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.