Sunday, 26 November 2017

Londonderry's Electric Lighting Station.

It becomes a mite disconcerting when one's recollections take on an historical twist. Only those of us who were born prior to the Munich air disaster are likely to have much recollection of the Corporation's Power Station on the Strand Road, certainly as a functioning entity. It ran on solid fuel, coke, if my memory serves. I seem to remember that a reserve store of coke was kept at the Brandywell in the area which was used as a recycling centre until recently.

I have read that Londonderry Corporation's electricity station was operating from 1892 but the first tranche of ground at Strand Road was acquired from the Irish Society by way of an assurance dated 20th July 1893 and indeed these lands were subject to two leases which had been created by the Irish Society. The first of these was in favour of a Henry Barre Beresford and was for sixty six years from 29th September 1836. The second lease was in favour of one William Charles Babington and was for a term of ninety nine years expiring in 1916. I suspect that the Corporation had acquired the benefit of these leases by the date of the July 1893 Fee Farm Grant. This view would be sported by the fact that the Corporation Covenanted with the Irish Society to, " erect and complete within one year to the satisfaction of the Irish Society an Electric Light Station to serve the present and prospective requirements for lighting the City by electricity."

On 24th February 1904 the Corporation acquired further lands from the Irish Society so as to extend the Electric Lighting Station. Subsequent to this further smaller portions of land were conveyed to the Corporation by the Irish Society on 19th December 1916 and 20th September 1933.

The map endorsed on the Fee Farm Grant of 1893 shows the existence of Fox's Lane running from Strand Road to the Quay. This thoroughfare seems to have been incorporated into the site of the Electricity Station.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Tyrconnell Whiskey Relaunch.

Twelve years ago I was given a present of a bottle of whiskey. I accept any bottle of the amber nectar with a degree of alacrity. This was not however just any whiskey. The wooden presentation case was a bit of a giveaway as was the signed certificate. I had been given a numbered bottle of the relaunched Tyrconnell brand. It had been distilled by John Teeling's Cooley Distillery. 

Tyrconnell Whiskey was of course originally distilled by Watt's Distillery in Londonderry and was named after the then owner's horse which won a race called the National Produce Stakes in 1876 at odds of one hundred to one. I suppose that many whiskey conniseurs and collectors would have retained a bottle such as this in their collection. I have to admit that I didn't. I consumed it over Christmas 2005 and very nice it was too.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Capt. Edward George Harvey 1882 - 1915

Edward George Harvey born on the 7th September 1882 was the eldest son of John George Morewood Harvey of Greglorne, Londonderry and his wife Norma Elizabeth (nee Rogan). He received his education at Foyle College. In his turn J. G. M. Harvey was the youngest son of Capt. Harvey RN of the Warren, Culdaff, Londondery.

Although he was from a scion of the Harveys of Culdaff Edward enlisted as a private in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He served in the Transvaal, (10/11/1900 - 8/1/1902), where he was awarded the Queens Medal with two clasps. Subsequently he served as a Sargent in India and it was during his sojourn in India that he was commissioned into the Wiltshire Regiment, (May 1905). In 1913 he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, (Military Wing), and within a year he was promoted to the rank of Flight Commander. Subsequent to the outbreak of war he rejoined his regiment, the Duke of Edinburgh's Wiltshire regiment, as a Captain and he joined its 1st Batallion at the Front in February 1915. On 16th June in that year he was leading his Company on an attack on the German trenches near Hooge when he was fatally wounded. His service record confirms his height as being 5 feet 8.75 inches and that he could speak French.

Edward's name appears on the Menin Gate in Belgium and on the the war memorial at the Diamond in Londonderry. He is also honoured by a plaque on the north aisle of St. Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry and his name appears on the war memorial at his alma mater.

The photograph at the head of this post was identified as being of Edward by a member of the Harvey family but it is clearly of a different individual than the person who is identified as Edward in the "Our Heroes," website of South Dublin Libraries.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Beetroot Store

Vegetables that can be stored add considerable value to the garden and the ideal of self sufficiency. Beetroot is one of those vegetables that should be lauded much more than it is. As a fresh vegetable it is available in NI climes from July until early October. Thereafter a mini clamp protects the excess crop from the extremes of winter weather and extends the climatic availability of the crop as of course does pickling. The yellow and candy striped varieties do I think look particularly good in their pickling jars. Perhaps another, "boiling," is required.

