Hill family [Marquesses of Downshire], whose name it bears, was incorporated by charter of CHARLES II, and the Corporation was styled "The Sovereign, Burgesses, and Free Commons of the Borough and Town of Hillsborough."

There, also, had been Schomberg and his army, on Tuesday, the 3rd September, 1689, on their way to Loughbrickland.

And a weary way it was; for what the Protestants spared in the flight from their homes; the Jacobites destroyed, so that in the district not a sheep nor a cow was to be seen; the track of Schomberg and his men was through ruin.


Now the King himself and his forces had arrived. The fort had been prepared to receive and accommodate His Majesty. It was a magnificent structure, built by Sir Arthur Hill, in 1650, and consisted of four bastions.

Bonnivert describes it as "a great house belonging to the King, standing on a hill on the left hand of the road;" and in a certain sense the Frenchman was right.

The site was chosen so that the fort might command the Pass of Kilwarlin, the chief road between Belfast and Dublin. Accordingly, it was strongly fortified within, and had the additional strength afforded by a trench.

At the close of the year 1660, it was made a Royal garrison, and placed in command of a Constable, who received 3s 4d a day, having under him twenty-four warders whose pay was each 6d a day.

The constable-ship was vested in the Hill family for ever.

As might be expected, the old Castle in the demesne is much venerated by loyal men.

There His Majesty remained two days, and strangers are still shown relics of the Royal visit.

They have pointed out to them the apartments he occupied; the chair on which he sat; the table on which he wrote his Orders; the window opposite which chair and table stood; the bedstead on which he slept; the stable in which his horse was put up; the situation of the gardens, and the direction in which he walked - in fact, everything is to be seen but the King himself.

More interesting than the silent witnesses is the testimony borne by the successors of the original warders. They are regularly on duty at the new Castle of Hillsborough, wearing the uniform, somewhat modernised, of the Dutch Guards - blue coat with red lapels; cocked hat trimmed with white lace, and for plume a red feather; white breeches and gaiters.

From the Court at Hillsborough, His Majesty issued two important documents: One was a Royal Warrant, addressed to Christopher Carleton, collector of customs at Belfast, authorising the payment of £1,200 yearly to the Presbyterian ministers of Ulster.

This is understood to be the origin, of the grant called "Regium Donum." The pension was inserted in the Civil List, and made payable out of the Exchequer.

Here is a copy of the Warrant:--
     "Whereas, upon our arrival in this kingdom at Belfast, we received a loyal and dutiful address from our trusty and well-beloved subjects, Patrick Adair, etc., in the name of themselves and the rest of the Presbyterian ministers of their persuasion in these northern parts of our kingdom: and calling to mind how early they also were in their address unto us upon our arrival in England, and the promises we then made them of a pension of eight hundred pounds per annum, for their subsistence, which, by reason of several impediments, hath not as yet been made effectual unto them: 
     And being assured of the peaceable and dutiful temper of our said subjects, and sensible of the losses they have sustained and their constant labour to unite the hearts of others in zeal and loyalty towards us: We do hereby, out of our Royal Bounty give and grant unto them the sum of twelve hundred pounds per annum, to be paid by quarterly instalments, the first payment of three hundred pounds sterling, to begin upon the 24th day of this instant June, and so forward: 
     And our will and pleasure is, that you, or the collector of our customs at Belfast for the time being, do make the payments of the said pension into the hands of Mr. Patrick Adair, Alexander Hutchinson, Archibald Hamilton, Robert Craghead, Hugh Wilson, Robert Henry, and William Adair, or to the person which they, or any five of them shall appoint, to be by them distributed among the rest. And for so doing this shall be your warrant.

"Given at our Court at Hillsborough the 19th day of June, 1690, in the second year of our reign."

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

WILLIAM III at Lisburn


KING WILLIAM III's PROGRESS TO THE BOYNE



SECOND STAGE: BELFAST TO LISBURN

After breakfasting at Belfast, His Majesty resumed his advance towards the Boyne; but about two miles on his way to Lisnagarvey (Lisburn) he was overtaken by a heavy shower of rain.

Observing some very large trees near the road, a short distance within the avenue-gate of "Cranmore", the King, with the habit of an old campaigner, took shelter under one of them.

