Monday, 31 August 2015

Mayoral Occupants

MY FASCINATION with the history of the city of Belfast's Rolls-Royce Phantom VI continues.

The following Lord Mayors enjoyed the privilege of being conveyed in that stately limousine:-

1966-69     William Duncan Geddis,
Studied at Skerries College in Belfast before becoming a clothing manufacturer; elected to the Belfast Corporation for the Ulster Unionist Party; Lord Mayor, 1966-69.
1969-72     Joseph Foster Cairns,
Managing director of a furniture retailer, and chairman of a development company; elected to the Belfast Corporation for the Ulster Unionist Party; Lord Mayor, 1969-71.
1972-75     Sir William Christie MBE JP,
Proprietor of a wallpaper company in Belfast; Lord Mayor, 1972-75. During this time his home and business were attacked several times, and his wife survived a gunshot to the head in 1972. 
His time in office coincided with the suspension of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, and he was therefore the first Lord Mayor since John White in 1920 not to serve as an ex-officio member of the NI Senate. He retired in 1977.
1975-77     Sir Myles Humphreys JP DL,
Ulster Unionist Party politician, engineer and businessman; Lord Mayor, 1975-77; chaired the NI Police Authority for a decade. Sir Myles appears to have been the last Belfast Lord Mayor to be knighted.
1977-78     James Stewart.

1978-79     David Somerville Cook,
solicitor, eventually becoming a senior partner at Sheldon and Stewart Solicitors; founder member, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland; Belfast City Councillor, 1973-85. 
In 1978, he became the first non-unionist Lord Mayor since partition (the pro-home rule Liberal, William James Pirrie, having held the post in the 1890s); Deputy Leader of the Alliance Party, 1980-84. 
The Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Down is presently Mrs Fionnuala Cook OBE DL.
First published in August, 2012. 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Strand Hotel, Portstewart

I am seeking photographs of the Strand Hotel, Portstewart, if any readers can share them with me.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Portstewart Revisited

It's a mere hop, skip and jump by car from Portballintrae in County Antrim to Portstewart in County Londonderry.

Portstewart is, perhaps, the slightly more sedate neighbour of Portrush, a mile or two along the Causeway Coast.

I parked on the Promenade and proceeded to walk to the main beach, viz. Portstewart Strand, a property of the National Trust.

En route, I passed the site (top) of the Strand Hotel.

Do any readers possess photographs of the Strand Hotel, by the way?

The site is directly opposite the golf links. The hotel was demolished about 1991, I gather.

My parents stayed there in 1958; and We Three stayed there six years later, in 1964, when I was four.

The original steps down to the beach remain, however.

Across the beach is Harry's Shack, a new beach restaurant which has become very well established.

The ecological roof is notable.

Portballintrae: III

I motored the short distance from Portballintrae to Portrush yesterday evening, in order to have some grub at the legendary Ramore wine-bar, at Portrush harbour, County Antrim.

Be advised that parking is difficult here, though, having driven round the block twice, I was fortunate enough to drive into a space somebody was just vacating.

The wine bar was as busy - buzzing - as ever.

I was shown to a high table and stool within five minutes, though.

Their system is proven and works very well: one is shown to a table; given a menu; order up at the bar counter; provide table number and pay.

Thereafter you wait until your name or number is called.

I had the Seafood Thermidor, comprising a kind of luxurious fish-pie of lobster, cod, prawns, turbot etc, with piped potato and tomato slices on a rich lobster Thermidor sauce.

It was sumptuous and filling; no need for any side orders.

In fact, I was so satisfied afterwards that I had no room for the tempting puddings on offer.

Had I not been dining solo, I could have shared a dessert.

What a remarkable establishment Ramore is.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Portballintrae: II

The roof was firmly attached to the Belmont two-seater this morning for my visit to Portrush, the popular seaside resort on the County Antrim coast.

I parked at the East Strand car-park and thereafter walked towards the town centre.

I enjoyed a pot of tea in The White House department store on the main street.

This compact store has a very good culinary department on the ground floor; and their café is renowned for its high standards.

I also paid a brief visit the Holy Trinity parish church, just across the road, which dates from about 1842.

Portrush was, unsurprisingly, quiet today due to particularly heavy rain.

I was brandishing the holiday umbrella.

This afternoon I'm installed comfortably in the Bushmills Inn, having a quiet alcohol-free lager and about to peruse my Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Portballintrae: I

The little seaside resort of Portballintrae is as popular as ever.

It lies on the north coast of County Antrim, about a mile from Bushmills.

After I'd unpacked, I felt like paying my old acquaintance, Con Auld, a visit.

During the summer months he lives at his Portbradden home (top).

His tiny church, St Gobban's, was closed, so unfortunately he wasn't at home.

