Saturday, 30 April 2016

Cabin Hill


CABIN HILL, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, is a fairly large and considerably extended two-to-four storey house, built around a sandstone Tudor-Revival gentleman’s residence of ca 1860, itself extended in similar style ca 1903-5.

A large, modern, flat-roofed, four-storey, rendered block was added to the rear by the school in 1946 with an adjacent, equally large and equally modern, brick wing of about 1980.

When it was built, Cabin Hill was originally closer to the village of Dundonald - or, indeed, Knock - than the city of Belfast.

This small farm in the townland of Ballycloghan was adjacent to the Belmont estate and the Clelands' Stormont estate.

The name Cabin Hill refers to a "cabin" built in 1786-7 by Samuel McTier and his wife Martha, on a small parcel of land they had acquired for £50 (about £6,700 today).

The house itself, as the name implies, was a single storey, thatched dwelling; however, a painting of 1847 shows that, by the standards of the day, it had a fairly prosperous appearance, being relatively large and prosperous looking ~ not the "cabin" one might have expected.

After Samuel McTier's death in 1795, Martha continued to use Cabin Hill as a country retreat, being joined on frequent occasions by her brother, the Belfast radical and founder of the United Irishmen, Dr William Drennan.

Drennan died in 1820 and Martha in 1837; however, the property appears to have been disposed of some time before the latter date, for in the 1833 valuation it is recorded as the home of a Mr Tomb.

By 1852, it had been acquired by John Dinnen, a Belfast solicitor.

Dinnen appears to have retained the original house for some years, though, by 1861, a new, much larger building appears to have been built.

This new dwelling, a two-storey gentleman's villa in the Tudor-Revival style, remained in possession of Dinnen's descendants until 1903, when it was acquired by Robert James McMordie QC, Lord Mayor of Belfast.

About 1903-5, McMordie greatly extended the house by adding the large section to the eastern side and the new entrance conservatory, all to designs by Hugh Brown.

Mr McMordie died at Cabin Hill in 1914.

Between, 1920-22, his widow leased the property to Sir James Craig (afterwards 1st Viscount Craigavon), the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

Several cabinet meetings were held at the house.

In 1924-25, McMordie's widow sold Cabin Hill to Campbell College, which converted it for use as their preparatory school.

Ca 1935, the school added a porter's lodge to the main gateway and, in 1946, the large four storey modern style wing was added to the rear of the main building itself.

Further separate classrooms were built to the north east side of the building in 1973, with a further modernist extension added to the main school later.

These books give no indication of major building work at Cabin Hill between 1864 and the McMordie extension of ca 1903-5, suggesting that the original section of the Tudor Revival house is pre 1864.

First published in May, 2014.

Friday, 29 April 2016

The Laconic Parrot


During my vacation on the Canarian island of Fuerteventura I often walked past a block of offices, en route to the beach.

I regularly passed a slatted door in a tiny room which housed an ancient parrot with a minuscule dog.

Occasionally the door was open in order, presumably, to provide them with some daylight.

This parrot looked down on the tiny dog, which looked up mournfully at me every time I peered in.

The parrot had to be encouraged to sing, though I observed that it made two clicking noises prior to any further utterances.

Accordingly, I began by whistling my patriotic rendition of Rule Britannia! to it.

No joy there.

My next effort was a stirring few lines of Eternal Father, Strong To Save.

The old bird was clearly unimpressed with this old, traditional hymn.

Finally, I succumbed to the cheerful ditty, Consider Yourself, from that marvellous musical Oliver!

Christopher Bellew had fun with the learned double yellow-headed amazon, Pele, at the pub where he stayed.

Had I a copy of HMG's EU referendum leaflet at hand I'd have shoved it in the firing line directly below my old parrot.

Alas (!) a copy has not been received even at Belmont GHQ, as yet; though in hindsight, given the wicked sense of humour, I might have taught it to exclaim a rude or vulgar phrase to unsuspecting passers-by.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Days That Are Gone

I have been reading Days That Are Gone, a book published in 1983 about the childhood of the distinguished Ulster lawyer, businessman and writer, Sir Patrick Macrory.

Sir Patrick Arthur Macrory received a knighthood in 1972 for services to Northern Ireland.

In Days That Are Gone, he reminisces about his childhood spent at the family homestead, Ardmore, near Limavady in County Londonderry.

Ardmore is within a mile of Drenagh estate; and, indeed the McCauslands are mentioned quite a few times in the book.

If you're seeking a nostalgic journey to rural Ulster in the early 20th century, when the railways ran to most of our towns and villages, including Limavady; where there was a halt, indeed, at Ardmore; this, then, will interest you.

