Sunday, 28 February 2010

Horatio the Chemist

I've been informed of a new bar and restaurant on the periphery of the Earldom which has just opened. It is opposite the telephone exchange at Ballyhackamore, on the Upper Newtownards Road, at the site of an earlier restaurant. Some may recall the Astoria Cinema, which would have been across the road.

The new bar-restaurant is owned by Botanic Inns. It is called Horatio Todd's, H Todd having been a local worthy: He conducted business as a pharmacist at 72, Holywood Road in Belfast.

Click the menus to enlarge. I will pay HT's a visit imminently.

You're Havin' a Laugh!

Do spare a thought for Stan Still, please: "When I was in the RAF my commanding officer used to shout, 'Stan Still, get a move on' and roll about laughing," he said. Those words are from a retired airman called Stan Still, 76, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, who claims that his name had been "a blooming millstone around my neck my entire life".

He is a mere one of many "unfortunates" on a list in this article.

Mr Still has good company: Joining him on the list are Terry Bull, Paige Turner, Mary Christmas and Anna Sasin. Or how about Hazel Nutt? Tim Burr?


Saturday, 27 February 2010

Bay Tree Breakfast

Four us us, including the Dowager, all trooped along to the Bay Tree coffee-house in Holywood, County Down this morning. There was a choice of tables, though they were mostly two-seat ones and we required a table for four.

I fancied a full Bay Tree Fry this morning. I abstained from breakfast at home.

There were two small tables at the wall which were unoccupied, so the Dowager - who cannot stand for lengthy periods - and self sat there and I inquired if they could be joined. This they did not want, because it would have caused a blockage in the aisle. We waited till the others arrived; and waited; and waited, during which time two ladies sat down at a four-seat table at the opposite side before I could make a move.

I went up to the counter and pointed this out and was told that we'd have needed to queue for that! By this time, the restaurant was busy. A waitress approached the large table with the two ladies, and they agreed to do a swap.

I must confess that we were all a little exasperated by now and I demonstrated this by raising my voice, a boorish habit of which I am not proud. A Michael Winner moment. I'm not really like that, believe me: I did have some justification for annoyance. I think they made me pay for this behaviour - "let him wait!" - by bringing the others their scones and coffee, while I waited twenty-five minutes for my cooked breakfast. In the end, I summoned a waitress and told her that, if my breakfast hadn't been started, I'd cancel it. "Two minutes."

When it did arrive, it was probably worth the wait: very good; tasty; decent ingredients; plenty of mushroom; very lean bacon; a fat little sausage under the rest! I think the fry cost £5.95.

Incidentally, there was a Knight Commander (civil division) of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath enjoying the atmosphere there, this morning.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Open Letter

To: Dr Rosa Solinas, Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Dear Dr Solinas,

Further to my correspondence recently, perhaps I could assure the Arts Council that, whatever the future holds for opera in NI, I intend to encourage my readers to maintain the proud tradition of dressing formally for the summer season, especially if it takes place at a country house; black tie being obligatory.
I have noted that the Council infers that Castleward Opera has been "exclusive".
Perhaps the Arts Council would care to clarify what it means by "exclusive"? If it is intended to subsidize ticket prices even more, that would indeed be a welcome development.
In my opinion, NI needs to maintain the summer opera season at a country house, with the same successful format; along the lines of Glyndebourne.

With kind regards


Thursday, 25 February 2010

BBC NI Ignorance

Who edits the BBC Northern Ireland news online? How can such an demi-literate ignoramus have got a job in Broadcasting House?

Whoever they are, they persist in calling Lady Hermon "Lady Sylvia" [sic].

Unbelievable. Half of the people who "work" in that place ought to be made redundant, at any rate.

Lady Hermon is not the daughter of a duke, marquess or earl. Ergo, it is incorrect to refer to her in the manner BBC NI use.

An Arts Council?

I sent the Arts Council of Northern Ireland a message via email three days ago, politely inquiring about the future of Castleward Opera; and, to date, still await a response.

