Monday, 23 April 2018

Joyous News

Today has been one of those special days in the British calendar of events, viz. the safe birth of a healthy new Prince of the United Kingdom; and two new appointments to the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

I am naturally overjoyed for TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; Her Majesty, who has another great-grandson; and the Royal Family as a whole.

Of course I had no idea that Alan, 3rd Viscount Brookeborough, would be appointed to the Garter.

His grandfather, Sir Basil Brooke Bt, the 1st Viscount, was installed as a Knight of that Most Noble Order  in 1965.

Now we have two Knights of the Garter resident in Northern  Ireland, namely James, Duke of Abercorn, and Lord Brookeborough.

I send cordial congratulations to Lord Brookeborough on what is the highest order of chivalry in this kingdom.

The Abercorns and Brookeboroughs have a distinguished and honourable record of dedicated service to sovereigns and the crown.

Dunsany Castle


The family of PLUNKETT is supposed (claimed the historian Sir Richard Lodge) to be of Danish extraction.

The time of its first settlement in Ireland cannot be decidedly ascertained, but it was certainly as early as the reign of HENRY III.

It has extended into many parts of Ireland (particularly the counties of Meath, Dublin, and Louth), and three distinct peerages have been enjoyed by different branches, viz. the earldom of Fingall, and the baronies of Dunsany and Louth.

JOHN PLUNKETT, the earliest of the name on record, appears to have been seated, towards the latter end of the 11th century, at Bewley, or Beaulieu, County Louth, where he died in 1082.

From him descended another JOHN PLUNKETT, who lived in the reign of HENRY III, and had two sons, John, ancestor of the Barons Louth; and RICHARD, ancestor of the Earls of Fingall; and Baron Dunsany.

SIR CHRISTOPHER PLUNKETT, Knight, grandson of the above-named Richard, was deputy to Sir Thomas Stanley, Lord Deputy of Ireland, in 1432, and subsequently under Richard, Duke of York.

He wedded Joan, daughter and sole heir of Sir Lucas Cusack, knight, Lord of Killeen and Dunsany, by whom he had, with other children, JOHN, ancestor of the Earls of Fingall, who inherited the lordship of Killeen; and

CHRISTOPHER (1410-63), that of Dunsany, of which he was created, in 1439, BARON DUNSANY.

His lordship wedded Anne, daughter and heir of Richard FitzGerald, of Ballysonan, County Kildare, younger son of Maurice, 3rd Earl of Kildare, by whom he had four sons, and was succeeded by the eldest son,

RICHARD, 2nd Baron, who espoused Joan, daughter of Sir Rowland FitzEustace, Lord Treasurer of Ireland in 1471, and Lord High Chancellor in 1474; and was succeeded by his only son,

JOHN, 3rd Baron, KG, who married Catherine, daughter of John Hussey, feudal baron of Galtrim, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDWARD, 4th Baron, who was slain by the rebel O'Connor, 1521, and was succeeded by his son (by Amy, daughter and heir of Philip de Bermingham),

ROBERT, 5th Baron; one of the peers of the parliament held at Dublin, 1541, when he was ranked immediately after his kinsman, Lord Killeen.

His lordship wedded firstly, Eleanor, youngest daughter of Sir William Darcy, Knight, of Platten, vice-treasurer of Ireland, bt whom he had four sons and nine daughters.

He married secondly, Genet, daughter of William Sarsfield, alderman of Dublin, and widow of Mr Alderman Shillenford, by whom he had two other sons.

He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

CHRISTOPHER, 6th Baron, who espoused Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Christopher Barnewall, Knight, of Crickstown, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

PATRICK, 7th Baron, who married Mary, eleventh daughter of Sir Christopher Barnewall, Knight, of Turvey, and was succeeded by his only son,

CHRISTOPHER, 8th Baron, who wedded Maud, daughter of Henry Babington, of Dethick, Derbyshire; and dying in 1603, was succeeded by his only son,

PATRICK, 9th Baron (1595-1668), who received a patent of confirmation, from JAMES I, of the several castles of Dunsany, Corbally, etc.