Monday, 28 August 2017

A Paucity of Cucamelons

I have to concede that my experimental growing of cucamelons has not been a wholehearted success. They proved to be quite easy to germinate and after transplanting the seedlings into three inch pots and growing them on for about three weeks I was able to plant the small vines into twelve inch rings which I had sunk in the greenhouse border. I planted a total of twelve vines - two per pot and erected a bamboo wigwam in each pot for the vines to climb up.

All the literature which I had read told me that if you can grow cucumbers then you can grow cucamelons. Both thrive in the same conditions and require the same husbandry. Taking this advice to heart I planted the cucamelon vines next to my six cucumber plants. The latter have done well. To date I have pulled an average of seven cucumbers from each of my plants and by the end of the season I would expect to have had in excess of fifty cucumbers. 

The cucamelon vines have been very vigorous in their growth and there have been hundreds of little flowers with embryonic fruit behind them. The problem is that the vast majority of these have failed to swell and have fallen off the vines. I am coming to the conclusion that the flowers have not been fertilised. My cucumber plants are self fertile. I have noticed that there are just not as many bees and other pollinating insects in the garden this year. 

So far I have pulled the grand total of seven cucamelons so definitely not a productive use of greenhouse space. I will have to decide if it is worth continuing the experiment next year.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall, Londonderry Act (Northern Ireland), 1935

This Local Act was enacted on 16th July 1936 to facilitate the extension of the Apprentce Boys Memorial Hall in Society Street. John Ferguson, John Gilbert Magee, Joseph Thompson , Robert McElmunn Wilton, Marshall McKay, James McElmunn Wilton and James Smyth (representing the Apprentice Boys) together with Matthew Kerr, James Dunlop, Maxwell Scott Moore, Frederick James Simmons, Edward McIntyre and James Hill Lapsly (representing the Local Orange Brethren) were incorporated by the name of "The Trustees of the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall Londonderry (Incorporated)" with perpetual succession and a Common Seal.

This corporate body was granted the power to purchase, take, hold and dispose of lands and other property for the purposes of the Act and it was granted the power to borrow a sum or sums of money which did not exceed at any one time the sum of £15,000 for the purpose of rebuilding or extending the existing Hall or of purchasing further premises for the purpose of extension or of acquiring further estates or interests in the premises of the Trustees.

The Act states that as soon as may be after the passing of the Act that the then existing Apprentice Boys Hall together with four adjoining premises which had been purchased by the Apprentice Boys and the Local Orange Brethren between 1920 and 1926 should be transferred to the Trustees along with all money's which had been raised for the purpose of rebuilding or extending the Hall.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Coloured Beets

T'is that time of year when the vegetable garden racks up the quantity and variety of its produce. I should probably grow more beetroot than I actually do. I like their sweetness when roasted and a shredded beetroot adds colour to a summer salad. 

Thinking back to my childhood I have memories of my mum pickling beetroot for winter usuage. She would also preserve boiled beets by cutting them into cubes and placing them in jelly along with several cloves to add flavour. I have to concede that I didn't like jellied beetroot. It must be nearly fifty years since I dissected cubes of purple beetroot from their clammy gelatin coating. The memory still makes me feel slightly queasy.

The archetypal beetroot is purple in colour and global in shape but there are cultivars which are white, orange, pink, yellow or striped and many beets are cylindrical in shape. I sowed a packet of mixed coloured beet seed for my first sowing of beetroot this year. Today provided me with my first meal with beetroot as the principal vegetable.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Monumental Death

My maternal grandfather was one of four children. His eldest brother died at the age of fourteen years in 1909. His sister died in 1944 when aged thirty eight. It was however the death of his brother that resonated down the generations. I suspect that it was his young age that impacted on the family so much particularly upon his father who was already sixty five years of age when his son passed away. The bereft father erected an imposing monumental stone at the head of the grave near the entrance to their family church. As well as detailing the date of the youth's death the enscription includes a  biblical passage,"He has left us only left us for a brighter world above. And they shall see his face ; And his name shall be in their foreheads."