I was wondering whether the Arts Council still existed and, if so, how many staff operate from their premises?

It begs the question: Why have a Contact Us link with an email address, if such an august body doesn't bother to reply?

Swimming Again

The swimming-pool re-opened on Tuesday evening, after the half-term break. I must say I thought it would be cold; yet, to my glee, the water temperature was temperate enough.

The electric neoprene retractable cover hasn't been functioning for weeks so, presumably, that has effected things.

I swam sixty lengths on Tuesday; and sixty last night. I might manage sixty tonight, if I feel so inclined!

It has been a long winter, and there is still no sign of a respite, so far. We have lit a fire in the living-room today.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Prince Philip in Ulster

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has arrived in Northern Ireland and has met this year’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award recipients at a presentation ceremony in Hillsborough Castle, County Down.

HRH was greeted at Hillsborough by Mr David Lindsay, the Lord-Lieutenant of County Down; and then went on to meet Mr David Corbett, Sheriff for County Down and Ms Kate Thompson, the Director of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Northern Ireland. Ms Thompson accompanied Prince Philip during the engagement.

Around 100 young people were presented with Gold Awards, marking their successful completion of a voluntary process of personal development aimed at helping them reach their full potential.

Joining today’s celebration and assisting with the formal presentation of the awards were Mr Eddie Irvine, Northern Ireland-born former Formula 1 Racing Driver and Mr Alan Simpson, the BBC radio presenter.

HRH went on to visit the Belfast Activity Centre (BAC) at Barnett's Demesne, Belfast. Arriving at the Boathouse, part of the BAC complex, Prince Philip was greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie OBE; and went on to meet Mr Stephen Dickson, Director, BAC, Ms Victoria Fong and Ms Sheena Mann both GAP students and Gold Award Participants. HRH also met a number of funders, architects and representatives of organisations involved in the boathouse project.

Strandtown Trade

For those readers who have never heard of Strandtown, it is a locality within the Earldom on the outskirts of east Belfast.

The only major supermarket in Strandtown, at 1 Belmont Road, viz. Tesco, closed down almost exactly eight weeks ago to the day.

Cognizant of the effect on trade pertaining to this closure; that such a popular store acted as a kind of hub; and the consequences re "through-traffic", I wondered how the closure had effected traders? Has there been a noticeable decline in trade? Or is it just "business as usual"?

One implausible "spin-off" has been less delay at the Gelston's Corner traffic lights, because there have been fewer pedestrians needing to cross the road! Has anyone else noticed this?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Noble MP

BBC Northern Ireland, in its infinite ignorance, has, yet again, elevated the Member of Parliament for North Down's personal status to that of daughter of a duke, marquess or earl by calling her "Lady Sylvia Hermon" [sic].

The ignoramuses sitting in BBC NI, with an abundance of books and volumes in a library on correct pronunciation, form etc ought to know that the prefix Lady, followed by the Christian name, indicates that the person in question is the daughter of a senior nobleman.

I say this in the interests of pedantry. Perhaps those so-called editors in BBC Northern Ireland will accept a little lesson from Timothy Belmont, and let me assure them that Lady Hermon, or, should they prefer, Sylvia, Lady Hermon; or even Lady (Sylvia) Hermon, is not the daughter of a duke, marquess or earl.

She is the widow of a Knight Bachelor.

Monday, 22 February 2010

A Porcine Warrant!

Whilst walking up the aisle the other day, in a stately fashion, the noble eye caught sight of bacon rashers - or Pancetta, as they were called - on the top shelf. Timothy Belmont likes a good, crispy, rasher or two from time to time.

These rashers were by royal appointment, no less, the company being Richard Woodall in Cumbria. They are called "Smoked Dry Cure British Pancetta".

I am in no doubt that Her Majesty prefers the regal rasher to emanate from Home Farm at Sandringham; and Prince Charles insists on Highgrove Duchy pork products. Still, the Warrant is from the Master of the Household; so, perhaps, Woodall's is used elsewhere in the royal household. I wonder what bacon is used at Hillsborough Castle when Royalty is staying?

