Sunday, 28 December 2014

Winter Veg Day

In between yesterday's flurries of snow I paddled up to the vegetable patch and picked a selection of veg to use over the next few days. Brussel sprouts were the obvious selection. I also picked a few heads of fennel, two small swedes and some cavolo nero and several sticks of chard.


The potatoes are in the cellar along with the remnants of the onion crop, the garlic bulbs, some celeriac, four medium sized marrows and three cucumbers. The cucumbers are only just beginning to turn yellow. I was also able to pick some salads and radish from beneath their protective fleece.


It is quite remarkable just how much veg is still available at this time of year without having recourse to Mr. Supermarket. I have to acknowledge that I do get a bit of a kick out of not having to traipse along to Sainsbugs for my five a day.


Maybe, just maybe, I will have a source of protein on tap by this time next year. I am considering purchasing three or four chickens to provide a supply of eggs and the occasional carcass for the pot. The wringing of the neck and the disembowelling is a bit off putting although one of my friends has nominated himself as my personal Mr Pierpoint/Dr. Knox. Keeping Mr Reynard at bay is another reason why I will probably not get past the day dreaming stage.



Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas of Yore

Unfortunately, (a personal view). Christmas has lost its magic. Maybe society has drifted away from the religious aspect of the festival and that is the problem. No longer do I hear my peers and their offspring talking about attending services of carols and nine lessons.


I have to concede that it is a few years since I staggered from a hostelry and attended a midnight service. Still we did do it. But not now. I do regret the changes that modernity has foisted upon us, (me). Society has changed in so many ways.

In the 1970's I used to visit a first cousin of my dad's for Sunday lunch. Her late husband had been a Canon in the Church of Ireland. She still had her maid in situ. She, the maid wore a black uniform with a stiffly starched apron and addressed me as sir. Sunday lunch was a very formal affair especially for a university student like me. That said it did seem right as did the games of croquet with my second cousins.

No longer any maids. No longer any chauffeurs. No longer any factotums. No longer the life that was.


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Sloe Tipple

For the past few months I have taking a trip down into the cellar every couple of days to give the kilner jar containing the sloes a good shake. The gin around the berries has gradually taken on a rich crimson hue from the ruptured fruit. With Christmas Day being definitely on the horizon I decided to decant the sloe gin into its temporary abode, - four glass flasks. There was a mite over the litre needed to fill the flasks so I was able to treat myself to an eve of Christmas sample in aid of product control. I can report that it will provide me with a rich and warming tipple after tomorrow's festive munchies. The contents of the cellar should provide a second bottling towards the middle of January.


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Rochester Shirt Factory


Once upon a time, and it is not that long again in the grand scheme of things, the shirt industry was the pre-eminent industry in Londonderry. Most of the factories were situated on the west bank of the river but I can recollect at least two factories on the east bank or Waterside of the City. The largest of these was the Young &. Rochester factory at Bonds Field. It is now known as the Ebrington Centre. This factory was constructed in 1892 to a design by a William Barker with extensions in 1895 and 1900 by a Daniel Conroy. Prior to its closure I think that the factory was part of the Rael Brook Group.

My father was friendly with the engineer at the factory, one Norman Doherty. He was an avid gardener and for many years made use of the greenhouse within the factory grounds. Unfortunately he had early onset heart disease and passed away before he could enjoy his pension and avail of his travel card. In his latter years he started breeding finches. He converted the greenhouse at his house into a large aviary.

It can't have been long before the factory closed that I obtained a dress shirt from the factory shop. Unfortunately I have to accept that the style of the shirt is rather flamboyant for the twenty first century and I have now consigned it to the disposal bag. I wonder if it is the last shirt in existance with the Rochester label?

Sources: An Historical Gazetteer to the Buildings of Londonderry - Daniel Calley

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Garmin Purchase


I purchased my first Garmin running watch eight years ago. The strap broke after four years. One of my friends had his wife repair it for me with the assistance of a smidgen of dental glue, (she happens to be a dental surgeon). This repair has remained steadfast but another recent break in the strap, this time too close to the actual watch to permit of further repair prompted me to buy a replacement.


GPS running watches have come down in price over the last eight years, certainly in real terms and you do now get more features for your money. That said I don't regard them as cheap, even the relatively straightforward model which I elected for, a Garmin Forerunner 15, required me to part with one hundred and seven pounds. It took me a few weeks to convince myself that I should permit myself the expense but I eventually did succumb. I suspect that this will be the last personal extravagance for some very considerable time.


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Sir Samuel Irwin, CBE.,DL.,MB.,M.Ch.,FRCS.,MP

Samuel Irwin was born in 1877, the son of John Irwin of Bovalley, Limavady and his wife Margaret, (nee Thompson). At the age of fourteen years he entered the portals of the Londonderry Academical Institution. The Academy amalgamated with Foyle College in 1896 under the latter's name and accordingly the young Irwin concluded his pre university education as a Foyle boy.

His prowess on the school rugby field continued during his undergraduate days. He was capped nine times for Ireland. One of his three sons, all of whom joined the medical profession and served in the R.A.M.C during the Second World War, was also capped for Ireland.

He graduated MB.,B.Ch.,B.A.O from Queen's College Belfast of the Royal University of Belfast in 1902. He obtained his M.Ch in 1906 and his FRCS in 1909. He entered the old Stormont as an MP for Queen's University in 1948 and was re elected on three occasions. His CBE was awarded in 1948 and in 1951 he was appointed DL. In 1957 he was knighted. Sir Samuel was president of the Foyle Old Boys' Association in 1931-32. He died on midsummer's day in 1961.

Sources: British Medical Journal July 1 1961

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Rock Biscuits


I came across this advertisement today in an old magazine which I was paging through. It dates back to 1928. The Rock Biscuit Company also variously known as the Rock Bread & Biscuit Company was situated on the Strand Road, Londonderry at the bottom of Rock Road. As well as a bakery there were also flour mills, (Rock Mills). The mills were constructed in 1846. The combined business was owned and operated by a family by the name of Gilliland, (S. Gilliland & Sons Ltd.) Ultimately and prior to the development of the site for student accomodation the bakery was operated by the Hunter family of Limavady. My recollection is that Ben Hunter of "Hertford", Limavady Road, Londonderry was the last manager of the bakery. I suppose that the bakery must have closed during the 1970's.


Saturday, 6 December 2014

Lough Fea Race.


A grey day and rather cold. Despite these negative attributes of the morn I headed off in the trusty horseless carriage in search of Lough Fea. This geographical feature is situated in the Sperrins some six miles from Draperstown and was the venue for a five kilometre trail run organised by Sperrin Harriers. The route took us around the lough with the start some one thousand metres back from the finish to gain the necessary distance. The start time was noon. A very sensible time for non locals like myself who have to travel a substantial distance. I didn't have to set the alarm for some ungodly hour.


