Thursday, 28 February 2013

Ulster Bank's Operating Loss Up £56 Million.

The Ulster Banks parent, RBS, published its annual results for the year ending 31st December 2012 this morning. As befits a multi billion pound Company the report extends to over three hundred pages. A physically impressive tome it may be, but the figures presented by Mr Hester hardly merit that adjective, - well maybe with a large dose of sarcasm. The, "Shreds," successor tries to see positive elements in the columns of figures. He points to the operating profit before impairment losses. But you do have to take account of impairment losses. They may, strictly speaking, be non recurring items, but they seem to be becoming a regular feature in the accounts. The bottom line, and isn't that what we should be concentrating on, shows a loss attributable to shareholders of £5,971,000,000.

The index to the report points us to page fifty for the constituent figures for Ulster Bank. Unfortunately they don't provide a little nugget of hope for the Group. Before impairment losses the operating profit has declined from £400m to £324m - a decline of 19%. What then of the infamous impairment losses? Well they have declined from £1384m to £1364m. Hoorah! However after you factor these into the figures we find that the Ulster Bank's operating loss has increased from £984m to £1040m. Hardly an A*performance. The fallout from the property crash is still affecting the figures.

Mr Hester is reported as saying that the Royal Bank Group will be ready for sale by 2015. Is he being overly optimistic? On the evidence of the present figures it might be difficult to share his confidence.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Tottering Around the Track - But not too gently.

Spring is in the air even if it isn't quite in my stride. Flatness of stride is something which the middle distance runner of mature years has to fight against. It is rather an unequal fight as you can't excise the years, but there are some things that you can do, to at least slow down the inevitable decline associated with age. At most of our group training sessions we would spend at least fifteen minutes performing various drills, forcing us to run tall.

Yesterday saw the group take to the track for a series of long reps. This was prefaced by the usual warm up and sprint drills. The actual session consisted of 4 x1000m with a two minute, 200m walk/ jog between the efforts. I wasn't quite sure how this session would go. I started off with a 3min 33s. This was followed by 3min 28s, 3min 29s and then 3min 19s. So an average of 3min 27.25s. The session is supposed to give an indication of your 5k time.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Late Winter Parsnips

There tends to be a paucity of vegetables in the garden at this time of year. The humble parsnip is however one of our winter stalwarts. A hard night's frost brings no fear to this trusty vegetable. Indeed a good hoar frost brings a nutty sweetness to the dear old parsnip.

Come Friday of this week it will officially be spring. My remaining parsnips seem to have already received the news that Spring is in the offing, A few green shoots are already presaging the change of seasons. I will have to eat or process the final stalwarts of the drills within the next few weeks. The above specimens will end their days in the soup saucepan along with a few potatoes and onions and a good dollop of herbs and spices. Parsnip soup can be a bit bland without the addition of the oriental.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Death of the Empress of Blandings

Died suddenly at her home, Crom Castle, Co. Fermanagh. Greatly missed by her friend Queenie. Fondly remembered by her friend and fellow actor, Mr Timothy Spall, (aka Lord Clarence Emsworth). Sty strictly private. No flowers please. Donations if desired to the Smokey Bacon Trust.

Brought up in Lancashire, the Empress, as she was fondly referred to, moved to Co. Fermanagh to take up an acting career with the BBC. Despite not having any previous acting experience she proved to be a consummate performer. Audiences adored her and fellow actors admired her.

Monetary gain was never something which drove this actress. What was important to her was that she had performed to the utmost of her ability. The respect of her peers was payment enough. If she had any fault then it was her excessive love of food.

The BBC have acknowledged that they were, "lucky to have found such a characterful and humorous pig ."

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Orchard and Nuttery (part 4)

My nut and apple tree order arrived on Wednesday as advised by the Nursery. They left the deep south at 6 30pm on Tuesday and arrived with me at 10.15 am on Wednesday. Not bad for 15 yoyo me thinks.

Unfortunately I still haven't managed to plant my embryonic orchard.There has been much more work than I anticipated. For the moment the baby trees have been healed in. I have however managed to purchase the necessary rabbit guards. These were sourced from Workmans, the agricultural suppliers in Garvagh. The price was not untoward. Sixty two and a half pence per guard. I also purchased a new grape (digging fork). I was told to go up the yard and go through the first door and proceed to the first floor to inspect the available forks. This involved climbing up a flight of wooden steps which was angled at 50 degrees or more. Lucky for Workmans that the premises must be at least one hundred years old. I don't think that Building Control would be happy with the present layout.

