Thursday, 30 January 2014

Raise Voting Age to 25?

I listened to some of BBC Northern Ireland's Nolan Show tonight. There was a discussion as to whether sixteen year olds should be allowed to vote


Not unsurprisingly there were individuals who supported this idea and others who were aghast at the suggestion. As for my own notions? Well there is no doubt that I would tend to the latter view. I cannot accept that a school child should have a say in how we are governed. Rather than reduce the voting age I would suggest that it should be increased, certainly to the previous age of twenty one and I could be convinced that twenty five might even be a safer age. Of course there are certain young people who are very mature for their years and who are very sensible, but if you are going to have universal suffrage over a particular age then there is merit in maximising the reasoning abilities and common sense of your electorate. That is not achieved by giving votes to the tuckshop queue.


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Frederick Charles Bloomfield Trench - An Officer and a Private

Limavady's Trench Memorial Flute Band was formed in 1919. It was named after Frederick Charles Bloomfield Trench the second son of Henry Bloomfield Trench and his wife Jessie Maria Rawlins of Huntingdon, Portarlington, King's County. Trench was born on 23rd April 1878. On 27th March 1899 he was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant in the Londonderry Artillery, (Southern Division). On 29th July 1905 he was to marry Catherine Anne Swetenham Lecky the daughter of Sir Thomas Lecky of Foyle Hill Londonderry and Greystone Hall Limavady who had been mayor of Londonderry in 1886/87. Trench and his wife were to live at Greystone Hall.


Having been an officer in the militia Trench clearly saw it as his duty to volunteer for service upon the outbreak of war in 1914. Whilst at Finner Camp in Ballyshannon Co Donegal he applied for a wartime commission on 23rd September 1914. He was to be gazetted as a temporary Major on 23rd November 1914 and was the first commander of "C," Company of 10th Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was subsequently attached to 12th (Reserve) Bn Inniskilling Fusilliers.

In the early hours of 12th October 1915 he is reported as having been drunk in the officers mess and ordering drinks to be supplied to him after the mess had closed. He gave an order to a Second Lieutenant by the name of Taylor to turn out four horses which the Lieutenant declined to do in view of Trench's state of inebriation. As a result of this conduct G. H. Rowell, Br. General , Commanding 15th Reserve Infantry Brigade Ulster Division applied for Trench to be tried by General Court Martial . There is more than a suggestion in the Court Martial papers that Trench's conduct had been unsatisfactory for some time. If it had not been Rowell opines that he would have dealt with the matter himself. On 13th November 1915 Rowell had to advise Head Quarters, Irish Command, Parkgate, Dublin that Trench, who was under open arrest awaiting the sentence of the General Court Marshall held on 11th/12th November, had broken his arrest and quitted barracks between the hours of 6.30 and 8.20 pm. The Provost Marshals of Dublin and Belfast were advised of the situation as were the police at Larne, Greencre and Limavady. Trench's Court Martial had been held at Newtownards. He was charged with drunkenness and disobeying a lawful command given by a superior officer, (failing to attend a District Court Martial at Lurgan to which he had been detailed). He pleaded not guilty to both charges but was found guilty and sentenced to be dismissed from His Majesty's Service.

Trench's story does not end there. His sense of honour caused him to enlist as a private in the 1st Btn London Regiment (London Scottish) under the name of Bloomfield. He gained promotion to the rank of L/Cpl and died in action on 1st July 1916. His body was never recovered. His death is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Trench's widow married Rev J G MacManamy on 27th January 1926.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Birdwatch 2014


The weekend now past was the nominated weekend for the RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch. I had signed up online for this twitcher fest and so was able to submit the results of my hour spent viewing the toings and froings at the bird table via my trusty tablet.


Unfortunately Sunday afternoon was very wet and windy and accordingly not very many of the little blighters decided to partake of the free nosh which I had provided for their delectation. I feel sure that the weather must have a big affect on everyone's sightings. Our feathered friends are not entirely stupid. They aren't going to spend time foraging for food in bad weather unless they are really hungry.


You have to report the greatest number of a particular bird that you see at the same time. My sightings gave the following results this year:-

Blackbird 1

Blue tit. 2

Chaffinch. 2

Coal tit. 1

Great tit. 3

House Sparrow. 3

Robin. 1

Magpie. 1


Sunday, 26 January 2014

Athlone Athletics in the Warm

It is a long way to Athlone, not as long as the way to Tipperary, but still devilishly long. I experienced just how long it is this weekend when I travelled down to this midland town on Friday. Saturday's reverse trip seemed even longer! The causa causans of this vehicular marathon was the All Ireland Masters Indoors Athletics Championships.

