Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Are you a galanthophile? If you are, you are now a very happy gardener. This is your time of year. The pristine flowers of your plant of choice are now decorating our gardens. It is snowdrop time. What used to be called Candlemas bells are now in their season.

The bulk of our snowdrops are now coming into full flower, kicking at the traces of winter. For most of us, (self included), they all look much the same, - small white flowers with a green stamen. That however is sacrilege to the avid grower of these little bulbous plants. Since the turn of the century over fifteen hundred cultivars of this small flower have been developed. At ground level, and that's where you have to get to fully appreciate the snowdrop's fluorescence, you do begin to see what the galanthobores, (sorry galanthophiles) see. There are singles and there are double flowers and the markings do vary between the many species, hybrids and cultivars. 

As with most flowers I think that it is only with large swathes that you get the full benefit of their scenic impact.

Garlic Dawn

It was last week when the snow was still covering the vegetable patch that I noticed that my late autumn planted garlic had decided to brave life above ground. There are a few, "no shows," but most of the cloves which I planted are now pushing their green shoots through the ground, avidly seeking the lengthening daylight hours. With the snow having melted away to be replaced by almost incessant rain, the shoots are perhaps not quite so obvious this week. It is good to see these first signs of growth in the vegetable garden.

The next vegetable harbingers of spring will probably be the chives and the rhubarb plants. I have often been tempted to force a crown of rhubarb. I am told that the forced early sticks of rhubarb are particularly sweet. The Victorian gardener was extremely keen on forced rhubarb and developed ceramic forcers for the task. Replicas of these nineteenth century horticultural artefacts can still be purchased. They do look the part, but an old metal bucket probably does the same job at no expense. It just looks a bit, well - untidy I suppose.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Sammy Wilson Upset at Underspend!

I see that the Northern Ireland Finance Minister, Samuel Wilson, (aka Sammy), is reported by the BBC as having criticised his ministerial colleagues because of the amount of unspent public money that they have returned to him. Apparently he has received back £42.3m. Should he find this a disappointing result? I think not. Perhaps Sammy should be reminded of Mr. Micaber's advice to David Copperfield.

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six pence, result misery. The bloom is blighted, the leaf is withered ...." Charles Dickens

What I find even more surprising is that Sammy is reallocating this underspend. Why do that? Is that a sensible thing to do when we are on the brink of a triple dip recession? Clearly we have managed to achieve an excess of income over expenditure. That is something that should be applauded. The monies should NOT be reallocated. They should not be spent. They should be used to reduce the government's borrowings. That is common budgetary sense. What is sensible for the family is sensible for Sammy. Politicians should stop pandering to an electorate they hope will re-elect them and take decisions which are correct for the nation and the finances of the nation.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Birdwatch 2013 - Birds Keeping Dry

This was the weekend of the RSPB's Birdwatch. The aim of this annual exercise is to gain information on the spread and population of the different bird species that frequent our gardens and parks. You are requested to record the highest number of each bird species you see at the same time over the course of an hour. I was out on manoeuvres most of yesterday, but I decided to allocate the obligatory hour to the task just after today's lunch.

The weather did not augur well for my mini survey. Rain was falling as I commenced my viewing and continued to do so throughout the hour. The birds seemed to have decided that they did not want wet feathers and even the attraction of free food at the bird feeder was not bringing many of our feathered friends out into the wet and cold. I suppose that I should have tramped around the garden as well as checking on the visitors to the bird feeder, but I decided to remain indoors for my vigil.

I cannot remember exactly what species and numbers I recorded last year ,but my impression is that there was both a greater variety and greater numbers. That said I do think that the weather had a big affect on today's sightings. My recordings were as follows:-
  • Blackbird 2
  • Blue Tit 4
  • Chaffinch 6
  • Collared Dove 3
  • Great Tit 3
  • Greenfinch 1
  • House Sparrow 6
  • Long Tailed Tit 6
  • Robin 2

Friday, 25 January 2013

Shrinking Bank of Ireland Network

Another week. Another announcement from a Bank that it would be closing branches. This week it was the Bank of Ireland which wielded the cutting blade. It has decided that nine of its Northern Ireland branches need to be pruned. This will reduce its branch network here from 44 to 35, a twenty percent reduction. The closing branches apparently represent seven percent of the bank's business across Northern Ireland. Two of the branches facing closure are in Londonderry. The remaining branches are Ballyclare; Ballymoney; Carrickfergus; kilkeel; kilrea; Larne and Rathfriland.

