Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Notes on the Foyle Brewery, Londonderry

Where Browning Drive now stands was formerly the site of the Foyle Brewery. This establishment predated 1836 and by 1844 it was being leased by an individual by the name of Johnston who had previously been in the brewing business in Londonderry in partnership with a J. Carson. The firm of J Carson & Co was still going strong in 1864 according to Loftus's Almanac for Brewers, Distillers and the Wine and Spirit Trades for that year but there is no mention of Mr. Johnston's business.

By 1871 ownership of the Waterside Brewery was in the hands of a John Mehan. Unfortunately it appears that he must have had financial difficulties and his properties, including the brewery were advertised for sale via the Landed Estates Court. There were a total of ten lots and the sale by auction took place at the sale-rooms of William Dale on 1st February 1871. The Brewery together with Millbank Cottage comprised lot 10. The estimated annual value of the lot was stated to be £194.

The particulars of sale disclose that the Brewery Yard was one hundred feet square and there was a brewers residence and two malt houses with floors, kilns and outhouses. In addition there was a beer store measuring one hundred and twenty two feet by twenty four feet; an apartment for washing casks with means of hot water supply; stores for hops and sugar; a large mill room with mill for rolling malt driven by steam machinery; good stabling accomodation and an unfailing supply of good water.

The bidding for this Lot opened at £150. Six parties were involved in the bidding and it progressed rapidly until the lot was knocked down to Mr Chambers, agent for the Watt family, for the sum of £700.


Monday, 29 June 2015

Greenhouse Gardening


It would be nice to have a heated greenhouse. The late frosts proved to be the death knell for several of the tomato plants and peppers which I had growing on. Even the plants which survived the frosts were held back. Looking at my notes and photographs from last year I would calculate that my personal Northern Ireland growing season is some three weeks behind schedule. My tomato plants, (Ailsa Craig), are throwing their third truss. I do not expect that I will be pulling tomatoes until the beginning of August. The exception to this will be the fruit from the tumbler tomatoes which I have in pots on the staging.

I managed to sow the seed for my sweet peppers and chilli peppers a little earlier than usual. That together with the fact that I kept most of them in the in-house propogator as long as possible has meant that I am already witnessing their small white flowers and I would be hopeful that this should prove to be a a year of abundant crops.


Elsewhere in the greenhouse the aubergines are growing apace. I am awaiting the first of their purple flowers and the rich darkness of the fruit that will follow on. I suspect that moussaka may be on the menu before autumn. As with the tomato plants the cucumbers and gherkins, ( three plants of each) are some weeks behind their forebearers of last year.





Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Victorian Retirement Gift

The Illuminated Address is something I associate with the Victorian age. Invariably they were presented to valued and respected individuals upon their retirement or some other milestone event. The language employed tends to be rather flowery, certainly by modern day standards, and the decoration on the Address similarly so.

One recipient of such a laudatory gift was James Thompson Macky JP of Belmont Londonderry when he retired from the Agency of the Derry Branch of the Bank of Ireland in 1870. The subscribers to the gift included the following.

The Lord Bishop of Derry.

William McCorkell & Co

William Aiken & Son

Lord Claud Hamilton

The Mayor

Capt. Maturin

Herdman & Co

Capt. McClintock

Michael King

William Miles

Pitt Skipton

R. L. Ogilby

Robert Macrory

John Christy & Co.

Major James Beresford

David Gilles

Joseph Dysart

Maturin Baird

Archeson Lyle.




Sunday, 21 June 2015

Older Athletes on Track.

Yesterday was the day of the geriatric athletics competition in Northern Ireland, aka the Northern Ireland Masters Athletics Championships. The smell of embrocation hung in a pall over the Mary Peters Track. Bandages and tape were much in evidence and, "puffers," were being used with considerable alacrity.

This event is a relatively new addition to the athletics calendar. Until eleven or twelve years ago the mature athlete in Northern Ireland was restricted to a 1500m at the senior championships if he, (not she), wanted what was then called a, "veterans race." The age division between senior and veteran male athlete was forty. Since then it has been reduced to thirty five and the term veteran has been replaced by the term master just in case we get mixed up with American ex-service personnel.

As is usual a lot of the age categories did not attract great numbers. There seems to be a reluctance on the part of many individuals to partake in track athletics even though they are quite happy to turn out at innumerable road races and even cross country events. Maybe it is because they can be viewed by the spectators throughout the race. Tactical mistakes can't be hidden. Competitive naievity, lack of fitness and failure to react are under the analytical microscope. With masters athletics you then have the additional age related dissection of performance. Comments about how old and grey people have become and how so and so has put a lot of weight on. Yes I suppose this might put some people off competing on the track.


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

White blossomed summer lanes


It is said that cow parsley is one of those plants which is taking over our hedgerows. Perhaps so but it is one of those plants which with its delicate ,lace like white flowers brings colour to our country roads and announces that we have passed from Spring to Summer. It is joined in this message by the hawthorn blossom. Both plants line my route home. What passes for Northern Ireland's summer has arrived, - at last. Another five days and the evenings will start to draw in!




Sunday, 14 June 2015

Phone for Worry.



I don't like phones. Yes I know they can be very useful especially mobile phones, the usage of which has probably overtaken that of landlines save in business. What I don't like is the prospect of what I will hear when, or if, I answer the incessant ring. Will it be bad news regarding one or other of the aged parents or will it be something regarding my working past?

If I am phoned I immediately think it is going to be bad news. I never want to lift the receiver or accept a phone call on my mobile phone. The later the call comes through the greater the somersault of the stomach. I expect that most individuals with elderly parents are circumspect of the late night call. Who is calling me? Do I know the number? Should I take the call? Will I take the call? Tears, sorrow, worry, fear. That is the future.