The path around the lough is not very wide. At its widest it is probably no more than five feet across. The start was going to be fun I though! Flags with anticipated finish times informed the runners where they should line up. The back flag was for those who anticipated taking in excess of thirty minutes to complete their run. The front flag was for the sub eighteeners. Thankfully everyone seemed to be fairly honest and realistic in their expectations and there didn't seem to be any pushing and barging and certainly there were no fallers.


There were only three or four modest inclines around the course so one might have anticipated that it was going to be a fast course. However there were also a similar number of right angled turns which meant you had to slow down going into the turns and then accelerate out. Perforce this results in a loss of time and takes more energy. The gravel paths also militate against optimum speed. That said it was an enjoyable course and its sinuosity gave it an interest which is lacking with many road based five kilometre races.


I haven't managed to discover my finishing time as yet but I expect that it will turn out to be in the high eighteens. Apparently there were 134 participants in the event. A goodish number for a rural run.


Friday, 5 December 2014

Sweet Fennel


The fennel bulbs haven't been marvellous this year but at least the lack of any severe frost has meant that I am still able to crop fennel in December. I cut four bulbs today. Two of them were roasted and have just been consumed. I expect that the remaining pair will form part of Sunday's repast.


I do like the aniseed smell and taste of fennel. The fronds have been washed and bagged and placed in the freezer to be added to soups. There are four marrows resting in the cellar and I suspect that they will be converted into a potage shortly. The fennel fronds may well be added to that culinary concoction.


Monday, 1 December 2014

The Harbour Office, Londonderry

Derry City Council's Harbour Museum is situated at what is now called Harbour Square. Previously this was referred to as King's Quay. My recollection is that this area was cobbled until at least the late 1960's as were the lands on the riverside of the Guildhall where there was a carpark which was superintended by the Harbour Police, in particular Sgt. Lyttle.


This Italiante building was constructed for the Londonderry Port and Harbour Commissioners in 1882 by a Mr M McClelland to the designs of a John Kennedy. Both architect and builder were local. The original harbour office had been at Ship Quay but during the 1870's the Commissioners moved to the site now occupied by the Bank of Ireland at the junction of Strand Road and Sackville Street.


It is a two storey seven bay building with a square clock tower and aedicule doorway and dentilled cornice. Ownership passed to the Commissioners on 6th March 1885 consequent upon a tripartite deed between the Irish Society, (first part), Londonderry Corporation (second part,) and Londonderry Port and Harbour Commissioners, (3rd part.) The building is erected on the lands coloured green and blue on the terchart shown below. The Council purchased it from the Harbour Commissioners by deed dated 13th May 1991. The price paid was two hundred and thirty thousand pounds.



Sources: "City of Derry," An Hisorical Gazetter to the Buildings of Londonderry by Daniel Calley.

NIEA - Historic Building Database.




Saturday, 29 November 2014

Saturday on Grass.


Tough but enjoyable is probably how I would describe today's training session. We started off with a warm up of about a mile. Next on the menu was a thirty minute AT run on grass.


There were six of us today. The youngest a mere colt of seventeen years, the oldest a mature stallion who won't see sixty one again. As for the rest of us, well a spread of ages between thirty two and just short of Heinz age. We completed our thirty minute effort pretty much as our form would dictate. Yours truly managed to traverse some seven and a quarter kilometres, (almost 4.5 miles in real money), within the designated time.


The AT run completed we then commenced a pyramid of efforts with a minute jog between each. The first effort was a mere ten seconds, but they progressed in ten second intervals to ninety seconds and then down again. Not as easy as might at first appear. A ten minute warm down concluded matters. A warm shower awaited the aching limbs,


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Tyreing Day

Temperatures have declined this week. One can't pretend that it is autumn any more. The trees have lost their arboreal cover for another year and now present their skeletal form to the horizon. Ground frost swathes the grass and the morning windows are etched with rime.


I have to concede that I am very wary of winter driving. I don't really enjoy driving at any time of year even though I clock up some 18,000 miles per annum. A few months ago I decided to order winter tyres for the trusty horseless carriage. These tyres have, by arrangement, been awaiting my collection for some six weeks. I determined to have them brought into service today. Accordingly I drove to my local village garage for the necessary tyre change this pm. They weren't cheap. I suppose there are less expensive alternatives but I decided to elect for the winter equivalent of my extant tyres. These proved to be Pirelli Scorpion Ice tyres. Hopefully I will get three winters out of this investment.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

November Morning Run.

When the alarm sounded this morning I was very tempted to stay in bed. It wasn't that I was being awoken from my slumbers because I had been awake for more than a few hours. The spectre of thought had made sure of that. Again! No, bed just seemed a warmer and safer environment than the world on the other side of the shutters.

Unfortunately however I had allowed myself to be persuaded into running a 5k race so I had to levitate myself, breakfast early and drive off through the crispness of the morning with the public mask at my side ready to clip in place. I suppose ultimately I was glad that I had forced myself to join the world for the currency of the race as exercise does tend to loosen the knot of worry ,albeit transiently.

The weather conditions were conducive to running, dry, windless and bright ,albeit a tad cold. The course was flat with not too many turns. Over one hundred and thirty runners presented themselves at the startline. There were, as always, six or so individuals who could not judge the level of their ability and sprinted off at the gun and were subsumed into the pack within a quarter of a mile and then spat out of the rear of the pack within a further four forty.

I haven't seen the official results as yet but I think that the winner ran just under sixteen minutes. Unfortunately I wasn't close enough to him to view his moment of glory first hand. He had already commenced his warmdown when I managed to cross the line some two and a half minutes later.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Case of Portstewart Infanticide Remembered

Over the last week or so I have been listening to, "The Butterfly Cabinet," by Bernie McGill whilst undertaking my vehicular peregrinations. I suppose it was the Northern Ireland setting of the novel that caused me to select it. The story revolves around the death of a girl, 'Charlotte," in the Big House and the culpability of her mother, 'Harriett." The mother is convicted of manslaughter and receives a sentence of penal servitude despite being, "en ventre," with her second daughter.


Whilst this may be a novel the events which are portrayed by Ms McGill unashamemedly take their origin from the the 1892 death of the daughter of Robert Montagu of Cromore, Portstewart and his wife Annie Margaret McMicking. Mrs Montagu was convicted of manslaughter. Crown Counsel was Edward Carson.


Several decades have passed since the Montagu's lived at Cromore although they certainly had property interests in the Portstewart area until at least the nineteen nineties. I seem to remember that they sold Cromore railway station in the early1980's.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Chimney Pots.