I'm presently in the Causeway Hotel, where I've had a light meal.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Belan House


It is said that the family of STRATFORD can be traced from the time of ALFRED THE GREAT; but our account shall commence in 1660 with

ROBERT STRATFORD, a younger branch of the house of MEREVALE, and the first who settled in Ireland, one of the original burgesses in the charter constituting Baltinglass a borough.

He represented County Wicklow in parliament and, in 1662, married a daughter of Oliver Walsh, of Ballykilcavan, Queen's County, by whom he had issue,
EDWARD, his successor;
Francis, Consul at Bordeaux, dsp;
Grace; Mary; Elizabeth; Abigail; Jane; Anne; Catherine.
Mr Stratford was succeeded by his elder son,

EDWARD STRATFORD (1664-), who purchased Great Belan, and other lands in County Kildare, from the Viscount Fitzhardinge.

This gentleman was a staunch supporter of the Revolution, and entertained WILLIAM III at Belan.

He married Elizabeth, daughter of Euseby Baisley, of Ricketstown, County Carlow, and had, with a daughter,
JOHN, of whom presently.
The youngest son,

JOHN STRATFORD (c1691-1777), MP for Baltinglass in the reigns of the first three GEORGES, was raised to the peerage, in 1763, by the title of Baron Baltinglass; and advanced to a viscountcy, in 1776, Viscount Aldborough.

His lordship was further advanced, in 1777, to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF ALDBOROUGH, and Viscount Amiens.

He married Martha, daughter and co-heir of the Ven Benjamin O'Neale, Archdeacon of Leighlin, by whom he had six sons and nine daughters.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDWARD, 2nd Earl (1736-1801), who espoused firstly, Barbara, daughter of the Hon Nicholas Herbert, of Great Glemham, in Suffolk; and secondly, in 1788, Elizabeth, only daughter 1st Baron Henniker; but had no issue.

He was succeeded by his brother,

JOHN, 3rd Earl (1740-1823), who wedded, in 1777, Elizabeth, daughter of the Hon and Rev Frederick Hamilton, and great-granddaughter of William, 3rd Duke of Hamilton; by whom he had three daughters,
His lordship was succeeded by his brother,

BENJAMIN O'NEALE, 4th Earl (1746-1833), who married, in 1774, Martha, only child and heiress of John Burton, and niece and heiress of Mason Gerard.

By this lady his lordship had one son and two daughters, viz.
MASON GERARD, his successor;
Eliza; Sophia.
His lordship was succeeded by his only son,

MASON GERARD, 5th Earl (1784-1849), who wedded, in 1804 (divorced 1826) Cornelia Jane, a daughter of Charles Henry Tandy, of Waterford.

He was succeeded by his only son,

BENJAMIN O'NEALE, 6th and last Earl (1808-75), a captain in the 15th Light Dragoons.

Following the decease of the 6th Earl at Alicante, Spain, unmarried, the titles expired.

photo credit: The National Trust 

BELAN HOUSE, near Ballitore, County Kildare, was said to have been one of the biggest 18th century gable-ended houses in Ireland

It was built in 1743 for the 1st Earl of Aldborough by Richard Castle, in collaboration with Francis Bindon.

Belan comprised three storeys; an eleven-bay front; three centre bays and the two outer bays breaking forward.

A central Venetian window was above the tripartite doorway.

The roof parapet had recessed panelling and urns.

There was also an elegant stable block; and a domed Doric rotunda in the park.

Belan House remained intact, though inhabitable, until 1837, when the family left owing to impecunious circumstances.

During the lifetime of the 4th Earl, owing to his reckless gambling and extravagant mode of living, the property became heavily mortgaged.

After 1823, the estate became neglected.
During Lord Aldborough's absence abroad, it is said that the family lawyer, a man named Lewis, illegally obtained a long lease of Belan and, together with a friend of his named Mercer, brought about the dismantlement of the house and demesne by gradually auctioning off every stick and stone they could move.
The cut-stone work of the parapet and other parts of the house were sold, and used in the erection of public buildings in Athy; the furniture and chimney pieces were parted with, and the statuary in the grounds suffered a similar fate; the doors and shutters are said to have been used for flooring the stable lofts at Newtown House, near Bolton Castle.

For miles around there is hardly a place which does not possess some fragments of Belan's former grandeur.

At Bolton Castle, in the garden, is a block of composite, bearing the Aldborough crest.

The great iron gates within view of the hall door at Carton House originally hung at the Belan gate lodge.

The only trace now showing the extent of Belan demesne in former times are three stone obelisks.

ALDBOROUGH HOUSE is amongst the most important surviving historic houses in Dublin.

Located on Portland Row, it was the last great mansion to be built in Dublin city during the second half of the 18th century.