His lordship was subsequently summoned to parliament in the reign of CHARLES I, and suffered considerably in the cause of that unfortunate prince.
A short time before 1541, the Lords Justices and supplied the lords of The Pale with arms, but suddenly recalled them, which occasioned much discontent among the Catholic peers, who, having assembled, appointed Lord Dunsany to assure the justices of their attachment and loyalty, and of their readiness to co-operate in every measure that could be conducive to the peace of the country. 
The Lords Justices, however, took no further notice of the proffered service than by confining his lordship in Dublin Castle, where he remained for several years; but on the restoration of CHARLES II, he again took his seat in the House of Lords, and continued to sit until 1666.
His lordship espoused Jane, daughter of Sir Thomas Heneage, of Haynton, Lincolnshire, and was succeeded at his decease by his grandson,

CHRISTOPHER, 10th Baron (son of the Hon Christopher Plunket, by Catherine, 4th daughter of Randal, 1st Earl of Antrim); at whose decease, unmarried, the barony devolved upon his brother,

RANDALL, 11th Baron who, adhering to the falling fortunes of his legitimate sovereign, JAMES II, was outlawed in 1691; but being included in the Treaty of Limerick, his estates were restored; neglecting, however, the forms necessary to re-establish himself in the privileges of the peerage, neither his lordship nor his immediate descendants had a seat in the House of Lords.

His lordship married firstly, Anne, widow of Theobald, 1st Earl of Carlingford, and daughter of Sir William Pershall; but by that lady had no issue.

He wedded secondly, in 1711, Bridget, only daughter of Richard Fleming, of Stahalmock, County Meath; and dying in 1735, left an only son,

EDWARD, 12th Baron (1713-81), who conformed to the established church, but took no step to confirm the barony and his right to a seat in the House of Lords.

His lordship espoused Mary, eldest daughter of Francis Allen, of St Wolstan's, County Kildare, MP for that county, and had (with two daughters) an only son,

RANDALL, 13th Baron (1739-1821), who claimed, in 1791, and was allowed his seat in parliament.

His lordship married firstly, Margaret, widow of Edward Mandeville, of Ballydine, County Tipperary, and had issue,
EDWARD WADDING, his successor;
Randall (1780-1834);
Margaret; Anna Maria.
He wedded secondly, in 1800, Emma, sister of Sir Drummond Smith Bt, of Tring Park, Hertfordshire, though had no further issue.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDWARD WADDING, 14th Baron (1773-1848), of Dunsany Castle, County Meath.
The heir presumptive is the present holder's brother, the Hon Oliver Plunkett (b 1985).

DUNSANY CASTLE, Dunsany, County Meath, is a modernised Norman castle, begun ca 1180-81 by Hugh de Lacy, who also commissioned Killeen Castle, nearby, and the famous Trim Castle.

It is possibly Ireland's oldest home in continuous occupation, having been held by the Cusack family and their descendants by marriage, the Plunketts, to the present day.

The castle is surrounded by its demesne, the inner part of the formerly extensive Dunsany estate.

The demesne holds an historic church (still consecrated), a working walled garden, a walled farm complex, an ice house, various dwellings and other features.

Dunsany castle was built, probably in succession to basic "motte" fortifications, remnants of which can still be seen to the left and right in front of it, in the period 1180-1200, construction being thought to have begun in 1180-81.

Foundations and the lower parts of the four main towers are thought to be original, and some interior spaces, notably an old kitchen, but much additional work has been carried out, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the current castle is more than three times the size of the original.

The castle, along with Killeen Castle, was held by the Cusacks, initially on behalf of the de Lacys, and passed by marriage in the early 15th century to the Plunketts.
Originally, it and Killeen lay on a single estate but the first generation of Plunketts gave Killeen to the eldest son, and Dunsany to the younger, Christopher, following which the estate was divided, and the Castle descended in the hands of the Barons of Dunsany, who enjoyed almost uninterrupted ownership, aside from issues around Oliver Cromwell's operations in Ireland (the then Lady Dunsany defended the castle against an initial approach but the family were later forced out, some dying on the way to Connaught), and the aftermath of some other troubles between Ireland and England.
They were cousins of St Oliver Plunket.

The Dunsany estate was reduced by the operation of the Irish Land Acts in the late 19th and early 20th century, but the castle is still surrounded by its original demesne, and other estate lands remain around the district, some adjacent to the demesne and some remote.