I am frightened not only when I hear the phone but of the prospect of the call. I don't expect that this fear will ever leave me. The possibility of maybe another thirty years of worry is not an appealing thought. People encourage living for the present and appreciating what you have, but with disaster just a phone call away I can't enjoy the present through the gloom of tomorrow.

With the 20/20 vision that age and experience brings I now wish that I had made very different decisions in 1975, 1981, and 2005. The initial fatal decision was made in 1975 . Oh that I had taken a different route then. Silly me.



The Asylum of Asylum Road

I have always viewed Asylum Road in Londonderry as a narrow, dark and depressing street although it does open out somewhat as it transmogrifies into Woodleigh Terrace and then Bayview Terrace. The main reason for the darkness is the high stone wall which bounds one side of the road. Although the Londondery Asylum building closed in the late 1950's and the buildings were demolished in or about 1968 the road name and the wall remain as testament to the twelve acre site which once housed the District Asylum.

The architect for the Asylum was a Francis Johnston of Dublin and the builders were Messrs. Williams & Cockburn. When it opened in 1829 it served the Counties of Londonderry, Tyrone and Donegal but ultimately the latter two counties had their own District Asylums situated in Omagh and Letterkenny respectively. That in Letterkenny opened in 1866 and the building still houses a psychiatric hospital today. The foundation stone had been laid on 11th May 1827 by Bishop Knox.

The total cost of the Asylum came to some £25,678:2.4. This sum was advanced by the Government but then had to be repaid in instalments by the three counties. The front of the 364 feet wide building was constructed of Dungiven sandstone with brick being employed for the less visible portions of the structure. In the centre of the frontage was a clock tower topped by an octagonal cupola and containing a bell. This bell cost the relatively princely sum of £58:2.4.

In 1866 the resident medical officer at the Asylum was paid an annual salary of £260. The matron, one Eliza Grant was paid £70.

Sources: Colby's Ordnance Survey Memoir of Londonderry & 1866 Report on District, Local & Private Lunatic Asylums in Ireland

Friday, 12 June 2015

Twice as many Imbeciles as Idiots in Ireland.

It is strange how one can become distracted when carrying out an internet search and allow oneself to be carried down increasingly minor connections along the information highway. Well maybe not that strange. Most of us are inquisitive and there is a lot of information out there. As a child I dipped into an encyclopaedia ,now I have the seemingly limitless resources of the internet from which to draw down little nuggets of knowledge. Today I happened upon the sixteenth report on the District, Local and Private Lunatic Asylums in Ireland. A somewhat esoteric document I grant you, but it is of modest sociohistorical interest.

The information relates to the year ended 31st December 1866. The Report discloses that a total of 5070 patients were resident in Ireland's eighteen District Asylums and the split was roughly equal as between males and females. Table 9 to the Report gives details of what are described as the forms of disease experienced by the residents. The nomenclature has changed somewhat over the past century and a half and I suspect that many of the then patients would not now be regarded as suitable subjects for a Mental Hospital. They were said to be suffering from mania, melancholia, dementia, monomania, imbecility, idiocy or mental affections complicated with epilepsy. A total of 249 persons were reported as suffering from Imbecility and 122 from idiocy. Cork's District Asylum had thirty six percent of those diagnosed with imbecility. It also topped the national league table with its twenty four percent of those declared to be suffering from Idiocy. None of the 131 patients in the Londonderry Asylum were labelled with either of these now non politic terms.


Sunday, 7 June 2015

Is the RSPB mercenary?

I read what I thought was quite an interesting article in yesterday's Telegraph. Apparently an aged supporter of the RSPB in the vicinity of Congleton, a Mrs Lavinia Reade by name, decided to leave some twenty acres of farmland to the charity. It is reported that it was her dying wish that the land should never be built on. She wanted it to be used for the benefit of wildlife.

The land seems to have had a probate valuation of £60,000 at the time of the donor's death, (2001). A generous bequest one might think. However the RSPB is now reported to be working with developers to urge Cheshire East Council to permit the lands to be developed for housing. This could result in the charity banking upwards of six million pounds albeit that the action flies in the face of the donor's wishes. It does seem strange that Mrs Reade could not have more effectively ensured that her land would remain a haven for wildlife. One would think that she could have imposed suitable conditions on the gift. It would then have been up to the RSPB to accept the conditions or disclaim the gift.

The newspaper report is not as full as it might be but on the face of it the gamekeeper seems to have turned poacher. That said are the RSPB's actions after all to be applauded because it will be able to do so much with a six million pound windfall? A small sacrifice for a big overall gain? The moral maze.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Garden Thieves


It's that time of year again, the time of year when green fingered gardeners who have been persuaded to volunteer their gardens in support of some good cause or other start to welcome the interested and the nosey through their gates.


I have always thought that this is a brave thing to do. There is the very definite risk that some snotty nosed and bored child will decide to pick a bunch of, "pretty flowers," (aka the owners pride and joy from the foothills of the Himalayas), or that a geriatric plant thief will dig up some small alpine or similar to improve his or her more modest plot.


Some of the plant burglars are rather more subtle. These are the ones who perhaps have a modicum of gardening ability and are willing to put a bit of effort into their venture. Rather than stealing whole plants they will purloin cuttings for themselves. The best prepared will even have small plastic bags and a supply of green ties hidden about their person for use during the heist. All of that said I didn't see any nefarious goings on at the garden I visited on Sunday afternoon. Maybe the owner was just lucky or maybe the fact that the gate money was in aid of a Church roof provided a protective benediction to the day.