Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year Custom - Wisps

Perhaps as far back as 35 years ago when I was at primary school and into my early teens it was customary to make then sell wisps.

What I hear you ask yourself? Well wisps were simply a handful of straw around 6 - 8 inches long - both ends were bent over and tied with a piece of straw of string - that was it.

We - that's my brothers and a few friends, would get a bale of straw, we kept horses so straw was readily available and spent 30th and 31st December making the wisps. We then walked around the local neighbourhood, selling the wisps door to door on old years night - no set price just a donation to our sweets fund!

Wisps were said to bring good luck to your household so there were plenty of superstitious folk willing to part with a few schillings to ward off evil spells or curses.

Now, I am not sure of the correct history of this custom, perhaps I will look a little deeper and try to find out - but bringing good luck was certainly why we Anderson's kept a wisp behind a picture or painting at home.

On a similar theme, last year I invited 2 x retired school teachers to Loughries summer school to show the children through a craft workshop how to make corn dollies - its an old countryside tradition and proved very successful with the children - I will try to look out a couple of pictures to show what I mean by the corn dollies or follow this link -


Thursday, 30 December 2010

SHENANDOAH - An old sea chanty.

Over the Christmas Holiday’s, when the children and Mrs. A had gone to bed, I watch a movie called The Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd is a slow moving, smoldering spy film, based around the CIA 1940’s to early 1960’s an excellent film. During the film there is a scene where a choir sings Shenandoah – a very moving American tune, which I play on my low D whistle.

On the Blog Nelsons View
Nelson mentions the tune and the film of the same name – here is a version of the tune, music is all around us!


Lookin in!

Thanks to the new 'blogger recognition tab' I have been able to see who has been viewing my blog in recent months, yes I have been surprised, but pleased that I have a regular audience.

Not been bloggin too much recently, however with new projects and opportunities on the horizon in 2011, I intend to increase my bloggin to promote, enhance and develop my self employed status as a fife and lambeg drum tutor.

Loughries Historical Society have a number of projects planned in 2011 - so regular updates there also.

Keep lookin in I appreciate your e-mails, telephone calls and comments.


Friday, 17 December 2010

A Christmas Carol

Just watched The Muppet Christmas Carol - fantastic!

If you get a chance settle down with the kids, light the fire and enjoy a festive treat.


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Movilla High School - 2

Tuesday evening I attended Movilla High School, Newtownards for their Christmas Carol Service. I was there with the tin whistle class - that I teach on a Friday mornings who were asked to perform. The students choose 5 pieces - Amazing Grace, Once In Royal David's City, Silent Night, Away In A Manger and We wish you a Merry Christmas.

They played very, very well and received a great cheer from fellow students, the gang were quite nervous but excited - but great for their personal development.

Following the service we had tea, coffee, mince pies and shortbread and great crack with a few old school chums of mine - we may look a little older and greyer but the memories remained clear.


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Time Team - Jamestown - America's birthplace

Jamestown - America's birthplace - A Time Team Special.

Over Christmas I have checked the T.V. schedules to plan some of my viewing, in between visiting and receiving visitors. One of the programs that caught my eye was on the Discovery Channel a Time Tram Special - Jamestown - America's Birthplace.

A very important piece in Ulster Scots History was the Forgotten Sir Thomas Smith Colony of the Ards + North Down in 1572, followed by the Hamilton + Montgomery Settlement of 1606. All this including the Jamestowne Settlement 1607, was part of the English Monarchy’s plans to expand their Empire and increase their wealth through Colonisation / Settlements!

Here is a piece about the program:-

Four hundred years ago, at the end of 1606, three ships set sail from what is now Virginia Quay in London. Five months later, on 14 May 1607, the 105 men on board the Discovery, Godspeed and Susan Constant arrived at the site on the east coast of America where they would establish the first permanent English settlement on that continent. They named it Jamestowne, after James I, who was king of England at the time.

Thirteen years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Plymouth in the Mayflower, the Jamestown settlers were building a fort, church and houses on an island on the James River. They were to lose some of their number in clashes with native Indians and many more due to disease, largely caused by unhygienic water supplies. Twenty-five of them died in just four weeks and almost half of the original colonists were dead by the end of the settlement's first summer.

Persevere and Prosper. But those who survived persevered and eventually prospered. Despite various setbacks, by 1619 the colony was well enough established to set up the first representative assembly of settlers in what was to become the United States. The new crop of Virginian tobacco provided the basis for growing economic prosperity, and Jamestown became the capital of the expanding colony of Virginia.