A couple of weeks ago I had the local sweep along to do the necessary in the two chimneys that are in fairly regular use, those in the drawing room and study. The cost for this service was not I thought too bad. Mr Sweep requested the sum of sixty pounds which I paid if not with alacrity then certainly with contented resignation. Oh that that was the extent of the annual chimney expense!


Three chimney pots were badly cracked and two of them had developed holes near their bases. I do have to concede that they were not new, "pots." Two of them in particular may have been in situ for over one hundred years and if that has indeed been the case then I suppose I should not be too surprised or disappointed that I have now had to replace them.


The rub is that replacing thirty inch tall hexagonal chimney pots at a height of over fifty feet is not cheap. To comply with dear old, "H & S" it is necessary to hire a hoist for a half day. Then you have the expense of the pots and the costs of the tradesman. Hopefully today's chimney works will see me out.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Alma Mater

It doesn't seem that long ago, but just over forty five years have passed since I started upon my grammar school education. Times were different then, quite markedly so. The teachers, (masters), referred to us by our surnames. Only those pupils in upper sixth were allowed to enter the front portals of the dear old alma mater. The masters wore their gowns on all occasions and the word of a prefect had to be obeyed without any dissent. The job of the PE teacher had just passed from the retired Sergeant Major to the ,"professionally," qualified individual.


The members of the school's ACF attended school on Friday in full uniform and after drill peered intently at the targets in the rifle range. The appearance of the headmaster in the classroom caused us all to stand to attention. Failure to have your dictionary to hand resulted in detention. Allowing your hair to touch your collar meant a trip to the nearest barber and a checkup upon your return to school. It all sounds very harsh but we didn't think it was. We acknowledged disicipline and expected it.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Chillie and Pepper Days


Almost the middle of November, but the weather is still extremely mild. There hasn't been a true frost to date although it can't be long before dear, "Jack " starts to kill and brown the growth of 2014. In anticipation of this killing I cut the remainder of the chillies and peppers today. I think that I will bring one of the chillie plants from the greenhouse indoors in the hope that it will survive and provide me with early chillies next year. In its homeland the chillie is a perennial plant not an annual.



Sunday, 9 November 2014

Labor Omnia Vincit

Labor omnia vincit,- work conquers all, work overcomes all difficulty. I used to think that this pithy Latin maxim was a truism. I tried to apply it in my work and in my sport. It hasn't really worked out in either sphere. I now regret the years spent attempting to be ever assiduous and putting in that extra effort. It hasn't brought inner contentment, whatever that is, nor has it engendered any great feeling of satisfaction in late middle age. Rather the contrary. It seems that I am doomed to the balance of whatever remains of my fourth quartile and any extra time that my genes may have allotted to me being a perpetual period of worry and self questioning of former actions and inactions, (even if I can remember them.)

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori may be the old lie but, " labor omnia vincit," must run a close second. What is the point of it all is the question that demands an answer. Logic tells us there is none.


Friday, 7 November 2014

Ulster Bank Londonderry.

The Ulster Bank was established in 1836 but it was not until 1840 that it opened a branch in Londonderry. In 1876 the Bank, which by then had been registered as an unlimited liability Company, took a lease of lands at Waterloo Place. The branch would remain in this location for over one hundred years with one break caused by the explosive elevation of the original Victorian building. The lease granted to the Bank by the Irish Society was for a term of fifty one years from 29th September 1881 reserving a ground rent of seventy pounds and ten pence.

It would seem that the Bank's investment in the property taken in conjunction with the growth of its customer base caused it to give more permanence to its physical base within the City. As a consequence in 1891 it acquired the fee simple of the lands it had previously held under the 1876 lease together with lands occupied by a firm by the name of Wray & McClintock for the sum of two thousand pounds. By that time the Bank had adopted limited liability status, (1883).

Ultimately the Ulster Bank site at Waterloo place would include the lands comprised in a fee farm grant dated 26th September 1910, Irish Society to George McCool, (Painter) and those comprised in a fee farm dated 20th May 1913, Irish Society to William Alexander Frizell, (Chemist and Druggist.) I seem to remember that the Frizell lands were occupied by, "Lewis Fastravel," during the 1960's and early 1970's

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Peoples Hall, Barrack Street.



It is now more than forty years since the Peoples Hall in Barrack Street, Londonderry became yet another statistic in the history of what is euthemistically referred to as, "the Troubles." It ended up as rubble and burnt timbers as did so many buildings.


The original Peoples Hall was, according to the Methodist Church in Ireland's website, set up by the Wesleyan Rev. Robert Byers in 1909. The assurance of the property upon which the building was situated is to four trustees of the Methodist Church and is dated 19th August 1909. The deed map, (see supra), would seem to indicate that at the time of the granting of the lease that the building was already in existence. The ground landlord was Londonderry Corporation and the term granted was one of 999 years from 1st August 1909. The ground rent reserved was £15.00 per annum. The Church trustees were Charles W Gordon of Bishop Street, Merchant, John Greenhill of Edenbank, Merchant, James Lamb of 119 Spencer Road Draper and Daniel Cormie of Berryburn Drumahoe, boxmaker. The Corporation had acquired these lands and others, totalling just over three acres, from the RCB in 1897. The acreage had constituted the Bishop's Garden.


A new, "Peoples Hall," was constructed in close proximity to the original structure in 1933 and this edifice included accomodation for homeless men. An open air service was held to celebrate the opening, with a portable organ providing the musical accompaniment. Pictures of the event are to be found in the photographic collection of Londonderry's Central Library.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Elderly Cross Country Session.



I have never enjoyed cross country running. Tolerated it on occasions, yes. Been forced to do it, yes. Felt obliged to do it, well occasionally. I think that it is the feeling that at any moment I may loose my footing that causes me to be ober cautious when wet and slippery conditions present themselves. That said I pulled on the old cross country spikes yesterday morning for session of mud and grass. It turned out not to be as bad as I had anticipated.


The seniors and junior masters were obligated to run fifteen efforts of just over 400m. Each effort commenced on the third minute. Those in the last quartile of their allotted span, self included, were awarded by only having to complete twelve efforts. Even with that advantage I was at the rear of the group but hey ho I was the oldest today by some nine years. I have to accept, with a lot of ill grace, that I am getting older and slower but at least I am still able to turn out.




Saturday, 1 November 2014

Sprouts Ahoy

I do find it slightly strange that Brussel sprouts are so much associated with the period of Advent, or more accurately the end of Advent and the gluttony of Christmas. These mini cabbages, depending on variety, weather and mode of cultivation can be ready for cropping at any time from early autumn until Easter.
I don't always grow sprouts as they do take up quite a lot of room but this year I did succumb to the notion. Today's, "pulling," was my fourth of the year. I think that I may have to increase the frequency of the cropping if I am to avoid any of the sprouts blowing. The variety which I grew this year was, "Evesham Special."



