Sunday, 29 June 2014

Red Arrows at Three O'Clock


The skies over Lough Foyle were a trifle noisy this pm. Nine bally Hawk aircraft were flying up and down and up and over for the delectation of the assembled masses on Benone beach. Nothing like a bit of free entertainment to get the crowds out.


These Red Arrow chappies, (I don't think that there is currently a chapess among their number), must have steady hands and nerves of steel. Definitely not a job for someone suffering a bout of delerium tremens. I suspect that as with motor sports there are some devotees of air displays who are drawn by the very real danger and the macabre excitement of the possibility of a crash. Thankfully they were to be disappointed.


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Flowering Miss Daisy

Oxeye Daisy


Many gardeners regard the oxeye daisy as little more than a weed. Well maybe they are right, but if it is a weed it is quite a pretty weed and I don't mind the couple of clumps which have established themselves in the yard under the garden wall. The local bees and hover flies seem to like them as well.


Apparently the unopened flower buds can be marinated and used much like capers. Definitely a flower of the meadow. Do I really remember them among the stooks on my maternal grandfather's farm fifty years ago? That is the memory and I want it to be true. A flower of early summer. A flower of reminiscence and hazy and comforting memories of childhood.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Causeway Coast Triathlon/Quadathlon


I always thought that the three elements of the triathlon were distinct and separate, the swim followed by the cycle followed by the run. Well on Saturday I came upon the Causeway Coast Triathlon. I was informed that the competitors would swim two laps of a marked course just off the strand. What I wasn't told was that between each lap the swimmers would exit the water, and run along the beach for a couple of hundred yards before plunging back into the water. Strange that. Well I thought that it was. No doubt afficianadoes of the world of triathlon will now tell me that it is quite usual but the purist in me tells me it isn't quite right. A quadathlon can't be a triathlon? Can it?



Saturday, 21 June 2014

An Creagan - A Run in the Sperrins.

I don't race over 5k very often. The distance is no problem I just find it hard to keep competitive concentration in place for what for me is a prolonged race. Despite my antipathy to the distance I succumbed to club pressure, real or imagined, and lined up for a 5k trail run during the past week.

The venue was at a very rural location called An Creagan which is situated close to the hamlet of Greencastle in the foothills of the Sperrins. Not an easy or quick place to get to, but the surrounding countryside is very picturesque albeit a mite wild. Race HQ was a visitor centre. The entry fee for what was to be a chipped race was a very modest £3.

Weather conditions were fine. The voracious midges were less to my taste. Hordes of the little blighters honed in on the start area doubtlessly attracted by the gently sweating and glowing competitors. Even thinking of them makes me want to scratch, - the midges that is, not the competitors.

A total of one hundred and sixty participants lined up for the off. The start line was on quite a narrow forest track but the organisers had set up anticipated time flags so that the faster runners would not mow down their less fleet of foot brethren. Thankfully it was a one lap course. I do find that easier than a multiple lap event. Knowing that you have only one circuit to complete does I think foreshorten the race in one's mind. The first kilometre was downhill and not unsurprisingly that would be my quickest kilometre. Thereafter the route was for the most part flat or gently uphill with a couple of very tight turns and areas of loose gravel. Anyhows I managed to get myself back to the finish line in a reasonably respectable time and just outside the top ten percent.

I was glad that it had not been a 10k race!



Wednesday, 18 June 2014

I Don't Believe It!

I had the car radio on this morning whilst out on my manoeuvrings. A listener was complaining about an hotel he had stayed at recently. It wasn't the service or cleanliness that was being complained about, no it was the fact that the hotel had set up a display with the ubiquitous crackers and tinsel advertising the delights of their, "Christmas fayre."


Now I do think that the dear old listener had a point. We haven't even passed the longest day of the year; the schools haven't broken up for the summer and the touch paper hasn't been lit for Guy Fawke's night. Everything has its place in the calendar and this hotel was being a mite previous in its advertising campaign.


This desire to advertise unconscionably early is perhaps more common than we think. Within half an hour of hearing about the Christmas advertising I had cause to enter through the portals of Easons in search of a book. They were in the process of erecting, "back to school," displays!


Sunday, 15 June 2014

A Garden in the Sun.