I suppose I should declare an interest in this matter in that I do have an account with the Bank of Ireland although it is dormant.

Presumably the Bank of Ireland branches which are closing are the least profitable branches, but there are always going to be some offices which are less profitable than others. If one continues with a policy of closing the least profitable branches you end up with one branch. Is that what the Banks are aiming for? I suspect that it might be, They all want us to convert to Internet banking. They would like to kill off the cheque. They don't really want the small personal customer unless they can sell some product to him or her.

The closure of a rural bank branch is like the closure of a school or a post office. It hits at the very existence of the community. It reduces the independence and self sufficiency of the village or small town. In pure economic terms it may presently make sense for the Bank of Ireland and its ilk to close branches, but they are cutting away at what remains of their goodwill. It does seem rather inequitable that the steady branches should be closing because of the huge Bank losses engendered by the corporate divisions of our banks.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Cold Run at the Port

It was tempting not to go for a run today. The cold weather was prompting me to stay indoors and succumb to warm laziness. I did however manage to ignore these sensible notions of middle age. My only nod to common sense was to drive to the coast for my run. I viewed that that there wouldn't be as much ice on the coastal roads and footpaths.


Portrush was the venue for my expenditure of calories. The footpaths were not entirely free of ice so most of my run was on road. The tide was in so that put paid to a gallop along East Strand.


There were quite a few people out running. What surprised me was the skimpiness of their attire. None of them were wearing running tights or tracksuit bottoms and most of them had declined the advantages of gloves and beanie hats. Silly people! Shorts and a running vest when it is peppering freezing point is not a sensible ensemble.


My grumbling hip has been slightly better over the past few weeks so I was able to tramp on at an acceptable pace for my hour of exercise. I tried not to look at my Garmin too often during the course of the hour. It is easy to become competitive and try to push yourself on a non-session day. My average pace was 7.15 per mile. My coach recommends that we work off kilometres rather than miles but speeds and distances in Franco- German speak just don't mean anything to me and I can't make comparisons.


Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Winter White Carpet

I was congratulating myself last night that mine was a small corner of Northern Ireland that was going to avoid the January snow. Sitting, smugly and snugly, in front of my wood burner I watched the snowy scenes on the television screen, commiserating with the poor schmucks battling through the wintry conditions. I went to bed confident that this winter blast had passed me by.

When I woke up this morning I should have had some suspicions that my previous night's confidence was going to be shattered. It is always fairly quiet in the country, but this morning the quietness was muffled. A car passed by but it was a dull controlled sound. When I drew back the bedroom curtains and folded back the shutters the scene was different from that of the previous day. The grass, drive and road had disappeared under a carpet of snow. The meteorological gods had decided that I should not miss out on their snowy beneficence.

I suppose snow can add something to the winter scenery as long as you do not have to go out in it. For me the attractions of the winter wonderland pale very quickly when presented with the difficulties of moving about when the white peril floats down from the sky.

Thankfully no further snow fell during the day and most of the local roads are now a reassuring black colour. Roll on spring.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Tax Man Cometh

It is that time of year again. The deadline for submitting one's tax return and paying the first moiety of any tax due is looming. For most of the year the 31st January deadline seems so far in the distance that one can conveniently ignore it. Come January however the deadline is definitely in the car headlights. It cannot be ignored any longer, unless one wants to make a present of at least £100 to the government's coffers.


I have to concede that I am not very good at ensuring that my tax return is submitted in good time. This year I managed to have it winged off to the Revenue by 17th January. Congratulations I hear you shout. It's not that my tax affairs are very complicated. They aren't. I don't even have any tax to send off. In fact last year the Chancellor's tax collectors had to send me a small refund. It's just the hassle of collating the relevant information.


Last January I promised myself that I would be more assiduous in this annual task. It was a new year's resolution that I was going to keep. But you can't do anything until the beginning of the new tax year. So a couple of months pass by and by then January's panic has almost been forgotten. The summer beckons and you keep putting the task off.


