Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Wagamama Belfast

I didn't realize that there was a branch of Wagamama in Belfast, at Victoria Square. I ate at one of their first restaurants when they opened in London eighteen years ago.

The first Wagamama opened in London's Bloomsbury in 1992 'to combine great, fresh and nutritious food in an sleek yet simple setting with helpful, friendly service and value for money'.

They now operate in more than ninety restaurants around the world - from the United Kingdom, Europe, the Pacific Rim, the Middle East and the USA.

It is such a long time since I visited them. Have any readers eaten there and what were your impressions?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Car Insurance

I've had plenty of interest from car insurers, following my application for quotations from them all regarding the new jalopy.

The snag is that my current insurer has a stipulation whereby they will only insure certain vehicles if a tracking device is fitted. How much do these things cost per annum?

A company called Renew phoned me five minutes ago. I am under no immediate pressure because Mercedes-Benz insure the car themselves for a week following purchase.

Most quotations I've received have been ca £500.

My boiler thermostat has five incremental settings and I normally keep it at Level Three. I have bumped it up to Four today.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Christmas Market

I ventured into central Belfast this afternoon, where an annual Christmas Continental Market is taking place within the grounds of the City Hall at Donegall Square.

It was crowded and the atmosphere was cheerful and convivial, though it was slightly too cramped for Timothy Belmont.

Nevertheless I ambled right round the stalls and there were even marquees being run by such celebrated publicans and brewers as Lavery's and Hilden's.

I felt that the stall run by Rocket and Relish looked good, so I queued and ordered a Bacon and Blue Burger - char-grilled beef with maple cured bacon, blue cheese dressing (not Stilton which I'd prefer!), fried onion, tomato, alioli and rocket lettuce. It cost £4.

I sat down at a nearby park bench and happily munched away. I hereby proclaim that this was a very tasty burger indeed, succulent and meaty. The bacon was good despite a bit of fatty rind which I left. I was pleased with my choice. Rocket and Relish is the nearest food stall to the Donegall Square West gate, by the way.

Rocket and Relish operates a shop at 479-481 Lisburn Road in Belfast. They advertise a website, though I am unable to open it. They are on Facebook.

Beowulf the Movie

I am minded to settle down this evening to watch the fantastical adventure movie on Channel Five, Beowulf. I viewed it at the cinema three years ago.

I notice that it is broadcast on Five HD and Freesat - to date - only has BBC HD, BBC One HD and ITV1 HD. About time Freesat provided some more high definition channels for their viewers. Perhaps I could view on Freeview; do they have Five HD?

I'm looking forward to ogling the sublimely gorgeous Angelina Jolie as Grendel's protective mother.

50th Birthday Bash

I enjoyed a convivial evening at my cousin's home yesterday evening, where we celebrated his fiftieth birthday. Abundant food and drink was imbibed, as one would expect. The road outside his house had a surface literally like an ice-rink.

My cousin received many gifts including gin, port, an electronic reader and gift voucher and a fine, long-handled hill-walking stick.

I have processed two more slices of bread into crumbs for the birds this morning.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Freezing Conditions

The expectation was that I'd be picking up the new jalopy next Wednesday though I see that, according to the Payments section of my current account, all payments take a minimum of four working days to reach a nominated account. Ergo, I'll simply need to exercise forbearance. The weather is treacherous, at any rate.

Needless to say, it is bitterly cold in Belfast this morning, as is the case throughout the British Isles. Winter seems to have arrived quite swiftly.

I put out bread crumbs for the birds as soon as I came downstairs this morning, the starlings being the first visitors. My goldfinches were installed at the feeders by eight-fifteen.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Polar Medal

The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards for outstanding achievement and service to the United Kingdom in the field of polar research.