Much of the work of the writer Lord Dunsany (18th Baron) was done at the Castle, notably in a room in one of the building's towers.

Dunsany Castle is entered through a projecting porch and a lobby with a worked plaster ceiling, which opens into the central hallway, featuring the principal stairway and a vaulted ceiling, and into a secondary hall.

The ground floor holds the grand dining-room, with portraits of past family members, and a fine arts and crafts billiards-room, as well as kitchen spaces, ancient and modern, and other rooms.

On the first floor are the library, and drawing-room, which has Stapleton plasterwork from 1780.

The library, which may have been worked on by James Shiel, is in the Gothic-Revival style, with a "beehive" ceiling.

Also on this floor is a secondary stairway (where a "priest's hole" for hiding Catholic ministers formerly existed). The third floor holds ornate bedrooms.

The demesne is surrounded by a drystone wall, much of which was built during the Great Famine as a relief work.

There is a full-scale walled garden, over 3 acres in size, still producing fruit and vegetables for the estate.

A cottage, historically occupied by the head gardener, is built into the walls of the garden.

Nearby are working beehives.

Also within the demesne are stone-built farm and stable yards, an ice-house and wells.

There is a home within the stable yard, and at least one ruined cottage near the walls. 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Mulholland Grand Organ


The Mulholland Grand Organ is probably the largest of its kind in Northern Ireland and one of the oldest examples of a functioning classic English pipe organ.

It was named after Andrew Mulholland, of Ballywalter Park, Mayor of Belfast, 1845, who donated it to the hall in the 1860s.

The organ was built by William Hill & Son and donated after the hall was officially opened.

In the late 1970s, the organ was extensively restored to Hill's own original design.

Andrew Mullholland's great-great-grandson, Henry, 4th Lord Dunleath, oversaw its restoration.


Let’s face it. There are some things in life which really count and when it comes to the size of your organ, in the mind of the Victorians at any rate, size mattered.

And it still does - although with modern technology, you can probably produce the same effect of a huge organ from a mere box of tricks and a couple of big speakers.

But where’s the romance in that?

Thanks to the size of the trouser pockets of a previous Mayor of Belfast, the generous Andrew Mulholland, this city can claim one of the most interesting old organs in the country.

So when the Mulholland Grand Organ was 'welcomed back' to the Ulster Hall this week and 'tried out' by the current city organist, Colm Carey, I decided that I should get in on the act.

Why not interview the organ itself?
It’s no joke having your ivories tickled at almost 150 years of age. And especially after all that I’ve been through in this past year.
I began to worry that I was going to find this organ hard to handle. Would I get a grumpy old organ response to everything?
Those rough builder types who refurbished the Ulster Hall, I tell you. Despite the swathes of black plastic that had been wrapped around me, I could feel the damp, the dust, the debris getting into my inners. It almost did for me!
At that point, there was a low grumbling from the depths of the organ casing and the beginnings of a cipher so I thought I’d better move the conversation on.