Sir Patrick's grandfather was Samuel Martin Macrory JP, of Ardmore Lodge, born in 1836; and his father, Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Samuel (Frank) Macrory DSO DL, born in 1876, was married to Rosa Pottinger (see Pottinger of Mount Pottinger).

In his book, he mentions an amateur production he staged during his youth, at the Town Hall, Limavady, by the so-called Ardmore Players, where the following roll-call of the county's landed families acted:
Pat Macrory ~ Holmes;
William Lenox-Conyngham ~ Dr Watson;
Peggy Garnett ~ Landlady;
Conolly McCausland ~ Villain;
Rosemarie Davidson ~ Housekeeper.
For those who are particularly interested in the old Limavady railway, and the parish of Balteagh, this book has to be essential.

The late Rt Hon Roy Bradford composed an excellent obituary of Sir Patrick (1911-93).

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Which Bird?

I brought the iPad with me to the beach for the very first time today.

Although I'm not madly obsessed with wildlife, it does interest me.

La Concha beach lies to the north of El Cotillo.

At this beautiful little beach there is a well-known beach bar called Torino's.

Many years ago, Torino's father-in-law, Bill, often took the food and drink orders and acted generally as Mine Host.

I liked Bill. He had a sort of Cockney charm and affability with customers, especially British ones.

Alas, Bill has now retired and Torino cooks the grub in a tiny galley kitchen behind the beach bar.

I digress.

The principal purpose of bringing the iPad today was to photograph a certain kind of bird on the beach  (no, not the 36-24-36 type).

Readers, your task is to identify definitively this breed of bird.

Is it a sand plover? Or a sanderling?

Prey enlighten me.

Tostón Castle

Several days ago I revisited El Castillo del Tostón, a small fort perched on top of the cliff at E Cotillo, Fuerteventura.

It stands in a commanding position and is approached by a dusty track.


Toston Castle stands on the periphery of the village, dating from the late 16th century.

The roof-top is ascended by steep stone steps; whereas the ground floor, down more steps, has a modest gallery with exhibits and souvenirs for sale.

The entrance fee remains €1.50.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

El Tostón Lighthouse

El Tostón lighthouse about a mile along the coast from El Cotillo.

There is a modest museum or exhibition centre with a café and outdoor eating area.

The complex actually has three lighthouses: the largest, striped one being the most recent, constructed in 1985.

The others date from the mid-fifties and ca 1899.

Monday, 25 April 2016

High Cross

The High Cross has stood at Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, County Down, for over a millenium.

An exact replica of the iconic Downpatrick High Cross, weighing about a ton, was installed on the 16th April, 2014, in front of the Cathedral.

The original Mourne granite cross, carved ca AD 900 as a "prayer in stone", is of historical, cultural and religious significance.

Its first location is believed to have been the early medieval monastery on the Hill of Down.

Following the Reformation, the High Cross was taken down and was used as Downpatrick's market cross.

It was damaged in a busy town centre location before being dismantled and its parts dispersed around the town.

In the 1890s, the parts were gathered together by Francis Joseph Bigger and reconstructed outside Down Cathedral, with the help of subscriptions from donors.

The old cross was removed in December, 2013, to be preserved as the centrepiece of a display in Down County Museum. 

The 2014 replica was made by County Down stonemasons, using computer technology to make an exact copy of the original. The granite used was blasted from Thomas Mountain in the Mourne mountains.

The head of the cross shows the Crucifixion of Christ, flanked by the spear-bearer, sponge-bearer and the two thieves, who were given their own names in Irish in the 8th century.

The interlace on the side is made up of intertwined snakes, symbols of resurrection as they slough their skin and are reborn.

First published in April, 2014.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Leslie Eulogy

The Irish Aesthete has written a fond and insightful eulogy - if that is the mot juste - of Sir John (Jack) Leslie's life:-

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Beach Vendor

On one occasion during this holiday I spotted a beach vendor near Torino's Bar at El Cotillo, Fuerteventura.

She was carrying a notice with "Beer", "Cola", €1.50, and so on, written by hand on the card.

On her back she had a cool-bag with the said beverages.

The young woman remained quiet, however.

Now I have observed coves peddling these items on other Canarian beaches, and the trick is to have a act of some kind, with comical rhyming verse.

For instance, "Beer, Coca-Cola, Pineapple, Looky-Looky, Tutti-Fruiti"; whereby the sun-worshippers flock to you, brandishing the old dosh.

Cockney costermongers and barrow-boys were exceedingly artful in this regard and could have taught us a thing or two about marketing and salesmanship.

The desired result should prove to be most efficacious indeed, what?