I have told myself that this year will be different. This will be the year that I will have my tax return submitted before midsummer's day.


Sunday, 20 January 2013

City of Culture - The Opening Concert

Tonight saw the opening concert of Londonderry's much vaunted year as the United Kingdom's City of Culture. Somewhat against my better judgment I watched this event on the BBC's red button. I would have thought that the organisers would have wanted this concert to have been a slick and professional taster for the year to come. Maybe that's how it came across live, but that was not the impression give by the televised version. The male presenter, one James Nesbitt by name, seemed extremely bored by the whole event, but maybe he had succeeded in discovering the mood of the assemblage. Either that or it was his finely honed laconic style.

The name given to this concert was, "Sons and daughters." We were to see those of the City who had, "made good," in the world of entertainment. Some of the sons and daughters turned out to be more grandpa and granny. Phil Coulter just about got away with it, but Ireland's 1970 Eurovision Song Contest winner, the former Miss Brown, aka, "Dana." provided her audience with a very weak performance from a matronly erstwhile politician trying to relive her glory year. It was embarrassing to watch and listen to.

The most professional of the artists who tramped the stage this evening were, I believe, Neil Hannon and Damian McGinty. The latter was particularly self assured. He might not be as good a runner as either his father or his brother Emmet, but he is probably a better singer.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Ballymacool House, Letterkenny - A Name and Arms Clause

Grant of Arms to William Henry Porter d 1st June 1891
Ballymacool House and its surrounding estate was purchased by John Boyd in 1798. It then passed to his son, also John Boyd, a barrister by profession. Upon his death in 1836 the property passed to his son John Robert Boyd who died on 30th March 1891 without issue. The Estate then passed to the latter's nephew, William Henry Porter, but conditional upon him taking the name and arms of the Boyd family.

Such testamentary clauses would not have been unfamiliar to the nineteenth century solicitor. As with the strict settlement such devices had as their aim the retention of land within the family. Unfortunately the estate passed out of the Boyd family in 1941. The purchasers, Kelly by name, sold off a lot of the timber and disposed of the property for development in the mid 1980's.

The Grant of Arms in favour of William Henry Porter DL, JP, (pictured above), confirms that he and his issue, "may take and henceforth use the surname of Boyd and instead of that of Porter and bear the Arms, Crest and Motto of Boyd.' It is signed and sealed by Sir John Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms and Knight Attendant on the Illustrious Order of St Patrick.

An interesting, "by the by," is that one of the Boyd family, one Patti Boyd, married George Harrison and subsequently Eric Clapton.
Case for the Grant of Arms

Friday, 18 January 2013

Gywn's Charitable Institution

Gate Lodge to Brooke Park, Londonderry
Those inhabitants of Londonderry who are of a certain age - probably over fifty- will remember the imposing Gwyn's Institution in Brooke Park with its classical portico. Who was the individual who gave his name to this building? It is named after a Mr. John Gwyn who was born in Muff, Co. Donegal.

This gentleman died on 1st August 1829 having made his last will on 16th May 1818 with a codicil dated 21st May 1824. He left the bulk of his estate, something over £40,000 (more than £4,000,000 today) for, "as many male children of the poor,or lowest class of society, resident in, and belonging to the city of Londonderry, and the precincts around the same, as hereafter described, as the said funds will feed, clothe and educate - orphans, or such children as have lost one of their parents, always to be preferred." He defined , "the precincts," as being the North West Liberties together with the village of Muff and a circuit of a mile around it, but went on to make provision for including the Waterside area of the City when funds permitted.

The 1824 codicil contained an expression of wish by the Testator to the effect that he would like the funds left by his will to accumulate to the sum of £50,000 before a school was established. As created the trust had a total of twenty one trustees. Due to the number of orphans resulting from the cholera epidemic of 1832 the trustees deemed it expedient to open a school without any further delay. The school therefore opened on 1st April 1833 in rented property in Shipquay Street which had previously been an hotel. By 1835 a total of 81 boys were being cared for.

Gwyn had been born into the Established Church although he subsequently became a Presbyterian. His will did not however limit the benefits of his bequest to any denomination. Of the 81 pupils in 1835, 10 were Church of Ireland, 28 were Presbyterian and 43 were Roman Catholic. He did however provide that the teachers should be, "Protestants or Protestant Dissenters."