We wouldn’t have wanted to disturb the political rally that was taking place in another part of the Ulster Hall complex – making any sounds to do with the arts would, of course, have been unwelcome.
Ah yes, I’ve seen a few things here you know. Rallies were ten a penny in the old days but there’s just not the same calibre of politicians nowadays as back then. In the old days, they were already rich from exploiting the poor of the country – now they spend all their trying to make themselves rich in other ways – questionable expenses, dodgy land deals, you name it.
I felt this blunt instrument was heading into difficult territory and wanted to get back to the size thing so I remarked on the rather large protrusion at the front top of the organ casing.
That’s the new fanfare trumpet which was added some years ago by Mr Prosser – the lovely organ builder who looks after me so well. Mind you, I’ve noticed he’s got rather portly of late and finds it a bit awkward crawling around inside me and reaching those bits which require someone – how shall I put it? – someone of a lighter frame perhaps?
That fanfare rank is not the easiest place to reach... still, he manages it rightly and, of course, no-one ever uses it now anyway – those tone deaf City Council bureaucrats probably consider it a Health and Safety risk for the audience as it certainly makes one big sound.
But the trumpet fanfare is just the bit 'in your face', I suggested. What’s behind the facade?
You’ll already know that I’m made up of over six thousand pipes – the biggest is 32 feet long and the smallest is no more than half an inch. I’ve got four keyboards or manuals and it takes a six horse power engine to work the bellows that supply me with enough air to sing.
In fact, I’ve also got a back-up two horse power engine as well because when you pull out all the stops – and there’s well over 80 of those – you need one heck of a lot of wind. I remember that nice girl Gillian Weir playing with me in the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony here some years ago and that last chord began to sag ever so slightly – well, it happens.
Now she was one big player! And talking about big players, there was the infamous Carlo Curley also who actually stood up on my pedal board for melodramatic effect. He knew how to play to the gallery and that’s no lie.
In those days, the hall manager, Terry de Winne, had installed a massive spotlight up there, trained only on me so that the ice-cream parlour colours that he’d 'restored' were almost blinding. Funny how one generation thinks it 'restores' what a previous generation has already thought it 'restored'.
Looking at its current casing, the rather dull browns of the falsely grained wood and the unimaginative stencilling, flanked by the most ghastly false Victorian murals I’ve ever seen, I wondered what the future held for this musical masterpiece.
Like many old codgers, I’ve had various bits and pieces added and fall off over the years – some to good effect and, well, others which could be removed without too many tears being shed. I think I’d want to go back to my original specification and get rid of some of the excesses of my 70s rebuild.
That would cost a bit I’m afraid but I’d love to be again the sprightly young romantic organ I was when Mr Hill put me together in 1862.
And I thought to myself, wouldn’t we all like to be the young romantics we once saw ourselves to be!

A celebratory concert to mark the Mulholland Grand Organ’s return to working order was held on Tuesday, the 4th May, 2010, featuring the Belfast City Organist, Colm Carey, and the Ulster Orchestra.

First published in April, 2010.

Castle Upton


The family of UPTON was seated at Upton, Cornwall, about the time of the Conquest.

ARTHUR UPTON, of Lupton, elder brother of the Chevalier John Upton, Knight of Malta, and grandson of John Upton, of Lupton, Devon, by Joan his wife, daughter and heir of Sir Wincomb Raleigh, Knight.

John Upton, of Lupton, was fourth in descent from John Upton (and Agnes his wife, sister and heir of John Peniles, of Lupton), younger son of John Upton, of Trelaske, Cornwall.

This Arthur Upton married Gertrude, daughter of Hugh Fortescue, of Filleigh, and had, with other issue,
John, of Lupton;
HENRY, of whom hereafter.
The younger son,

HENRY UPTON, a captain in the army of the Earl of Essex, 1598, fixed his abode in County Antrim, and was returned to parliament for the town of Carrickfergus, 1634.

Captain Upton married Mary, daughter of Sir Hugh Clotworthy, knight, and sister of John, Viscount Massereene, by whom he had four sons and three daughters, and was succeeded by the eldest,

ARTHUR UPTON, of Castle Upton, MP for County Antrim for a series of forty years, who wedded Dorothy, daughter of Michael Beresford, of Coleraine, and was succeeded by his fourth, but eldest surviving son,

CLOTWORTHY UPTON, of Castle Upton, MP for County Antrim, who, raising a party of men, joined the standard of WILLIAM III at the siege of Limerick and was taken prisoner there; after entering the breach sword in hand, and almost alone, his followers, nearly to a man, being cut to pieces.

Mr Upton married firstly, Mary, only daughter of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery, by whom he had no
issue; and secondly, Margaret, daughter of William Stewart, of Killymoon, County Tyrone, who died also without issue; and thirdly, Jane, daughter of John Ormsby, of Athlacca (by whom he had an only daughter, ELZABETH, who wedded the Rt Hon Hercules Landford Rowley, and was created a peeress of the realm, as Baroness Langford)

Mr Upton was succeeded by his brother,

JOHN UPTON, of Castle Upton, MP for County Antrim, a military officer, who distinguished himself at the storming of the citadel of Liège, and at the battle of Almansa, under Lord Galway; where, for his spirited conduct, he obtained the command of a regiment, upon the fall of Colonel Killigrew.