Aldborough House was built in 1796 by Edward, 2nd Earl of Aldborough, from whom Aldborough Place, Amiens Street and Stratford Row receive their names.

Stratford House was the family's town residence in London.

STRATFORD HOUSE, Stratford Place, London, is now the premises of the Oriental Club.

The building was constructed in the 1770s for the 2nd Earl, who paid £4,000 for the site (formerly occupied by the Lord Mayor of London's Banqueting House) along with the Robert Adam-inspired building.

The House was variously remoulded over the years with new plumbing and a second storey on the east and west wings in the 1890s.

However it was in 1908 when Lord Derby bought the lease that the most extensive alterations were set in motion.

He purchased additional property in Marylebone Lane, removed the stables and built a Banqueting Hall with a grand ballroom above (the last privately owned ballroom to be built in this country).

It was a spectacular room of Italian design which was converted when the house was acquired by the Oriental Club.

When Stratford House was purchased by the Oriental Club in 1960, it was necessary to make certain alterations, as the needs of a Club were different to those of a town house of the nobility.

The ballroom was converted into two floors of bedrooms, additional lifts were installed and alterations to the Banqueting Hall were made, which is now the Dining Room.

The recent addition of eight new bedrooms continues the Oriental Club's tradition of providing a welcoming and comfortable home-from-home for its Members in the centre of London.

First published in August, 2013.   Aldborough arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Rowallane Walk

I went for a walk in Rowallane Gardens this morning.

The National Trust in Northern Ireland has its regional offices here.

St John's Wort

Rowallane Gardens are beside Saintfield, County Down.

The herb & salad garden

The gardens were truly beautiful this morning. They really are a gardener's paradise.

A heavy dew remained on the lawns and the woods were captivating.

There is a pottery here; and the café is on the ground floor in Rowallane House, former residence of the Armytage-Moore family.

The bell-tower in the stable-yard has the crest of the Moores, a Moor's head.

I have written a bit about the Moores of Rowallane here.

I encountered Mike, one of the administration staff, on my way back to the car, and he brought me up to date with developments on the demesne.

Mural plaque on the House

There is a little second-hand bookshop at one corner of the stable-yard.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Divis Ramble

Last night I had a pal round for dinner.

The main dish was Tortiglioni pasta casserole, with thickly-sliced sourdough garlic bread and a rich salad comprising radishes, red onion, gherkin, baby plum tomatoes and lettuce.

I made a fresh basil and garlic vinaigrette dressing with a pestle and mortar.

Despite the abundant red wine, I still managed to rise after eight this morning.

Having cleared up the dishes in the kitchen, I fancied an invigorating walk in the Belfast Hills, viz. the Ridge Walk at the National Trust's Divis and Black Mountain property.

When I arrived it was a little surprising to see so many cars at the site; dozens, in fact.

The car-park was full so the narrow road was lined with parked cars.

I had a lovely walk along the Ridge Path, passing the mighty broadcasting transmitters.

The prospect here is spectacular, with panoramic views of greater Belfast and its lough.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Orlock Visit

I motored down the County Down coast today towards Groomsport.

Parking on a lay-by near Orlock Point, I strolled along the coast for about half an hour.

It's quite picturesque here: the Copeland Islands were clearly visible today.

Looking inland, there is an ugly structure of some sort on top of the hill beside Portavo Reservoir.

This building ought not to have been granted planning permission in its current form: at least it could have been camouflaged in some way, or made less conspicuous.

It is a blot on the landscape.

I drove further along the coast to the little village of Groomsport, where there was a folk group playing at Cockle Row cottages.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Mount Stewart Visit

I paid a brief visit to Mount Stewart estate this afternoon.

I donned the wellington boots and went for a walk to the Rose Garden.

This part of the demesne is awaiting restoration, including the Dairy, the Vinery, the Rose Garden and the walled garden itself.

I could hear a brood of juvenile swallows in one of the outbuildings.

This splendid demesne is a property of the National Trust.

The gardens are superb.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

S D Bell's

I met for tea at that venerable institution in the city of Belfast, S D Bell & Company, purveyors of the finest tea and coffee.

They have extended their premises quite recently to include the other units beside them.

One enters by a wide, electric door, and the heavenly aroma of freshly-roasted coffee beans beckons visitors and patrons.

My aunt had been away for awhile, so this was an opportunity for a good old chin-wag.

S D Bell's serve freshly-cooked breakfast, artisan tea and coffee, scones and cakes in the morning.

I had the fruit scone with butter and raspberry jam, and a pot of their blended Director's Brew, which was a very good flavour indeed.

Before we left, I bought a packet of Lady Londonderry's blend and couldn't resist the Lion's fruit pastilles, either.