Monday, 31 March 2014

Londonderry's Guildhall - Notes on its history.


The formal agreement between The Hononorable the Irish Society and Londonderry Corporation by which the former agreed to provide a site for a new Town Hall to replace the by then inadequate civic building in the centre of the Diamond was entered into on 28th April 1886. In addition to agreeing to grant the Corporation the necessary land for what was to be known as the Guildhall the Irish Society also agreed to provide funding up to the sum of sixteen thousand pounds to include all expenses and the costs of fitting out.


It was a term of the agreement that the Irish Society should see and approve any tender for the construction works before it was formally accepted by the Corporation. It was further agreed that once the building was completed and furnished and possession had been taken by the Corporation that at that stage the Irish Society would grant the Corporation a lease in perpetuity, (a fee farm grant), of the site reserving an annual ground rent of £400. It was stipulated that the deed would contain a covenant to the affect that the land and buildings could not be used for any purpose save for the purposes of, "a Town Hall, Corporation Offices and other similar purposes for which Town Halls and the buildings erected therewith are commonly used." For some years prior to 1886 the Irish Society had been making an annual allowance of £1283 for certain specific purposes. The Fee Farm Grant was to include a clause stating that if the annual fee farm rental of £400 was not paid by the Corporation that the Irish Society could retain the said sum from the monies paid by way of the annual allowance. The Fee Farm Grant to the Corporation was ultimately dated 6th July 1892.


Some six years later by way of a deed dated 28th June 1898 the Irish Society conveyed the rental to the Corporation, the Corporation having agreed to forego an annual allowance of £400 which the Irish Society was to give the Corporation for ten years to assist with the Killea water supply. The restrictive covenant as to use contained in the Fee Farm Grant was reaffirmed in the 1898 assurance.




Sunday, 30 March 2014

Budapest for Oldies

For the last week I have been checking the results at the Masters World Indoor Athletics Championships. I was tempted to enter but my injury history is such that I am wary of expending money on airfares and accommodation several months in advance of the actual event. As it has turned out I have managed to avoid serious pulls and strains.


Looking at the preliminary and semi final times I would have been unlucky not to have qualified for the finals in the 800m and the 1500m. As for the finals the times indicate that I should have been in the mix for medals in both events. Probably a missed opportunity. Hey ho. I guess that I must be more confident in arranging my competitive calendar.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Death of City of Derry Building Society Iminent


Yesterday, Thursday 27th March was the day that the savers and borrowers of the City of Derry Building Society received through their notification of the 137th Annual General Meeting of the Society. If the recommendations of the directors are followed this will be the last AGM. The members will be asked to approve the merger of the City of Derry Building Society and the Progressive Building Society. This is not a joining of equals, the Progressive Building Society is by far the larger of the two institutions. The reality therefore is that the City of Derry is being taken over and subsumed by the Progressive. If the borrowers and savers follow the advice that is being proffered in sufficent numbers then the City of Derry will cease to exist on 1st July 2014.


As the standard variable rate charged by the Progressive is lower than that charged by the City of Derry I suspect that the latter's borrowers may see little downside in voting for the merger. The savers might not view the, "transfer of engagements," with such equanimity. A comparison of investment rates as between the two Societies does not provide an automatic reason for savers to join the borrowers in voting for the death of the City of Derry.


There will be some savers, not a great number admittedly, who may be forced into closing accounts in order to maintain full protection under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and who may well be financially prejudiced as a consequence. These are individuals who had up to £85,000 in both building societies, but who will end up with more than £85,000 in the merged entity. They are being told that normal notice periods will not apply and that short notice penalty interest will not be charged, but what if they are having to close or withdraw money from a fixed rate product and the same rate cannot be achieved elsewhere in today's market?


Monday, 24 March 2014

Herb Bed


Despite having planted the mint plants in pots they had managed to escape their plastic confines and were fighting it out with the tarragon plants for supremacy of the herb plot. I had little option but to dig up the miscreants.


Up until now I was allowing the tarragon to grow freely in the soil but I have now elected to grow it in a similar manner to the mint and I have placed a few of the budding stools in large sunken pots. Hopefully the severely curtailed growing area will be sufficent. I have also repositioned the chives. Perhaps I have one or two plants more than I really need but I do like their tight purple flowers and I do enjoy the mild alium flavour of the chopped leaves sprinkled through mashed potato. The curry plant and the the lavender plant look a bit stragley after the winter so I will probably give them both a good short back and sides.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Leeks before the Sauce


T'was not the most inviting day to venture into the great outdoors. A synopsis of today's weather might have read, "cold, windy and showery. " Despite these damming words I persuaded myself that I should risk the potential agony of blood finally managing to course its way to the end of my digits at the end of the day when the warmth of the great indoors was achieved again.

