Monday, 30 May 2016

Fruit Cage Constructed.

The blackbirds and thrushes of the neighbourhood are not enamoured of me. I have now done what I had been threatening to do for three or four years. I have erected a fruit cage with the aim of retaining all my soft fruit for myself rather than providing my feathered friends with a self service restaurant.

To be truly accurate I assisted in the construction. A friend who is a builder/carpenter together with his son provided most of the brains and brawn in the operation. I did as I was directed. In any event the cage is now in situ. It took almost seven hours from start to finish, somewhat longer than all of us had anticipated. It is I suppose quite large measuring six metres by five metres and now houses my raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, red currants and blackcurrants.


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Londonderry's Stamp and Railway Man.

It is strange how certain people are brought back into your consciousness. It was a comment on a social media site that caused me to crystallise my memories of Thomas Maguire. Tommy dealt in stamps, coins, railway memorabilia and second hand books. In the mid 1960's he had a shop on the riverside of Londonderry's Duke Street. This was before the redevelopment of the area. My father was fostering my interest in stamp collecting and ushered me into Tommy's emporium on a regular basis.

There was a very definite musty smell in the premises. I remember his father crouched in a corner of the shop. He had worked on the railways hence Tommy's interest in all things connected with the iron road. With the redevelopment of the Duke Street area Tommy was forced to move his business. I am not quite sure whether he initially moved to Pump Street before his move to Carlisle Road or whether Pump Street was his pre Duke Street locus. His father I think passed away before the move to Carlisle Road. I can only remember his mother being there. They lived, "above the shop." Initially Tommy rented these premises from I think Cmdr. Bertie Anderson and his family before purchasing them in the late 1980's. He never spent very much money on the building. On the coldest of January days you would find Tommy in his shop with cap on sconce and overcoat firmly in place and with four or five coals glowing in an open fire. A low wattage bulb dangled forelornly from the ceiling. He didn't spend much money on his dentition either. He never appeared to be unhappy but he lived a very spartan life devoid of warmth and comfort. It must be five years since he died. His Carlisle Road premises remain locked up and deteriorating.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Wet Bedraggled and Bewildered

I don't like thunderstorms. Neither do the chickens. When the rain started this evening I retreated from the vegetable patch to the greenhouse but when the rattles of thunder began to reverberate around the sky I dashed back to the house. The chickens initially bounded to the shelter under their coop. This kept the worst of the rain off them but when the hammerings of Thor began they decided to jump into the coop itself. One of their number stood sentinel just inside the entrance to the coop keeping a beady weather eye on the wet Stygian gloom. I suspect that egg production may suffer a decrease tomorrow with two or three of the chickens not providing me with their daily calcium coated protein package but rather producing eggs minus their shells. It doesn't take too much to disrupt the equilibrium of the domestic hen.


Monday, 16 May 2016

Prickly Plant Flowers

I have always found cacti to be rather fascinating plants. Maybe it's because they clearly aren't from our climes and represent a bit of a challenge to grow well and to prevent them succumbing to our winters.

Three people fostered my interest in these non native flora. The first was a foreman gardener by the name of Bill Porter. As a young boy between the ages of five and eleven I used to spend my holidays and free time following him around as he worked, asking questions, watching what he was doing and occasionally plucking up the courage to ask if I could have a go at the task in hand. He was always patient and always willing to answer my questions. The second was an elderly friend of my father called Ludwig Schenkell. Ludwig had managed to escape Austria shortly before the Anschluss. He was passionate and very knowledgeable about cacti and had three heated greenhouses devoted to them. I understand that when he died in the early 1980's that he left his collection to Belfast's Botanic Garden. The third person in the triumvirate was an elderly first cousin once removed who lived just outside Dublin and whom I visited on a regular basis during my university days. She donated her books on cacti growing to me along with her collection of mammillaria.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Lifford Early Summer Track Session.


A better track session yesterday. The weather helped and I was probably rather more rested going into this weekend's training than I have been for a good few weeks. We started off by running six laps of the track, (2400m) at a tad over six minute mile pace. That completed we spent fifteen minutes performing various dynamic stretches followed by several strides of increasing length. Then came the main course of the day's training. For myself and my training partner that was made up of 4 X 500m at 1500m pace with 90 seconds recovery between efforts. I would not be using the right terminology if I said that the runs were easy but they were comfortable. The first three were completed in ninety four seconds and the last in eighty nine seconds. Before the warm down we ran what for me was a brisk 200m in 29 s. It is hard to accept the brakes of age.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Tomato Planting Time Again.

Monday was hot. Too hot to do anything in the greenhouse until the sun had sank in the sky and the glare of light on glass had dissipated. However with the comfortable warmth of eventide I was able to plant out my tomato plants in their rings. It is just about eight weeks since I sowed the seed. I grew on two varieties this year Shirley (an F1 hybrid), and Ailsa Craig. The seed packet for the former only provided ten seeds whilst I ended up with about sixty seedlings from the packet of Ailsa Craig seeds. I think that it almost deserves the designation of heritage variety. It is now some fifty years since I first grew this particular tomato. I do have to concede that I did have to avail of some adult assistance for the first couple of years.



Saturday, 7 May 2016

Londonderry Poor Law Guardians

I recently came upon a copy of an assurance dated 7th August 1874 whereby the Commissioners of Church Temporalities in Ireland pursuant to the powers vested in them by the Irish Church Act of 1869 caused several burial grounds within the Poor Law Union of Londonderry to be vested in the Guardians of the said Union.

The term, "Union," appears to have come into usuage subsequent to the passing of Thomas Gilbert's Act in 1782 which permitted adjacent parishes in England and Wales to combine into, "unions," to provide workhouses for the old, the sick and the infirm. On 31st July 1837 , "An Act for the More Effective Relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland ," authorised the formation of Unions within Ireland based on Electoral divisions which in their turn were made up of townlands. By the end of 1841 there were 130 Unions a figure which would increase between 1848 and 1850 by a further thirty three. This second tranche of Unions was created by the subdivision of existing Unions, primarily in the west of Ireland.

The Poor Law Union of Londonderry extended into Donegal hence the inclusion of Fahan and Grange Burial Grounds in the schedule to the 1874 deed. It was 217sq miles in extent. Twenty seven of the Guardians were elected from the constituent townlands. There were a further nine ex officio guardians. Weekly meetings, (on a Saturday), took place at the Union Workhouse. The tenure of the elected Guardians ran on an annual basis from 25th March. The franchise for the election of Poor Law Guardians was limited to ratepayers and was weighted, (1-6) dependant upon the valuation of the individual's property. There is a certain attraction and logic to the notion of weighted voting.




Monday, 2 May 2016

Bubble Wrapped Tomatoes

Last year I lost several seedling tomatoes thanks to late frosts. This year I have been covering the developing plants with sheets of bubble wrap at night. To date this has provided the necessary degree of protection. If the weather forecasts can be believed I am hoping that tonight will be the last time that I will have to create my bubble wrap tent in the greenhouse for this year.

Another fortnight and the tomatoes should be ready to plant out in their rings in the greenhouse border. Although the plants are no more than six inches tall I am already recognising that distinctive tomato plant aroma whenever I slide back the door and enter the shelter and warmth of the greenhouse. Summer may be still in anticipation but the tomatoes are its harbingers.