Antarctic to 2010

  • Mr Duncan Evan Anderson, Chief Engineer, RRS James Clark Ross
  • Mr David John Maxfield, Electronics Engineer, British Antarctic Survey
  • Mr Andrew David McConnachie, Plant Technician, British Antarctic Survey
  • Dr Teal Richard Riley PhD, Geologist, British Antarctic Survey
  • Mr Peter Ward, Marine Research Scientist, British Antarctic Survey

Antarctic & Arctic to 2010

  • Captain Graham Phillip Chapman MN, Master, RRS James Clark Ross
  • Professor Martyn Tranter PhD, Professor of Physical Geography, Bristol University

Arctic & Antarctic to 2010

  • Dr Jonathan Ralph Ineson Phd, Geologist, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland

Antarctic & Arctic to 2009

  • Mr Douglas George Allan, Cameraman, BBC Natural History Unit

Lady Mairi's Stamps

A stamp that belonged to the late Lady Mairi Bury has sold for more than £43,000 at Sotheby's. The unused 2d blue issued in 1840 went for more than five times its £8,000 guide price. The complete collection is expected to fetch at least £2.6m by close of business today.

Lady Mairi lived at Mount Stewart estate in County Down.

Lady Mairi is recognised as the world's greatest ever female philatelist and her collection is regarded as one of the finest to be auctioned in the last 25 years. It includes examples of every variety of the Penny Black ever produced.

One such stamp, which was prepared for official use in 1840 but never used, sold for £36,000 on Thursday. In addition to thousands of stamps, the sale includes early examples of printed envelopes and letters relating to another of her passions, Victorian sensations and scandals.

Among them is a letter posted on 13 June, 1840, using a Penny Black, which refers to the attempted assassination of Queen Victoria three days previously by Edward Oxford in London. It fetched £1,140.

Richard Ashton, Sotheby's philatelic consultant, told the Daily Telegraph: "This collection is one of the finest to have been formed in recent years. Lady Mairi not only acquired items of considerable worth because of their rarity, but also a whole host of more humble stamps and covers that are in immaculate condition ... something for £50 gave her as much pleasure as something that was £5,000."

St George's Market

Congratulations are due to St George's Market in Belfast which came runner-up in the BBC Radio Four Food and Farming Awards. St George's competed against 800 other markets in the category. Shroud Farmers' Market was the winner.

St George's Market is the last surviving Victorian covered market in Belfast. Belfast Corporation commissioned the building of St George’s Market, which was built in three phases between 1890 and 1896. Before 1890 St George's Market was an open market and most likely contained a slaughterhouse and a meat market.

The original (pre 1890) market was smaller than the new structure. The city surveyor, JC Bretland, designed the building. It was built in red brick with sandstone dressing. Externally it features Roman styled arches with Latin and Irish inscriptions - the City’s Latin motto "Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus", meaning "what shall we give in return for so much?" and the Irish phrase "Lámh Dearg na hÉireann", "Red Hand of Ireland". The main entrance arch displays the Belfast Coat of Arms. This newly covered market opened to the public on 20 June 1890.

By the 1980s St George’s Market had developed into a general market and it became the last of Belfast’s thriving Victorian markets. The market was pressed with increased maintenance costs and changes to hygiene regulations, among other issues, and Belfast City Council decided to find other uses for the listed building.

A campaign backed by the City Council, traders and the general public resulted in a Heritage Lottery Fund-backed £3.5 million refurbishment programme assisted by the Environment and Heritage Agency. Brick and stonework that had badly deteriorated was returned to good condition, and special bricks were produced to match the original unusually-sized bricks. The fully renovated St George’s Market reopened its doors in 1999.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ballymacormick Footpath

I've just returned from a day with the National Trust volunteers at Ballymacormick Point, near Groomsport in County Down. We have practically completed the first phase of the footpath now.

Work continued on the gullies we've been digging to facilitate drainage from a section.

There were about seven of us today. It appears that the annual Christmas Party dinner bash will be held on the Castle Ward estate so, if I can manage it. I would hope to kip down at Terinichol for the night!

I munched another one of those chilli chicken wraps today - home made - with chicken, salad, mustard mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce.

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Stewart Acres

Nick Stewart has sent me an interesting account of the fate which befell the vast acreage of the Stewart Baronets, of Athenree, in County Tyrone. The Stewarts were, at one time, the fourth largest landowners in the county, with 28,000 acres.