This is the second year that this meet has been held in the new indoor facility at the Athlone Institute of Technology, but this was my first visitation. Until two years ago the event was held in Nenagh at what was laughingly called the Irish National Indoor Athletics Arena. It was in reality and still is, (no one has knocked it down yet), nothing more than a glorified cattle shed with concrete walls topped with corrugated metal sheeting and with a corrugated metal sheeting roof. If it was forty degrees farenheight outside it was five degrees colder inside. The only insulation in that structure, (I won't honour it with the title of building), was provided by the clothing of those individuals who ventured into its cold room interior. As for heating well that was and I suspect still is provided by a few wall mounted heaters which were totally inadequate to the task.

Athlone's indoor track is a huge improvement. Modern, well lit, spacious, warm, and with proper changing facilities and an indoor warm up area on what could be described as a mezzanine floor or balcony. The layout is very similar to that at Lee Valley.

It was very pleasant to run indoors yesterday and avoid the cold, the wind and the rain. A couple of laps around the Athlone track might persuade some of those who slip and slide their way through cross country races that a few targeted indoor races might be a preferable way to achieve some competitive racing over the winter months!



Friday, 24 January 2014

"North West One" Development

Another day and another out of town shopping centre is being proposed for the citizenry of Northern Ireland's second city. This one has the ever so catchy name of the, "North West One Development." It is perhaps a sign of the times that the proposal was, according to the BBC, being presented by the administrators of GSB Guernsey. It will be a long time before the fallout from the recession becomes a matter of history.


We are told that this development, if given the go ahead, will provide 250 construction jobs for upwards of two years and that the development will create some 510 jobs when it is up in operation. Yet again we are not told what if any net gain in jobs there will be. Yet again no mention is made of the existing jobs that will be lost and the existing local businesses that will fail if the planners should permit the developer's desired 50,000 sq ft of concrete glass and steel.

Hopefully the planners will realise that there are enough food stores and an excess of coffee shops and that they should be staunching the flow of business from the city centre rather than encouraging it.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Snail Mail

Flicking through the post this morning I came upon an envelope which I correctly surmised contained a card. Who had decided to send me a written thank you? Who had decided to invite me to their nuptial feast? These were the questions which flitted across my mind as I ripped the envelope open with some degree of haste.


The missive was not as I had imagined. A friend in self exile in England was wishing me a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. A bit early for 2014! Had he forgotten to commit it to the post in 2013? Not a very charitable thought I know, but I have to concede that it has not been unknownst for me to pop the odd Christmas card into a pillar box somewhat adrift of the festive period


I am happy to report that my fellow scrivener had not committed the card to the vagaries of the Royal Mail in the aftermath of Christmas. The envelope is clearly stamped 18th December 2013. Now I know why people talk about snail mail. I do not think that thirty five days falls within the delivery target times for our newly privatised deliverer of mail. The average gastropod will I think agree with me.


Monday, 20 January 2014

Winter Track Session.

Blue skies, no wind, temperatures approaching double figures. For a winter day this was a good one. Not having been able to run the designated Sunday training session on that day of rest I determined upon ticking it off my to do list today. Accordingly I wended my way to a little used local authority athletics track this morning. As I suspected I was not to be inconvenienced by any other track officianadoes. A solitary dog walker being dragged around the surrounding football pitches by his exuberant pooch was the only disruption to the solitude.


After a twenty minute warm up I commenced the allocated exercise. 6 x 800m with 90 sec jog between each effort was the selection from the exercise menu. It is hard to get used to the notion, nay fact, that every year this session gets slower. I fight against the tide of the years, but the inexorable progress of age is a reality that cannot be reversed. Anyhows today's efforts were run in 2.56. Not the time of old, but I suppose acceptable for a v5 in the late autumn of his running career and training on his lonesome.

I must try harder.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Workmans of Garvagh.


There have been huge changes in the high street over the last fifty or sixty years. Whenever Super Mac was telling us that we never had it so good the typical town and village had a commercial centre which was populated in the main by local businesses. Out of town shopping centres did not exist. The inexorable march of the dreaded supermarket was just beginning. There may not have been too many candlestick makers, but there certainly were some quite idiosyncratic enterprises which added interest and colour to the local scene. I remember the smell of the ropes and canvas in McMichael's chandlery business in Londonderry's Sackville Street and the sight of the golden teapot over McCullagh's grocery and tea emporium in Waterloo Place. Too many of our towns, cities and even villages are now clones of one another with the same names and commercial livery appearing on their high streets and of course their out of town retail parks.

