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.