So that a more permanent home could be achieved for the school a ten acre site was purchased by the Trustees for the sum of £200, but the construction of a building was postponed in the hope that the Bishop's Palace could be acquired. This did not come to fruition and accordingly Gwyn's Institution was constructed on the aforesaid site which we now know as Brooke Park. The aim was to cater for upwards of 200 boys.

Ultimately, in 1891, in accordance with a Scheme determined by the Educational Endowments Commission, the Trustees adopted a boarding out system and the building and grounds were sold to the Trustees of the Brooke Estate who subsequently handed them over to the Londonderry Corporation.

Gwyn's testamentary benevolence still benefits the City. The Young Charity, ( which benefited girls) was incorporated into the Gwyn's scheme and the The Gwyn and Young Endowments was thus created. Unfortunately the capital sum left by Gwyn does not appear to have kept pace with inflation. The, "deemed charity," list indicates assets between £100,000 and £500,000.

Sources: Londonderry Borough Directory; Colby's Ordnance Survey 1837

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Horsemeat - The Combi Burger Answer

I wonder if Tesco, Iceland, Aldi et all are missing a nifty marketing trick regarding the beef/horsemeat/pork burgers which have been discovered by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland?

Granted the labelling might have been wrong, but we are being assured that these gourmet delicacies are no threat to human health. So why not now formally launch the Great British Combi Burger?

I can almost see Daisy, Dobbin and Perky staring up at me from the tasteful packaging, their little eyelashes frozen in grateful pose, thanking us the lucky purchasers for permitting them to die together.

Think of the savings that would result. There would be no need to give the machinery at the processing plants a thorough clean between different meat batches, because every batch would be made up of mixed meats. Get everyone to partake of Combi Burgers and the manufacturers and retailers don't have to have separate advertising budgets for different types of burgers. Even the farmers would be winners. The poultry farmer would no longer have to compete against the beef farmer or the pig farmer.

Strange isn't it that until the Irish Food Safety Authority made its findings public that no one had complained about the taste of their burgers?  Clearly our taste buds are not overly developed and we need to be told what we are eating and obviously we all read through the ingredients list before buying cooking and eating food.

Having eaten horse meat in France I must say it is quite palatable. If the Combi Burger doesn't take off then maybe some Dragon's Den wannabe will bring the equine burger to market. Nay I hear you say.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Great Northern

Northern Ireland's railway network may not have had the dubious benefits of Richard Beeching's recommendations, but in common with Britain, Northern Ireland's network, (a rather grand term in the circumstances), has been severely pruned.

In the heyday of railways Londonderry had four lines running into the City. Of these all but what was the LMS line (London Midland & Scottish), have disappeared. Services on that line commenced as long ago as 1852.

I am not old enough to have seen all four lines in operation, but I do have quite vivid memories of the Great Northern Railway line at the City end of the Craigavon Bridge with its bustling Station. The Great Northern Railway Company Ireland was formed in 1876 with the merger of the Irish North Western Railway ; the Northern Railway of Ireland and the Ulster Railway. The Foyle Road station closed its doors in 1965. It did not therefore have to suffer the ignominy of welcoming diesel and electric trains.

In common with most if not all the myriad of railways which were established during the nineteenth century the, "GNR," raised funds by the issue of shares or stock. The photograph at the head of this post is of a certificate issued in 1899 in respect of a holding of its four percent preference stock.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Orchard and Nuttery

I have decided to establish a small orchard and nuttery. The ground which I have determined upon for this venture is adjacent to the vegetable patch and forms portion of what was once a ménage, so unfortunately there isn't much depth of soil.

For the last seventeen years or so it has been little more than a piece of waste ground. Bonfires have been assembled and burnt on it and piles of stones and heaps of sand and gravel have been dumped there. Of more relevance to the task ahead is that some birch, ash and willow trees have established themselves as have several patches of brambles. A veritable little covert.

The task that now awaits is to tame this wilderness area. I think that I will probably have enough room for about sixteen or eighteen trees.