Friday, 31 October 2014

A Palace fit for a Bishop.

Most people will be aware that what is now the Freemasons' Hall in Bishop Street Londonderry was originally the Bishop's Palace for the Diocese of Derry and subsequently for the combined Diocese of Derry & Raphoe, (1834) within the Church of Ireland. It was constructed in 1753 during the Episcopate of William Barnard with subsequent alterations in or about 1800.


I can't say that I find its elevations pleasing to the eye and at least one of its former residents, (The Earl Bishop), was of a similar mind. He much preferred the residence which he caused to be constructed at Bishop Street Without and known as the Cassino.


The map shown above was prepared in 1872 in connection with the vesting of the Palace and grounds in the Representative Church Body by the Commissioners of Church Temporalities in Ireland pursuant to their powers under the Irish Church Act 1869. Although it is hard to be certain from a map it does appear as if the gardens behind the Palace were very formal. Certainly no soft lines. A greenhouse with an attached boiler house can be seen in the top right hand corner of the garden.



Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Solicitude of Solitude



It must be almost forty five years since I read Peter Fleming's book, "One's Own Company." It was one of the many books which an uncle had left at my paternal grandparents' house when matrimony had caused him to depart and set up his own establishment. Perhaps not as well known as his younger sibling,Ian, but I think a better writer. Clearly not as commercial.


The title of this book often flits across my consciousness when I am out running by myself. There is something almost cathartic about solitude. It heightens the senses and oft times brings a sense of solicitude. Being by yourself doesn't have to be lonely. It can be the thing that brings sense and clarity to the cloudiness that we sentient souls wrap around ourselves.


The locus for today's analytical exertions was Ballykelly. I drove down Station Road, stopping momentarily at the railway crossing to permit a three carriage train to rattle past and parked in the small carpark at the bottom. This is about three hundred yards distant from the Lough side and the shore wall. A well maintained track runs on the shore side of the wall and this was my chosen route. Despite the brightness of the day there were no dog walkers and no twitchers. I had the venue to myself save for several dozen swans who were sifting through the weeds in the drainage ditches. The silence was enjoyable the lack of people more so.



Sunday, 26 October 2014

From Cucumber to Chutney.

Tis surprising how long cucumbers will remain usable after picking. It is probably five weeks since I pulled the last of the crop and placed them in the cellar. Their skin is beginning to turn from green to yellow but the flesh is still firm.


If I am honest the weather for cucumber sandwiches with a refreshing snifter has slipped away for another year. Sad that. Anyhows I decided that I should convert the bulk of the cucumber store to chutney with the assistance of some of the apples that I had picked last weekend. I processed two boilings over the weekend. Cheese and chutney awaits after a month or two of maturing for the chutney. The ingredients for my savoury simmerings were as follows:


1 lb diced apple

4 lb diced cucumber, ( salted overnight)

2 oz raisins

6 oz sugar

2 small chillis - chopped

1 large onion diced

half ounce mustard powder

Half teaspoon ground ginger

One oz turmeric

1 oz salt

One and three quarters pints vinegar



Friday, 24 October 2014

Sir David Callender Campbell P.C., K.B.E., C.M.G., M.P.

David Campbell was born in India on 29th January 1891, the third of four sons born to Rev. William Howard Campbell and his wife Elizabeth. Rev. Campbell was a Presbyterian missionary working in India under the auspices of the London Missionary Society. The youngest son, William, was to die of malaria during a voyage back to the United Kingdom in 1894.

David along with his two elder brothers received his secondary education at Foyle College before attending Edinburgh University. During the Great War he was to be interned in Hungary where he had gone as a tutor. Both of his surviving brothers served during the War. Thomas who had emigrated to Canada returned home at the outbreak of hostilities and enlisted in the Royal Engineers. An engineer by profession he was granted a commission shortly after joining up. Initially he served with the B.E.F. His unit was then transferred to Gallipoli where he was severely wounded on 5th October 1915. He died three days later. His name appears on Foyle's roll of honour and that of First Ballymoney Presbyterian Church and also the Helles Memorial in Gallipoli. His other brother, Samuel Burnside Boyd Campbell, (known as Boyd), joined the R.A.M.C on the outbreak of war and was to be awarded the MC. He played rugby for Ireland on twelve occasions, (1911-13).

In 1919 David entered the Colonial Service. For seventeen years he served in Tanganyika before being appointed Deputy Chief Secretary, Uganda. He subsequently became Colonial Secretary, Gibralter and in quick succession acting Lieutenant Governor of Malta. Upon his retirement from the Colonial Service he returned to Northern Ireland in 1952 and entered upon a career in politics. He was elected to the House of Commons as MP for Belfast South in the 1952 elections, succeeding Connolly Gage, and continued in this role until his death.


Foyle College Times Vol 33 No 2



Sunday, 19 October 2014

Rootless in Northern Ireland

Not long ago I met a Canadian Couple on a domestic flight. Well I thought they were a couple, a wife with a slightly younger and bored husband. Certainly they were travelling in tandem but it transpired that they were mother and son. Lucky that I hadn't stuck my size tens in it!

Anyhows we got into conversation. They were on a quest for their, "roots." It seemed to be the mother who was the instigator of their transatlantic quest. They had been in Jersey on the first leg of their search but apparently their lead had proved to be incorrect. They were now heading to Lisburn with a few names and addresses hoping that these as yet unknown individuals would turn out to be third or fourth cousins or at least sharing some smidgein of consanguinity. I think that I might have carried out some more intensive preparatory work before flitting across the pond. They hadn't checked out any of the census records, nor the emigration records. I suggested that they might contact the Linenhall Library. They hadn't heard of it.



Friday, 17 October 2014

Sir Michael O'D. B. Alexander GCMG - Son of an Enigma.

Michael Alexander was born on 19th July 1936 the son of Hugh Alexander and his wife Hilda, (née Bennett). He attended Foyle College before taking up a scholarship at St Paul's London. He graduated from King's College Cambridge and continued his education at Yale and Berkeley. In 1960 he was a member of the British épée team which won silver at the Rome Olympics.


Michael entered the Foreign Service in 1962. Postings to Moscow and Signapore followed. Between 1972 and 1974 he worked in the Private Office of the Foreign Secretary. By 1979 he was Margaret Thatcher's diplomatic Private Secretary and in 1982 he became the British Ambassador in Vienna. In 1986 he was appointed British Ambassador and Permanent Representative to NATO. He was appointed GCMG upon his retirement from the Service in 1992, having previously been appointed CMG in 1982 and KCMG in 1992. Like his father before him he was to die in his mid sixties, passing away on 1st June 2002.