My first task was to discover sufficent dead wood to provide the raw material to feed the woodburner over the weekend. That elemental need fulfilled I paddled off to the relative shelter of the vegetable garden to decide upon tonight's accompaniment for the dinner platter. At this time of year the fresh selection is rather limited. Spring greens, perpetual spinach, chard, swede or leeks were the potential nominees for inclusion on the menu. After a modicum of indecision I determined upon leeks as my selection for tonight's repast. The notion of leeks in cheese sauce was rather appealing.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014



Clouds scudded across the sky chased by the March winds. A buzzard circled overhead playing with the air currents, its plaintiff cries silencing the songbirds below. Dried beech leaves chased each other across the lawns.


In the borders the daffodils danced in homage to their favourite poet. The pale yellow petals of a primrose caught the spring light. A day to savour, a day to work in contented solitude in the vegetable patch. A day to forget worries and concerns. A day to turn the soil and feel it friable, unclogged by winter.




Monday, 17 March 2014

Egging it in the Greenhouse


I have thought about growing aubergines before but this is the first year that I have have taken the first steps from thought to reality. The seeds are now sown, the die is cast.


With a bit of luck I should be seeing a few seedlings poking through the compost by the end of this week. Provided I then manage to cosset the young plants through their early weeks and keep them sufficiently fed and watered thereafter I should have one of the raw materials for Moussaka by the beginning of September. I wonder if there is any other method of processing these purple fruits?

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Happy Bunny Killer


The outside cat goes by the name of Wotsit not that she knows this. She was named after the cheesy snack of that same nomenclature produced by Walkers because she spent her formative months at the rear door in an empty Wotsit box. Well you have to give them some sort of a name to keep the vet's assistant happy. I suppose that I could have adopted the Beckamesque principle of naming, but Stable or Potting Shed would be even sillier names for a cat methinks.


Whilst Wotsit does like her handfuls of dried cat food she also likes the odd snack of fresh warm meat. Well any cat with an ounce of self respect has to keep its hunting skills up to the mark. Today's tiffin was a juvenile rabbit. There was nothing subtle about how she devoured this repast. The soft grey fur was ripped open to expose the pink skin and pinker entrails. She tugged at the flesh, purring with the happiness of a filling stomach. The soft bones gave little resistance to her glistening incisors. Some fur and a small white bobtail was all that remained of the subject of her mastications, that together with a few drying smears of blood on her face. She seemed content. The rabbit less so.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Tomato Day


I finally got around to sowing my tomato seeds today. Nothing very peculiar or special. I have sown a packet of my old favourite, Moneymaker and I have also sown a packet of Shirley, F1 Hybrid. There was also enough room in the heated propagator for me to sow a packet of sweet pepper seeds.


I wish that I had heating in my greenhouse and was able to sow what I wanted when I wanted, rather than being restricted by the weather and the size of my small propagator. Maybe I will have one of my electrician friends provide me with a power source in the greenhouse. I do however question myself as to whether this would be an economically viable expense.

Foyle College and the Great War

Foyle College's contribution to the Great War was not unusual. As with many schools the faces that stare down from the team photographs of the early twentieth century would volunteer to swap the mud of the rugby field for the clogging mire of the trenches. A total of four hundred and ninety Old Boys would answer the call to arms. To some this may not seem a particularly large number but at that time, long before the Education Act of 1947, the cadre of the school was comfortably under two hundred. Seventy two of their number would not return. Reading through their names and ranks one cannot but notice the percentage who held the rank of Subaltern. It is reported that the average life expectancy for a junior officer at the Front was only six weeks, even less than that of the , "other ranks."

Trooper R. S. Bailey - North Irish Horse

Captain J Ballentine - 11th Batt R. Inniskilling Fusiliers

Lieut. J. H. Barr - Royal Irish Rifles

Lieut. J. J. Beasley - 6th Batt. Royal Irish Fusiliers

Corporal C. H. Binions - Royal Engineers

F. P. Blacklay - 79th Canadian Cameron Highlanders

2nd Lieut W. G. Boyd - Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

2nd Lieut W. K. M. Britton - Royal Flying Corps

Captain B. Brown, M.C. - R.A.M.C.