Being realistic about the amount of work involved and taking account of the other gardening tasks that will need my attention, I think that it might be sensible to aim for getting a third or at best half of the ground under cultivation this year with the balance then pencilled in for the following year. Anyhows as the notion was upon me I made a start on the clearance yesterday. I managed to dig out four rogue saplings, a birch and three ash. No signs of ash die back yet.

To be continued.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Starbucks Proposal for Montmartre

It is reported that Starbucks are intending to extend their French operation by opening an outlet at Place du Tertre. I wonder if they are hoping that this will earn some of the money they are now going to pay the British Exchequer on a voluntary basis?

It does seem sad that this American giant should be opening in a Parisian quarter which caters so well for the tourist as well as its locals. Will the Starbuck's experience benefit the ambiance of the area? I do not think so. It will be extremely incongruous to see the Starbucks signage behind the street artists in this cobbled square. I cannot imagine that the local shopkeepers will favour this proposed infiltration of their territory.

I do not like clone towns within a country and equally I do not want clone cities spread across Europe at the instigation of pan national corporations. Maybe it is time for national identity to be fostered and for protectionism to come to the fore. Vive la difference! Say ,"Non," to Starbucks?

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Belfast & County Down Railway Company

The Belfast & County Down Railway Company was incorporated on 26th June 1846 and continued in operation until it was subsumed into the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA) in September 1948. At its peak it controlled eighty miles of line. The first section of line that was constructed was between Belfast and Holywood and it saw its first passengers on 2nd August 1848. Ultimately this line extended to Bangor. The railway's main line ran from Belfast to Newcastle. There were also branch lines to Ardglass, Ballynahinch and Ardglass. At one stage the Company operated a paddle steamer as well as buses.

The Belfast Holywood & Bangor Railway Company (BHB) was established in 1865. The Belfast & County Down Railway Company was experiencing financial pressures and as a consequence sold the Belfast - Holywood line to the BHB. However it was not long before the BHB also started to experience financial problems and in 1884 as a consequence of an Act of Parliament all the assets of the BHB were transferred to the Belfast & County Down Railway Company. The Debenture stock reflected in the certificate pictured here was issued consequent upon the 1884 Act. The Stock was charged upon the assets of the then defunct BHB.

Friday, 11 January 2013

An Edwardian Headmaster - Notes on Robert Foster Dill BA (Oxon)

Robert Foster Dill was appointed headmaster of Foyle College in 1911 in succession to John C. Dick. This was not however his first head-mastership. He had been the headmaster of Royal School Dungannon from 1892. The fortunes of the latter school appear to have been languishing somewhat at that stage. Indeed there are reports suggesting that, "Dungannon," was closed for a short period. There were thirty eight day boys at the time of Dill's appointment to the Dungannon headship.

With his move to Londonderry Dill was moving closer to the area where his forebears had settled at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Fannet Peninsula in Co. Donegal. The family is of Dutch descent.

Robert Foster Dill was not the first of his family to be involved in education. An elder brother, Sir Samuel Marcus Dill, had been appointed High Master of Manchester Grammar School in 1877 and their father Rev. Samuel Marcus Dill was the first President of Magee College in Londonderry. The latter gentleman's surname is remembered in "Dill Park," Londonderry. Teaching and the Presbyterian Church seem to have been the professions of choice for this family.

Dill's years at Foyle were years of international and national strife which impacted on the life of the school and City. The Great War would bring back reports of Old Boys having died at the Front and the years that followed were marred by one of those periods in the history of the island of Ireland when commentators refer to, "the Troubles', and which would lead to Partition.

Born in 1859, it was only in 1912, (9th July), that Dill married. His wife was Evelyn Mary Whitehead, daughter of a George Whitehead. They did not have any children.

He is described as being a proponent of a liberal or rounded education and is reported as realising that, "an unexercised and undeveloped body meant an intellect less keen than might be, a character stunted, and a personality impoverished."

Some years after his retirement, in 1945, Dill was elected President of Foyle College Old Boys Association. He was to pass away on 12th February 1947.

Sources: The Peerage; Our School Times

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A Classic Reading Group

I paddled off to my local book club this afternoon. This month's read was Thackery's, "Vanity Fair." Everyone seemed to have enjoyed this book of manners in Regency Britain.