Today I marked my planting spots and I even managed to dig the holes for three of the trees. Hopefully the weather will remain dry for the few days so that I can dig the remaining planting holes and complete this task.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

BBC has , "Prostrate," Cancer

I was reading an article on the BBC News Website tonight regarding a research grant which has been awarded to the University of Ulster. We are told that the monies are to be used to , "try to find ways to reduce the spread of prostrate cancer."

I am sure that the researchers would be very keen to prostrate the cancer in question, but I don't think that the name of the affected body part has gained an extra letter.

The writer of the article might also like to reconsider the use of the word, "spread." My medical knowledge might be limited to, "Dr Kildare," and, "Embarrassing Bodies," but I don't think that prostate cancer is an infectious disease which, "spreads." Hardly the correct word methinks.

I wonder if there will be any alterations to the article?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Brain Drain in County Fermanagh.

The Fermanagh Economic Development Organisation is apparently concerned that young people in County Fermanagh are being, "educated for export." Quelle surprise! It has been ever thus and not just in that County, but right across Northern Ireland and the other outlying regions of the United Kingdom.


Highly paid jobs tend to be concentrated in large conurbations and tend to require highly qualified individuals. Is it therefore surprising that young people who happen to be gifted,whether academically or technically, should take the boat or plane to London, Birmingham or further afield? I think not. There were forty three individuals in my upper sixth year. I think that twelve have remained in Northern Ireland. I do however have to concede that in the mid 1970's there were other very real reasons to exit this part of the world.


The economics of location mean that Co Fermanagh will never have the Uk average of highly paid jobs. Certainly not from organic growth. Government grants or subsidies might persuade the occasional high profile business to set up shop in that County, but without that governmental cloche the economy of Fermanagh is unlikely to ever stanch the brain drain.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

First Trust Bank Shrinks its Network

One could be forgiven for thinking that Northern Ireland's Banks are in a competition to see which of them can close the most branches.

In January the Bank of Ireland announced that it would be closing nine branches. Not to be outdone, First Trust Bank have now stated that they will be closing six branches by the end of June. Among the branches nominated for this programme of, "rationalisation," is that in Limavady. It is reported that the customers from that branch are to have their accounts transferred fourteen miles down the road to the Crescent Link branch of the Bank in Londonderry. That will be convenient! Despite the increase in online banking people do still need to go into their local branch. A twenty eight mile round trip is not an option for many people.

It must now be accepted that our Banks will no longer be providing province wide branch networks. The local bank manager is becoming an endangered species.

Orchard and Nuttery (Part 3)

Having spent last weekend perusing garden nursery websites I decided that I would place my order for nut trees and apple trees with Future Forests Nurseries of Bantry, Co Cork. The cost of the trees seemed quite reasonable and the delivery charges were a fraction of what certain English nurseries were demanding. Accordingly I emailed my order through to them just after lunch on Monday. I ordered four nut trees and six apple trees. Three of the apple trees are eaters and three are cookers. All the trees are bare rooted. The trees which I have ordered are as follows:-

Cosfords Cob
Nottingham Cob
Red Filbert
Webbs Prize Cob
Arthur Turner - Cooker
Annie Elizabeth - Cooker
Howgate Wonder - Cooker
Cox's Orange Pippin - Eater
Elstar Red - Eater
James Grieve - Eater

The nursery rang me at 4pm on Monday to confirm that everything was in stock and that my order would be dispatched on Wednesday (today) and delivered on Thursday. I have to say that I was impressed at the quickness of the turnaround.

The nut trees cost €7.50 each, with the charge for the apple trees being €15 each. The delivery charge was a very reasonable €15. Hopefully the quality of the trees is as good as the quality of service!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

February Bulbs

The dry bright weather of the past few days has been a welcome change from the dull, wet weeks that preceded them. One can't say that spring has arrived, but hopefully it is a presage of what is to come.