I mentioned that I was unsure as to what became of the vast acreage that the Stewarts once had. Well I have found the answer, but have to admit to feeling somewhat uneducated in matters so close to home, as it were! I resolve to study Irish history now.

I came across the answer by chance. Back in 1988 a relative died (a cousin of my Father's). Charles Cosmo Stewart was also my Godfather and he left me a box of bits and pieces and a few books which I never really spent much time looking at.

Recently I resolved to have a look in more detail and found amongst other things, a barely legible handwritten journal. I made a start at trying to decipher it and soon realised it was a bit of a gem. It turned out to be the personal reminiscences of Sir John Stewart, Third Bt ( 1830 - 1903 ). It is fascinating and his language is priceless. This little extract however, gave me the answer to the land question:-

" In this year 1856, I married. I met my dear wife first at Tynan Abbey, Co.Armagh, the residence of Sir James Matthew Stronge Bt. She was the daughter of George Powell Houghton Esq D.L. of Kilmanock, Co.Wexford. We were married on 1st December 1856 in St.Stephen's Church, Dublin Bay by Rev. Richard Brooke of the Mariners Church, Kingstown ( now reverted to Dun Laoghaire ). During a long married life, I have never had cause to regret our marriage, she has been a good wife to me, and we have had as fairly happy a life as most people, although we have suffered severely in worldly circumstances, owing principally to the wretched confiscatory Land Acts inaugurated by Mr.Gladstone when Prime Minister. "

A jolly good reason to have had Gladstone's likeness staring from the bottom of a chamberpot!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Rotten Bishop

I call upon the Lord Bishop of London to summarily dismiss his suffragan Bishop of Willesden, the Right Reverend Peter Broadbent, for his utterly disgraceful and disrespectful remarks regarding the betrothal of Prince William of Wales and offensive comments, too, about the Prince of Wales and "the Porcelain Doll" (Diana, Princess of Wales or Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall?).

I am in complete agreement with Archbishop Cranmer on this.

The Bishop's remarks are completely unacceptable, to my mind. There ought to be no place in the established Church of England for outspoken and blatantly republican bishops.

Supporting Prince Charles

It is said that many people would like the Prince of Wales to step aside in his birthright and succession as Heir Apparent to the Throne in order that his elder son and second in line accedes directly.

This suggestion will, doubtless, be particularly upsetting for Prince Charles who has devoted his whole life in a kind of limbo, despite having created a fulfilling role for himself and the Prince's Trust.

Prince Charles's life has been spent in readiness to accede to the Throne as King.

I am proud, as are The Queen and Prince William, to support the Prince of Wales who shall assume the role and burden as King of the United Kingdom eventually.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Cumbersome Wardrobes

I am utterly exhausted! I have been helping my aunt to move house and we were transporting some items of furniture, including heavy and cumbersome wardrobes, from Belfast to Portballintrae.

The wardrobes proved to be particularly awkward to shift from the bedrooms, down the stairs and through doors.

I have been so whacked out this evening, having arrived home at about seven, that I've ordered a Chinese takeaway to be delivered.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Queen Consort?

My attitude to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall has always been one of benevolence ever since she married the Prince of Wales. I am, therefore, pleased that Her Royal Highness might, one day, sit alongside His Majesty at the Coronation as Her Majesty The Queen Consort (coronations often take place a year following accession).

The official position remains that The Duchess of Cornwall shall become Her Royal Highness The Princess Consort, following Prince Charles's accession.

I consider Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to be an exceedingly gracious, dignified, agreeable and kind person and surely it would therefore be appropriate, in the 21st century, for HRH to be crowned Queen in the fullness of time.

Life Baronies

Cordial congratulations to Sir Reg Empey and Julian Fellowes who have been appointed Life Peers on the list published today.

Life baronies are well deserved for these two honourable and decent men.