There was much discussion as to the relative merits of the two principal female characters, Rebecca Sharp and Amelia Sedley. The gentlemen of the group were of the view that Rebecca was the girl to go out with for the night, but that Amelia was good wife material to have waiting at home. The females of the group purported to be aghast at this view (one could almost see the fluttering fans!), but the red blooded males were adamant in their views. Rebecca was vivacious, albeit a scheming hussy, and Amelia was rather insipid.

The notes to classic novels can often provide interesting historical snippets. One of our number adverted to the reference to the Red (Blood) Hand of Ulster. Apparently every Baronet is entited to have the "Red Hand" in their coat of arms in reflection of the reason for the creation of the baronetage, namely the provision of soldiers to fight in Ulster.

Vanity Fair was a long read but we now have to read the 1082 pages of, The Count of Monte Cristo, by 5th February. I suspect that this will not be as easy a read.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Evening Run.

My usual compadres did not turn up for training tonight. I gave them ten or so minutes in case they were delayed by traffic, but to no avail. It was getting cooler and the temptation was to just drive home, but the guilt of not training was something that could not be ignored.

I drove to a better lit venue which tends to be frequented by some club members, hoping that I would come upon someone to train with. There was no one present when I arrived so I decided to just do an hour of steady running by myself.

Some twenty five minutes into my run I was passing my car when I espied that a fellow club member and near contemporary had arrived. He also was missing his usual training partners. After another twenty minutes running to allow him to warm up we started into a session of four hundred metre efforts, (8 x 400m with 60s between efforts). As a cross country and road runner he regarded this as a speed session.

I can't say that there was no training affect from the session ,but I certainly found it comfortable, running alongside my doctor friend. We averaged 76s. He had the grace to remark afterwards that he had noticed that I was not breathing heavily during the runs whereas he was blowing quite a bit. A matter of horses for courses really. A six mile cross country race would see me struggling in his wake.

We concluded our training with a twenty minute warm down.

Ailments of a Horseless Carriage.

My trusty automotive steed has again displayed its age and decreasing reliability. I have had to call upon the local vehicle vet to investigate its current ailment and prescribe the necessary restorative treatment.

The symptoms were obvious enough, a red light proclaiming that, "brake fluid was low." I had the reservoir topped up but to no avail. Ten days later the same warning message appeared. My very limited knowledge of the internal workings of a car suggested that new brake pads might be required, but this was not to be the diagnosis. What old Dobbin needs is a new brake calliper.

I have more or less decided that I won't be putting Dobbin through the traumas of its next MOT ,but as a new mount is not yet ready ,and as brakes are not an optional extra on a car, I am going to have to spend a few shekels on some restorative work so as to keep the steed on the road for the next few months. Some small recompense for the faithful dumb friend.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Gender Balance for Street Names!

I would like to think that I was not the only person who read the article in Saturday's Daily Telegraph concerning the naming of streets in the Torfaen Council area of Wales and thought that this was another example of political correctness gone mad.

It appears that a Labour Councillor by the name of Jessica Powell has stated that, "women are under-represented in street names," and that there needs to be gender balancing when new streets are named. Apparently this is now to become official policy for Torfaen Council!

I feel confident, (I don't think), that the electorate of Torfaen must be sleeping much more soundly in their beds knowing that their Council has decided to adopt this so progressive policy. But wait! Have the councillors not forgotten something or rather some persons? What about those of the population who are intersex individuals, or of indeterminate gender, or those in the process of a gender change? Think how upset they will feel if they cannot see street names that reflect their definition of their gender. Maybe we need quotas and maybe these quotas should also take account of ethnic origin as well. After all we do have to be politically correct, - don't we?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Government Debt - How Secure?

The global financial uncertainty has caused many people to put their savings into National Savings products due to the government backed guarantee which they attract. This is not limited to the £85,000 personal and small business limit which applies to Banks and Building Societies.