We have put the Woodall's rashers in the freezer, at any rate. Has anyone tried them yet?

Hidden Heritage

Far be it for me to lend some publicity to Ulster Television, given that I seldom watch the channel! The culture at the local broadcaster has irrevocably changed since the days of the Hendersons, Lord Antrim and the patriotic theme tunes.

I might just make an exception at eight o'clock this evening, though; because their Hidden Heritage programme sounds interesting, not least due to the fact that the National Trust's Chapel Island might feature therein.

Brian Black looks at local maritime history, including the smugglers of Rathlin Island, before exploring some of the lighthouses that have protected the coasts for centuries.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Bespoke Visit

David Young, possibly the only truly bespoke tailor on the island of Ireland, is coming up to Belfast next Sunday, February 28th; so, if any readers are interested in a fitting, I suggest that they contact him shortly.

I'll have my fitting on the above date. Mr Young is travelling up to Belfast especially and I shall meet him at the bus station.

The 12th Duke of Devonshire

It is interesting to note that the Duke of Devonshire has disclosed that he, the 12th Duke, would be prepared to disclaim his titles, were legislation passed by the socialists to remove the remaining hereditary peers from the House of Lords. The interview is in today's Sunday Times Magazine.

I'd be interested to know if His Grace's stance on the matter is shared by others; is the Duke "blazing a trail"; or is he quite out of step with his peers (an unintentional pun)?

The Most Noble Peregrine Andrew Morny Duke of Devonshire, KCVO, CBE, is the 12th Duke and His Grace's principal seat is Chatsworth House in Derbyshire; Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire; Lismore Castle, Ireland; and 4 Chesterfield Street, W1. As Lord Hartington his address was Beamsley Hall in Yorkshire.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Ballyquintin : Tree-Planting

Well, I'm seated here, tapping away with a little, modest restorative at the left hand, as one does; just having spent a wonderful day at Ballyquintin, which is a National Trust property at the most southerly tip of the Ards Peninsula in County Down.

Click on the images to enlarge.

There were a mere six to eight of us today, which was a shame because the task had been publicized as a family day; and it transpires that the future of our Weekend Volunteer Group is uncertain, for this very reason, viz. lack of numbers.

We planted a large amount of indigenous saplings today, at a spot near Bar Hall Bay. Craig reckoned he had brought along about 2,000 trees; so hundreds of saplings were planted, at a conservative estimate.

My sandwiches were home-made today! Granary bread, Red Leicester cheese, real ham, mayonnaise and onion chutney. Yum yum; and all washed down with Twining's best tea.

The Trust is doing a terrific job at Ballyquintin: tree-planting, hedge-laying, new stiles and maintenance of footpaths; and more access for visitors. We spotted a buzzard today; oh, and the little fellow keeping an eye on us below!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Prince Andrew at 50

The Prince Andrew celebrates his 50th birthday tomorrow, Friday 19th February, 2010.

HRH will be abroad, marking the occasion in Verbier with his ex-wife Sarah, Duchess of York and their daughters, TRH Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

The family will host a private celebratory dinner in the Swiss Alps ski-resort.

Next Thursday, 25th February, Prince Andrew will attend an official birthday reception at Buckingham Palace for around 300 guests.

The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and other senior members of the royal family will be there, alongside representatives of Prince Andrew's charities, patronages and military regiments.

The English National Ballet, of which HRH is patron, will be among the acts performing in the Grand Ballroom of the palace, to mark the occasion.

TRH Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and Sarah, Duchess of York are also planning a private party for family and friends at St James's Palace the following evening.

Prince Andrew is apparently tee-total and will be adhering to his choice beverage, still water, rather than champagne, for his 50th birthday celebrations.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Not So Bushy!

I see that Mike Nesbitt has been selected as a Conservative and Unionist candidate for the Strangford constituency at the next General Election. I knew he was a good broadcaster, interviewer etc; just never thought of Bushy as a politician! Why not? People from all walks of life ought to be, oughtn't they? I imagine so.