Now and then you do however come across a business which has a character of its own and which hasn't succumbed to modernity. Workmans hardware and farm supply business in Garvagh is definitely one of those. Its charm, its interest and its success is that it is old fashioned. The labyrinth of storage rooms and lofts is packed with items you really do need, but you don't know the name for. To say that the front shop is crowded with stock is being very economic with the truth. For the most part this is a shop where you edge towards the ancient counter and ask for the item that you want and it then is brought to you from the inner reaches. Paraffin lamps hang from the ceiling and are clearly still a big seller. You are likely to see squirrel and mink traps in the window. Nails are still sold by the pound and I suspect even individually. If you want batteries the fact that there are eight in the pack will not prevent them selling you four. This is a business which provides what its customers want.


Friday, 17 January 2014

Portrush Parkrun Dismissed.


Savouring a rather large tipple of wine in front of the flickering flames of the log burner this pm I contemplated the possibility of wending my way to Portrush tomorrow morning to avail of the joys of its non parkrun Parkrun. How a run on a beach can fall within the deinition of a Parkrun does befuddle the little grey cells somewhat.


Anyhows what was the result of my deliberations? Well my decision was made with some ease when I perused the tide tables for Portrush. High tide is to occur at 7.19 with the following low tide at 13.45. Why anyone should willingly want to run through soft sand, unless of course they are one of that besotted subset of individuals who actually enjoy cross country running and want to train for it, is beyond logic and my comprehension.

Tomorrow's exertions will not occur on the tide truncated sands of Portrush.


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Lifford Winter Track Meeting.


It may only be the middle of January, but Lifford AC hosted a preseason meet at their new mondo track tonight. They elected not to feature the standard distances, but instead ran races over 60m; 150m; 300m; 600m and 1000m. For those who prefer to throw and jump there were also events for them.


To say that the temperature was cool would be somewhat incorrect. It was biteingly cold. A long and rather vigorous warm up was needed so as to reduce the risk of pulled muscles. By the time the last race was run ,at circa 8pm, icy patches were in evidence on the track. Much later and the demands of, "health and safety," would probably have brought the meeting to an abrupt end.


As I am running an 800m masters race in ten days time I thought it appropriate to run the 600m. After a four month absence from competitive track competition it was all a bit of a shock to the system. Still I managed to stagger round the track in 1min 41secs without any ill affects. Maybe not quite the time that I would have liked to end up with, but bearing in mind the debilitating affects of old Father Time, the weather and the time of year I am not too disappointed.


A temperate clime for training and competing in is most definitely to be desired. Roll on the now traditional training week in Portugal.


Snowdrops Poking Through


It is strange how even a few days bring changes in the garden. A week ago the leaves of the snowdrops were clearly above ground, but there were no flowers in evidence. Today there is almost a drift of white. The flowers aren't fully out, but a week of mild weather should result in a veritable carpet. I don't know what particular varieties have been planted around the garden but even my limited knowledge of the world of the galanthophile can identify the presence of differing forms.


Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Right Hon. Sir George Fitzgerald Hill, Bt. PC.

Born on 1st June 1763 the eldest son of Sir Hugh Hill and his second wife Hannah, (dau of John McClintock of Dunmore, Co Donegal), George Fitzgerald Hill was a pupil of the Diocesan School, later to become known as Foyle College. He entered Trinity College Dublin on 22nd June 1780 and graduated with a BA in 1783. During his time at Trinity he befriended Theobald Tone, an individual more usually known by his middle name of Wolfe. The erstwhile friends were to meet again briefly on 8th November 1898. Hill's militia regiment was sent to Buncrana to escort the prisoners from the French vessel, "La Hoche," to Londonderry's gaol.


He succeeded to the Baronetcy in 1779 upon the death of his father. On 10th September 1788 he married Jane Beresford daughter of Rt Hon John de la Poer Beresford and Anne Constantia de Ligondes. It seems probable that it was in or about that time that Sir George bought the Brook Hall Estate on the outskirts of Londonderry.


Sir George held various public appointments and offices. He was MP for Coleraine, (1791-95) and was appointed Recorder of Londonderry in 1791. He was MP for Londonderry City (1795-1801 and 1802-1830) and MP for County Londonderry (1801-02). From 1796 he was Captain-Commandant of the Londonderry Yeoman Legion and from 1797 until 1823 he was an officer in the County Londonderry Militia, ultimately becoming its Colonel for a brief period.