Duchess's Obituary

The Daily Telegraph has published an obituary of the Most Noble Diana Ruth, Duchess of Wellington, MBE, today.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Old Shag

One of the bedrooms at Belmont Manor is being redecorated today in preparation for new carpeting next week. The ancient shag pile is being sent forthwith to the Ulster Folk Museum for one of their exhibits.

Hence his lordship has had to use the Dell Mini 9, since the main computer is out of action till later.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

New Royal Dukedom?

Speculation continues about the possibility of The Queen bestowing a royal dukedom on her grandson, Prince William.

I have already written about royal dukedoms and other possibilities include the dukedoms of Sussex or Clarence:-

"Other royal dukedoms include the Dukedom of Clarence, derived from the Honour of Clare in Suffolk; the Dukedoms of Cumberland and Albany; the Dukedom of Kendal; the Dukedom of Sussex; the Dukedom of Connaught; and the Dukedom of Cambridge.

Since the Dukedoms of Albany and Connaught no longer pertain to the Realm, they may be considered virtually extinct. The Dukedom of Windsor was created especially for HM King Edward VIII following his abdication; so, though technically vacant, it is unlikely that this title shall be revived.

The Dukedom of Cambridge was re-conferred as a marquessate in the 20th century which has since become extinct; so it is possible that this royal dukedom could be revived one day.

Whilst it cannot be discounted that a new royal dukedom could be created, the most likely dukedoms to be re-conferred in future are those of Sussex, Clarence or Cambridge. There has, indeed, been some speculation that, on the day of Prince William's marriage, such a title may be conferred".

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Royal Wedding Announcement

It gives me the greatest of pleasure to learn that Prince William is to marry Miss Kate Middleton in 2011. HRH will marry in London next spring or summer and live in north Wales, where he is serving with the RAF.

The couple, who are both 28, became engaged in October during a private holiday in Kenya. They began dating eight years ago while studying at St Andrews University in Fife, where they shared a house.

The royal engagement was announced in a brief statement released by Clarence House. It said: "The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton. The wedding will take place in the spring or summer of 2011, in London. Further details about the wedding day will be announced in due course."

Monday, 15 November 2010

Sergeant McDonald

Now I know why Charlie Lawson, aka Sergeant Jim McDonald of Coronation Street, wasn't at the Class of '78 Reunion Dinner last month. It transpires that Charlie has returned to Weatherfield, albeit temporarily.

Charles Devenish Lawson was in my class at the old school during the mid-seventies. He was a boarder and his family came from County Fermanagh.

Inebriate Corgis

Here is a great story from the late nineties about a naughty footman who treated The Queen's Corgi dogs to a snifter or two while Her Majesty was away. Matthew King, 28, added whisky and gin to the corgis' food and water as a party trick, The Sun said. He was demoted to ordinary footman with a drop in salary when the prank was discovered.

Mr King would only make the dogs tipsy when the Queen was away, to entertain other staff members at Buckingham Palace. He was found out when a post mortem examination on a 14-year-old dog found traces of alcohol in its bloodstream. Dr Roger Mugford, who has treated the corgis, told The Sun: "This sort of thing cannot be laughed off as a bit of harmless larking about. A tipsy corgi could easily bump into something and hurt itself."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said giving alcohol to dogs was "cruel and irresponsible". A Buckingham Palace spokesman at the time refused to comment on the allegations, saying staff arrangements were "a private matter".

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Clermont Set

One of my favourite books has been Trail of Havoc: In the Steps of Lord Lucan, by Patrick Marnham.

Much is written about what became known as the Clermont Set, which included Jimmy Goldsmith and "Lucky" Lucan.

Interestingly, I believe that Sir James Goldsmith, in some way, has influenced me. I always "approved" of his dress style and sense - traditional Oxford grey flannel suits, understated; I even used to smoke the occasional Cuban cigar! Though I have since ceased this pastime.

I'm not a gambler, though.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Auction

I've just returned having spent two and a half hours - in vain - at Ross's auction-house in central Belfast. Drat and double drat! The item I sought went over the porter's estimate and I think I heard the auctioneer saying that it had not reached its reserve price.