In 1698, however, a fire devastated its government buildings and the Virginian capital was moved to Williamsburg. The original site of Jamestown, including its fort, church and other buildings, were abandoned and fell into decay. The modern town of Jamestown is located a couple of miles away.

For many years it was thought that nothing remained of the original settlement, and that the fort and other structures had been lost to the river. A tourist-oriented reconstruction of how the settlement might have looked was built, but little attention was paid to the archaeology of the site.

Jamestown Rediscovered. Some archaeologists, however, were convinced that they could locate remains of old Jamestown. Among them was Bill Kelso, who had nurtured a lifelong interest in finding the place where America was born.

In 1994 he got his chance, when the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and the US National Parks Service, who jointly administer the site, set up an archaeological project to see what could be found out about old Jamestown. With the 400th anniversary of the settlement – and of America's birth – in mind, this long-running project has unearthed a huge amount of material. Not only were Bill Kelso and his colleagues able to locate the settlement, and demonstrate that it had not, after all, been submerged by the river, but they have turned up something like one million artifacts relating to the early settlers.

Stunning Finds. As Time Team discovered while filming this special, some of the finds have been stunning. For example, the waterlogged conditions at the foot of a large well have yielded some perfectly preserved finds from the early years of the settlement. Those discovered while Time Team was present include a young child's leather slipper, a halberd (a large axe blade and spike mounted on a long wooden shaft) and a hammer.

Unusually for an archaeological investigation, the extensive written records relating to the Jamestown settlers mean that it is possible to put names to the people who lived and died here – and in some cases even to link particular finds to particular individuals. Some of those links are purely speculative; others are based on solid evidence. In this program, Time Team helps to bring alive the personal stories behind the birthplace of America.


Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Harvest Fair

On September 23 will you come along with me.......

Every year on the 23rd September at the square, Newtownards, The Harvest Fair comes to town! This fair has been a focal point for the community in N'Ards and Ards Peninsula for generations.

Over the coming weeks and months Mark Thompson - & myself - and later with the help of others, plans are in place for a project or two aimed at bringing the Harvest Fair to life.

I will not give too much away at this early stage, so I will keep you folk guessing but it is an exciting project!

Great to be Bloggin again!


Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Time for Everything.

Those who know me well, are aware of a few difficulties I have been having of late, hence not too much blogging. Tonight I went to Church - I usually go in the morning with Mrs. Anderson and the children, however occasionally I go in the evenings - as it is a more relaxing service.

I do believe that when I attend in the evenings, there is a message contained with in the service for me, that was certainly true several weeks ago and again tonight the message was clear and unequivocal - The message lies in this scripture reading - here it is.

Ecclesiastes 3 - A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

Fireworks in Bangor

Mrs. Anderson, Mother-in-law, Matthew + Christopher attended the switching-on of the Festive Lights in Bangor this evening. At the Town Hall at Castle Park we were treated to a magnificent fireworks display for around 20 mins, followed by the big switch on by the Mayor Cllr. Montgomery. A huge crowd turned out to take part in the festivities and the weather was kind.

To the council's credit they excel at a number of 'things' Easter Parade etc and the Christmas switch on of the lights etc. There is no doubt Bangor is guilty in a lack of cultural activity at times, but things may be changing. It has been suggested that Bangor is a Cultural wilderness, untouched by the Ulster Scots folk, however a lot of good work has been going on behind the scenes to develop a tourist strategy - tours, exhibitions and a huge festival to celebrate the H&M settlement of 1606 - roll on 2011.

Have a look here: -

I recognise someones fingerprints on this project!


From the Archives

Going through some old files, I came across this great picture - it must have been taken on the run up to the 12th back in 2003, we are at Eric Cully's house in Portavogie. As you can see we are making a lot of noise with Dr Diane Harvey-Smith is trying to fife with 8 drums going full tilt!

That's was away back then when it didn't rain as often!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


Sunday morning 14th November 2010, I attended the Remembrance Service at the Civic Memorial to the Fallen - at the Cenotaph, Newtownards.

It was a crisp, clear and dry Sunday morning, ideal for a Memorial Service.