CRANMORE HOUSE

Mr Eccles, however, the gentleman who at that time resided at the place, requested the King and his staff to honour him by making use of his house.

The invitation was accepted, and His Majesty partook of some refreshment; some barrels of home-brewed ale being sent to such of the escort as remained under the trees.

Cranmore House passed from John Eccles to his grandson, Captain Jones; and then to another grandson, Benjamin Legge, of Malone, whose grandson, John Templeton, inherited the property. Following John Templeton's death, the house passed to his son and four daughters. It was subsequently inhabited by Michael McGovern.
The Eccles family came from Ayrshire. Gilbert Eccles (1602-94) was high sheriff of counties Fermanagh and Tyrone. His son was John Eccles (1632-1705); whose only son, Sir John Eccles (1664-1727) held the office of Lord Mayor of Dublin.

As the rain continued without abating, and the King was suffering from severe headache, he consented to repose himself for some hours; after which, as the weather improved towards evening, he resumed his march.

The said house became known as "Orange Grove", a name very probably given to it soon after the King's visit.

The tree which sheltered the King was long an object of interest to his admirers: it was blown down, however, during a violent storm in 1796, the same which dispersed the French fleet off Bantry Bay.

As the King passed through the village of Lambeg, near Lisburn, he was addressed in French by René Bulmer (Boomer), a Huguenot.

LAMBEG HOUSE

The King stopped at Lambeg House, then belonging to the Wolfendens, later the property of Mr Richard Niven.

It was necessary to cross the River Lagan at this part by an ancient ford, and here one of the wagons broke down, which caused some delay. It was repaired with timber furnished from the neighbouring manufactory of Mr Wolfenden.

There is an entry on record in the Vestry Book of Lisburn Cathedral, stating that His Majesty King William III and army marched through that town in 1690, and encamped at Blaris, on his way to the Boyne; but did not stop there, as he proceeded to Hillsborough.

The army encamped on Blaris Moor, on the part which is now intersected by the road to Dublin; and the place where the cavalry were stationed from this circumstance retains the name of "Trooper Field".

Extracts have been taken from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Volume One. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

WILLIAM III at Belfast


KING WILLIAM III's PROGRESS TO THE BOYNE


 FIRST STAGE: CARRICKFERGUS TO BELFAST

About 3 o'clock on the 14th June, 1690, King William landed at Carrickfergus, accompanied by Prince George of Denmark, his brother-in-law, and attended by the Duke of Ormonde, the earls of Oxford, Portland, Scarborough, and Manchester, besides other distinguished individuals.

His Majesty, on landing, rode through this ancient town, and most probably visited the site of what King James I designated "our royal palace of Mountjoy".

Crowds of people are stated to have assembled, who welcomed the King with continual shouts and acclamations.


As the forces disembarked at the "Old Whitehouse", the King, without much delay, proceeded to place himself at their head.

The remains of a house are still shown there, where he is said to have rested; having been joined, at that place, by the Duke of Schomberg, the Prince of Württemberg, Major-General Kirk, and others.

The former brought with him his coach, drawn by six horses, for the use of the King, having driven over the strand to Belfast, attended by a single troop of horse and a few gentlemen.

The uncertainty of the time and place of His Majesty's landing, and the suddenness of the news was such, that few of the multitude that flocked to Belfast to see it had their ends, the General's motion was so quick;

Yet before they got into the town there were abundance that met them, and, coming to the North Gate, he was received by the magistrates of Belfast in their formalities.

His Majesty went directly to the castle, which had been some time before prepared for him, where he alighted, and went in to an apartment appointed for him.

ON SUNDAY, 25TH APRIL, 1708, A FIRE DESTROYED BELFAST CASTLE 
WHICH RESULTED IN THE DEATHS OF THREE DAUGHTERS OF LADY DONEGALL:
 LADY JANE, LADY FRANCES AND LADY HENRIETTA CHICHESTER. 
ALSO A FRIEND OF THE GIRLS, (THE DAUGHTER OF PARSON BERKLEY) 
AND A SERVANT GIRL, CATHERINE DOUGLAS.

It has been already mentioned that the King proceeded to the Castle of Belfast; other notices of this visit state that he remained for five days, and lodged at the house of Sir William Franklin, the site of which became the Donegall Arms Hotel (now Donegall Arcade, 1-15 Castle Place).