Lieut. D. Buchanan - 2nd Batt. Seaforth Highlanders

Lieut. R. B. Buchanan - R. Irish Regiment

R. Burgess - South African Field Force

Lieut. T. C. Campbell - Royal Engineers

Private A. G. Cathcart - 5th Canadian Infantry

J. Clarke - 26th Batt. Royal Fusiliers

2nd Lieut. J. N. Corscaden - Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

2nd Lieut. E. E. Craig - 20th Batt. Royal Irish Rifles

Cadet S. W. Craig - Royal Irish Rifles

2nd Lieut. C. L. Crockett - 12th Batt. Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

Captain W. R. Cronyn - Royal Army Veterinary Corps

Lieut. A. J. S. Dick - Royal Inskilling Fuisiliers

Assistant Paymaster J. Diver - Royal Navy

2nd Lieut. J. W. Drennan - 10th Batt. Royal Inskilling Fuisiliers

Flight Sub- Lieut. M. English - Royal Naval Air Service

2nd Lieut. R. R. Gallagher - Attached 4th Worcester Regiment

Captain V. Gilliland - Attached 2nd Batt. Royal Irish Rifles

Lieut. G. Given - Royal Navy

Lieut. V. A. Gransden - Royal Irish Rifles

F. J. Guy - Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

2nd Lieut. J. H. M. Hadden - Royal Irish Rifles

Flt - Commander E G. Harvey - Royal Flying Corps

2nd Lieut. T. S. Haslett MC. - 17th Batt Royal Irish Rifles

S. Irvine - South African Field Force

J. Kennedy - Canadian Contingent

2nd Lieut. D. L. Kyle - Royal Engineers

F. Lawson

2nd Lieut. J. W. McCarter - Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

2nd Lieut. T. F. McCay - Royal Irish Rifles

Lieut. E. McClure - 10th Batt. Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

2nd Lieut. D. McConnell - Royal Flying Corps

Lieut. J. McCurdy - 9th Batt. Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

W. McLurg - Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

2nd Lieut. W. Maultseed - Royal Irish Rifles

2nd Lieut. E. C. Mee - 11th Batt. West Yorkshire Regiment

Lieut. Bruce Millar - 5th Batt. Royal Irish Rifles

Captain R. W. Mitchell - 2nd Batt. Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

2nd Lieut J. W. Montgomery - Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

Lieut. J. R. Moore - Connaught Rangers

D. Morgan - Royal Naval Division

Major H. Morrison - Machine Gun Corps

Private H. A. Mulholland - 75th Canadians

Captain H. D. S. O'Brien - Attached Royal Air Force

Trooper J. A. Pinkerton - North Irish Horse

Flt.- Commander L. Porter - Royal Flying Corps

J. L. Quigley - 9th Batt. Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

Lieut. R. Shannon - Canadian Infantry

2nd Lieut. W. M. Sheridan - 17th Batt. Royal Irish Rifles

2nd Lieut G. D. L. Smyth - Royal Irish Rifles

2nd Lieut. L. G. Stewart - 15th Royal Welsh Fuisiliers

Lieut. A. Stuart - 2nd Batt. Royal Munster Fuisiliers

2nd Lieut L. W. H. Stevenson M.C. - 9th Batt. Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

Captain C. G. Tillie - 1st Batt. Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers

Corporal J. A. Walker - Royal Engineers

2nd Lieut. James Watson - 23rd Batt. Manchester Regiment

Lieut. G. C. Wedgewood - Machine Gun Corps

G. White - Grenadier Guards

Captain C. B. Williams - 3rd Batt. Royal Irish Rifles

Captain E. J. Williams - 3rd Batt. Royal Irish Rifles

Lieut. J. A. Williams - 3rd Batt. Royal Irish Rifles

G. Wilson - Canadian Contingent

2nd Lieut. V. J. E. Wilson - Royal Inniskilling Fuisiliers


Source: Our School Times Supplement, February 1919

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

End of the Potato Crop


I have to concede that I omitted to dig up all of my main crop potatoes in late autumn. The relatively mild winter has however meant that the tubers have over wintered without being frosted and surprisingly there is no evidence of slug damage.


Today was the day that I managed to dig up the balance of the crop. There was about two stone of potatoes to unearth. By the time the last of these have been consigned to the pot this year's crop will be planted and their haulms may even be appearing.