At eleven o'clock I stood at the window overlooking Montgomery Street and observed two minutes' silence, my mind filled with thoughts of our dear Queen at the Cenotaph.

Still, it was quite an interesting auction. Many items in the sale seemed to emanate from Lieutenant-Colonel W E L McCammond, 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. There was a ceremonial wheelbarrow with an elaborately engraved silver spade or shovel with McCammond's name thereon. It fetched £2,000.

Whilst I was biding (no, not bidding!) my time I browsed through a 1937 Coronation album with photographs of Lord and Lady Suffolk arriving in their coronation robes and coronets, the Carnarvons and Armstrongs, too. Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was seated wearing his coronet.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Posh Nosh

I was in central Belfast briefly this morning, the main purpose being to procure some smart nosh for a special dinner on Friday evening.

I passed a well-known high-street clothes shop and they were selling grey herringbone men's Harris tweed jackets for £150. Good heavens, I'll keep wearing my own! Mine are heavier, too.

Venturing into Ross's auction-house, since Wednesday is Preview Day, the selection of Lots was very good today upstairs, a good selection indeed; in fact a fine little set of Edwardian tables caught the noble eye.

Monday, 8 November 2010

On Lisburn Road

I bought a net pack of clemantines last week and every confounded segment contains about three pips. How irritating!

I was over at south Belfast this morning, paying my uncle and aunt a visit. I ordered some books for her online and delivered them, whilst catching up on family news.

Thence I called at a tailor's shop on the Lisburn Road. I had swatches of 20 ounce Harris Tweed cloth with me and obtained an approximate figure for a three-piece suit.

John McBride, the Belfast tailor, is now based there and is semi-retired. We were nattering and it transpires that he was lunching at the Ulster Reform Club last Friday at the same time as self! We reminisced about that divine steak-and-oxtail anniversary pudding.

Lady Mairi: Philatelist

An article on the BBC's website has just caught my eye, pertaining to the late Lady Mairi Bury's stamp collection.

Lady Mairi was one of the nation's greatest stamp collectors.

Her collection is expected to raise £2.6m at auction in Sotheby's, Bond Street, on 24-26 November, 2010.

Sotheby's have described it as one of the finest collections of British stamps to come on to the market in the past 25 years.

The auction-house said it would need three days to sell off 2,185 lots.

Londonderry arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Prince Andrew in Belfast

His Royal Highness The Duke of York KG KCVO has attended a remembrance service in Belfast for members of the Royal Irish Regiment on Sunday.

Prince Andrew, who is Commander-in-Chief of the RIR, attended the ceremony in Belfast Cathedral.

HRH read the first lesson during a service which saw the Queen's and Regimental Colours of the Second Battalion marched in, received and placed in the Cathedral's sanctuary. HRH was accompanied by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and was greeted by Dame Mary Peters DBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast.

Inside Belfast Cathedral His Royal Highness went on to meet Councillor William Humphrey MLA, The Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Christopher Stalford, Sheriff for the County Borough of Belfast, Mr Nigel Dodds Member of Parliament for North Belfast, The Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA, First Minister of Northern Ireland and The Right Reverend Dr Gordon McMullan.

The Regiment's first battalion is currently deployed in Afghanistan. Earlier, Prince Andrew met relatives of the serving soldiers at a private gathering.

Decanal Retirement

The Dean of Belfast, the Very Reverend Dr Houston McKelvey OBE QVRM TD is to retire in April, 2011. The Dean told the congregation at Belfast Cathedral of his decision this morning.

A former Territorial Army Chaplain with 29 years' service to the Ulster and Scottish Gunners, Dr McKelvey has been Dean of Belfast since 2001. He was the first chaplain to be awarded the Queen's Volunteer Reserve Medal, presented by HM The Queen.

The Dean is a former member of the Police Authority for Northern Ireland. He serves as a county chaplain for scouts and is a former district commissioner. A writer and local broadcaster, he is a former editor of "The Church of Ireland Gazette"; sails offshore; is married to Roberta - who is a Central Trustee of Mothers' Union. They have a son John - a civil servant in London.