Despite his very successful diplomatic career Michael was always in awe of his father. His father won the British Chess Championships on two occasions. Along with two other leading British chess players he was assigned to Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Initially he joined Hut 6 but subsequently transferred to Hut 8 where he became deputy head under Alan Turing. MI5's Peter Wright made reference to him in his infamous, " Spycatcher."

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Garlic Store

I could have brought the garlics indoors two or three weeks ago but I didn't. After seven or eight weeks on the greenhouse staging the foliage was desiccated and the bulbs ready for a quick tidy up before being committed to their storage space in the cellar. The remaining roots were trimmed away and any loose skins and soil gently rubbed off. I have laid them out on a couple of apple storage trays making sure that they aren't touching their neighbours just in case one or two of them should succumb to some winter fungal enslaught. A dozen of the fattest bulbs were split up into their constituent cloves and these have been planted in ground recently vacated by potatoes. Next year's crop is now under way!



Saturday, 11 October 2014

Mean Beans.


I pulled the balance of the runner beans today. No matter how assiduous one is in the picking of beans it is hard not to miss the odd pod. This last picking of the season disclosed the pods that I had missed on previous occasions. These pods were already quite yellow and dry. They were no good for eating. Even the beans within were past their eat by date. Still I now have my seed for next year. I have left these beans on one of the kitchen windowsills to finish their drying out. That completed I will place them in an airtight container pending next year's sowing season. Time passes so quickly.


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Cat in Cat Hospital.


The indoor cat is presently enjoying the tender administrations of the local veterinary practice. She had lost some weight and had decided not to bother to preen herself. Tats were beginning to appear. Vet Julie announced that the feline had a severe tooth infection. Teeth had to be extracted. In view of the cat's age there was a question mark over whether le chat would be returned in a vibrant condition or in a cotton wool lined box. Well she has managed to survive the anaesthetic and trauma of the pincers. That said she will now only be able to kill a mouse by suction. Her incisors as well as the majority of her other feline dentition have been consigned to the, "animal tissue," disposal bag. Apparently her jaw bone is rather fragile. Soft food will now comprise her diet.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Granchester Mysteries on the small Screen


Spending quite a lot of time in the old horseless carriage as I do I often wile away the time listening to an audio book. About a week ago I borrowed three such books from one of the local libraries. I have to concede that I didn't spend a lot of time on my selection. A quick scan of the titles on offer and the advertising blurbs resulted in me exiting with a thriller and two books from the detective genre.


The title which I selected for initial listening was, "The Shadow of Death," by James Runcie. There are six short stories on the disc and they are collectively entitled, "The Granchester Mysteries." They are set in 1950's Britain. The late war is still a dominant force in peoples' lives.


The main character is amateur detective Canon Sidney Chambers who assists his friend Detective Inspector Geordie Keating. Runcie paints a very believable picture of clerical life. That is perhaps not unsurprising. I have just discovered that James Runcie is the son of Robert Runcie the former Archbishop of Canterbury.


What I have also noted is that the Granchester Mysteries are now the subject of a new television series and the first episode is being televised tonight on ITV. If you don't want to know who the murderer is in the first episode look away now. If however you want to know who, "done it," pay careful attention to the deceased's secretary!




Friday, 3 October 2014

Damson Produce

I paddled around the fields today to pick the available damsons. The damson trees are all in the back field. The local farmer who takes the fields on agistment allows his cattle to wander between the home field and the back field but his bovine friends were all in the home field today

I didn't manage to crop a high percentage of the available fruit. Most of it was just too high up to permit of picking from terra ferma. That said I managed to bring home something in excess of eight pounds. Looking up through the branches of the trees you can view the out of reach clumps of lush ripe fruit.

Farmer Giles has placed twelve young heifers in the fields to avail of the last grass growth. They are inquisitive animals. They did eventually discover that I was within their area of mastication and ambled towards this trespasser of their territory. Whilst one can shoo them away they soon forget their moment of fright and they return intent upon discovering the identity of the human interloper in their sylvan pastures.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Quick, Quick, Sloe


They say that a bountiful supply of berries in our hedgerows is a presage of a hard winter. On that basis it is going to be a very uncomfortable few months. I have already pulled eight pounds of blackberries.


Today's amble around the back field found me picking sloes. Most of the leaves have already dropped from the blackthorn bushes and the sloes are easily seen though not particularly easy to pick without drawing blood on the long thorns. There is quite a lot of picking in even a pound of sloes. I managed to pick three and a half pounds of fruit this morning. A return trip should yield a similar quantity. That will provide me with a sufficent quantity for a batch of chutney, some sloe jelly and the requisite infusion for a few bottles of sloe gin. I think that I will now move my attention to the damsons.


Notes on Boomhall, Londonderry


The Boom Hall estate on the outskirts of Londonderry was sold by James Dupre Alexander, Earl of Caledon to Daniel Baird of Cassino, Londonderry on 29th October 1849 for the sum of £6,000. The estate extended to one hundred and twenty five acres. Some forty five acres were held under two leases for lives renewable for ever. These leases were dated 10th August 1848 and 3rd July 1849. The centui que vie were Queen Victoria, Prince George of Cambridge and Augusta Caroline, Duchess of Mechlenburgh Strelitz. On 30th September 1854 Baird obtained Fee Farm Grants of these forty five acres under the provisions of the Renewable Leadehold Conversion Act 1849.


Daniel Baird passed away on 2nd March 1862 having previously made his last will on 15th June 1861 with codocil dated 3rd July 1861. Boom Hall and the immediate demesne being the lands comprised in and assured by the aforesaid fee farm grants was left to his wife Barbara for her life (died 22nd January 1879) with remainder in strict settlement to his grandson David Baird Maturin at age twenty five conditional upon him adopting the name Baird as his surname. Not unsurprisingly his grandson applied to adopt the surname of Baird pursuant to the terms of the, "name and arms clause," imposed by his grandfather. The ground rents reserved by the 1849 Fee Farm Grants were purchased from the Irish Society on 22nd January 1878 for the sum of £416.3.4.


Daniel Baird Maturin Baird died on 6th June 1924 resident in England. His eldest surviving son was Lieut. Col Charles Edgar Maturin-Baird who became tenant in tail male. A disentailing deed was executed on 8th December 1924 so as to vest the fee simple in Lieut Col Maturin Baird. The feoffee to uses was his solicitor, King Houston of Omagh. Coincidentally I have a writing set presented to King Houston by Omagh Solicitors Association. Strange that.


On 3rd November 1949 Lieut Col Maturin Baird sold Boom Hall and a total of 26a 3r 38p to Michael Henry McDevitt of Red House, Castlerock for £3,000. He was to die a bachelor and intestate on 18th May 1969. Letters of administration were granted to a niece, Helen Mary McCann on 8th September 1969. Certain of the lands were vested for roadworks in connection with the construction of the Foyle Bridge. Certain other of the lands were sold by Mrs McCann in her capacity as personal representative with the rump of the lands being sold to Derry City Council in 1996.