In 1798 he was appointed Clerk of the Irish Parliament and when this was abolished he received an annual pension of £2265 in compensation for his loss of office. Between 1817 and 1830 he was Vice Treasurer for Ireland having previously held a Lordship of the Irish Treasury (1807-17).


By 1830 it seems that Sir George was being pursued by creditors and using family influence he was appointed Governor of St Vincent in November of that year. On 14th April 1833 he succeeded Sir Lewis Grant as Governor of the island of Trinidad where he was to die on 8th March 1839. His wife had predeceased him having died on 2nd November 1836.


Sources: PRONI; Londonderry Sentinel 4/7/1940; "Romantic Inishowen",H P Swann; The Londonderry Standard 15/7/1839

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Slide rules and Fortran

Computers are now an everyday aspect of all of our lives, But if you take an instant to remember that not so distant past you will remember a world where slide rules were the apogee of technical sophistication. It was probably 1973 when I bought my first and last slide rule, Thirty shillings were extracted from me for this wonderous aide to the mathematician that lurked somewhere within me. We were allowed to use this hi tech hardware in maths class by special dispensation. It does seem another world.

Fortran was the buzz word so far as computer language was concerned. I remember the dimpled computer cards and the pink computer tape. School exam results were fed into computer programmes for the first time ever.

All our yesterdays.



Grey Squirrel Chops.


It wasn't all that many years ago that red squirrels were more numerous than their grey cousins in Northern Ireland. Now the ratio of red to grey is probably no better than in Britain. It is more than a year since I caught a glimpse of a shy,"Tufty," but most days I would see three or four grey squirrels bounding about. They are a frequent visitor to the garden.


The bird feeders are the big attraction providing them with an almost effortless supply of food. I can't say that I approve of their filching of peanuts and seed and I certainly do not approve of them biting through the wire mesh of the feeders. Recently I have become aware of them digging up some of the spring bulbs for their tiffin. I am not impressed.


Apparently their meat is quite tasty to eat and surprisingly sweet. Carbonated grey squirrel sounds as if it would be a very ethical repast. The numbers of this North American interloper do need to be reduced if not zeroed.


Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Winter Runnerland.


Today was almost springlike. Mild, calm and dry with blue skies. Where should I run? Where should I find my daily running fix?


By the time I was determining upon the venue for my exertions it was already after three o'clock so I had to take account of the decreasing light even though I would have my fluorescent tabard to slip over my running kit.


I ultimately decided to drive the horseless carriage to Garvagh Forest and run along the road leading towards Maghera and the Glenshane Pass. This is not by any means a minor country road and it has the advantage of a footpath along its whole length. By the time I staggered out of the forest carpark it was after four o'clock. The temperature was dropping. Usually I prefer to run along with others and enjoy their banter, but sometimes the loneliness of the solitary runner can be just what I want. Today was one of those days. There were no pedestrians to get in my way. The footpath was free of puddles and potholes. I could run freely and steadily.


I had omitted to charge my Garmin so I don't quite know the distance covered nor the pace achieved, but I suspect that my 59 min exertion resulted in a run of about 8.5 miles. Much less and I would be disappointed.

By the time I regained the safety of my car the winter sun had slipped below the horizon. Crispness had deteriorated to cold and the car thermometer informed me that it was peppering freezing point. Another days training concluded. A warm shower beckoned.


Monday, 6 January 2014

Tax Return Deadline


It only seems like this time last year that I was rummaging through my files to ensure that my tax return would meet the deadline of 31st January and wouldn't you know I have spent the last weekend doing exactly the same thing this year. It is not as if what I rather grandiosely describe as my, "financial affairs," are particularly complicated. In fact they aren't at all. There really is no excuse to put myself under any last minute pressure, but I always seem to do so. With me it really is a matter of putting off to the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.


However prevarication in tax matters is not a good idea. Even if you don't owe the tax man any money, which I don't, or at least I hope not, the non submission of the glorious old tax return within time means you are penalised a minimum of £100.00. There is most definetely a reason to deal with this annual task within time.


My New Year's resolution is to have my 2013/14 tax return submitted to the Inland Revenue as soon as possible after 5th April. I wonder if I will manage to keep to this resolution?


Winter Vegetable Gardening


The rain may be pounding on the windows and the wind may be intent on bending everything to its will but there is one gardening task that isn't weather affected. Indeed the worse the weather is the more readily you fall to this particular task. This is the time of year to page through the seed catalogues and determine what seeds to purchase for the year ahead.