By the way, the fellow atop with his bike and a load of bangles or necklaces is not self, in case you wondered.

Mitchelstown Castle


The family of King was originally of Feathercock Hall, near Northallerton, Yorkshire, and the first of its members we find upon record in Ireland is

SIR JOHN KING, Knight, who obtained from ELIZABETH I, in requital of his military services, a lease of Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon; and, from JAMES I, numerous valuable territorial grants, and several of the highest and most lucrative political employments.

He married Catherine, daughter of Robert Drury, and grand-niece of the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir William Drury, and was succeeded at his decease by his eldest son,

SIR ROBERT KING, Knight, muster master-general of Ireland, who wedded firstly, Frances, daughter of Sir Henry Folliott, 1st Baron Folliott, of Ballyshannon, and had, with other children,
The eldest son,

JOHN KING, who received the honour of knighthood, and, although an active Cromwellian, was elevated to the peerage by CHARLES II, for his zeal in inspiring the monarchy, in 1660, in the dignity of Baron Kingston.

His lordship married Catherine, daughter of Sir William Fenton, of Mitchelstown, County Cork, and granddaughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton, principal secretary of state.

By this lady Lord Kingston's family acquired the estate of Mitchelstown.

His lordship died in 1676, and was succeeded by his elder son,

ROBERT, 2nd Baron, who dsp in 1693, having settled his estates to his uncle, Sir Robert King, in consequence of his brother, and the inheritor of his honours,

JOHN, 3rd Baron, having conformed to the church of Rome; but this nobleman appears afterwards to have enjoyed the estates.

He was appointed a gentleman of the privy chamber to King JAMES II, and following the fortunes of his master into France, was outlawed; but after his father's death, returning into Ireland, he had a pardon from the crown.

His lordship died in 1727, and was succeeded by his only surviving son,

JAMES, 4th Baron, who married twice; but dying without male issue, in 1761, the BARONY EXPIRED, while an estate of £6,000 a year, and a large personal fortune, devolved upon his only surviving daughter, MARGARET.

Sir Robert King's youngest son,

THE RT HON ROBERT KING, of Rockingham, County Roscommon, MP for that county, and a privy counsellor in Ireland, was created a baronet in 1682.

Sir Robert wedded Frances, daughter and co-heir of Colonel Henry Gore; and dying in 1708, was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR JOHN KING, 2nd Baronet, MP for County Roscommon, who dsp in 1720, when the title devolved upon his brother,

THE RT HON SIR HENRY KING, 3rd Baronet, MP for County Roscommon, and a privy counsellor.

This gentleman espoused, in 1722, Isabella, sister of Richard, Viscount Powerscourt; and dying in 1740, was succeeded by his eldest son, 

SIR ROBERT KING, 4th Baronet, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1748, as Baron Kingsborough; but died unmarried in 1755, when that dignity expired, while the baronetcy devolved upon his lordship's brother,

SIR EDWARD KING, 5th Baronet, who was created Baron Kingston, of Rockingham, in 1764; Viscount Kingsborough, in 1768; and EARL OF KINGSTON in 1768.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son Charles Avery Edward King-Tenison, styled Viscount Kingsborough (b 2000).

MITCHELSTOWN CASTLE was the ancestral seat of the Earls of Kingston.

It was one of the largest Gothic-Revival houses in Ireland, a noble and sumptuous structure of hewn stone, in the castellated style, erected after a design by Mr Pain, of Cork, at an expense of more than £100,000.

Mitchelstown is about thirty miles north of the city of Cork.

The buildings occupied three sides of a quadrangle, the fourth being occupied by a terrace, under which are various offices.

The principal entrance, on the eastern range, was flanked by two lofty square towers rising to the height of 106 feet, one of which was called the White Knight's tower, from its being built on the site of the tower of that name which formed part of the old mansion.

At the northern extremity of the same range were two octagonal towers of lofty elevation.

The entrance hall opened into a stately hall or gallery, eighty feet in length, with an elaborately groined roof, richly ornamented with fine tracery, and furnished with elegant stoves of bronze, and with figures of warriors armed cap-a-pie; at the further extremity was the grand staircase.


Parallel with the gallery, and forming the south front and principal range, were the dining and drawing-rooms, both noble apartments superbly fitted up and opening into the library, which was between them.

Entrance Hall

The whole pile had a character of stately baronial magnificence, and from its great extent and elevation formed a conspicuous feature in the surrounding scenery.

Near the Castle was a large fish-pond, and from a small tower on its margin, water was conveyed to the baths and to the upper apartments of the castle, and across the demesne to the gardens, by machinery of superior construction.