Monday, 29 September 2014

Caw House, Londonderry

I suppose one would have to be at least fifty to have any real memory of Caw House. This property, originally owned by the Alexanders was for the most part of the twentieth century owned by the Cooke family. The house and immediate lands were ultimately sold for development. Today, "Bridgewater," and its thirty odd dwellings occupies the site of the house and its immediate grounds. The above photograph is of a watercolour by Emerson H . Babington, (son of Sir Anthony Brutus Babington.) This watercolour was I think painted in the late 1960's. The Babingtons and Cookes were related by marriage. During the inter war years Caw House was oft the venue for the emptying of the local hunt's stirrup cup. Thomas Fitzpatrick Cooke and his wife were the last owner occupiers of the property.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Musical Satire


When done well pithy musical satire can be extremely amusing. To be successful the protagonist of this genre needs to be clever, a bit of a wordsmith. A classically trained voice isn't necessary. It would probably take away from the performance, forcing one to pay more attention to the voice rather than the verbal gymnastics. For me Tom Lehrer is one of those individuals who succeeded in this musical niche. His, "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park." does I think show him close to the apogee of what was for him a secondary profession. His performances, now long ceased although he is still alive, showed him to have a quick witted and laconic style.


My autumnal peregrinations provided me with the opportunity of viewing the current musical presentation of the female triumvirate known as, "Fascinating Aida." I expect that they would see themselves as modern day protagonists of Lehrer's genre. Yes, certain of their songs proved to be quite funny but I don't know whether it would be fair or correct to describe them as satirical. On occasions somewhat risqué, at times bawdy and rather strident. Probably a good night out for a hen party, but I don't think that they are challenging Mr. Lehrer.



Sunday, 21 September 2014

Demise of the Classics.

It must be in excess of three years since I started to go along to the meetings of a classic reading group. They have been held in one of the local libraries on a monthly basis.


I should perhaps make clear that this is not a group of individuals who have graduated in the humanities and are meeting up to practice their Ancient Greek. No. The truth is much more prosaic. When I refer to,"classic," in this context I am referring to Penquin Classics and similar, - novels for the most part from the nineteenth century.


Initially there would have twelve or fourteen individuals who sauntered along to discuss that month's literary choice, sip their coffee and munch their biscuits. The number of attendees has however declined. Filial transportation duties prevented my own attendance at the beginning of the month. I did however visit the library at the heals of last week to pick up the choice for October's meeting. There wasn't one. No one had attended the September meeting. It seems as if I must excise this event from my calendar.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Back Training


The end of August was the end of track and field for another year. Thankfully I did not suffer any debilitating injuries and probably as a result of this I managed to improve on my previous year's times. A temporary victory against old Father Time and his scythe!


For the past two weeks we have had what counts as recovery or active rest time. No speed sessions, no hill sessions, no drills sessions, just twenty five or thirty miles a week of easy runs. Yesterday however we returned to organised and tailored training. The first targeted race is only two weeks away, the Northern Ireland road relay championships at Victoria Park. Thereafter most of the training group will be aiming to compete in the Home Countries, (and Ireland) Masters cross country races. I have a well known antipathy to mud and squelch so I don't imagine that I will be persuaded to run in the qualifying race unless I can be assured of manicured grass and dry and regular underfoot conditions. I should be safe!


After a warm up we embarked upon a six kilometre, (unfortunately proper measurement was not employed), AT run. This entailed two laps of an undulating course. I completed the first lap in twelve minutes with the second lap being slightly quicker, (eleven minutes thirty four seconds). I don't know if I would have wanted to or indeed have been able to run it much quicker. The session ended with six uphill strides of about fifty metres.


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Would Sir Henry Wood vote Yes?

As we head towards the day of the Scottish referendum and, "King Salmond's" attempt to sever the Union it is rather interesting to peruse the wording of a former verse to the National Anthem. Perhaps we should be calling upon the descendants of Field Marshall George Wade to intervene and crush Salmond and his strident acolytes. They might just be more effective than Alistair Darling. Balkanisation is not something that any right minded and logical Scottish voter should be contemplating.

"Lord grant that Marshal Wade

May by thy mighty aid

Victory bring

May he sedition hush

And like a torrent rush

Rebellious Scots to crush

God save the King"

I watched the last night of the proms on Saturday night. If Salmond and his ilk have their way I expect that Scotland will no longer be part of that great annual event.



Saturday, 13 September 2014

Tomatoes Plucked


It is hard not to have a glut of tomatoes. Well maybe that is not quite the word to apply. It does after all have a perjorative ring to it and that would be unfair to this fruit which with its luscious smell, taste and look so redolent of summer. Maybe one should just refer to a large picking.


If one applies that terminology then today was certainly the day of the big picking. I haven't got around to weighing the produce of the picking as yet but I suspect that when I get around to the task I will be rewarded with a figure something in excess of thirty pounds. Much as I like fresh tomatoes I have to accept that I won't be able to munch through the entirety of the above pile in its au naturele state. Most of the big picking will be converted into chutney, soup and sauce.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Garden Fruit Feast.

I ambled around the garden yesterday evening. The sky was clear and blue although there was a coolness in the air. My first port of call was the greenhouse. The cucumbers required a little water and feed as did the chilies and the aubergines. The tomato plants did not need any attention. I plucked one tomato from its maternal vine and snacked on it. Its flesh was warm and sweet.


Passing the bean wigwams I pulled a young runner bean pod and consumed its green crispness as I headed towards the lawns and herbaceous borders. I stopped at one of the damson trees and consumed three or four damsons. A peach and a fig completed my preprandial melody of fruits. I pulled an apple for later consumption.


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Scotland's heart may want to say Yes but its brain must say No.

I find it very strange that the impending referendum in Scotland is receiving so little airspace and print space especially outside of Caledonia. Perhaps both sides are so confident of their position that they don't think it important to reach out to the electorate.

There are just over four million voters who will decide whether to terminate the Union. Mr. Salmond, (I have to concede that I do not like this person), has done his utmost to increase his electorate and be the man who slices off a portion of the United Kingdom. Over one hundred thousand, "mature," sixteen and seventeen year olds have been given a vote thanks to this individual. I wonder if they were required to watch a viewing of, "Braveheart," as part of some social science module? Nothing like a bit of strident sentimentality. Should these children, who clearly have such an in depth knowledge of politics and economics, be allowed to kill off the Union? If you are fighting for that cause then I suppose the answer is in the affirmative.

The unemployed, (179,000,) represent another important target audience for Mr Salmond's brand of politics. Might there be some merit in taking a step back from the socialist principle of universal suffrage? There does seem to be some logic in thinking that only those who contribute or have contributed to Society should determine how Society is run.