Colonel Upton wedded, in 1711, Mary, only daughter of Dr Francis Upton, of London, by whom he had three sons and five daughters.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

ARTHUR UPTON, of Castle Upton, MP for Antrim Borough, 1692, Deputy Governor of County Antrim, who married firstly, Sophia, daughter of Michael Ward; and secondly, Sarah, daughter of Pole Cosby, of Stradbally; but dying without issue, in 1768, the estates devolved upon his brother,

FRANCIS UPTON, a naval officer; at whose decease, unmarried, they passed to a younger brother,

CLOTWORTHY UPTON (1721-85), who espoused, in 1769, Elizabeth, daughter of Shuckburgh Boughton, of Poston Court, Herefordshire, and had issue,
JOHN HENRY, his successor;
Fulke Greville;
Arthur Percy, CB, Lieutenant-General in the army;
Elizabeth Albinia, m 1st Marquess of Bristol.
Mr Upton was elevated to the peerage, in 1776, by the title of Baron Templetown, of Templetown, County Antrim.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN HENRY, 2nd Baron (1771-1846), who married, in 1796, the Lady Mary Montagu, only daughter of John, 5th Earl of Sandwich, and had issue,
Henry Montagu (1799-1863);
GEORGE FREDERICK, successor to his brother;
Edward John;
Mary Wilhelmina.
His lordship was created a viscount, in 1806, as VISCOUNT TEMPLETOWN, of County Antrim.
Henry Montagu Upton, 2nd Viscount (1799–1863);
George Frederick Upton, 3rd Viscount Templetown (1802–90);
Henry Edward Montagu Dorington Clotworthy Upton, 4th Viscount (1853–1939);
Henry Augustus George Mountjoy Heneage Upton, 5th Viscount (1894–1981).
The 5th Viscount married firstly, in 1916, Alleyne, daughter of Captain Henry Lewes Conran RN, of Gordon Downs, Queensland, Australia, and had issue,Ulster
Alleyne Evelyn Maureen Louisa.
His lordship wedded secondly, in 1975, Margaret Violet Louisa, widow of Sir Lionel George Arthur Cust.On the decease of the 5th Viscount the titles expired.

The ancestral seat of the Templetown family was Castle Upton, Templepatrick, County Antrim. 

CASTLE UPTON demesne, beside Templepatrick, County Antrim, is near the half-way point on the main road from Antrim to Belfast.

The demesne lies on the north side of the village; and the house contains numerous features which are of historical and architectural import.

The Anglo-Norman style flanker towers now form part of the main house of 1612; which, in turn, occupies the site of a 13th century priory of the Knights of St John (Hospitallers) - monks who joined the Last Crusade, sailing from Carrickfergus in County Antrim.

The said monks were expelled from Templepatrick during the Reformation; and the Knights' vaulted refectory was reconstructed, when the mansion was extended by Robert Adam in 1783 for the 1st Viscount Templetown.

Castle Upton House today is essentially a plantation castle built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries by Sir Robert and Sir Henry Norton Bt, who named it Castle Norton.

The castle was sold in 1625 to Captain Henry Upton, who promptly re-named it Castle Upton.

From 1783 Clotworthy Upton, 1st Baron Templetown, and his son (later 1st Viscount Templetown) employed Robert Adam to modernize the interior and give the exterior a "castle air".

Adam raised and machiolated the pair of round towers from the original castle and gave them high, conical roofs, adding a wing with another tower.

Adam also designed a Classical mausoleum in the church-yard and a splendid castellated stable range, in 1789.

In 1837 Edward Blore was employed by the 2nd Viscount to re-model the Castle, inserting mullioned windows and eradicating most of Adams' interiors; raising and panelling the hall; and refurbishing the main reception rooms in a restrained Elizabethan style, with fretted ceilings.

The Castle was sold by the Upton family early in the 20th century; and the subsequent owner re-roofed the main building, an act which ruined Adam's romantic skyline.

Adam's additional wing was allowed to fall into ruin.

In 1963, the 300-acre estate was purchased by Sir Robin Kinahan who, with Lady Kinahan, restored the Castle most sympathetically.

Their most notable achievement was the rebuilding of the ruined Adam wing, which now contains an elegant ballroom; and an Italian marble chimney-piece formerly at Downhill Castle in County Londonderry.

The demesne itself is now diminished, with trees near the house, a small artificial lake and lawns where a 19th century formal garden was once laid out.

The walled garden is used as a field. Robert Adam’s stable block is approached via a contemporary gate lodge of 1820.

The impressive village entrance to the house is by Edward Blore (1837) and has a gate lodge hidden behind it.