The gardens were spacious and tastefully laid out, the conservatory 100 feet in length and ornamented with a range of beautiful Ionic pilasters.

The parkland, which comprised 1,300 acres, was embellished with luxuriant plantations, and included a farming establishment on an extensive scale, with buildings and offices of a superior description, on the erection of which more than £40,000 was expended.

It was estimated that the castle, with the conservatories, farm, and the general improvement of the demesne, cost its noble proprietor little less, if not more, than £200,000 (£8.3 million today).

"Big George", the 3rd Earl, was renowned for his extravagant hospitality.

The 4th Earl continued to entertain his visitors regally at Mitchelstown.

One of the under-cooks  was a young man called Claridge.

Lord Kingston suffered a financial downfall: His lordship - and house guests - locked the doors against the bailiffs and were besieged therein for a fortnight, until finally the Castle was possessed, creditors satisfied and much of the estate was sold.

What remained of the estate was inherited by the 5th Earl's widow. Thereafter, Economy reigned.

The house was looted and burned in 1922 by the IRA, which had occupied it for the previous six weeks.

The order to burn the building, to prevent the newly established Irish Free State army from having use of it, was made by a local Republican commandant, Patrick Luddy, with the approval of General Liam Lynch.

It is clear that one of the motivations for the burning was to try to cover up the looting of the castle's contents, including large amounts of furniture, a grand piano, paintings by Conrad, Beechy and Gainsborough.

Many of these objects have come up for sale in recent years and some, such as the piano, are still kept locally.

The Castle was severely damaged by the fire.

However, it is clear from documents in the National Archives of Ireland that, for example, in places where the fire had not reached, 'mantelpieces had been forcibly wrenched from the walls and carted.'

As this episode took place at the height of the Irish Civil War, there was no appetite afterwards to prosecute anyone for their role in the looting and burning.

The ashlar limestone of the castle was later removed to build the new Cistercian abbey at Mount Melleray, County Water.

The site of the building is now occupied by a milk powder processing plant and the surrounding 1,214 acre demesne (private park) of the castle has been destroyed.

Lord Kingston's town residence between 1826-32 was 3 Whitehall Place, London, now part of the Department of Energy & Climate Change.

Kingston Arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   First published in February, 2012.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Belfast Rapid Transit

Translink is the brand name of the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company (NITHCo), a public corporation in Northern Ireland which provides the public transport in the region.

NI Railways, Ulsterbus and Metro are all part of Translink, which is answerable to the Minister for Regional Development in Northern Ireland, Michelle McIlveen MLA.

I gather that the brand new, multi-million-pound Belfast Rapid Transit service is beginning in the next few years.

They have declared that passengers will be able to pay for their journeys in cash.

Frankly I think Translink needs to catch up with technological progress and enter the 21st century.

I'm very well aware that the transport system in Belfast is hardly comparable to that of the Metropolis, viz. Transport for London.

However, you cannot use cash to pay for your bus fare in London.

The ways to pay in London are as follows:
I have been present when a Belfast Metro bus has stopped at the Connswater Bridge Stop at Newtownards Road.

If there are several passengers, some pay in cash.

If they don't have the correct fare, it can take up to two or three minutes for the driver to deal with the transaction.

At the same time the bus is effectively blocking a vehicle lane and traffic flow is interrupted.

I am certainly not against Cash in principle; indeed it's essential for petty transactions every day.

However, my issue is one of efficiency.

If Translink, for whatever reason, refuses to embrace the cash-free method, at least an effective deterrent could be introduced.

For instance, if a passenger doesn't have the exact fare, no change will be given.

Does Translink employ a department to handle all the cash and coinage handled daily?

There's another saving for the taxpayer.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Avenida Restaurant

I made another trip to Corralejo yesterday afternoon.

Having strolled along the promenade walkway, I settled down on a comfortable chair at Cantante, a sort of wine-bar overlooking the sea.

There was a young lady singing and playing her guitar here.

At about six pm I arrived at one of my favourite places to eat in Corralejo, Avenida Restaurant.

This establishment never seems to change, nor do the staff, standards of service, and decor.

It's a fairly traditional Canarian or Spanish restaurant with sturdy, old, upright, wooden chairs and tables.

The staff are always attentive and courteous.

It's totally unpretentious, as is the menu, which is renowned for its half portions.

Always order a half portion here unless you happen to be ravenously hungry or capable of consuming gigantic helpings of their fresh seafood, beef, chicken and so on.

Their alioli is excellent and I always look forward to it with the fresh bread.

It's complimentary.

I ordered my usual escalope of breaded chicken, including thick chips and salad.