That citizens of EU countries who are resident in Scotland should have a vote is I think illogical. Those persons have their loyalties elsewhere. Many of them are transient residents. Many of them have a limited grasp of the English language. They won't be casting their vote thinking and knowing that they will spend the rest of their lives in Scotland.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Autumn Berries


Autumn has arrived, We might prefer to think of it as late summer but the heavy dews and shortening hours of daylight can't be ignored. Goodbye summer.

It isn't all bad news however. Autumn provides free food with only the effort of picking to set off against the value of nature's bounty. I paddled around the unkempt corners of the garden today and picked some of the early blackberries. They have now been consigned to the lower recesses of the freezer.

I espied a few mushrooms beginning to thrust through the wooded areas. I expect that I will be able to pick a few pounds within the next week.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Aubergines Cropping Now


This afternoon I came upon the empty seed packet for the aubergines which I have grown this year. It would seem that I must have filed it away in my desk and then proceeded to disremember the action. In any event I am now able to remind myself that the variety decided upon was, "Ophelia."


The packet promised an abundance of compact fruit and the results have been in conformity with this promise. Admittedly I probably have a few too many plants ensconced in the greenhouse so I was probably going to end up with a relative abundance in any event. Fruit are still setting and I would expect to pick no fewer than eight per plant, perhaps even more if autumn frosts keep their distance.



Thursday, 28 August 2014

Pouring Warm Water on Ice Bucket Challenge.

Am I just one of tens of millions of people who start yawning whenever they hear about this viral craze which causes otherwise sensible individuals to allow themselves to be doused in ice cold water? I suspect that I am. Indeed I would suggest that many of the soaked Sams and Samanthas are only entering into the, "fun," of this idiotic behaviour because of peer pressure. That's the same pressure that results in children, (what Mr Salmond calls young voters), electing to pump themselves full of illegal substances.


Of course there will be a rump of narcissists and self promotors who want their sixty seconds of fame on social media. - Look at me I'm getting wet and guess what I'm giving three pounds to charity! I'm a modern day Gulbenkian! - I suppose there might even be a few individuals who decide to accept their icy challenge for entirely altruistic reasons, make their donation to charity and don't tell anyone.


Maybe some thought should be given to excising all water and ice from the scenario with people giving to charitable causes anonymously as their conscience dictates. Now why didn't someone think of that!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Tomatoes and Beans.

At this time of year the vegetable garden is in full production unless you have done something wrong, something very wrong. I picked some twelve pounds of tomatoes yesterday. Four pounds of the produce has been converted into soup but the balance of the exercise remains in the pantry awaiting its fate. I suspect that it will be converted into chutney or maybe it will be consumed as a juice with the benefit of a tincture from Messsrs Lee & Perrins. Depending on the time of day a third ingredient might be appropriate.
A quantity of French Beans also fell to be cropped. These will provide an accompaniment to tonight's protein intake.


Friday, 22 August 2014

A Swilly Visit.



I spent today visiting a haunt that was a place of regular visitation in my childhood. My maternal grandparents took me there many times in the early 1960's. The locus for these halcyon days out was Fahan beach on the shores of Lough Swilly.


It is nearly fifty years since my grandfather drove me down the side road from the main arterial route to Buncrana in his spanking new Hillman Minx. Time has not been kind to the old wooden pier. It is now a decaying wooden skeleton. I remember the smell of freshly caught fish and consuming them back at my grandparents' home. There was a large rowing boat which ferried passengers across to Rathmullan. Long gone.


The sands that I remember have been much altered by the creation of what is called the Lough Swilly Marina. It is operational but money must have run out during the construction. There is a skeletal building which echoes the state of the old wooden pier and the surrounding lands are an unkempt building site. Not a pretty sight.





Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Dump By Another Name


One of Londonderry's mothballed municipal refuse centres, aka dumps, is to be found just north of Culmore Point. It occupies an area of land next the Lough which was reclaimed during the nineteenth century. These former slob lands were originally referred to as the Culmore Level or the Kilderry Reclamation. The freehold was vested in the Society of the Governor and Assistants London of the New Plantation in Ulster Within the Realm of Ireland, (the Irish Society), by virtue of the seventeenth century charter from the Crown.

On the 8th February 1871 the Irish Society granted a lease of the entirety of the Kilderry Reclamation (108a 19p) for the term of 270 years from 1st January 1867 in favour of The Rev. Carlton Maxwell of Leckpatrick, The Rev. Edward James Hamilton of Desertmartin and Willam Gordon Bowen of Burt House. The rent reserved by the lease was originally £5.00 per annum. This rose to £10.00 after 100 years and will rise further to £20.00 per annum for the last seventy years of the term. The bulk of these lands are now vested in the Local Authority.


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A Clerical B. & B.

Photo by permission J. Collins of the Glebe House



The weekend of my attendance at what some of my acquaintances refer to as the zimmer frame games but which are more correctly labelled as the Irish Masters Athletics Championships resulted in me staying at The Glebe House Rathowen, Co Westmeath.


This property was constructed in 1817 as the residence for the Perpetual Curate of the parishes of Rathaspeck and Russagh. The total cost was £461.10.9 1/4 of which £415.7.8 1/4 appears to have been a gift from Dame Frances Elizabeth Fetherston of Ardagh Co Longford. The balance of the cost came from a small loan from the Board of First Fruits. The glebe lands extended to nine acres.


Not quite Georgian in looks nor yet having what would become the traditional Victorian look the property none the less has an appealing aspect with commodious accomodation which lends itself to its now use as a bed and breakfast establishment. The house is three bay, two storey over basement with a projecting single-bay, single-storey porch to the front. A rectangular plain overlight tops the doorway which is flanked by Doric type pillars. Immediately to the rear of the house is a well maintained and enclosed stable yard and adjoining this is a walled garden which extends to something over a rood. This garden is planted out with fruit trees including a fig and mulberry. Well tended lawns open out from the treelined avenue and wrap around the house. A small terrace invites contemplation by guests on the south side.


Internally the two principal reception rooms are entered from the vestibule and they provide secondary admittance to the two minor reception rooms behind. The latter two rooms are also entered via the inner hallway. The domestic offices are to the rear, off the living room. An open balustrade stairway rises to the first floor and its two sided gallery landing. A long pendulous light fitting hangs below an oval skylight. Five bedrooms run off the landing.


In one of the many codocils to her will Dame Frances adverted to an oak book case and books which she had placed in the Glebe House for the use of the incumbent for the time being and which was to be known as the, "Rathaspit Trust." The library of books which she provided for the curate's use included such potboilers as, Meditations on Death and Eternity, Dialogues on Universal Salvation and Aunt Trudy's Letters. Rathaspit is an old name for the church.