Educated at Muckamore Primary School, The Royal Belfast Academical Institution; The Queen's University of Belfast from which he has a primary honours degree in geography and a Masters in Education; Trinity College, Dublin - theology; and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Methodist seminary at North-Western University, Evanston, Illinois.

Titanic Quarter Stroll


I decided to get some fresh air this morning, so I motored along to Belfast's Titanic Quarter in order to see how they are progressing.

A new Premier Inn hotel has opened adjacent to the Odyssey complex and the receptionists smiled at me as I passed. A few residents were indulging in cooked breakfasts. This hotel is the closest accommodation to the Odyssey.

There is now a large public space at the Abercorn Basin (above), which overlooks the Odyssey.

Work is progressing on the area surrounding the RMS Nomadic, which is shrouded in opaque sheeting. The whole area is being landscaped with superior paving and other maritime features.

Walking past the former Head Office of Harland and Wolff, I gazed at the enormous, oddly-shaped building which is being erected at the dock-side. It has a peculiar shape and is being laminated with white plastic or whatever.

The brand new Public Record Office (above) seems to be almost ready and should open in the New Year from its present GHQ at Balmoral Avenue, Belfast.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Fool, Belmont

Fool, Belmont. I'd just poured an English measure of gin into my crystal goblet five minutes ago, replaced the screw-top on the bottle and was placing the bottle in the cabinet when I accidentally hit the bottle against the glass, causing it to chip and crack.

That's the second goblet of the same type that Timothy Belmont has broken this year.

So the conclusion is that I unceremoniously dumped the broken glass into the bin.

Fool, Belmont.

Royal Victorian Order Service

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal KG KT GCVO, Grand Master, the Royal Victorian Order, accompanied by Vice-Admiral Timothy Laurence CB LVO, attended an Evensong and Reception on Wednesday evening, November 3rd, 2010, in The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, Savoy Hill, Strand, London.

The Service was conducted by the Rev Professor Peter Galloway OBE JP


The Registrar, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Matheson of Matheson, younger

The Chancellor, The Right Hon the Earl Peel GCVO PC DL

Members from NORTHERN IRELAND included

  • The Lady Carswell CVO OBE JP
  • Sir William Hall KCVO
  • The Lord O'Neill KCVO TD
  • Eric Rainey, Esq, CVO MBE DL
  • David Anderson, Esq, MVO MBE

Friday, 5 November 2010

Club Luncheon

I lunched with a few chums today, as a guest, at the Ulster Reform Club in central Belfast. The Club obviously maintains its proud standards of excellent service and tradition; and luncheon on this occasion was no exception.

We were seated in the very large dining-room, quiet at about twelve-fifty (though it became busier shortly thereafter). This room has a particularly lofty ceiling and overlooks Royal Avenue.

We all had soft drinks. For hors d'œuvre I ordered Walter's Smoked Salmon, accompanied by a mousse, wheaten bread, butter and salad garnish; then a delicious, rich 125th Anniversary steak and oxtail pudding with winter vegetables, mashed potato and carrots. We skipped the pudding today.

We retired to the rather opulent Reading Room for coffee and, at about one forty-five, we were invited to attend the dining-room again for a toast to the Club and its 125th anniversary. We received complimentary glasses of champagne for the Toast given by the Club's President.

I must say it was all a most civilized experience and I cannot think of anywhere else like this Club, in Belfast at least.

The then Reform Club and the Ulster Club merged in 1982 to become the Ulster Reform Club.

The Ulster Club, which once had grand Victorian premises at Castle Place, was founded in 1857, by landed gentlemen desiring a place to meet, converse and dine when they were in Belfast.

Early Ulster Club members included the Earl of Antrim, the Viscount Bangor, the Marquess of Donegall and the Marquess of Downshire, and something of that aura remained with the Ulster Club over the next hundred or so years.

Presumably Lord Enniskillen was also a member, because he received the dreadful news of the Florence Court fire whilst at the Ulster Club and was said to have replied to Lady Enniskillen at the time "what the hell do you expect me to do?" or words to that effect.