I've had this very simple dish on many occasions and it's a firm favourite.

I initiated a conversation with a lady seated behind me, and we subsequently chatted for a good half hour.

The bill for my half portion of chicken and a Beefeater and tonic came to €8.80.

I got the eight o'clock bus back to El Cotillo.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

1st Baron Armaghdale


JAMES LONSDALE JP DL (1826-1913), of The Pavilion, City of Armagh, son of Thomas Lonsdale, of Loughgall, County Armagh, married firstly, in 1846, Jane, daughter of William Brownlee, and had issue,
JOHN BROWNLEE, his heir;
James Rolston, MP;
Mary; Jane.
He wedded secondly, in 1856, Harriet, daughter of John Rolston, and had issue, a daughter, Sara.
James Lonsdale was a prosperous tenant farmer at Loughgall. In the 1860s, he realised that, rather than merely producing and selling his own butter, it would be shrewder to buy other farmers’ butter for the English market.

He established butter depots in Armagh and many other parts of Ireland. About 1880, he moved the centre of his operations to Manchester and began to import food produce from the Empire. His two sons, John and Thomas, joined him in this enterprise which became very successful financially.
Mr Lonsdale was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN BROWNLEE LONSDALE JP DL (1849-1924), of The Pavilion, a partner in J & J Lonsdale and Company, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1895, MP for Mid-Armagh, 1899-1918, and for fifteen years honorary secretary of the Irish Unionist Party.

Sir John was Party Leader for two years and said to be a staunch opponent of Home Rule.

In 1911 he was created a baronet, denominated of The Pavilion, County Armagh.

Seven years later, in 1918, Sir John was elevated to the peerage, as BARON ARMAGHDALE, of Armagh, County Armagh.

He served as HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh from 1920-24.

Lord and Lady Armaghdale lived in the city of Armagh at The Pavilion, a single-storey house with exceptionally wide Georgian-glazed windows and a splendid portico of four Gothic columns supporting a Classical nomenclature.

The doorway was surmounted by a segmental, pointed fanlight with a Regency veranda on one side of the portico.

During the 19th century the grounds comprised twenty acres.

The conservatory was wooden and glass construction, with Georgian astragals obscuring the range behind it.

Turtle Bunbury has published a photograph (above) of the Lonsdales seated in their car at the Pavilion in 1904.

Lord Armaghdale didn't have long to enjoy the privileges of his noble title because he died in 1924; and, without an heir, the barony became extinct.

First published November, 2009.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Castle Leslie


THE RIGHT REV JOHN LESLIEor LESLEY, Lord Bishop of Clogher, founder of the Glaslough branch of the Leslie family in Ireland, was the son of George Leslie, of Crichie, 2nd son of Walter Leslie, of Wardis, Falconer to JAMES VI.

His lordship was born in northern Scotland, and educated first at Aberdeen and then at Oxford, of which he was Doctor of Divinity.
Of this distinguished divine, there is an interesting account in Sir James Ware's History of Ireland, edited by Harris. He was consecrated, in 1628, Bishop of the Isles in Scotland, whence he was translated to Raphoe in 1633, and thence translated to the see of Clogher, in 1661.

He died at Glaslough in 1671, aged 100 years, all but five weeks, leaving two sons, of whom John the elder, then 26 years of age, succeeded to the estate at his seat at Castle Leslie, otherwise Glaslough, in 1671.
The Bishop's second son and successor, 

THE REV CHARLES LESLIE MA, of Glaslough, County Monaghan, Chancellor of Connor Cathedral, 1686, left a son,

ROBERT LESLIE, of Glaslough, who left male issue,

CHARLES POWELL LESLIE, of Glaslough, MP for County Monaghan.

This gentleman's descendent,

COLONEL CHARLES POWELL LESLIE JP MP, of Glaslough, was High Sheriff of County Monaghan, 1788; MP, 1802-26.

His second son,

JOHN LESLIE JP MP, of Glaslough, was a captain in the Life Guards, MP for County Monaghan, and a noted painter.

He was created a baronet in 1876.
The heir is the present holder's nephew, Shaun Rudolf Christopher Leslie (b 1947).
The heir's heir is his brother, (Christopher) Mark Leslie (b 1952).
The 2nd Baronet was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Monaghan, from 1921 until 1922.

CASTLE LESLIE, or Glaslough House, is adjacent to Glaslough, County Monaghan.

The castle is fashioned in the Scottish-Baronial style and was designed by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon in 1870 for Sir John Leslie, 1st Baronet, MP.

It is situated where an earlier castle stood and never had a defensive purpose.

The house presents a rather dour and austere façade and is sited in such a way so as to mask the gardens to an approaching visitor.