Most gardeners tend to purchase their, "old favourites," year after year. I have to concede I do for the most part adopt the habit of the majority. After all if a particular vegetable or variety works for you why drop it. That said it is quite enjoyable to try something new, something different, something slightly exotic. Maybe a scalloped edged squash like, "Twinkle," or a pre williamite coloured carrot or the delicate coral headed calabrese, "Roanesco Celio." Decisions decisions.


Saturday, 4 January 2014

Cat Television


The indoor cat is besotted by the flickering flames in the woodburner. It is not just the radiating warmth that attracts her. Ginny, perhaps not the most original name for a female ginger cat, takes an active interest in the flames, her eyes travel back and forth in synch with the movement in the fire. When the flames subside so does the attention of the cat. Her eyes close and she takes a nap, but still alert to the possibility of the flames fanning up again. I suspect that the cat's penchant for the sights provided by the conflagration in the fireplace will probably result in her developing cataracts. As she is already stone deaf that will only leave sound to disappear for me to be left with a deaf, dumb and blind cat. Perhaps she will then develop into a mouse catching wizard.


Friday, 3 January 2014

Whole of life sentence bad. - One hundred year Sentence Good.

In 2013 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared that Britain's, "whole-life," sentences breached the European Convention on Human Rights because they do not include the possibility of a right to review. As a consequence the Government is apparently now considering American style 100 year sentences which would potentially allow review of the term to be served.


Like David Cameron I believe that there are some crimes against the person that are so horrendous that Society should be able to say to the perpetrator that he or she will never regain their freedom. It does seem silly that we should be forced into devising a way around the July 2013 ruling of the ECHR. Maybe it is time to assert our soverignty.


Unlike David Cameron I might be tempted to permit of a situation where the descendants of the Pierrepoints could make a return to that family's traditional part time occupation. That would mean we wouldn't have the problem of, "lifers," hanging around in our gaols for several decades! Pun intended.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Raymond Saville Connolly De Montmorency Lecky Browne- Lecky

This gentleman's name was not his only colourful feature. I think that it would be fair to say that he lived a life which reflected or even surpassed his baptismal name. Born into the landed gentry he was the only son of Connolly William Lecky Browne-Lecky and Anna (Annie) Henrietta Eccles of Fintimara, Warrenpoint and 9 Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin. He was born in Dublin on 17th May 1881 and was baptised at St. Peter's, Dublin on the 31st of that month. At that time St Peter's was the largest Church of Ireland parish in Dublin. The church closed in 1950 and was demolished in 1983. Reverend R. W. Buckley officiated at the baptism.

His mother's brother and his wife both died at a relatively young age and it seems that Raymond's parents brought up the three young Eccles girls. Subsequently Amy Eccles would sell Ecclesville demesne near Fintona and certain other lands to Raymond. Prior to the Land Acts the Ecclesville Estate extended to some 9227 acres.

He was known as, "Tibby," to his friends and close acquaintances and had a penchant for dressing in mauve and lavender colours. He was a keen amateur actor and musician and was also known as a female impersonator.

"Tibby," died on 11th November 1961 at Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh aged eighty. His sister had predeceased him in 1956. Probate of his will issued forth from the Principal Registry of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland on the 16th January 1963. He left various effects to the Dean and Chapter of St. Columb's Cathedral Londonderry including a china box which was reputedly the former property of Napoleon. Monies were left to Fintona Parish Church and for the benefit of the poor of that parish. The Church of Ireland Trustees received the sum of £1500 of which £300 was to be expended on the provision of a bell for Fintona Parish Church with the balance to be applied towards the erection of a tower or spire for the said church. He also left monies for the benefit of the local British Legion Hall. He left his house and lands to the Government of Northern Ireland or such other public body as the Government might desire subject to various conditions including relief from death duties on the said property and the annual Horse Show in the grounds of Ecclesville being allowed to continue so long as might be practicable.

The residue of his estate was left to his Trustees upon trust for the benefit of the Actors Charitable Trust and the Musicians Benevolent Trust in equal shares. Included in the residue was the ownership of certain ground rents in Londonderry which in 2011/12 BBC News reported had not been paid by the entity responsible for the payment thereof although a subsequent article revealed that the arrears had been discharged.

The name of Montmorency always brings to my mind the clipped tones of Noel Coward and his rendition of, " Could you please oblige us with a Bren Gun." I suspect that Tibby would have fitted into Coward's set very well.


Sources: ;