Saturday, 30 April 2016

A Painter's Lot was not a happy one.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - Robert Tressell - Oxford University Press


I have been meaning to read this book for a long time. It is probably seven years since I purchased a copy so as to facilitate my intention but it is only in the past fortnight that I have opened it's pages. It was bought at what was one of Northern Ireland's independent booksellers. That bookshop is no more. Robert Tressell, (the pen name of Robert Noonan, christened Robert Croaker), would most definitely have had something to say about that.

Noonan was born in Dublin in 1870 to a Mary Noonan who had her infant son christened with his father's surname. His father was a retired senior police officer and magistrate. Noonan died of TB in 1911 with his book unpublished.

Noonan was a socialist and trade unionist. He was much influenced by the writings of William Morris. That said this novel does not represent the writings of a rabid individual. It is clever, it is amusing and it is thought provoking. There are several early references to the, "living wage." The book follows the lives and tribulations of a group of painters and decorators employed by the money grasping firm of Rushton & Co. This was a world which Noonan inhabited and there are most certainly elements of autobiography in the character of Frank Owen. The dread of the workhouse was clearly ever present in the mind of the Edwardian working man whose health was the only thing keeping him and his family from the clutches of the precursor of the welfare state.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Orchard Days


My orchard is nearly complete. Finally! Only one space remains. At the moment this lacuna is more accurately described as a potential space as a pile of pea gravel occupies the area. By next spring the gravel will be used up and I will have to decide upon an arboreal companion for the present residents. This late winter/early spring I have planted a mulberry; two damsons, (merryweather) as well as four apple trees, (two bramleys and two eaters). When complete the orchard/nuttery will have a total of twenty eight trees. I suspect that it will be a few years yet before I need to start thinking of ways to use up surpluses! It will be good to be able to knock another couple of items off the supermarket shopping list.


Friday, 22 April 2016

Truscott Lodge - A Cemetery Location.

Three miles outside Londonderry's city boundaries on the north side of Letterkenny Road is what is commonly but incorrectly referred to as Killea Mortuary Chapel. The ruinous and ivy clad building which is situate at the front right hand side of Killea Cemetery was the residence for the cemetery caretaker and it's correct name is Truscott Lodge. I suspect that the presence of a bell cote over the main entrance gave the impression of a church.

It is said to have been constructed in or about the year 1864 to the design of Richard Williamson who was the County Surveyor for County Londonderry between 1860 and 1874. During this period he also acted as surveyor to the Irish Society. Francis Wyatt Truscott was appointed as Deputy Governor of the Irish Society on 8th February 1867 for the ensuing year. That would suggest a date of construction slightly later than that which is generally accepted. The southern aspect of the building has two carved roundels with the wording, " Rose/Governor/ Trustcott/Dep/Governor.

It is unfortunate that the roof of the lodge was permitted to fall in on itself and the building to become uninhabitable. I can remember it being occupied right through the 1960's. Apparently it was someone by the name of King who was the last resident.

This churchyard was originally the site of one of five chapels of ease to the Parish Church of Templemore, (St. Columb's Cathedral). It was destroyed at the time of the Siege but never rebuilt. The walls of the church are recorded as having survived until the nineteenth century.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Alfie Moore - Laughing at the Policeman

It has been a few years since I have had to delve into my wardrobe in search of the old DJ. However an invitation to a dinner on Friday week past required me to press it into service again. Unfortunately I didn't know anyone at the repaste. It was one of those situations where one makes small talk to individuals who you will never see again.

Thankfully the nosh was above average for these events and there was only one formal speech to be endured and it lasted ten minutes at most. The after dinner speaker was the comic Alfie Moore. Unlike most of the individuals at my table I had heard of him and had listened to one of his radio 4 shows. For the majority of mankind who have not come across Alfie Moore I should explain that he was a serving police officer for eighteen years and his act is loosely based on his work experiences. He is apparently on a sabbatical from his police career. I suppose that those who pigeonhole comedians by reference to their comedic style would say that his humour was of the observational variety. He managed to attract a certain amount of laughter. Personally I prefer a raconteur as as an amusing diversion after the coffee and mints have been devoured. Maybe that's another age marker.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Gin in a Jar

I am pleased to report that the Students Union Bar at Warwick University has no fewer than six gins to offer their patrons. Circumstance caused me to enter its hallowed portals on Thursday evening. That I should be presented with such a degree of choice surprised me greatly. Clearly my assumptions concerning the drinking habits of the kingdom's studious and not so studious youth may have been slightly off piste.

I selected Hendrix for my post prandial snifter and bearing in mind the rather miserly size of an English measure I requested a double. My drink was presented in a very strange vessel, modelled on a jam jar and with a beer glass handle. Certainly not what I expected but there was nothing wrong with the gin.


Friday, 1 April 2016

Spring Has Sprung.


Easter may have been early this year but I don't think that Spring has been. It is only in the last couple of weeks that the daffodils and other spring flowers around the garden have been providing what might pass for a floral display. The winter months have been very mild albeit extremely wet. That leads me to the conclusion that length of daylight must be the most important determinative in the flowering of bulbs.

Most of my daffodils, even the minatures in the rockery, are traditional yellow ones. Mr Wordsworth would approve. Come Autumn time I think that I will invest in some white flowered varieties so as to provide some colour contrasts in the early months of 2017.