To the rear of the house the gardens are relieved by a Renaissance-style cloister which links the main house to a single storey wing containing the library and billiards-room.

In contrast to the exterior designed by W H Lynn, the interior shows the hands of Lanyon and John Leslie himself through its strong Italian Renaissance feel.

The estate has three lakes: the largest, Glaslough, shares its name with the local village; Kilvey Lake is to the north; and, finally, Dream Lake, which features a crannóg.

The 1,000-acre estate comprises park land, meandering streams and several forests.

The house remains the seat of the Leslies and is run by Samantha (Sammy) Leslie.

Other family members still assert their influence on the running of the estate through a family trust.

The estate is open to paying guests, who can stay in the former Hunting Lodge, the main house itself, the recently constructed traditional-style holiday cottages located in the village or the fully restored and refitted "Old Stable Mews".

While restoration of the house and grounds is ongoing, many new features have been added to the estate, including a spa, a bar and restaurant, and a cookery school.

A new pavilion, adjacent to the long gallery of the main house, facilitates conferences, weddings and other large events.

Work on restoring the walled garden is also continuing, though for now they remain overgrown and locked.

2004 saw the return to the estate of the Equestrian Centre and Hunting Lodge which had been sold out of the family twenty years previously.

The estate now features miles of new horse trails and jumps, a state-of-the-art indoor horse arena and new stabling.

Walkers are also catered for with many trails upgraded and clearly signposted, a new estate map being available from the Hunting lodge.

2005 saw five new sub-ground floor bedrooms being added to the castle, the Desmond Leslie room, the Agnes Bernelle Room, the Helen Strong Room, Sir Jack's Room and the only room in the castle not named after a family member, The Calm Room.

Castle Leslie hit the headlines in 2002 when Sir Paul McCartney married Heather Mills in the family church located on the estate.

In 2008, the castle was the venue of the launch of RAPID IRELAND (Rescue and Preparedness in Disasters, Ireland), a sister rescue charity to RAPID UK.

The event was hosted by Sir Jack and the Lord Oranmore and Browne, and attended by a number of ambassadors and dignitaries, including HRH The Duke of Gloucester.

Throughout the years many famous faces have frequented the house, including the poet WB Yeats, Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Patrick Moore and the several members of the Churchill family (to whom the Leslies are related). 

The Leslie Papers are deposited at PRONI.

First published in April, 2012.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Harristown House


The family of La Touche was established in Ireland by

DAVID DIGUES DE LA TOUCHE (1671-1745), a Huguenot, who settled in that kingdom after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, having served first as volunteer, and afterwards as lieutenant and captain in Princess Anne's infantry regiment.

Mr La Touche was the fourth son of a noble Protestant family of the Blésois, which possessed considerable estates between Blois and Orléans, and in other parts of France.

He first fled to Holland, where a branch of his family had for some time been established, and shortly afterwards embarking with the Prince of Orange, served the Irish campaign under him.

At the conclusion of the war, Mr La Touche, like many of his countrymen, settled in Dublin.

He married twice: By his second wife he had no sons; by by the first, who he wedded in 1690, Judith, daughter of Noé Biard, and Judith Chevalier his wife, he had issue,
Jane; Judith.
Mr La Touche was succeeded in the bank which he had established in Dublin by his son,

DAVID DIGUES LA TOUCHE (1703-85), who had been educated in Holland with his relation, Digues de la Motte, at Rotterdam.

He espoused, in 1724-5, Mary Anne, daughter of Gabriel Canasille, and had issue,
Gabriel David, dsp;
DAVID, of Marlay;
JOHN, of whom hereafter;
Peter, of Bellevue;
Mary Anne; Martha; Elizabeth; Judith.
Mr La Touche's second surviving son,

JOHN LA TOUCHE, of Harristown, MP for County Kildare, married, in 1765, Gertrude FitzGerald, daughter of Robert Uniacke, of County Cork, who took the name and arms of FITZGERALD, and had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;
John, MP for Co Leitrim;
Gertrude; Marianne.
The elder son,

ROBERT LA TOUCHE (1773-1844), of Harristown, MP for County Kildare, wedded, in 1810, the Lady Emily Le Poer Trench, youngest daughter of William, 1st Earl of Clancarty, and by her had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Anne; Gertrude; Emily.
Mr La Touche was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN LA TOUCHE JP DL (1814-1904), of Harristown, who married, in 1843, Maria, only child of Ross Lambart Price, of Cornwall, by his wife, Catherine, Dowager Countess of Desart, and had issue,
Emily Maria; Rose Lucy.
His eldest son,

ROBERT PERCY O'CONNOR LA TOUCHE JP (1846-1921), wedded, in 1870, The Lady Annette
Louise, second daughter of John, 3rd Earl of Clonmell.