It is more probable, however, that some of his suite occupied this house.

The Corporation minutes record that His Majesty stayed five nights in Belfast, and was "very well pleased with the inhabitants and the town and its citizens", and said, when within the Castle, that it was "like Whitehall".

On Sunday, the 15th June, the King attended at the old church in High Street, where St George's now stands, and heard a sermon preached by Dr Boyse. On that day and the next, he was waited on by the nobility, gentry, and military, and received addresses from the Episcopal and Presbyterian clergy.

The King is understood to have remained in Belfast for five days, and then to have joined his army, which consisted of sixty-two squadrons of cavalry, and fifty-two battalions of infantry, in four divisions.

The van-guard was commanded by Lieutenant-General Douglas; the right wing by Major-General Kirk; the left wing by the earls of Oxford and De Solms; and the main body by His Majesty, in person, the Duke of Schomberg, and Monsieur de Seravemoer.

Extracts have been taken from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Volume One.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Sir Arthur Chichester

SIR ARTHUR CHICHESTER, 1ST BARON CHICHESTER


SIR JOSIAS BODLEY'S NARRATIVE OF SIR ARTHUR CHICHESTER

I have unearthed this historical extract from a volume of the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, which I personally find provides a fascinating insight:- 

The intrinsic interest of this humorous narrative of the holiday excursion of a knot of English officers in Ulster in the last days of ELIZABETH I's reign derives an extrinsic attraction from the fact that its author was a brother of the famous founder of the Bodleian Library. 

Sir Josias Bodley (ca 1550-1617) was the youngest of Sir Thomas Bodley's four brothers. In March 1604 he was knighted by Mountjoy. After the pacification of Ireland he was appointed to superintend the Castles of Ireland. 

In 1609 Bodley was selected to survey the Ulster Plantation, and in recognition of this work received the appointment of director-general of the fortifications of Ireland, a post which he held until his death. Bodley, who died in 1617, was buried at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.


"Sir Arthur Chichester - The founder of the fortunes and acquirer of the immense estates (though not the direct ancestor) of the Donegall family, is too well known in Irish history to need much notice here.

He was, at that time, Governor of Carrickfergus; and as Sergeant-Major of the army, somewhat similar to the rank of General, had command over the whole of the troops in Ulster; and had, accordingly, concentrated at Dungannon the troops under his own immediate command,

as well as those of the western parts of Ulster under the command of Sir Henry Dockwra (whose headquarters were at Derry, and under whose superintendence the walls and fortifications of that town were shortly afterwards erected) to drive Tyrone out of his fastnesses.

Choosing such a season of the year, to perform such a duty in such a locality, Sir Arthur proved himself as ignorant in strategy as he was subsequently pre-eminent in statesmanship;

and it is amusing to read the growlings of the rough old soldier, Dockwra, as given in his narrative, at being dragged across the country on such a fruitless expedition, and his despair on climbing a hill to view the woods of Glenconkeine*, spread far and wide before him,

without a road to penetrate or a guide to trust; besides having to ford a river which, if swollen by rain, would eventually cut off his retreat.

It reminds us of some of the difficulties we read of as attendant on the late Caffre war.

Sir Arthur Chichester was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1604-5, and held that office for the long period of ten years, during which time he was created a peer [1st Baron Chichester].

He was then appointed Lord High Treasurer, and held that office till his death in 1625.

His monument is to be seen in Carrickfergus Church.

He died without issue and was succeeded by his brother.

*Glenconkeine - comprised parishes which included Desertmartin ... extended nearly from Dungannon to Dungiven. Dockwra says it was a wilderness of woods, ravines and mountains, extending 20 miles in length and 10 in breadth; and all the writers of that day agree that as a fastness it was almost impenetrable. 

Traditions still exist amongst the mountains of Derry and Tyrone of the immense forests that filled their valleys; and of their being inaccessible from the total absence of roads."

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Viewing Schedule

I fancy I shall watch a recording of Country House Rescue this evening - the Bantry House episode - followed by a "repeat" of Lewis.

I recorded the Bantry House programme while I was on a boat trip on Strangford Lough, on Thursday evening.