It is believed that the Duke of Abercorn owned a town-house, Hamilton House, at Hamilton Street in Belfast.

OM Appointment

The QUEEN has been pleased to appoint Mr Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum) to be a member of the Order of Merit.

The Order of Merit, founded by 1902 by King Edward VII, is a special mark of honour conferred by the Sovereign on individuals of exceptional distinction in the arts, learning, sciences and other areas such as public service. Appointments to the Order are in the Sovereign's personal gift and ministerial advice is not required.

At any point in time, there can only be a total of 24 members of the OM. This has been the case since King Edward VII established it in 1902 to reward those whose accomplishments in the arts, sciences and learning may go unsung.

Also, the honour does not come with a title, so there's no immediately obvious way of knowing someone has been bestowed with it.

Members are given a red and blue enamel badge, which reads "For Merit". When a member dies the badge is returned to the Queen, who receives the next-of-kin personally. She also has a portrait painted of each member, which becomes part of the royal collection, and hosts a gathering for the entire Order every five years.

In Northern Ireland, the Right Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Eames OM, former Archbishop of Armagh, is a member of the Order.

It's thought the number of members is so small to keep it exclusive.

People who have been awarded the honour include Florence Nightingale - who was the first woman - TS Eliot and Sir Winston Churchill. There have been 11 honorary members from foreign countries, like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Although nearly all prime ministers of the 20th Century have been knighted, only six of the 20 received the OM. Lady Thatcher is a member of the current group.

What Strike?

I wish to express gratitude to the BBC for broadcasting their Radio Four Great Lives programme this morning, featuring the life of Sir Winston Churchill. Most interesting, since I missed it the first time. Matthew Paris interviewed Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham and somebody else whose name escapes me, I'm afraid.

How refreshingly different. No matter about a journalists' strike. I didn't really miss them, for once!

So a brief word of appreciation to the Corporation for airing such an inspired programme about one of the nation's greatest heroes.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Lord Tattershall?

I'm glad to hear that Julian Fellowes is allegedly to be offered a life peerage. He seems a thoroughly good egg to me. Anyone who has adapted the 1981, definitive Brideshead Revisited TV series deserves a peerage or, indeed, a Baronetcy for that matter.

Peter Kay states "Among the Tory donors, back-scratchers and old friends due to be ennobled by David Cameron, there will be a little stardust. For I can reveal Julian Fellowes, screen-writer de nos jours and the man behind the excellent Downton Abbey, has been proposed for a peerage.‘Julian will bring some elegant debate to the House of Lords — and some very good manners,’ says a chum. Ampleforth-educated Fellowes, 61, who is married to Princess Michael of Kent’s lady-in-waiting, Emma Kitchener, won an Oscar for Gosford Park in 2002.

I do hope that he chooses a territorial title as opposed to the conventional habit of using one's surname. The Right Honourable Julian Alexander, Baron Tattershall, DL, sounds quite appropriate.

Julian Fellowes is the lord of the Manor of Tattershall in Lincolnshire.

Lady Rose Lauritzen

Lady Rose Lauritzen is a granddaughter of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Londonderry; a younger daughter of the late Lady Mairi Bury; and holds the Tenancy of Mount Stewart House in succession to her aforementioned mother whose elder daughter is Lady Elizabeth Mairi Keppel (b. 1941) who married in 1962 (div.) Alastair Michael Hyde Villiers (1939–2005) and has issue, and in 1980 (div. 1988) Merlin Hanbury-Tracy, 7th Baron Sudeley;

This entry is from the London Gazette of 1980:-


Queen Anne's Gate, London S.W. 1
27th November 1980

The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to ordain and declare that Rose Deirdre Margaret, wife of Peter Lathrop Lauritzen, Gentleman, shall henceforth have, hold and enjoy the same title, rank, place, pre-eminence and precedence as the daughter of an Earl which would have been due to her had her father Derek William Charles Keppel, Esquire (commonly called Viscount Bury), survived his father Walter Egerton George Lucian, Earl of Albemarle and thereby succeeded to the title and dignity of Earl of Albemarle.