It should of course be remembered that any guarantee is just as good as the person or institution giving the guarantee. A state backed guarantee is not necessarily an absolute guarantee. If one looks back to the early years of the twentieth century, Imperial Russia was raising huge sums of money in an attempt to prop up its economy. The 1913, 4.5% Bond Loan for the Armavir-Touapse Railway Company (see photo) came with, "the absolute guarantee of the Imperial Russian Government." That was of little solace to investors in 1917 when there was a repudiation of Czar - era debt. Still the colourful engraved share certificates now provide cheap wall furniture.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Three Die in Carrigans

Dunmore House January 2013

There is a forthcoming 5k race at Carrigans in Co. Donegal so I decided to go and look at the course on Thursday afternoon. I don't think that I am doing the village a disservice by saying that it is a quiet place. Seventy four years ago, in 1938, that quietude was shattered in the most tragic of circumstances on the afternoon of Saturday 24th September.

The venue for the fatalities was Dunmore House, the ,"Big House," of the village, which belonged to Col. Robert Lyle McClintock, a career soldier and a veteran of the Niger Expeditionary Force; the Boer War and the Great War. He and his wife the former Jennie Margaret Casson-Walker had one child, a son, William. Like his father before him he was educated at Wellington College before being commissioned into the Army.
William was a keen horseman and in April 1938 he took part in the Royal Artillery Gold Cup Race at Sandown Park. He fell and unfortunately his mount fell on top of him. He was paralysed from just below the shoulders.

Shortly before this accident he had become engaged to a Miss Helen Macworth and was to have been married to her in June of that year. Due to the accident this had to be postponed. After a period of convalescence at King Edward VII Hospital William was brought home to Carrigans accompanied by Miss Macworth and two private nurses who had been engaged to look after him.

It was eventually determined that the wedding should occur at Dunmore House on Monday 26th September. On the preceding Saturday William was carried into the garden. His mother took him out his lunch. Shortly before two o'clock his father left the house to take him certain medicines. He was to find his son dead, with the top of his head blown away. One of the nurses, Dorothy Trotter seems to have taken control of the whole ghastly situation. She told the Colonel to have the gardeners come to assist in moving William's body to his bedroom and for him to go to collect the local doctor. She then broke the news to Miss Macworth before starting to search for Mrs McClintock in the company of one of the maids.

They soon found her body. She had shot herself under the chin with the murder weapon. The force of the blast was such that Miss Trotter reports that Mrs McClintock's head had been severed from the torso and was hanging in the tree occupied by the rookery. The birds were pulling at the hair. This macabre vignette unsurprisingly caused the maid to faint. She had just come round when the second housemaid came running with the news that, " Miss Helen has done it now." She was found in Williams room, unconscious and fatally wounded. She had shot herself with William's rifle.

The funeral for the mother, son and bride to be took place on 27th September the day of the intended wedding. Miss Macworth was buried in her wedding dress. The officiating clergyman, Rev David Kelly concluded that,"This was a tragedy. A triumph of love. The bond of love was stronger than the thread of life."

Friday, 4 January 2013

Tragedy on St Columb's Cathedral Choir Outing

The year was 1889. The date was 29th June. Foyle College had broken up the previous day for the summer vacation. One of the pupils, the seventeen year old Hervey Bruce, had been invited by the clergy of St. Columb's Cathedral to join them and the other cathedral choristers on an outing to Ness Woods.

It is reported that at about four in the afternoon certain of the boys and Mr Pettipice went to bathe in the pool below the waterfall. Bruce and Pettipice jumped in. Bruce clambered out complaining of having hurt his foot ,but then dived in again. The other boys' attention was drawn to Pettipice who was under the waterfall. It was a few minutes before it was realised that Bruce had not surfaced. Rather surprisingly nothing is said of Pettipice attempting any rescue.

The boys apparently ran to bring Canon Boyton and Rev Olphert and Rev Hayes to the scene of the unfolding tragedy. All three of them jumped in but were unable to find Bruce. Using a hammock ,which the party had brought with them, the clergymen dragged the pool, but again with no result. A local resident by the name of Alexander Gallagher then used a long pole to try to locate the body. This he eventually did and Canon Boyton dived in again to retrieve Bruce's body. The boy's remains were transported back to the City in The Lord Bishop's carriage.