He died without issue, and was succeeded by his sister,

EMILY MARIA LA TOUCHE (1846-68), who espoused, in 1865, Lieutenant-General the Hon Bernard Matthew Ward, son of 3rd Viscount Bangor.

HARRISTOWN HOUSE, near Brannockstown, County Kildare, was purchased by the La Touche family in 1768 and a spacious Georgian mansion was erected by Whitmore Davis in a dominant position overlooking the River Liffey.

The old house of three stories was destroyed in 1891 and a smaller two storey house sits well in its place.

The diocesan architect, James Franklin Fuller, oversaw the restoration of the house at the same time that he rebuilt the small parish church at the entrance to the estate.

The omission of the third storey allows for an unusual amount of light into the house through a cleverly constructed lantern light; thus the move from the airy and bright downstairs rooms is complemented by a rush of light from the upstairs hallway.

Another interesting feature is the tunnel that runs underground for some eighty yards from the stable yard into the basement.

Carnalway church is adjacent to the front entrance of the estate and Fuller rebuilt it in the Hiberno- Romanesque style similar to that of his masterpiece at Millicent.

The church also has stained-glass windows by Harry Clarke and Sir Ninian Comper.

The La Touches were bankers, weavers and politicians. The partners of La Touche Bank were the original stockholders of the Bank of Ireland, which opened for business in 1783.

The second generation of the La Touches in Ireland included John, who built Harristown House. His descendants occupied the house until 1921.

The last John La Touche, of Harristown, died in 1904.

The estate was bought in 1946 by Major Michael Beaumont (father of the Lord Beaumont of Whitley), who set about restoring Harristown to its former glory. The Beaumonts still live here.

They completely renovated the house and installed furniture and pictures from their former home, Wootton, in Buckinghamshire, the interior of which had been designed by Sir John Soane.

On the ground floor the ceilings stand eighteen feet high and the front hall is a magnificent double room off which open the three main reception rooms the library, drawing room and dining room.

However, the best kept secret of this house is the 16th Century Chinese Wallpaper in a sitting room leading off the drawing room which depicts birds in strong vibrant colours.

Among the other curiosities are an upstairs room finished in oak panelling taken from a Tudor house in England; and a set of French Empire pelmets.

Harristown House remains a private family home, though welcomes paying guests for weddings, functions and accommodation.

First published in February, 2012.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

El Roque

Five years ago I visited El Roque.

Perhaps I ought to revisit it.

I walked the shortish distance from El Cotillo to this tiny pueblo in 2011.

Having wandered round a bit, El Roque was eerily quiet, almost deserted in fact.

There was a very small shop.

Most properties were whitewashed walls; a few locals chatted to each other.

I photographed a picturesque little villa with a fruit and vegetable garden, including banana and lemon trees.

The bus stops here en route to El Cotillo and Corralejo.

First published in  March, 2011.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Punta Dell'Est Revisited

Yesterday was a scorcher in El Cotillo.

I spent a fair part of the day at the picturesque beach.

I don't bring the iPad with me; otherwise I'd take more photographs of the scenery and features.

Last night I revisited the little café on the outskirts of El Cotillo, Punta dell'est.

If you have been following my narrative, this modest little place is located at the very edge of the village, adjacent to the new bus station.

Scrubland and semi-desert lie to one side.

Virtually all the tables at Punta dell'est are outside.

Sand-coloured tiles cover the floor; bamboo fencing is here and there; flower-pots, little and large, placed strategically.

The tables are covered with red-and-white chequered plastic; the chairs are navy-blue plastic.

I was greeted cordially by the Italian chef-owner, who brought me a large Beefeater and tonic.

The amicable waitress brought me the very simple menu, hand-written on an A5 size sheet of paper.

The menu, comprising about ten items, varies daily.

The "black sepia ravioli, cherry tomatoes, and salmon" sounded interesting, so I ordered that.

It arrived shortly thereafter.

Sliced bread and a dish of ready-grated Parmesan cheese had been laid on my table.

The portions here are not massive, though perfectly adequate.

Without wishing to be critical at all, I think I'd have served the ravioli with more sauce; though it was simple and satisfying.

A side salad would not have gone amiss, either; though restaurants don't seem to bother serving salad garnishes in El Cotillo, in my experience.

Canela Cafè, Lajares, served abundant salad with their grub, though.

I had room for pudding, so was apprised that a ricotta and pear tart had been prepared.

I made the correct choice: it was good, light, and easily digestible.