As long as people's motives are honourable, and the job isn't for financial gain, that sort of thing.

Mike Nesbitt was a few years ahead of me at the old school. He was quite an extrovert character then, too: coming into school in his racy motor-bike, a school prefect, a big, bushy head of hair! He was clever, popular and well liked, I seem to recall.

Good luck to him.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Ancient Relic

I called at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast today, yet again; speaking of which, there are plenty of antique relics floating about on the old, hallowed floor-boards. It's amazing what emerges from the woodwork.

I brought the digital camera with me; grabbed a volume of Burke's Landed Families of Ireland, 1912; and proceeded to take images of several coats-of-arms.

My handiwork can be viewed already at my Ardnargle article, whence I have replaced the original image with Burke's 1912 Arms.

I performed my usual trick of darting in to Marks and Spencer for some of their estimable fodder.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Does Castleward Opera Still Exist?

What, on earth, is going on at the NI Arts Council? The Chairman and Board wish to "broaden" opera's appeal in the Province. Perhaps they consider Castleward Opera too "elitist" or "exclusive" for their egalitarian tastes? Does this mean that Castleward Opera has had its financial support stopped; and that a more populist company will prevail?

I do hope I am wrong. The Season at Castle Ward has always been a highlight of the year, with picnicking al fresco and black tie, in the true tradition of grand opera. Has the company been summarily wound up? How much consultation did the arts quango undertake?

What is the meaning of this article?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Lupine Affliction

I fancied a spot of good, old-fashioned horror last night. I always loved to watch those old horror films on television, viz. the Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein and anything which featured Vincent Price.

When I heard about the latest version of the Wolfman, I could not resist; so, having devoured an undoubtedly insalubrious Doner Kebab stuffed with salad and garlic mayonnaise earlier, I motored into Town and parked at the usual place in Marcus Ward Street.

The seating at the Moviehouse Cinema is comfortable and even reclines like a kind of rocking-chair, though it is quite narrow (as on cattle-class in an aircraft). Still, if one can spread out with the elbows on each arm of the seat, it's fine.

Lycanthropy is, indeed, a terrible affliction. Ask Sir Anthony Hopkins, CBE - or Sir John Talbot - the senior werewolf, as he was in the movie. He "infected" his son, Lawrence, with the condition; so this was the theme of the film, along with a modicum of romance for good measure, in the form of the tasty Emily Blunt.

The special effects, with all the blood and guts - not to say an abundance of mutilations - were tip-top and state-of-the-art; transformation from human to werewolf clearly evident for we, the voyeurs watching the proceedings. It was reasonably atmospheric, particularly Sir John's ancestral pile, Talbot Manor. Incidentally, the Manor was really Chatsworth House in Derbyshire!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Peace Day Reception: 1919

I was rummaging through an old chest up in the attic the other day, when I came across an old, 91-year old pamphlet entitled CITY OF BELFAST PEACE DAY RECEPTION.

The parade took place at the City Hall on Saturday, August 9th, 1919; to Men and Women of Ulster who served in the War.

Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom then, so His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Field-Marshal the Viscount French of Ypres, KP, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCMG, took the Salute.

Interestingly, Brigadier-General the Earl of Shaftesbury, KP, KCVO, was in attendence. Lord Shaftesbury's residence was Belfast Castle; and his lordship went on to become a Lord Mayor of Belfast. Click the images to enlarge.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

At Hillsborough

I have just spent a very agreeable few hours at one of the Province's loveliest villages, Hillsborough in County Down. I stopped en route for a new pair of slippers and socks at Marks and Spencer (how exciting!); thence to Hillsborough, where I managed to park close to the old courthouse. The courthouse is now a tourist information centre and exhibition.

It was after midday by now, so I ambled across the street and into the Plough Inn, where I installed myself at the rear of the inn. A "special" today was cottage pie with vegetables, which I ordered; and jolly good it was too. For pudding, I indulged in the rhubarb compote crumble with whipped cream. This dessert was utterly delicious.