I suppose I could manage to make myself totally self sufficent so far as potatoes are concerned if I were to heat up the late winter soil with a covering of black polythene and plant, "earlies," through slits in it. Still I will have managed to have home grown potatoes for nearly nine months.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Garden Centres and Nurseries

In the past fortnight my ramblings have resulted in me entering the portals of two establishments which term themselves as garden centres. Whilst they may share the same horticultural nomenclature they are very different. The larger of the two outlets has a large garden shop. I did manage to discover the seed stands after much searching and yes there were sprays and fertilisers for sale but most of the floor space was devoted to sweets, jams, biscuits and kitchen ethemera. There were even clocks and candles for sale and of course there was the ubiquitous coffee shop/cafe with its gushing froth making machine. In the semi outside much of the stock of plants looked a trifle tired and it was very evident that the trees, shrubs, bedding plants et all had been bought in for resale. This was no evidence of flora being nurtured through from seed or cutting to plant. I suppose the owners of this emporium might say that they are providing a lifestyle outlet.

The second garden centre was smaller and sold almost exclusively garden products and plants. There wasn't a Yankee candle nor a latte in sight. There were tunnel houses full of small bedding plants that had just been pricked out and dozens of large seed trays bringing on more product. A mist propagator evidenced the desire to take cuttings and grow on plants rather than be dependant on some Dutch supplier. Onion sets and shallots were being sold by weight (pounds and ounces) out of sacks rather than in little packs with gaudy coloured photographs. The owner of this emporium was catering for the gardener not the person wishing to furnish their outside space and overdose on caffeine. In truth he was a nurseryman not a garden centre owner.

I wonder which of these garden centres I will be returning to?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Tesco Nil Ballycastle Won


I cannot claim that I was anything but happy to hear that the Planning Appeals Commission has rejected Tesco's plan for a store on the outskirts of the North Antrim town of Ballycastle. Hopefully the town's traders will now take advantage of their reprieve and concentrate on the factors which will ensure that Mr Tesco and his ilk will not trouble them again. Big is not necessarily beautiful, nor cheaper, nor better at tracing the source of our food.


Will the City of Derry Building Society vote for its self destruction?


It will not be long before the borrowers and savers of the City of Derry Building Society are asked to vote for the demise of the Society and the disappearance of its assets and liabilities into the balance sheet of the much larger Progressive Building Society. A, "Merger Booklet," is to be sent out to qualifying members during the present month.


No doubt there will be the usual voters' apathy that pertains in these situations but wouldn't it show some spirit if the electorate of the City of Derry decided to vote for continued independence? According to the 2013/14 yearbook of the Building Society Association the City of Derry Building Society has 2020 savers and 441 borrowers. For a vote for self destruction to succeed more than 75% of the savers who vote and more than 50% of the borrowing members who vote must be in favour of the merger. Considering the number of members who normally take the effort to register their votes at the AGM of the Society a no vote by as few as 150 savers might well extend its life. Will this happen or will apathy rule yet again? I suspect that come the autumn that the City of Derry Building Society will be nothing but a footnote in the history of the Building Society industry.


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Negative Equity and the Northern Ireland Property Market

The recession resulted in many borrowers throughout the UK experiencing negative equity. Most of the UK has been able to claw its way back to property values which are close to pre recession figures but this is not the case in Northern Ireland. Recent figures disclosed by the BBC indicate that of those homeowners who have taken out a mortgage since 1995 some 41% are in negative equity.


If you have substantial negative equity you are effectively prevented from moving house and even if your monthly mortgage payment is currently affordable you may find yourself paying up to twice what the current rental payment is on a comparable property.


It is anticipated that Mr Carney will raise interest rates by perhaps up to 1.5% in the next two years. This will of course be reflected in mortgage rates and is likely to result in more repossessions in the Northern Ireland property market. That will inevitably have a dampening affect on property values and without property inflation the spectre of negative equity will remain.

Frogs Chorus


Sunday afternoon's relative quiet was shattered by the husky voiced lotharios of the frog world. Not the most melodic of sounds but clearly it enduced the necessary compliance in the coy Freda Frogs.


What passes for the garden pond is now full of the gelatinous clumps of frogspawn. So far I have counted fourteen spawnings. This equates to approximately twenty eight thousand eggs. Mortality rates for frogs are not very good, particularly during the initial metamorphosis from spawn to tadpole to frog. Perhaps as few as seventy small frogs will hop away from the pond hoping to return the following Spring if they manage to avoid nature's predators in the interim.


Blogsy Crash

The most recent update of the blogsy app resulted in the site crashing once I attempted to open it. The cause was presumably some bug. Still that is better than a virus or at least that is what I have been told. In any event the programmers for this app have now managed to expunge the bug and I can resume my clogging up of the internet with my ramblings, not that this will be noted by very many. Hey ho.