The garden is not exactly a rash of colour but the various bulbs are putting on a reasonable show. As well as snowdrops and crocuses I have espied four or five daffodils which have decided to get a head start on their brethren and have come into bloom. One or two hellebores (aka Lenten Roses) must also think that Easter is early this year.
If the dry weather continues I might be tempted to prepare the onion bed in anticipation of a late March planting of sets. By then it technically will be Spring.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Tales from the Cinema

Mary Poppins
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The Magnificent Seven
The Return of the Magnificent Seven
Shindler's List

A rather disparate collection of films. Until yesterday this listing showed the totality of my picture palace viewings. I could certainly not be described as as a film buff. The hype surrounding new films doesn't interest me or tempt me to traipse, lemming like, to some omniplex. I don't mind watching a film. In fact I have positively enjoyed certain films. But I am quite happy to wait until they appear on terrestrial television. Listening to ardent film fans chomping their way through buckets of popcorn and drinking quarts of fizzy drinks has never appealed to me.

Somewhat against my better judgment I have now added a seventh film to the above list. The silver screen recipient of my six pounds was entitled, "Les Miserables." Did I enjoy the film? Well not particularly. It did go on a bit. Did I enjoy the whole cinema experience? Definitely not. The Dolby surround sound or whatever it is called was just too noisy. The bucket seats were uncomfortable and I don't see the attraction of sitting in the dark. Will I ever visit a cinema again? Well I don't suppose I should say never, but I certainly won't be scanning the entertainment pages on a weekly basis in search of what the critics are acclaiming as the current, "must view."

Glen Run

Saturday's training session saw the group assemble at the car park to Muff Glen, just outside the village of Eglinton and overlooked by the former Templemoyle Agricultural School, now a Residential Home. I was somewhat aghast when I worked out that the last time that I had trained at the Glen was twenty three years ago. No wonder I thought that the trees were taller than I had remembered.
Two of our number had marked out the reps on Friday. After the statutory warmup we did two laps comprising seven reps per lap. The distances for the efforts were 150m; 200m; 300m; 200m; 300m; 300m and 800m. The first four reps were on an undulating part of the Glen, whilst the last three reps were on the flat. I was reasonably content with my efforts. My second 800m was completed in 2.31 and it felt quite easy. Hopefully this augurs well for a fast, (relatively!) track time before the end of the season.

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Londonderry Shipbuilder

In my post of 6th August 2012, "Shipbuilding in Londonderry," I gave a brief outline of the shipbuilding industry of Londonderry. One of the City's budding Brunels was Charles Joseph Bigger, the fourth son of William Finlay Bigger of , "Rivervew," His Foyle Shipyard launched a total of 25 ships between the years 1887 and 1892. He had five launching berths, each capable of taking a vessel of 500ft in length. Specialising in steel hulled vessels, four such vessels were built for the William Mitchell Line. The, "Osseo," was built for the McCorkell Line. That vessel was lost at Holyhead on 30th December 1894 en route from Chile to Ardrossan, The entire crew of 26 was lost.

Subsequent to his shipbuilding venture Charles Joseph Bigger, (CJB), moved to England. His son, Leslie, along with three of his cousins served as commissioned officers during the Great War. Although Leslie survived the war he was to die of his injuries in 1923. His father purchased a grave in the City Cemetery, Londonderry intending that his son should be buried there, although this did not ultimately occur.

The photograph above shows the name plate which CJB had above the door to his office at the Foyle Shipyard.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Downhill in the Rain

Dark heavy skies. Rain dribbling down my neck. A dog walker struggling with the tangled leads of his two excited dogs.  Puddles on either side of the road stretching across to one another.  It is hard to block out  bad weather when you are in it.

Trying to avoid the worst of the puddles, but not succeeding very well, I ran towards Downhill Demesne and headed into the Black Glen yesterday afternoon. Below me was the long narrow fish pond, stretching down to the silent railway line  Three ducks glided silently towards the centre of the pond. At least they seemed to be enjoying the weather.

Rather than heading up towards the Bishop's Gate I turned right across the  hill lands towards the ruins of Downhill Castle. Bad move! I was now off gravelled paths and running along a grass track through the pastureland . The  water was oozing through the surface and every stride threw up a shower of muddy water. My shoes were now sodden. 

Reaching the Castle I picked up a gravel path again and after running through the old walled garden I exited Lions Gate and ran down the Lion's Brae before turning into Burrenmore Road and from thence into Downhill Forrest. To my right I could hear the roar of a waterfall, its flow enhanced by the spate flood.  As I approached the second of the Downhill man made ponds or lakes the path almost disappeared under a shroud of water. The banks of the lake were just managing to keep its waters within their confines. Two groups of Mallard patrolled up and down, each led by their drake. 