And to command that the said Royal Concession and Declaration be recorded in Her Majesty's College of Arms.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Ballymacormick Track

I spent the day at Ballymacormick Point, near Groomsport in County Down. About seven of us were working on path maintenance, digging channels for drainage and spreading rough screening on the path.

I made myself a rather tasty chilli chicken wrap today! It consisted of a tortilla, salad, chicken pieces, sweet chilli sauce and mustard mayonnaise.

During the afternoon a hen pheasant approached us from the adjoining field; and I spotted a stonechat, too.

The Duchess of Wellington MBE 1921-2010

From the Telegraph and Times of 1 November 2010: -


The Duchess of, Diana Ruth McConnel, MBE, on 1st November at home. Wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Funeral arrangements to be announced.

She was the daughter of Maj-Gen Douglas Fitzgerald McCONNEL of Knockdolian CB CBE DSO (1893-1961) of Ayrshire and Ruth (dau of Maj Walter Dutton GARNETT-BOTFIELD of Beamish, Albrighton, Wolverhampton).

She married 8th Duke of Wellington in 1944. He succ to the title in 1972. They were the longest married ducal couple (if we time the length in years from their actual marriage, not when he succ to the dukedom), a place now taken by The Duke and Duchess of Grafton, who m in 1946.

The Earl and Countess of Lisburne (m 1943) are the longest married couple among the higher degrees of the peerage. The Countess of Dysart has the earliest marriage date (1941), although her husband died in 1987, before she succ to the earldom in 2003.

Diana Ruth, The Most Noble Duchess of Wellington. For services to the community in Hampshire, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

The Duke of Wellington’s grief

The Duke of Wellington was mourning the loss on Monday of his wife, Diana, less than three months before their 67th wedding anniversary.

“He is grateful that they had so many happy years together,” says a friend of the 8th Duke, 95. The couple had four children, including the Duke’s heir, Lord Douro.

Jemma Kidd (Lady Mornington), the make-up artist, will accompany her husband, Lord Mornington, who is the Duke’s grandson and eventual heir, to the Duchess’s funeral.

Mount Stewart Update

As a consequence of the passing of Lady Mairi Bury, a reader has kindly sent me an update of affairs at Mount Stewart:-

"I visited Mount Stewart yesterday on the last day the house was open to the public this year. I'm told that the Marquess of Londonderry did indeed attend the memorial service for Lady Mairi and that he and several members of the family stayed at Mount Stewart.

Lord Londonderry was given the Rome bedroom, which incidentally is the only one shown to visitors.
I am also told that Lady Rose Lauritzen has been at Mount Stewart for most of time since her mother died, as there is much to sort out.

Her influence is already in evidence in the house, with several new portraits and pictures on display. She has also restored the original dining table to the dining room. This replaces the traditional Irish coffin table, which was certainly a curiosity but was also rather out of proportion to the room. "

I am grateful to Jonathan Kennedy for this information.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Home Again

I'm just home and I had an enjoyable, wholesome lunch at Bushmills Garden Centre. I'm fond of this place - and its sister restaurant at Donaghadee Garden Centre. I had their real chicken and ham pie with mashed potato, carrot batons and lashings of butter.

Conditions on the roads were treacherous the whole way home.

I expect I shall enjoy my sixty lengths of the swimming-pool this evening.

Cromore Visit

It's cold here, at Portballintrae, this morning. I'll go for my constitutional to Seaport Lodge after breakfast.

I spent yesterday evening at the Bushmills Inn, where I chatted with residents in the bar. I had my Coleraine book and the little Mini 9 with me, though was unable to get a connection - a hotel or BT Openzone connection.

Earlier on Sunday I paid a visit to Cromore House, a residential care home outside Portstewart, County Londonderry. I took a photograph for my forthcoming article on Cromore and the Montagus, scions of George, 6th Duke of Manchester.

I'll pack up later and might call at Bushmills Garden Centre for lunch before I drive home.