The Glebe House is definitely a cut above the average b & b, both internally and externally. It has history, it has properly proportioned rooms and it has comfort and appetising breakfasts. Methinks that I will be staying there again.



Saturday, 16 August 2014

St. Thomas' , Rathowen.


I spent last Saturday night at a small village called Rathowen in County Westmeath. By no stretch of the imagination could you describe it as a heaving metropolis. Even the most ardent resident would, I suspect, accept that it is for the most part one of those places that you pass through when travelling somewhere else. That said it does have several buildings and structures which are listed on the Irish National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Included amongst these is St Thomas' Church of Ireland Church. Not having any particular plans for the evening apart from the need to stoke up on food, which I had pencilled in for eight o'clock, I ambled along to the Church to have a stroll around its grounds ie the graveyard.


St. Thomas' is the parish church of Rathaspeck and Russagh in the Barony of Moygoish within the combined Diocese of Kilmore Elphin and Ardagh. It is rather sad that it no longer has its own resident rector. It is now part of a Union of six churches. A reflection of twentieth century population movement and the secularisation of society no doubt.


The building is approached via a gravelled tree lined avenue with neatly cut verges. It was constructed in 1814 with additions in 1821. The original construction was achieved using a loan of £800 from the Board of First Fruits. A further loan of £200 allowed the two single-bay and single storey vestibules to be added to either side of the three stage tower. The castellated parapets and corner pinnacles to either side of the tower add to the gothic look of the structure. The graves of two former incumbents are in the shadow of the chancel, their headstones looking down the approach to the church.


When St. Thomas' was built the living was what is termed an impropriate curacy. Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) states that it was in the patronage of Sir John Bennett Piers Bt. The tithes amounted to £128.5.0 which sum was paid in its entirety to the patron, the impropriator. The curate's stipend was £92.6.7. 1/2, of which £82.2.0 was derived from Primate Boulter's Augmentation Fund with the balance being provided by the impropriator. The Ecclesiastical Register of 1827 refers to Sir John as the reputed patron. The use of the word, "reputed," may point to some debate on the matter. The will of Dame Frances Elizabeth Fetherston of Ardach in the County of Longford seems to confirm this view. In it she states that during his lifetime her late husband, Sir George Ralph Fetherston, was, "the undoubted patron of the perpetual impropriate curacy and impropriator of the parish." Her husband had died on 12th July 1853 and under his will his widow was granted the patronage during her lifetime. She states that she had built the Glebe House, (constructed 1817) for the use of the incumbent and that she had endowed the perpetual curacy in the sum of £4333.6.8.






Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Argory Pitstop.



Last weekend saw me make the journey to Tullamore in County Offaly for the Irish Masters Athletics Championships. There was a time and it's not that many years ago that I would have undertaken the four plus hour drive down to the venue, competed and driven home, all in the one day. I must be getting old or soft but it is now a two day jaunt with a couple of stops on the way down, an overnight sojourn and one stop on the way home. If I should continue to make this annual athletic pilgrimage I suspect that a further, "overnight," may have to be added to the itinerary.


My pitstop on the journey down was at the Argory just outside the village of Moy. I hadn't visited this National Trust property before. Time didn't permit me to spend more than hour wandering around the grounds but I noted that an antiques and collectables fair is to be held at the property towards the end of the month. I think that I will make that event an excuse to make a return and longer visit. Whilst it is interesting to wander around Estates such as the Argory I cannot help feeling that it is a little sad that it isn't still in private ownership and instead has to submit itself to hordes of visitors.



Friday, 8 August 2014

Fines for Holidays

During the breaking of my fast this am I turned on the old goggle box. My choice of channel was and is British Broadcasting Channel 1. A thirty something (late 30's) mother was complaining about the fining of parents if they should take their children on holiday during term time. She appeared to intimate that it was divisive if it was only well off parents who could take their children on holiday. Perhaps every child should get top grades in their exams no matter what their attendance record is. School attendance is such an irrelevancy!! Am I wrong?


There is no doubt that July and August holidays are more expensive than May and October holidays. It is a matter of demand and meteorological conditions. If a family cannot afford to take a foreign holiday or indeed a stay vacation during the school holidays well they don't. There is no shame in that. They are giving priority to their children's education. Such a terrible thing for a parent to do!

,Mummy may want to top her tan and daddy may want to have a few cool beers in the sun at a discount rate but once they are parents they have to consider their children and their childrens' education. Everyone knows the school term dates. If individuals are not prepared to limit their vacations to school holidays during the currency of their childrens' minority then maybe just maybe they should not have embarked upon the adventure of parenthood.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Fresh from the Vine


There is something particularly appealing about a tomato plucked fresh from the vine and warmed by the summer sun. Tomato plants and their fresh fruit have a very distinct and luscious smell. The packaged product from the supermarket shelves is by contrast a rather pale and bland imitation of the real McCoy.


This years supply of tomatoes has just commenced. A few pounds have already been utilised in sandwiches and salads and the odd fruit or two has been plucked and straight away consumed during my pre- breakfast ambles to the greenhouse to open the ventilators. These are the ones I savour the most.


As in previous years I have trained up a total of twenty four plants. Perhaps a few more than I strictly need, but it is good to have sufficent produce to lay down a few pots of chutney for winter consumption. All the plants have now been, "stopped," with their growing tips cut out.



Monday, 4 August 2014

Robert Quigg VC.


After I had finished walking around the garden at Billy Old Rectory a couple of weeks past I went into the adjoining graveyard to view the grave of Robert Quigg.


Quigg had enlisted in the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles at the outbreak of the Great War. Fate and the, "Red Tabs" resulted in him being in the forward trenches near the village of Hamel on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. Having heard that his platoon commander was lying wounded in no-mans land he attempted to locate him on seven separate occasions, braving the shell and raking gun fire. On each occasion he brought back a wounded soldier. His efforts resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross. The award was gazetted on 9th September 1916 and he was presented with his medal at Sandringham by King George V in January 1917. Quigg was one nine soldiers from the Ulster Division who won the VC during the Great War.



Saturday, 2 August 2014

A Purple Patch


Ten seconds after taking this photograph I cut the vegetative umbilicus of what is the first aubergine that I have grown. There was no squealing. I don't really know why I haven't grown this plant before now. It didn't prove to be hard to germinate and the seedlings have grown to maturity with a modicum of feed. Whilst I have grown a traditionally coloured variety this year I might well elect for a white fruited variety in 2015.


For the moment I cannot find the empty seed packet so I am unable to confirm the specific variety of this year's selection. I do however remember that I was promised large numbers of moderately sized fruits. I think that the promise will be truthful. The first grown has been consumed as a constituent of a melody of roasted veg, but I will have to investigate more imaginative platters for its siblings and cousins.