I ran as far as the old mill and then partially retraced my steps before exiting the forest and heading along the main road towards Hezlett House and then dropping down to Castlerock and the end of a very wet and muddy training run.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Orchard and Nuttery (Part 2)

The weather in the last month has not been conducive to my plans to establish a small orchard and nuttery. After my initial onslaught on the ground which I have allocated for the project I had only managed a couple of hours of additional clearance operations. Yesterday however there was no rain, no wind, no snow, no frost and I was able to progress the task somewhat. A few piles of stones still have to be moved, but I now have a cleared space measuring approximately sixty five feet by thirty feet. This should give me enough room for eight or maybe even ten trees.


I think that I will commence my planting operations with equal numbers of cob and apple trees. Fruit trees are surprisingly expensive, most particularly if you decide to elect for, "standards." Clearly the larger the tree the sooner the results, but larger trees require the additional expense of stakes and ties. There is also a greater chance of the tree not taking. I think therefore that I will go for, "maidens." Whilst this will obviate the need for stakes I will need to invest in rabbit guards. I do not want my investments ringed to death by Roger Rabbit and his mates.


I have checked out two local nurseries, but neither of them had cob trees for sale and their apple trees had a rather bland genetic makeup. I think that I will send off for bare root plants and try to get some old varieties that don't attract commercial growers, but which are more tasteful. Quality rather than quantity is to be the bye word .


Monday, 11 February 2013

The Honourable the Irish Society - 400th Anniversary.

2013 marks Londonderry's year as UK City of Culture, but from an historical perspective this year marks an event which perhaps has more relevance for the City and maybe deserves more attention.


It was in 1613 by way of a Royal Charter that the Honourable the Irish Society and the County of Londonderry was created. The task of the Irish Society was to undertake the Plantation of Ulster in the North West of the Province. Its funds were contributed by the twelve great Livery Companies of London. Most of the lands of the County would be divided between these Companies in roughly even, "proportions." for which they drew lots. In order of precedence the twelve Livery Companies are as follows:-

The Mercers Company

The Grocers Company

The Drapers Company

The Fishmongers Comany

The Goldsmiths Company

The Skinners Company

The Merchant Taylor's Company

The Haberdashers Company

The Salters Company

The Ironmongers Company

The Vintners Company

The Clothworkers Company





Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Cat's Life

Cats do seem to have a very finely attuned equilibrium with their surroundings. They are always in control of their environment. Nothing much flusters the average moggy. With a modicum of chicken infused protein and sufficient water all cats tend to be very happy cats


I wonder if they would notice the introduction of some equine DNA into their diet? Might the domestic cat's palate be more finely attuned than that of the typical consumer of Findus products.? That, if correct, would be a very sad reflection on Homo sapiens. It does seem strange and not a little disappointing that we seem to be unable to tell the difference between beef and horse meat.


I seem to remember advertisements telling us that we were unable to differentiate between margarine and butter. Maybe the purveyors of burgers and lasagne like products should now be taking out advertisements in the press and television exhorting the merits of horse meat and pointing out that one hundred percent of consumers can't tell the difference between meat from Daisy or Dobbin.


What did happen to Shergar?




Saturday, 9 February 2013

Ecos Parkrun Ballymena

Most of my training group had races scheduled for this weekend, either in County Donegal or at the new indoor arena in Athlone. As a consequence I had no organised training this morning. Rather than just pound the roads by myself I decided to partake of the joys of the weekly 5k Parkrun at the Ecos Nature Park in Ballymena.


This was the first time that I had run at this venue or indeed visited it. The Braid River runs through the 220 acres of the Park and with the recent heavy rain the water table had decided to rise above the level of the paths in parts. In consequence the course for the day had been altered. Instead of two distinct loops through the park we had to run round one of these loops twice.


I had anticipated a better course for running than this turned out to be. Underfoot was fine, but there were three very tight turns on the course where the angle was ninety degrees or worse. You were forced to chop your stride and slow down so as to navigate round them. Not good.


Eighty three individuals turned out for the run. With memories of my almost chronic hip injury still fresh in my mind I started off fairly gingerly. This was to be an AT run at best. One young cub, started off with great intent and was soon at least one hundred yards to the fore and he gradually pulled further ahead, at least until the last half lap when he flagged somewhat. I am happy to report that I managed to complete the run without any problems to my hip and even with holding myself back from racing mode I did not make a fool of myself.


Age shall not weary them!


Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Carlisle Bridge - Londonderry's Second Bridge

Londonderry's first bridge, the Boston Bridge, saw its first passengers in 1790, but within a very few years it became apparent that this bridge was inadequate for the traffic wishing to use it. As early as 1807 plans were submitted to the Corporation for a new and wider bridge. In 1852 Sir William Cubitt a consulting engineer retained by the Trustees of the Londonderry Bridge, reported that a new bridge was, "absolutely necessary."

Following something of a Victorian tradition the Trustees offered prizes of £200 and £100 for the two best plans for a new bridge across the River Foyle. The rules of the competition stipulated that the cost was not to exceed £80,000. A total of 36 designs were submitted. Sir William Cubitt recommended that a design for a suspension bridge presented by a Peter Barlow should be adopted although it had not won the competition. That design and several others were then referred to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty and they in their turn asked a Mr John Hawkshaw M.Inst. C.E. to comment on the suitability of Mr Barlow's design. He opined that the design for a girder bridge, with a central swing span, which had won the competition would be cheaper and more appropriate for navigation purposes. His views were adopted and he was subsequently appointed as Engineer for the works.

After the submission of tenders the contract for the construction was awarded to the English firm of John Butler & Co at a price of £64,500. This occurred towards the end of 1858. The new bridge was constructed of wrought iron and had eight spans. Like its successor, the Craigavon Bridge it was constructed with two decks , the lower deck being for rail traffic. The official opening of this new bridge, which was to have the name, the Carlisle Bridge occurred on 24th September 1863. It was named after George William Frederick, 7th Earl of Carlisle, Lord Lieutenant General and General Govenor of Ireland who carried out the opening ceremony. He was to die at Castle Howard the following year.

Like its predecessor, the wooden Boston Bridge, the Carlisle Bridge was a toll bridge and remained so until 1st January 1878. It would ultimately be supplanted by the Craigavon Bridge in 1936. By that date the barge traffic to Strabane had died away and the Craigavon bridge was to be the first of Londonderry's bridges not to have an opening span.

Source: Commemorative booklet issued by Londonderry Corporation on the occasion of the opening of the Craigavon Bridge

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Dog Chips

This has been one of today's headlines. Thankfully the story behind the banner is not one about canine DNA contaminating the humble potato. That would have been an easy mistake to make after the recent stories of contaminated beef burgers. Or were they horse-burgers?

No the news is that England is following little old Northern Ireland and bringing in compulsory microchiping of dogs. Mind you the legislation is only to be effective from 6th April 2016. This does seem a rather long lead in period. Non compliance by an owner could result in a fine of up to £500. Personally I think that the fine should be mandatory subject to exemptions. Dog ownership is a privilege, but it must be subject to obligations.

Hopefully having dogs chipped will mean that more dogs that slip their leads are returned to their owners. At the moment only fifty percent of stray dogs are returned to their owners. It is of course important that owners keep their personal details up to date and the legislation must ensure that a change of dog ownership results in a mandatory updating of the register.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Snow Return

More snow! Not oodles of the white fluffy stuff, probably not more than a couple of inches, but still enough to be inconvenient and disruptive. The main road, this is a relative term, not an official Roads Service designation, seems to be relatively clear. So, as long as I can manoeuvre the horseless carriage down my very minor road, to the less minor road and hence on to the aforesaid major thoroughfare I should be able to attend to the tasks which I have allocated myself today.

My usual Tuesday evening training session may however prove to be slightly problematical unless there is a strong melt and the temperature keeps positive. At the moment we are running three minute efforts with ninety second jog recovery. Last Tuesday we ran eight efforts. Everyone runs at their own speed. For me that is currently six minute mile pace which works out at a convenient half mile per effort. Easy to keep track of on the garmin!

I had thought of pulling a few leeks today for this evenings repast but methinks that the menu may need revamping. 

Monday, 4 February 2013

Any Garlic to Declare Sir?

Apparently this is not as silly a question as it might appear to be at first glance. Garlic smuggling within the European Union seems to be big business. Apparently, in 2001, our European masters in Brussels brought in an import duty on garlic of €1200 per tonne plus 9.6% of the total. This €1200 figure applies after a fairly modest quota has been exceeded. Protectionism was of course the reason behind the move. The EU growers of garlic, mostly Spanish, were finding it increasingly difficult to compete against Chinese growers. China now produces some eighty percent of the world's garlic production.