Today the demesne is home to Sir Robin and Lady Kinahan's son, Danny Kinahan DL MP, and his family, though it is currently (April, 2016) for sale.
I have met the late Sir Robin several times: When he was Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast at ceremonies in the Ulster Hall; and as chairman of the board of Belfast Cathedral. I recall him well. A true gentleman indeed. 
First published in March, 2010.   Templetown arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Belleek Manor


JAMES KNOX (1774-1818), third son of Francis Knox, of Rappa Castle, County Mayo, was called to the bar, 1797, and returned by the borough of Taghmon to the last Irish Parliament, 1797-1800.

He settled at Broadlands Park in County Mayo, became a magistrate, 1803, and deputy governor of that county.

In 1813, Mr Knox assumed, in compliance with the will of his maternal grandfather, Annesley Gore, the surname and arms of GORE in addition to those of KNOX.

He married, in 1800, the Lady Maria Louisa Gore, eldest daughter of Arthur, 2nd Earl of Arran, by Anna, his second wife, daughter of the Rev Boleyn Knight, of Ottley, Yorkshire, and had issue,
Henry William;
George Edward;
Anna Maria; Louisa Maria; Eleanor Adelaide; Charlotte Catharine.
Mr Knox-Gore, Ranger of the Curragh of Kildare, was succeeded by his eldest son,

FRANCIS ARTHUR KNOX-GORE JP (1803-73), of Belleek Abbey, Lieutenant-Colonel, North Mayo Militia, who wedded, in 1829, Sarah, daughter of Charles Nesbitt Knox, of Castle Lacken, and had issue,
CHARLES JAMES, his successor;
Jane Louisa; Matilda.
Colonel Knox-Gore, Lord-Lieutenant of County Sligo, 1831-68, succeeded to the estates of his great-grandfather, Annesley Gore, brother of the 1st Earl of Arran, on the demise, in 1821, of the Rt Hon Henry King, who had a life interest in the property.

He was created a baronet in 1868, denominated of Belleek Manor.

Sir Francis was succeeded by his son,

SIR CHARLES JAMES KNOX-GORE, 2nd Baronet (1831-90), of Belleek Manor.

The baronetcy expired following the decease of the 2nd Baronet.

BELLEEK MANOR (now Belleek Castle Hotel), Ballina, County Mayo, is a large Tudor-Gothic mansion built about 1825 for Francis Knox-Gore, later 1st Baronet.

It has a symmetrical front with three stepped gables flanked by slender, polygonal, battlemented turrets and pinnacles.

There are oriels at the sides; and the central porch is surmounted by a twin corbelled oriel.


The mansion and its parkland are described by the NIAH thus:-

A COUNTRY HOUSE erected for Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Francis Arthur Knox-Gore (1803-73), first Baronet; widely accepted as a particularly important component of the early nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Mayo with the architectural value of the composition, 'a noble mansion in the later English style of architecture' (Lewis 1837 II, 189);

confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking manicured lawns and the broad River Moy; 
the symmetrical frontage centred on a Tudoresque door-case showing pretty Georgian Gothic glazing patterns; 
the construction in a deep grey limestone offset by sheer dressings not only demonstrating good quality workmanship, but also compounding a ponderous monochrome palette; 
the diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual effect with the principal "apartments" defined by handsome bay windows;

and the elongated pinnacles embellishing a multi-gabled roof-line: meanwhile, although traditionally attributed to John Benjamin Keane of Mabbot Street [James Joyce Street], Dublin, strong comparisons with the contemporary Coolbawn House (1823-39), County Wexford, put forward Frederick Darley, Junior (1798-1872), as an equally likely design source. 
Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; 
and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the considerable artistic potential of the composition. 
Furthermore, an adjoining stable complex; the nearby Knox-Gore monument; and an eye-catching gate house, all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a much depleted estate having historic connections with the Knox-Gore family, including Sir Charles James Knox-Gore, 2nd Baronet; 
and the succeeding Saunders-Knox-Gore family, including Major-General William Boyd Saunders-Knox-Gore (née Saunders) (1827-1902); 
and Matilda Saunders-Knox-Gore (née Knox-Gore) (1833-1912); Lieutenant-Colonel William Arthur Gore Saunders-Knox-Gore JP DL (née Saunders) (1854-1925); and Lieutenant-Colonel William Arthur Cecil Saunders-Knox-Gore JP DL (née Saunders) (1888-1975).

