Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Grand Jury.

Going through the names of the individuals who sat on the Grand Jury for the County of Londonderry from the year 1820, (that was the first year that there were two Assizes in each year, Spring and Summer), I noticed that the word, "Colt," was written against the names of certain gentlemen. On purusing this matter further it seems that this term was used to identify persons who were appearing on the Jury for the first time. At the Spring Assizes of 1874 where the Judges were Mr Baron Fitzgerald and Chief Justice Whiteside no fewer than five of the twenty three jurors were, "Colts," namely Professor Richard Smyth MP, Daniel Taylor Esq MP, and Messrs. William McCarter, John Haslett and James Clark.

Grand Juries were done away with by virtue of the Grand Jury (Abolition) Act (Northern Ireland) 1969. Their administrative powers in connection with such things as roads, bridges and asylums had been previously taken away by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. This same Act established the cities of Belfast and Londonderry as separate County Boroughs.

The foremen of the Grand Jury for County Londonderry from 1820 until the end of the nineteenth century and the dates of their appointment were as follows:-

Alexander Robert Stewart MP 1820

Henry Barre Beresford 1821

Rt. Hon. Sir George Fitzgerald Hill 1821

Andrew Knox 1822

Sir James Bruce 1823

Geo. Robert Dawson MP

Marcus McCausland 1827

Sir Robert Bateson MP 1834

Connolly Gage 1842

Henry Richardson 1845

Thomas Bateson 1846

Sir H Harvey Bruce 1849

Thomas Scott 1851

Theobald James MP 1852

James Johnston Clark MP 1858

Robert Peel Dawson MP 1860

Acheson Lyle 1862

Sir Frederick Wm. Heygate 1867

John B Beresford 1869

R. A. Ogilby DL 1889

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Mini Tomato Glut.


It's remarkable what a few days of moderate sun will do to ripen autumn's green tomatoes. This time last year I had managed to pick all my tomatoes and the plants had been taken out of the greenhouse. This year even after today's picking I expect there are still thirty or forty pounds of fruit to ripen and pull. Hopefully there are no early frosts and I am able to benefit from all of the remaining tomatoes. I haven't weighed the contents of the two trays of tomatoes resulting from today's picking but I expect there must be about a stone of produce. Soups, sauces and chutneys beckon.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

EU Referendum - a fictional result

Head of State. - Andrew Marr - Fourth Estate

I suppose that one would describe this book as a political thriller. The events are set against the backdrop of a referendum to determine whether the UK should or should not exit the EU. It is set in the near future.

I didn't buy this book and having read it I can safely say that I wouldn't have. That said I plodded through its three hundred and sixty seven pages manfully and at least initially I would hope with an open and receptive mind.

I found the characters to be rather stereotypical. Very definitely two dimensional. The behaviour of politicians and civil servants alike was very cliched, when it wasn't fantastical. A right wing individual with the surname of Panzer! At least his forename was not Gengiss. The prime minister dies on the eve of the referendum. This fact is not released but rather Rory Bremner is brought in by the political mandarins to imitate the prime minister's voice. Very believable! Meanwhile his corpse is decapitated and his hands hacked off. The balance of the cadaver is then moved through secret passages and its ultimate disposal is left to the tender ministrations of three Poles.

If Mr. Marr wishes to be known as a novelist then this effort will not assist his cause unless he wishes to be known as a very poor novelist.



Thursday, 24 September 2015

Homes for Chickens

Now that I have decided to purchase a few chickens, well more or less decided, I have to consider the rather more expensive matter of a home for these egg producers. It seems as if there is no limit as to the amount you can or can't spend on a coop for one's feathered friends. Some individuals are able to utilise existing outhouses or construct their own coop. I am not one of them. One of my friends was able to adapt an old dog kennel for his three girls. Bertha, Betty and Beulah seem quite content in the former residence of a deceased canine and have between them provided eighteen eggs most weeks over the past year.

Being intent on keeping my thumbs and therefore not attempting any DIY I must consider the merits and demerits of the hundreds of coops that litter the advertising pages of the chicken press. These range from the very basic ark type to coops which pretend to be Romani caravans. Peter Viggers would love them. Some are constructed of poor quality softwood whilst others have the benefit of hardwood and dovetailed joints. Some are constructed of recycled products and others of moulded plastic. A veritable cornucopia of options.

It is of course not just a coop that has to be considered. A run is also needed unless you want herbaceous borders pecked to death and you are prepared to risk the predatory attacks of Mr. Reynard. A fixed run with concrete foundations would be the most secure but I like the notion of being able to move coop and run around my embryoic orchard and not ending up with a grassless muddy patch. These thoughts taken in conjunction with a desire to have something that is easily cleaned, maintenance free and unlikely to be infested with red mites has caused me to come down on the side of a rather untraditional coop with integral run and skirting marketed by a firm called, "Omlet." The Eglu Cube is the model which I have determined upon.


Friday, 18 September 2015

Vegetable Coral

Brassicas are one of the mainstays of the vegetable patch. For many years I have grown the usual members of this family, cabbages, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and green brocolli. This year I have added romanesco brocolli to the list. It is I think one of, if not the most striking vegetables that can be grown in our climes. The lime green colour of the heads draws your attention in and then you appreciate the geometric symetery of the florets. The delicacy of their shape reminds me of coral or maybe a roofline view of minarets.



Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Maiden City Whiskey.



It was suggested to me that I might like to sample a new whiskey. An onerous task I know but I accepted the challenge. The name given to this particular brand of beverage is, "The Quiet Man." With a name such as this most people are going to think of the 1952 film starring Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne which was filmed in and about Cong and assume that it originates from that locale. Maybe that is the intention although the managing director of the manufacturer, Niche Drinks, states that it is named after his father, a longtime barman. The drink is to be distilled in Londonderry once a new distillery has been erected. Presently it is apparently matured, blended and bottled in the maiden city.

My preference would be for whisky without an, "e," but I have to say that Ihis tipple was very smooth and palatable.



Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Thoughts of Chickens

Both of my grandmothers kept hens. It was their contribution to the war effort. At this distance from 1939 I suppose that I have to elaborate and say I am talking about the Second World War. My paternal grandmother kept her chickens for eggs. She continued her chicken venture until the mid 1960's. We usually visited her on Sunday afternoons and I remember being drafted in to help her collect the eggs and make up a mash for the laying hens.

My maternal grandmother's efforts were directed towards the breeding and hatching of chicks. She was a member of various chicken breeders' associations and was proud to display their logos on her notepaper. I think it was in the mid 1950's that she ceased her mini business. The outhouse which she used for her venture continued to be called the Incubator House even after her death in 1968.

Maybe it has been the indirect influence of my grandmothers but the notion of having a few chickens has been occupying my mind for the past couple of years. I have now convinced myself that it is a good idea. Whether it will be remains to be seen and experienced. I know that it may just be a hankering for the uncomplicated life of childhood when worry was transient and the future welcomed. It would be nice to think that one could experience the hopes of childhood again even if transiently.


Monday, 7 September 2015

Beans mean Runners.

I think that runner beans must be one of the most productive vegetables that can be grown in the domestic garden. They don't take up that much ground space and of course most of the growth is in the vertical. I managed to grow this year's plants from seed saved from last year's harvest. One does get a bit of a thrill from not having to buy seed and having freebie plants.
In common with most of my vegetables the runner beans have been slow in coming to maturity this year. It has not been a year which has been conducive to the vegetable horticulturalist. I have been somewhat thwarted by the unseasonal weather conditions. That said I am now finding it difficult to use all of the beans as they become ready. Hopefully I will be able to freeze several pounds and make some chutney before frosts draw down the blinds on another year in the garden.



Friday, 4 September 2015

Lisadell - a house with a past.

As well as visiting Lisadell Parish Church on Monday I visited Lisadell House. It is a rather austere limestone edifice. Its literary and artistic associations along with the, "terrible beauty," of Constance Gore-Booth aka Countess Markevitch are I suppose the pulling factors for its tourist traffic. I have to say that I would have preferred to have visited the property knowing that it was still owned by the Gore-Booth family. Unfortunately the ninth baronet decided to , "sell up," and it is now owned by two SC's from Dublin, The 2004 sale price of circa €3.5m for the mansion and 400 acres does not seem at all unreasonable.

Clearly a considerable sum has been spent in renovating the house and the stable yard but the result leans somewhat to a theme park result. I cannot but think that the now owners have profit to the forefront of their minds rather than preservation. That said maybe in today's economic environment the former is a prerequisite of the latter.

The house was constructed between 1830 and 1835 to the designs of Francis Goodwin. It is a nine bay two storey over basement dwelling with a three bay pedimented central projection forming a porte-cochere to the north. The southern aspect looks over Sligo Bay. The former croquet lawn is no longer present nor are the immediate flower beds. The haha remains but a former pond is now devoid of water. The walled alpine garden which is next the shore is well maintained and deserving of inspection and contemplation. The two acre kitchen garden requires years of effort before it attains a standard worthy of inspection.


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

In the Steps of HRH.

Lisadell Church Co Sligo is in the diocese of Elphin. It is one of three churches in the Drumcliffe group of parishes. Considering its rural location it is surprisingly large, not quite as big as Drumcliffe Parish Church and of course not on the tourist trail in the manner of Drumcliffe. It doesn't have the benefit of a W. B. Yeats in its graveyard! Mind you there now seems to be some doubt as to whether it was his remains which were repatriated on board the French navy's Le Macha.

Unfortunately the Church was locked up when I called at it on Monday. The grounds are well kept, the grass cut short and the gravel paths and drives weed free and raked. If one was cynical one might postulate that this is merely a legacy from the visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in May of this year but I genuinely do not believe that to be the case.

To the east of the church building and surrounded by hedging are the graves of the Gore-Booth family. Despite the family's former position as the major landowners in the area the headstones are surprisingly modest. Its most famous or some might say its most infamous member, Constance, is of course not buried with her forebearers, politics and religion resulting in her being laid to rest in Dublin's Glasnevin cemetery. She had given up the religion of her birth and converted to Catholicism circa 1916.

The church is constructed of limestone and was completed in 1860 in a gothic revival style. The proportions of the three stage bell tower are, I view, highly complimentary to the elevations of the five bay nave. The result is a sympathetically proportioned building.