Another weekend and another visit to a private garden opening under the auspices of the National Trust's open garden scheme. This time the garden was situated midway between Ballymena and Larne at Ballynashee Road, Glenwherry. It has been twenty years in the making and this has been the first time that it has opened its portals to the eyes of the public.


It is a large country garden extending over five acres and it has the benefit of two large ponds fed from an old mill race. The larger of the ponds is almost half an acre in extent and certainly adds interest to the garden, surrounded as it is with aquatic marginals and containing largish patches of water lilies. The owners, (a Mr & Mrs Rafferty), must spend all of their waking hours keeping nature in check. It is hard to imagine when they have time to actually enjoy their garden.


In the wilder areas of the garden they have planted many hundreds of broadleaf trees and created walkways along the adjoining river. Another twenty years and these trees will be reaching maturity and a true woodland will have been created. Even now you can imagine what it will ultimately be like. Hopefully the owners will live sufficiently long to see their garden plans come to full fruition.




Auction Fever.



I went to a house auction yesterday. I have to say that it was a very well run event. The auction was held in a large marquee adjacent to the house and there was the now obligatory ability to bid by phone or on the internet. A catering company was in attendance to provide sustenance for the assembled bidders and in case too many cups of coffee were imbibed a potaloo was positioned in a secluded corner.


The bulk of the auction lots came from the estate of the late owner of the house, but there was also a large number of clocks and watches from another estate.


I do find it slightly sad that someone's affects should be sold like this, but I suppose it is inevitable. The children have their own houses and their own tastes and they don't necessarily have the room to accommodate all of the parental ethemera. It would however be wrong to describe and dismiss the auction lots in this instance as ethemera. The owner of the house, (a grade B listed building designed by Alfred Forman), had been a GP and clearly had an eye for antiques. One of his younger ex colleagues used to accompany him to auctions and that ex colleague was present to pick up a few items in remembrance as clearly were several friends and former patients.


There were quite a few paintings by, 'known," Irish artists included among the lots. I know very little about Irish art, but one of the in vogue names is apparently, Basil Blackshaw. I was appraised of this by a friend who has dabbled in art investment over the last thirty years. There were three Bradshaw's up for grabs and they all went for in excess of £4000. I was not tempted!! Definitely too rich for my blood and I have to say that I didn't even like them.


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Chive Hair Cut.


Although I have been cropping the chive plants with some degree of assiduousness they were starting to display their purple flowers and the foliage was beginning to flop. Accordingly I extracted the trusty hedge clippers from the tack room this morning and attacked the chives with the intention of giving them a, "number one." This task was achieved within a few minutes. It won't be too long before fresh growth appears and I will be able to recommence the cutting of produce.


Friday, 13 June 2014

Glendarragh - A Victorian Villa.


Glendarragh is one of the larger Victorian villas which were constructed on the edge of Londonderry during the nineteenth century. It is situated just off the Letterkenny Road and is approached via a long private driveway. There is a distinct whiff of the Italianate about the property which is probably accentuated by the external white paintwork. It was constructed on lands which belonged to the Honourable the Irish Society by a Matthew McClelland for his own use. This gentleman was a builder by profession and operated his business from Sackville Street.


As originally constructed the property provided commodious accomodation for its owner. On the ground floor there was a drawing room, a morning room, study and dining room as well as a kitchen, pantry, scullery and various stores and a servants' dining room and a servants' sitting room. The first floor rooms comprised six bedrooms for the family and four servants' bedrooms together with a linen room, a bathroom, a store and toilets for the family and domestic staff.


The initial lease from the Irish Society to Matthew McClelland was for a total of 4a 35p. He was granted an eighty year lease from 29th September 1878. The lease was dated 10th March 1880 and reserved a ground rent of £21.10.00. Subsequently a further 6a. 2r. 22p was leased for the same term at an additional ground rent of £1.00 pa. The map above shows what was the full extent of the holding.


Unfortunately Matthew did not enjoy his new property for very long. He passed away on 21st December 1880, being survived by five children. His house was left to his eldest son, Matthew McClelland Junior. There was at least one other child but that child had had the doubtful accolade of being the first interment in Londonderry's City Cemetery. As an aside it is perhaps interesting to note that Matthew McClelland was the builder involved in the original construction of the Apprentice Boys Hall in Londonderry.