Growing older, appreciating that you are only a crumbly brick in the family wall. It is disconcerting, worrying and inevitably irrelevant.

Sunday, 25 June 2017


For the past few years I have grown a small fruiting aubergine in the greenhouse in addition to the usual tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. If I am honest I don't really know whether I like the taste of the eggplant's fruit so this year I decided to replace the aubergine with an alternative indoor crop.

The plant that I selected was the cucamelon which is also known as the Mexican sour gherkin. Germination was practically one hundred percent successful and occurred within ten days of sowing. This left me with more plants than I probably needed. Not wanting to consign any of the young vines to the compost heap I planted two per ring, so sixteen plants. I expect that I have over planted by fifty percent but if so my error is not obvious as yet.

The mature fruit are described as being grape size. So far there are plenty of small yellow flowers but the fruit have not yet begun to swell. The books tell me that the fruits taste like cucumber with a tinge of sourness. Not a very appetising description! One feature of the cucamelon which does appeal to me is that it doesn't have to be grown as an annual. The roots can be lifted in the autumn in the same way as dahlias and over wintered before replanting them in spring.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Pea Green

I sowed my second batch of peas of the year yesterday.. Unlike the first batch I sowed them directly in the position that they will crop in, - hopefully at the beginning or middle of September. The first sowing of pea seeds took place in the greenhouse in March. They were sown in modular root trainers. I suppose that I ended up with about one hundred plants. These were planted out on either side of a stretch of netting wire in May.

In between today's heavy showers I was able to pull the first pods of the year. Their contents have now been consumed. Fresh peas from the garden are so much sweeter than their supermarket cousins which almost invariably have started on the downward slope to starchiness.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Grave Visitations

Over the past month I have accompanied my father to two church graveyards. On the first occasion he wanted to visit the grave of paternal great grandparents who had died in the middle of the nineteenth century. The headstone is made of Welsh slate and originally rested on four squat stone legs. The two at the front of the grave have been removed or disintegrated with the result that the stone now lies at a slight angle. The term for this style of headstone is I think, "table."

Neither great grandparent lived to a great age passing away when aged thirty seven years and forty two years respectively. Their daughter and only child Anne, (my father's grandmother) and who was born in 1842 was made a ward of court and was subsequently brought up by a distant relative who resided in the vicinity of Ballyshannon, Co Donegal. Family history would have it that her guardian somehow managed to get her funds mixed up with his funds but that any unpleasantness was resolved by a house being built for her and her husband.

Our second cemetery outing was to St Columb's Parish Church, Moville, (Moville Lower).This time my father wished to visit the grave of a youth by the name of Jack Bennett who had died on 1st August 1941 aged fifteen as the result of a swimming accident. His father William Bennett was the local chemist. My father had attended the funeral almost seventy six years ago. He and Jack were both pupils at Foyle, Jack a boarder and my father, two years his junior, a day boy.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Edible Thistle

It is over fifty years since I first saw globe artichokes being cultivated. They appeared to be very exotic to a young school boy, tall and strange. It was in the kitchen garden of Aberfoyle, (formerly know as Richmond), that I espied this member of the thistle family. It would be four or five years after that when I had my first opportunity to taste this vegetable which is just at home in the herbaceous border as the vegetable patch.

Two years ago I determined to grow on my own specimens. Although five of the seeds germinated and the resultant plants were planted out in the raised border surrounding the yard four of them succumbed to the local slug and snail population. The sole survivor should provide me with at least three or four flower heads for cropping this year. Not a big cropper.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Tales from the Discorectangle

Training did not stop for Easter. In so far as it it is enjoyable to push your body towards the extremes of its ability I enjoyed Tuesday's session. The usual ten minute warm up run was followed by dynamic stretching and running up eighteen flights of steps. That completed the main course of the session ensued, 5 X 300m with three minutes recovery between and thereafter 6 X 120m with a walk back recovery.