I wasted no time in settling my bill with them; and walked out in the direction of Hillsborough Fort, towards the noble and dignified parish church. The influence of the Church's patrons, the Downshire family, was prevalent, there being many plaques and memorials to various Marquesses.

I chatted to one of the wardens, and he told me something quite interesting about the Downshire family: apparently the family still has a right to abode at Hillsborough Castle; and the present Lord Downshire was bugled in or out of the Castle, being the Hereditary Constable of Hillsborough Fort. Furthermore, HM Government has the Castle on a 999-year lease, or so I was informed. Could this be true?

Either the Downshires have an apartment at the Castle; or there is one made available for them, I imagine. The warden told me that the last time Lord Downshire was in Northern Ireland, he said he was going to look at property near Dundrum. Of course, that could simply have been the Downshires' former properties and estates in the locality. They did own much of County Down!

Click on the images to enlarge. The Downshire coat-of-arms is courtesy of European Heraldry.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Jenna McCorkell, Skater

I noticed this article in next week's Radio Times about Jenna McCorkell, originally from Coleraine in County Londonderry:-

Northern Ireland's most successful ever female ice skater makes her Olympic début at these Games. At the age of ten, McCorkell became the youngest ever skater to make it into the Great Britain squad and went on to win the British Senior Ladies' title six times. The 23-year-old from Coleraine was a top-ten competitor in the European Championships of 2008 and 2009. "Jenna definitely has the ability and the potential," says Robin Cousins. "But she'll really need to deliver on the day."

Best of luck at the Winter Games, Jenna.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Training the Little Grey Cells

I've been keeping an eye on Ebay, the Internet auction site, for a little Nintendo games console with the celebrated Doctor's brain-training therein. My aunt received one for Christmas; though I'd been considering one prior to that.

The Ebay sellers are still commanding quite high prices for even good-as-new ones - £80 or £90.

I happened to be passing a computer games shop today called, somewhat appropriately, Game; and it transpired that they were selling unwanted ones, pristine though not boxed.

I've bought a black one. They "threw in" a black, magnetic, mock-leather case and a charger; plus a guarantee.

I'm sure I need more cerebral exercises!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Illustrated Coats-of-Arms

Regular readers will notice that I am currently in the process of updating my Ulster Nobility series. I am adding more colourful coats-of-arms to the articles, which provide considerably more detail and, as a consequence of this, more interest too.

Here is an example above of Lord Caledon's coat-of-arms, un-emblazoned and excluding Supporters. The illustration of the coat-of-arms is shown by kind permission of European Heraldry.


"If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart."

Socrates, 400BC

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Ian Carmichael, OBE, 1920-2010

I am saddened to learn about the death of the actor, Ian Carmichael. I remember him in his roles as Lord Peter Wimsey, fictional son of the 15th Duke of Denvir; and Lucky Jim. He also played the part of Bertie Wooster, whose portrayal P G Wodehouse declared to be definitive.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Simon King OBE

I had no idea that Simon King had been appointed an OBE - Officer, Civil Division, of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire - in the New Year Honours 2010. To my mind the award is well deserved.

I watched Simon King's Shetland Diaries, a charming documentary of time spent on the Islands with his lovely wife and daughter. This is the sort of programme I'd like to see more of on television. Incidentally, I liked his battleship-grey Land-Rover Defender, too; a car I'd opt for, were I in such circumstances.

Simon King has a fascinating biography, if one peruses his entry on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Enniskillen & Delamere

I viewed quite an interesting programme last night on BBC4 called Last White Man Standing. It concerned the story of the Hon. Tom Cholmondeley, only child and heir to the Lord Delamere.

The Delamere family live at their vast ranch, Soysambu, near Elmenteita in Kenya. Tom Cholmondeley was arrested for shooting and killing a poacher he had encountered on their estate. He was eventually sent to prison for eight months on the lesser charge of manslaughter; and was released after about six months, having served more than three years in custody.