Ownership of the leasehold estate in the property remained in with Matthew McClelland Jnr. until his death. He left the entirety of his estate to his friend Hope Watson for life with remainder to his children. This lady sold the residue of the leasehold term to the Londonderry Corporation on 30th March 1944. It is believed there was an intention to use the house as a quarantine facility in connection with the Port in succession to a property near Moville. The Corporation sublet the outbuildings and approximately an acre of ground on a short term lease to a William Mitchell of Foyle Street and a Patrick J Kelly of 144 Fahan Street Londonderry for use as a pig rearing establishment. These entrepreneurs had a contract to collect the swill from the various military and naval establishments around the City.


In 1951 the Corporation purchased the freehold reversion in the property from the Irish Society. Ownership by the City Fathers was only retained until 29th December 1955 when the entire property was sold to Elizabeth B Gordon, Kathleen Moody and Samuel Moody by way of a 999 year lease reserving a ground rent of £1.00. Since then the ground rent has been bought out and the original holding now has three distinct ownerships.


Returning to the McClelland family. Matthew McClelland Snr settled the sum of £2,500 on each of his three daughters. One of the girls, Lydia Matilda McClelland married a Dr. James Acheson McCullagh who was the City Medical Officer. This gentleman was to serve as Mayor of the City for three years in the last decade of the nineteenth century and was ultimately to receive a knighthood for his services to medicine. His sister was Lady Emily Glenavy. Another of the McClelland girls, Mary Elizabeth McClelland married William Ellliott Cairnes who at the time of the marriage was a Lieutenant in the South Staffs Regiment. As well as the £2,500 from her late father the marriage settlement comprised some 760a of lands in the Parish of Piercetown, Barony of Upper Dunlech and County of Meath. Elliott rose to the rank of Captain but his importance rests with his writings which were to contribute to the army reforms during and post the South African War. He held Lord Roberts in great esteem and produced a rather eulogistic biography entitled, " Lord Roberts as a Soldier in Peace and War."


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Drumlamph Wood not for running.


I am always on the lookout for new locations for a run. Not so long ago I espied a roadside sign for Drumlamph Wood. I knew nothing about this wood having never even heard of it. Anyhows I decided to investigate it last Sunday. The weather didn't exactly lend itself to a sylvan stroll but having shod myself with trail shoes and bedecked myself with a waterproof running top I was prepared for the heavy showers.


The wood is located about two miles out of Maghera and is run by the Woodland Trust. The information board at the carpark informed me that the wood contained some areas of ancient woodland which have been continuously wooded from before 1600. Since the Woodland Trust have come on the scene more than 30,000 native trees have been planted. Altogether the boundaries of the wood encircle more than seventy eight acres. This includes some bogland as well as areas of rush meadow.


The paths running through the wood don't provide a great surface for running although a drier day might make the terrain more conducive to a training session. Probably the main downside of the location as a venue for running is the smallness of the wood. I didn't measure the longest circuit but It is probably two and a half kilometres at most. One would get a bit dizzy running around it. However a nice place for a lazy stroll with one's faithful hound in tow, (if you have one.)





Sunday, 8 June 2014

A Radishing Beauty is Pulled

The year's first sowing of radish is now ready to be consumed. I do enjoy the crispness of these little vegetables and the mild hotness of their after taste. So long as you can keep them away from the rasping incisors of the slug population they must be one of the easiest things to grow. I really must ensure that I keep sowing a half drill every couple of weeks so that I have a continuous supply to snack on over the summer and autumn months.
Radishes just don't come in the form of the small salad radish. A couple of years ago I grew a variety of large white German radish and this year I am planning to grow a radish called, "Pink Dragon," which promises cylindrical roots of up to sixteen inches in length. It should provide an alternative to garden turnips come the autumn and early winter.



Friday, 6 June 2014

I will remember Them

Throughout today I have been dipping into the BBC's coverage of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. It has been very moving. The BBC covers events such as this in a very considerate and compassionate manner. By virtue of age my own father just missed out on service but those of his school mates who were just a couple of years older had to experience the bloody experience of the Second World War.