The 300m efforts were to be run at 800m pace or better. For me that is now a rather depressing 51 seconds. Thirty years ago that would have been 44 seconds. Tempus Fugit but not me! It's strange how decades of training enables one's body clock to select the right pace. My first effort resulted in a 51.3 timing. Thereafter the times became progressively quicker ending up with a 47 second result. The 120m efforts were really strides helping to get rid of the lactic acid that had built up as a consequence of the 300m runs.

Although he didn't succumb to the joys of the 300m efforts we were joined at the track by Malcolm East one the UK's best ever marathon runners. A near contemporary of my self he has a 1981 pb for the distance of 2 hrs 11mins 36 secs. That is serious running.

Friday, 7 April 2017

A Threatened Species

Whenever I spot a branch of the Ulster Bank or indeed any bank my thoughts are drawn to Alan Brownjohn's poem, " We are going to see the rabbit." For those of you are unfamiliar with this particular poem I should explain that it is about the last rabbit in England.

We might be a few years away from the total decimation of branch networks but the small town or village branch or sub office is now a rarity. Nine branches of the Bank in Northern Ireland are to close their doors for the last time in October of this year. In the Republic of Ireland the Bank is closing twenty two branches. I know we are told that most people now bank online but many don't, particularly the elderly. For a small business that could previously lodge its takings in a bank that was a few hundred yards away a twenty five mile round trip to the nearest remaining branch does not just incur an additional cost but also adds a greater security risk. Maybe government should impose a community obligation upon Banks to force them to keep branches open even if they are not particularly profitable.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A Pheasant Hanging.

When returning from a Christmas morning perambulation last December I espied the colouration of a cock pheasant in the undergrowth no more than ten feet from the side of the road. Stepping back to try to get a better look and expecting the bird to dive deeper into the undergrowth I realised that this particular pheasant was not going to be spooked by my presence. It and one of its fellows were hanging from a low branch with a collar of orange twine joining them in their morbidity. I expect that some hunting and shooting chappie had bagged them and left them to hang for a few days before preparing them for the oven. Three days on the brace of pheasants were still swinging from their vegetative gallows. It was tempting to remove the ,"kill," from what is after all my property. Purely in the interests of tidiness as you will understand.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Andrew Alexander Watt - A Distiller's Will