As usual, I was offered a shot of caramel-flavoured vodka before ambling back to Ferret's for a glass of port.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Ode to Belmont

My good pal and fellow member of the OC Sports Club, viz. NCS, alias the Bard of Schomberg, has composed an ode specially dedicated to self:-


I was disheartened this evening to see, 
That to your ‘blog’ was missing,
The latest culinary exploit.  
Oh did one with habitual fever wait.

Even as the sun set its head,
Even at the strikes of the midnight hour, 
Nothing had materialised.

Thence I stumbled upon your ‘twitter.’  
I saw before my eyes the most wonderful vista:
Of decadent banana tart and fillet steak, 
And sadness turned to joy.

Jolly fine stuff here from Schomberg and not one penny exchanged hands, either.

El Callao

At the New Harbour in El Cotillo there's an expansive terrace below La Vaca Azul restaurant.

When the tides aren't too high, another restaurant called El Callao places tables and chairs in a corner of this substantial terrace.

They serve tapas and drinks here during the day.

Yesterday afternoon I enjoyed a large Tanqueray and tonic at one of these tables (a bargain at €5) and admired my surroundings, including the spectacular view of the sea.

I hadn't eaten at El Callao, so last night I ambled down the narrow little street, Calle Requena, and darkened their threshold for the very first time.

I was early; too early, in fact, though I selected a prime table at the window.

El Callao, like other similar restaurants, is overshadowed by La Vaca Azul and La Marisma, which always seem to be busy.

Their reputation precedes them, I suppose.

I really must pay a little more attention to the decor in these places.

Here it was black and white, modern, clean. If and when I return I'll spend more time studying it.

I ordered an abstemious tonic-water with ice and a slice of lemon.

The menu is lengthy.

I hadn't consumed beef for more than a week, so treated myself to the solomillo Roquefort, a fillet steak served with little chips and carrot in a rich Roquefort sauce.

By the way, I complimented them on their very strong alioli, which I had with a crusty, granary roll.

I requested my steak to be cooked medium, though it came rare. Happily I'm not terribly fussy about this and, since the beef was very lean, I attached the trusty nose-bag and got down to work.

The puddings were written in chalk on a blackboard.

The pretty little waitress explained them all to me and I ordered the Tarta de Platana.

This turned out to be what I'd call banoffee pie.

It was served on an oblong stone platter, with squeezy cream and some sort of dark syrup drizzled at the side.

It was really rather good and tasty: not too heavy or stodgy.

The bill came to €21.80.

Thereafter I removed to Ferret's for a glass of port and the company of the resident cats.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Killynether: III

Several years ago I drove to Drumbeg,  specifically St Patrick's parish church.

Drumbeg is a lovely, leafy part of Belfast close to Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park.

The little church itself is most photogenic and picturesque, with a large grave-yard on one side.

My purpose was to locate the family plot of the Weir family, who used to live at Killynether House in County Down.

Seemingly they resided near Drumbeg prior to that, at a property called Oak Hill in Dunmurry, Belfast.

In 1852, Arthur Collins Weir was a merchant who undertook business at his company, the Manchester Woollen Warehouse, 24½, Bridge Street in Belfast (would 24½ equate to 24a today?).

His residence was 1 Albion Place.

First published in March, 2009.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

La Marisma

La Marisma restaurant is merely a few minutes' walk from my hotel; almost literally round the corner, in fact.

It is directly above the rocky shore at El Cotillo; and when I arrived the waves were pounding the rocks.

The sun shone, so I sat outside on the little terrace and watched the spectacular view.

I ordered a freshly-squeezed orange juice, Gussie Fink-Nottle's favourite beverage, for those of you familiar with Bertie Wooster's pals.

The cheerful waiter laid my table with a clean cloth and I had a look at the menu.

An appetiser arrived, served in a mussel shell.

I'm unfamiliar with mussels, though I assume it was some sort of mussel cocktail mixture, with a fine salad.

This was accompanied by a fresh bread roll and alioli.

Ten minutes later my garlic prawns appeared, sizzling; so hot, in fact, that I had to blow the first few forkfuls.

The couple beside me were getting stuck in to a traditional paella.

My main course comprised chicken rolled around large King prawns.

There were three of these, with small chips, rice, and vegetables, in a blue cheese sauce.

I'd say that the helpings at La Marisma are on the generous side.

Suffice it to say that I could not finish the meal (a matter of some irritation to me since I do not like to waste food).

Nevertheless I brought the remaining chicken roll with me in a serviette for a black cat near the hotel.

I found the service fairly good, after a slow start.

The bill amounted to about €26, including the tip.