I came to know a lot of those who returned. Many had their scars, both physical and mental, and for those who are still alive the scars are still raw. I don't suppose that there will be many of today's teenagers who will have viewed and understood the relevance of today's commemoration . That is sad.



Bann Run


I paddled along to Castleroe Wood on the banks of the River Bann this morning. I have committed myself to a race tomorrow so I thought it might be a good idea to run a few miles to keep the old legs loose. This Wood isn't that large but the pine needle covered paths provide a soft and enjoyable running surface and the twisting nature of the paths adds interest. The weather was very pleasant, but there was only one other car in the carpark. Strange that.


Tomorrow's race is at the 90th running of the Northern Ireland Senior Athletic Championships. I acknowledge that I will be knocked out in the heats. Indeed I will be very pleased if I manage to attain the home straight when the winner of my heat breaks the electronic tape. Still I have to accept that there could be competitors who are forty years adrift of me and that I will be at least twenty years older than the next oldie. My target is to beat him. Tis a pity that the age tables do not apply. Now that would level the playing field for me!



Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A Gift from the Crimea

In March 2003 Philip McGrath, the Curator of Artillery at the Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson, described the cannons belonging to Derry City Council as, " an exceptional collection of great historical importance deserving classification as internationally important."


The youngest of the guns is a 24 pounder Licorne. The length of this Russian gun is a shade over 8'10" and it has a calibre of 5.5in. It is mounted on what Philip McGrath referred to as a, "Venglov," fortress carriage and it is now located at Clooney Terrace next to All Saints Clooney Parish Church.

It came into the ownership of the City on 2nd January 1860. At noon on that day this trophy of the Crimean War was transported on a carriage from the Derry & Enniskillen Railway Station. The gun was drawn through the principal streets of the City preceded by the band of the Londonderry Regiment and was ultimately deposited at the head of Shipquay Street. A report of the occasion refers to the bells of St Columb's Cathedral being rung; the Irish Society's flag being displayed at the South-West Bastion and crimson banners floating from the Testimonial and over the chancel window of the Cathedral. The Corporation flag appeared over the east end of the Corporation Hall. The ships in the port were decked with bunting.

At one o'clock the members of the Corporation headed by the Mayor, (Bartholmew McCorkell), and Lieut.-Colonel Hobbs left the Council Chamber and proceeded to the head of Shipquay Street where they formed a circle around the cannon. It is stated that several thousand persons had assembled for the ceremony. Those ladies present occupied the space inside the railings of the Corporation Hall. A Royal Salute was fired from the City Walls and standing upon the gun carriage Colonel Hobbs in the name of Her Majesty Queen Victoria proceeded to present the cannon to the Mayor and the Corporation. He exhorted the citizenery to, "prize and treasure your trophy; remember that for every pound of metal in this cannon a stream of British blood has flown and when your children's children are pointed it out, it will encourage them to emulate the heroic deeds of their forefathers." The Town Clerk, James W Gregg Esq. read the reply of the Corporation in which it thanked the Colonel for, "this blood-bought trophy of ..undaunted valour."

Source: Sentinel 6th January 1860


Monday, 2 June 2014

Tomato Scaffold


One can almost see the tomato plants growing at the moment. I hadn't placed their bamboo supports in position at the time of planting which I really should have done.


Anyhows no harm done and I constructed the necessary bamboo scaffolding today. The tomato plants have now been tied in to the upright canes and I have excised all the side shoots. The first flower trusses are just beginning to show. Another ten days to a fortnight and these will have set. That will be the green light to commence feeding.


Tomato plants have a particular smell. I can recognise the aroma but it is hard to describe. I suppose it is slightly earthy. In any event it is a smell of summer, a smell of warmth and growth.


Onion Beds Cleaned

  • Weeding can be an enjoyable activity. Well maybe not the physical activity but the resultant tidiness that emanates from your endeavours most certainly is. Yesterday afternoon saw me extracting weeds from the areas in the vegetable garden which I have planted up with onion sets. Chickweed is the main problem. I have managed to get it out before it started flowering so hopefully the regrowth won't be too bad. I have placed a few handfuls of this pernicious weed in a container in the fridge with the intention of using it as a salad crop. I suspect it will taste much like cress. Bear Grylss would be proud of me!