Andrew Alexander Watt of Thornhill Londonderry is probably best remembered as the man who in 1921 closed the Abbey Street distillery that bore his family name. The workers had closed the gates in protest at the level of their wages. AA as he was referred to was driven to the distillery in his Rolls Royce and demanded of the men whether they were going to open the gates. They declined to do so and he informed them that the gates would accordingly remain closed for ever. Over three hundred men lost their jobs.
Very shortly after the closure of the distillery AA moved to England and set up residence at Easton Hall, Easton near Grantham in the County of Lincoln. The property was rented from the Cholmeleys a family decimated as a consequence of their service during the Great War. 
AA was to make his last will on the 18th May 1927 and he died at his residence on 11th October 1928. Probate of his will was extracted on the 8th day of November 1928. This Grant was subsequently produced in the Sheriff Court of Edinburgh and resealed in Northern Ireland. The gross value of the deceased's estate within Great Britain amounted to £904,614.3.0 and estate duty of £263,821.15.6 was paid. His estate within Northern Ireland amounted to £21,159.2.1 and estate duty of £3,294.1.3 was paid.
He appointed his sons Samuel Alexander Watt and Andrew Hubert Watt along with his friends Robert Pulsford Hart and Alexander Moore as the executors and general trustees of his will. The said two Watt brothers along with Robert Pulsford Hart and the deceased's son in law Henry Julius Joseph Stern were appointed as the Special Trustees of what was described as the Gerald Watt Fund. The executors and general trustees were each bequeathed the sum of three hundred pounds conditional upon them proving the will or acting in the trusts thereof. His guns were bequeathed to his eldest son Samuel Alexander Watt. He left his fishing rods and tackle to his son Gerald Alllingham Watt if at the time the executors were in a position to deliver same to him he was in receipt of the annuity referred to in clause 18 of the will or in the opinion of the Special Trustees fit to receive same. The balance of his personal effects were left to his Trustees upon trust to allow each of his children to select such items as they should desire. They did however have to bring into hotchpot the value of such items as against any other interest they should take under the will.
The sum of £500 was left to his sister Hester Babington and £1,000 was left to his late wife's maid Mrs Mary Gibson of Kilchoan Lodge, Kilmartin, Argyleshire. A similar sum was bequeathed to his valet Thomas Murdy. He left £100 to his private secretary and £50 to his groom, (Charles Hewardine) and his chauffeur, (Blackwell). Two hundred pounds was left to his son-in-law Henry Julius Joseph Stern provided that he acted as special trustee. The deceased's friend Robert Swan Corbett of Oakhurst Woodhay, Newbury received £300 and the aforementioned Alexander Moore was left £300 in addition to the legacy bequeathed to him as Executor and Trustee.
AA left his silver and silver plate to his eldest living son but if his sons Samuel Alexander Watt and Andrew Hubert Watt should both be alive then subject to the latter having the right to select items up to the value of £150.
The deceased's real estate was left to his trustees upon trust for his child if only one or all of his children who should be alive at the date of his death but not in equal shares. Sons were to take double the share of a daughter. A proviso to this clause states that if any of his sons should die in his lifetime leaving issue living at his death then such issue should take the share which their deceased father would have taken and if more than one then in equal shares. If however the deceased child should be a daughter then the share of AA's estate which the daughter would have taken if she had survived her father was to be retained by her trustees upon the trusts set forth in Form 7 of the Statutory Will Forms 1925 subject however to certain modifications.
If AA had not sold his property at Thornhill then he gave his eldest son, Samuel Alexander Watt the option of purchasing same together with the properties known as Silverdale, Sheepwalk Farm and Sir George's Quay for the sum of ten thousand pounds. The latter two properties were held from the  Hill family of St Columb's House. If Samuel did not avail of this option then AA's second son was granted the option in his stead.
The deceased's will goes on to say that he had transferred certain shares in The United Distilleries Limited to his eldest son and that he had settled certain stocks and shares upon the marriages of his daughters Constance and Eva Violet and his sons Andrew Hubert Watt and Gerald Allingham Watt and by a settlement dated 30th September 1910 had settled further stocks funds and investments upon each of his children save for Gerald. He stipulates that as a consequence of these gifts and settlements that the following sums should be brought into hotchpot in respect of the division of his residrary estate. As to Samuel Alexander Watt or his issue £69,496; as to Andrew Hubert Watt £64,585; as to Constance £31,000 and as to Eva Violet £31,000. So far as Gerald was concerned the provisions are somewhat more complicated but effectively the relevant sum was to be £62,700 or £2,000 more if the house known as Drumberry at Shantallow was not sold by AA in his lifetime. That was where Gerald and his wife Gladys Kathleen Watt were living in 1927.
On the 16th October 1914 Gerald was gazetted as a temporary Second Lieutenant in the infantry. In a supplement to the gazette which was published some two weeks later his commission and that of twelve other individuals were cancelled. Was this related in some way to the reasons behind his father's establishment of the Gerald Watt trust?

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Big Garden Birdwatch 2017

                           2015 2016 2017
Goldfinch                 0        0           6
House Sparrow.      13.      3.           2
Blackbird                 2 2            2
Starling                    0 3            0
Blue tit                     3 6            2
Chaffinch                 3 1            3
Great Tit                  2 2            2
Robin                       1 2            3
Coal Tit                    1 2            0
Long tailed Tit.        7 0            5
Wren                        1 0            0
Collared Dove          0.        0.           1
Magpie                     0 0            1

This is the third year I have participated the RSPB Bug Garden Birdwatch. No exotics to add a touch of excitement to the one hour vigil but overall numbers were slightly up on last year. The goldfinches rarely left the feeding station. They certainly appear to enjoy the Niger seeds. I have quite a few teasels planted around the garden and I suspect that it is these plants that are attracting in the goldfinches. A small flock of long tailed tits made a brief visit but the food on offer must not have appealed to them and they disappeared to other haunts. I have always thought of house sparrows and starlings as very common garden birds but their numbers do give a lie to that.