THE KNOX-GORES continued to live at Belleek Manor until the 1940s.

Marshall Doran, a merchant navy officer and an avid collector of fossils and medieval armour, acquired the run down property in 1961.

He proceeded to restore the house and opened it as a hotel in 1970.

Some of the rooms are in 19th century style, whilst most of the interior design has a medieval and nautical theme.

Today Belleek Castle Hotel is owned by the Mayo Trust and managed by Marshall’s son, Paul Doran, and Ms Maya Nikolaeva.

First published in March, 2016.

The Queen's Birthday


THE QUEEN is 92 today.

Her Majesty was born at 17 Bruton Street, London, on the 21st April, 1926, and ascended the throne, upon the demise of her father, GEORGE VI, 6th February, 1952.

The Queen usually spends her birthday privately, at Windsor Castle.

The occasion is marked publicly by a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, London, and 21 gun salutes in the other nations of the United Kingdom.

Three cheers for Her Majesty The Queen.

Friday, 20 April 2018

AB Simon

My Nauticalia  replica of Simon

Simon (ca 1947-49) was the ship's cat who served on the Royal Navy frigate HMS Amethyst.

In 1949, during the Yangtze Incident, he received the PDSA's Dickin Medal after surviving injuries from a cannon shell, raising morale, and killing off a rat infestation during his service.

Simon was found wandering the dockyards of Hong Kong in March 1948 by 17-year-old Ordinary Seaman George Hickinbottom, a member of the crew of HMS Amethyst, the Royal Navy frigate stationed in the city in the late 1940s.

At this stage, it is thought Simon was approximately one year old, and was very undernourished and unwell.

Hickinbottom smuggled the cat aboard ship, and Simon soon ingratiated himself with the crew and officers, particularly because he was adept at catching and killing rats on the lower decks.

Simon rapidly gained a reputation for cheekiness, leaving presents of dead rats in sailors' beds, and sleeping in the captain's cap.

The crew viewed Simon as a lucky mascot, and when the ship's commander changed later in 1948, the outgoing Ian Griffiths left the cat for his successor, Lieutenant-Commander Bernard Skinner RN, who took an immediate liking to the friendly animal.

However, Skinner's first mission in command of Amethyst was to travel up the Yangtze River to Nanking to replace the duty ship there, HMS Consort.

Halfway up the river the ship became embroiled in the "Yangtze incident", when Chinese communist gun batteries opened fire on the frigate.

One of the first rounds tore through the captain's cabin, seriously wounding Simon. Skinner died of his wounds soon after the attack.

The badly wounded cat crawled on deck, and was rushed to the medical bay, where the ship's surviving medical staff cleaned his burns, and removed four pieces of shrapnel, but he was not expected to last the night.

He did manage to survive however, and after a period of recovery, he returned to his former duties in spite of the indifference he faced from the new ship's captain, Lieutenant-Commander John Kerans RN.

While anchored in the river, the ship had become overrun with rats, and Simon took on the task of removing them with vigour, as well as raising the morale of the sailors.

Following the ship's escape from the Yangtze, Simon became an instant celebrity, lauded in British and world news, and presented with the "Animal Victoria Cross", the Dickin Medal, as well as a Blue Cross medal, the Amethyst campaign medal, and the fanciful rank of "Able Seacat".

Thousands of letters were written to him, so much that one Lieutenant Stuart Hett RN was appointed "cat officer" to deal with Simon's post.

At every port Amethyst stopped at on its route home, Simon was presented with honour, and a special welcome was made for him at Plymouth in November when the ship returned.

Simon was, however, like all animals entering the UK, subject to quarantine regulations, and was immediately sent to an animal centre in Surrey.

Whilst in quarantine, Simon contracted a virus and, despite the attentions of medical staff and thousands of well-wishers, died on the 28th November, 1949, from a complication of the viral infection caused by his war wounds.

Hundreds, including the entire crew of HMS Amethyst, attended his funeral at the PDSA Ilford Animal Cemetery in East London.

Simon is also commemorated with a bush planted in his honour in the Yangtze Incident Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.