Intriguingly, Lord and Lady Enniskillen featured in the documentary. It transpires that the Enniskillens are neighbours of the Delameres. Lord Enniskillen was dressed in black denims and a kind of light-coloured cowboy shirt.

The Lake Elmenteita area saw its first white settlement when 3rd Baron Delamere (1879-1931) established his Soysambu, a 48,000-acre ranch, on the western side of the lake. Delamere gifted the land nearest the lake to his brother-in-law, the Hon. Galbraith Cole (1881-1929), part of whose "Kekopey Ranch", where he is buried, is preserved today as the Lake Elementaita Lodge.

Nancy, Countess of Enniskillen (d. 1998) and stepmother of the present Lord Enniskillen, wrote: "Galbraith Cole and his bride made their home on Kekopey. Their ranch adjoined the Delameres' Soysambu in the Rift Valley sharing the flamingo lake of Elmenteita between them."

The Earls of Enniskillen are related, through marriage, to the Barons Delamere: Lady Florence Anne Cole, who died in 1914, daughter of the 4th Earl of Enniskillen, was the first wife of the 3rd Baron Delamere.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Shirt Collection

I probably possess too many shirts. They have been accumulated throughout my life and at least two of my shirts date from 1982.

Between 1982 and 1983, I purchased my first three shirts in Turnbull & Asser's shop at Jermyn Street, St James's, London. The Bengal Stripe, white collar blue shirt (top left); and the yellow, blue and black striped silk shirt (top right) were both my first purchases. The Bengal one has a button cuff; while the silk shirt has a double cuff. Click on the image to enlarge it.

My next purchase, about one year later, was the blue and white striped, double cuff shirt (above, bottom middle); then, in 2008, in bought a button cuff blue, purple and red patterned shirt (above, bottom left). This year, 2010, I bought a classic button cuff, light blue shirt.

I like Turnbull & Asser. Their old-fashioned, traditional shop reflects my values. I also have a few ties and a handkerchief of theirs.

I own one shirt from Aquascutum which I am particularly fond of, bearing in mind that it is almost thirty years old! I only wear it occasionally; in fact I wore it about a fortnight ago, at Lady Mairi Bury's memorial service.

I have five country shirts from Cordings in Piccadilly; and some regular Tyrwhitt and Marks and Spencer shirts, too.

The firm intention is to keep the Aquascutum and Turnbull shirts for another thirty years.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Great Londonderry Landowners

Having largely completed my series on counties Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh, my attention now focuses on County Londonderry.

The Livery Companies owned much of the land in the county, amounting to about 154,000 acres in 1872. Particularly, the Skinners' Company; the Drapers' Company; the Mercers' Company; the Fishmongers' Company; the Salters' Company; and the Grocers' Company.

The Church owned 13,413 acres.

The Beresford family, scions of the Marquesses of Waterford and Earls of Tyrone, lived at Learmount Castle, near the village of Park. They owned 7,946 acres.

The 1st Baron Garvagh's seat was Garvagh House beside the village of Garvagh; and Lord Garvagh's estate extended to 8,427 acres.

The Ogilbys, a family with a military tradition, had their residence at Ardnargle House, near Limavady. Their estate amounted to 9,735 acres.

The Beresford-Ash family, of Ashbrook House, owned 10,420 acres.

The Drenagh Estate, arguably the finest demesne in County Londonderry, remains the noble residence of the McCausland family; and it extended to 12,886 acres in Victorian times.

The Richardsons and, later, the Torrens family, resided at Somerset House, near Coleraine. I am presently unable to find much information about the Somerset - or Summerseat - Estate; however, it did extend to 18,159 acres and presently encompasses Somerset Forest and Mountsandel Wood.

The Bruce baronets, of Downhill, were the largest private landowners in County Londonderry. They were kinsmen of the Earl Bishop of Derry through his lordship's second cousin, Mrs Frideswide Mussenden, née Bruce. The Downhill demesne, at one time, amounted to 20,801 acres.