Hervey Bruce was a son of Major Stewart Hervey Bruce a grandson of Rev. Sir Henry Hervey Aston Bruce, 1st Bt Downhill. Major Bruce resided at Crawford Square Londonderry and held the office of Governor of Londonderry County Gaol. He had gained the rank of Major with the 102 Royal Madras Fusiliers. Whilst I have not worked out the actual relationship, the deceased chorister would be related, albeit far out, to Lady Victoria Hervey and her sister Lady Isabella.

Sources: "Our School Times," September 1889; "The Peerage."

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A Victorian Headmaster - Notes on Dr. Maurice C Hime

The Foyle College over which Maurice Charles Hime LL.D., J.P. and Barrister at Law presided was certainly a very different educational establishment from that which presently bears the name. As to whether the successor in title is better I leave that to be answered by those who have a much greater knowledge of the world of education than myself.

Hime entered Trinity College Dublin in 1858. His earlier education included a period at, "Mr Flynn's School," in Dublin (1852) and a subsequent period at Protora (1853) which he attended along with his brother. It appears that he toyed with the notion of ordination into what would still at that stage have been the Established Church, but ultimately viewed himself unworthy. Thoughts of a career in the Indian Civil Service also crossed his mind as more seriously did a career at the Bar. It appears to have been the approaching termination of his scholarship which prompted him to accept the head-mastership of the Monaghan Diocesan School in 1866 and enter the world of education.

The school buildings at Monaghan were at the time described as being ,"in a ruinous state." and the house, "void of furniture." Hime's position provided him with a salary of one hundred pounds per annum. Whether from these funds or school funds he purchased several ponies for his pupils to ride. His young gentlemen were frequent visitors at local hunts. Clearly the features of a rounded education have altered over the past one hundred and fifty years.

It was during his sojourn in Monaghan that Hime entered upon his literary career. In 1871 he issued a series essays by himself and others entitled, "Parting Words to Boys Leaving School." His subsequent publications included introductory texts on Latin, Greek and Logic and a publication with the jaunty title of, "Women's Superiority: On the Superiority, as Moral and Spiritual Beings, of Women to Men." Throughout his life he contributed articles to various periodicals and newspapers, including, "Our School Times," the magazine of Foyle College.

It was in 1877 that Hime was offered the head-mastership of Foyle College by the Hon. The Irish Society which position he accepted. As with his previous academic establishment "Foyle" was in need of , "a vigorous revival." Having honed his educational skills in Monaghan, Hime, who by this time had established the Schoolmasters' Association, proceeded, to attract increasing numbers of both boarders and day boys to his new scholastic care. The names of the new scholars are listed assiduously in each edition of the school magazine.

Hime had married Mary Stuart Robinson the youngest daughter of Rev George Robinson at Tartaraghan Parish Church on 24th December 1870. The ceremony was carried out by the bride's father who was the then Rector. Unfortunately she was to die in 1879 not long after the move to Londonderry. She was twenty nine years of age.

Unlike may of his contemporaries Hime was not a proponent of corporal punishment and it was not permitted during his tenure at Foyle. He was not however a lax disciplinarian and bad behaviour was not tolerated. It seems that both masters and pupils had a high regard for him. In 1888, on the occasion of his birthday they presented him with a gong together with a laudatory address. This prompted the granting of a holiday which largesse was received with, "great cheers."

Outside the world of education and his literary interests Hime seems to have had a profound interest in Freemasonry. He is recorded as being the founder Master of Sunbeam Masonic Lodge 191 with the first meeting apparently taking place in his Buncrana house.

Hime remained as Headmaster until 1896 when he was succeeded by John Clark Dick MA.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Harbinger of Spring

Many gardeners say that for them it is the humble snowdrop which heralds the possibility of spring and a new gardening year. For me however I think it is the yellow or red flowers of witch-hazel, (Hamamelis).

Christmas is still more than a memory when the flowers start to clothe this bush, bringing a welcome burst of colour to the dank dreariness of the winter garden. The spidery flowers have quite an intense spicy fragrance. This is not so noticeable out of doors, but there is no missing it if one introduces a few twigs to the heat of indoors.

The first of the 2013 seed catalogues hit the hall mat this morning. I will probably limit today's gardening to a few judicious ticks in the margins of the aforementioned catalogue. Selecting seed for the forthcoming year as I sit in front of a fire probably beats layering myself in clothing and wheeling compost.