It is reported that Sweden has issued international arrest warrants in respect of two British men suspected of illegally importing €8m of garlic into the European Union via Norway. Closer to home, in December of 2012, a man from west London received a six year sentence for smuggling Chinese Garlic. In the Republic of Ireland the former head of what is described as Ireland's largest fruit and veg business was jailed for six years after he admitted to labelling more than one thousand tonnes of garlic as apples and thus avoiding €1.6 m of import duty. He is presently awaiting the outcome of his appeal on sentence.


Devotees of garlic may want to keep 14th September 2013 free. That has been announced as the date for the inaugural World Garlic Eating Competition. This is to be held at Chideock, Devon. Pre entries cost £5 whilst entry on the day will set back the hungry lover of garlic £10.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Economic Downturn Deeper in Northern Ireland

For some reason there are no GDP (gross domestic product) figures available for Northern Ireland as a constituent part of the United Kingdom, although its raw data must logically be taken account of in the UK's GDP figures. In an attempt to plug this gap the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment has devised an index which has been given the catchy title of the Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index. This is apparently the closest approximation to a GDP figure for Northern Ireland that can be achieved using the statistical sources that are presently available.


The figures which have now been produced do not make good reading, not that one could have anticipated anything different. They confirm what most of us already knew, or suspected. The downturn came to us earlier than the rest of the United Kingdom and it has been a deeper and steeper downturn. In the UK as a whole economic output was at its zenith in the first quarter of 2008 and it is now 2.9% below its peak. Here economic activity peaked in the second quarter of 2007 and as of Q3 2012 (the most recent figures available) we are witnessing a fall of 11.4%. Whilst there has been a very modest increase in this new index over the last four quarters (0.3%) it would be a brave commentator who predicted any protracted or substantial growth.


Northern Ireland is the sick man of the United Kingdom's economy.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Monumental Rubbish

I had the misfortune of seeing a repeat of a BBC Northern Ireland programme called, "Monumental' this pm. It was dire. It was embarrassing. It was rubbish.

Dame Mary Peters was one of the panel members. I do so hope that she was well paid for her appearance. That must surely have been the only reason she agreed to appear on this puerile debacle. She certainly did not help her public persona. I do not think that someone who has been honoured with the position of Lord Lieutenant should demean herself and the office by appearing on such an infantile production.

Cheers Diageo!

Drinks giant Diageo, which of course has Northern Ireland's, "Bushmills" in its stable of brands, presented its six months figures for the period ending 31st December 2012 this week. There was certainly little evidence of a recessionary hangover, save for the figures for Southern Europe which not unsurprisingly saw an eighteen percent decline. Overall however pre-tax profits in the six months period were up five percent compared to the same period in the previous year , - £1.96 billion on net sales of some £6 billion, That is a lot of hootch!


On the back of these results Paul Walsh and his fellow directors have decided to pay their shareholders an increased interim dividend of 18.1p per share, a not insubstantial nine percent increase on the previous year.


China and Southern America seem to be the big growth areas for Diageo's amber nectar. The burgeoning Chinese middle classes are becoming particularly partial to a drop of, "the hard stuff," The Daily Telegraph recently reported on the opening of Beijing's, "Johnny Walker House," where a personalised bottle of Johnny Walker can be apparently be had for the ever so reasonable price of £80,000!


Friday, 1 February 2013

Limavady Distillery

The number of distilleries on the island of Ireland can now be counted on the fingers of one hand. The situation was much different in the nineteenth century, most particularly following the revision of the distillery laws in 1823. A great number of small legal stills were set up in areas which had been strongholds of the illicit poteen trade.

The first substantive reference to a distillery in Newtown-Limavady goes back to 1818 when a William Cathar, (variously Cather), was operating a forty nine gallon still. This produced approximately nineteen thousand proof gallons per year. By 1846 the distillery seems to have been owned by a Peter Rankin. How long he worked the distillery is not entirely clear, but by 1887 it had been acquired by Young, King & Co Ltd. which had its Head Office in Belfast. A period of relative prosperity for the business followed, but by 1915 distilling had ceased. It has been postulated that this may have been due to the Immature Spirits (Restriction) Act 1915 which, after a one year transitional period, imposed a minimum of three years warehouse bondage before spirit could be sold.

One of the late nineteenth century managers of the Limavady Distillery was a James McLaughlin who would have been a brother of the grandfather of Dan MacLaughlin, one time Resident Magistrate of Londonderry.

Sources: "Irish Whiskey - A History of Distilling in Ireland,"  E.B. McGuire.