I could - if I wanted, take part in the Parade and Service; however I prefer to leave my experiences behind, whist still taking the time to remember the past in a quiet dignified way. I remember those that I had the great pleasure to serve with, some of the bravest people in Ulster, forgotten by many, used as a Political argument from time to time - but always remembered by those who worked though and made it through Ulster's darkest days.
I also had thoughts of my Great Uncle William, who died in the Great War, also of my Grandfather who was rescued from Dunkirk; he survived and was fortunate enough to make it through WW11.
I spent a little time chatting with Simon Hamilton MLA, + Jim Shannon MP - I enjoyed their company sharing our own personal thoughts on Remembrance Sunday.


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Ministerial Visit

On Wednesday’s, I normally work at schools in Londonderry, however I postponed them until later in the day, in order to facilitate an important visitor to Glengormley High School.

DECAL Minister Nelson McCausland paid a visit to the school, to view the fife & lambeg drum project that I have been involved in for around 18 months now.

The school sent a few snaps to post on my blog – if you want to read more click on these 2 links.

The fifing section - up close and personal for the Minister!
The Gang - well around 1/3 of them - the rest were not allowed out of class.

The Minister - playing 100 pipers on the fife


Sunday, 7 November 2010

George Douglas Holmes MBE

On the 6th April 2010, the Ulster Scots community suffered a severe blow, with the sudden death of one of its most knowledgeable and talented son's - George Douglas Holmes MBE.

Geordie, as he liked to be called was an exceptional man. I had known about George for many years, in fact since I was a child, as he used to call to our street in Newtownards to pick up Billy McConnell - another local musician. George would drive up in his car with this great mop of hair and bushy beard, load the car with musical instruments - usually Banjo’s & guitars and then drive off, however it was not until 1998 that I formally met George.

Soon after the formation of the Ulster Scots Agency I attended one of the early Ulster Scots seminars, George and I shared a passion for the lambeg drum tradition and both had a desire to promote and develop the fife & lambeg drum tradition in the N’Ards & Ards Peninsula area. Through many hours of telephone calls and meetings, George acted as my mentor, pointing me in the right direction, opening doors for me that may have been closed before - and yes we had a high degree of success.

As well as a high intellect and great orator, George was a very gifted musician, storyteller and wonderful singer. I could write many, many words about George and still not pay an adequate tribute to him - It has been said that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ and in this case - here is one of those pictures.

Thanks to Mark Thompson for this excellent photograph, taken at the Smithsonian Festival, Washington, a few years back – for me it encapsulates George as I remember him!

Mrs. Holmes, Georges widow called me recently seeking advice and help, I hope to visit soon and help with a momentous job of collating many of George’s musical collection, such as musical instruments – of which there are many, but also his musical archive of paperwork, CD’s, audio tapes, LP’s books, etc. I look forward to that with George’s other great friend Martin Shane.

I have a couple more snaps of George playing ' The Lambeg Drum under the Arch' in Newtownards, I intend to post them at a later date.


Saturday, 6 November 2010

Old Friends - Reunited

Last night at my weekly class in Ballynahinch, a chap who recently started coming to the classes, brought with him one of his drums. The drum as you can see has a painting of a B Special officer - his late father Special Constable Ernest Crompton.

Back in 2001, my drum Prudence was unveiled along with a drum then owned by Bobby Magreechan, the Star of Movilla. It had a 5 pointed star painted on it - Bobby was not happy with the drum so he sold the drum a few years later, yes it was the B Special drum that had appeared - absolutely amazing!

I must try to find the unveiling pictures from then, my eldest son Matthew was just born and was 3 weeks old, I have a picture of him on top of Prudence - he is a lot bigger now.

So, almost 10 years apart the 2 drums were back together again - well for one night only.

Ards Borough Council Festival Funding

Back in April 2010, I was contacted by Alan McCormick who was a newly appointed development officer for the Ulster Scots Community Network (USCN) he asked if I knew that there was a grant available for a festival - however closing date was 6 day's away.

I sat down on the Saturday evening and put together what I thought would make a good festival. Those who have been reading my blog will know how successful the 3 x event festival turned out, thanks to many folk, particularly Hammy Gregory, Roy McCartney and Mark Thompson.

Loughries continues to raise the bar for Ulster Scots groups in our area and it is through hard work, meticulous planning and good will from a great many people, Loughries is doing so well.

But back to the grant Loughries were awarded an amount of money, slightly short of what we applied for, nevertheless after speaking with Geoffrey Porter from the Community Development Office at Ards Council a few minor alterations were agreed.

Time Scale:

Grant Submitted 6th April 2010
Grant awarded 10th May 2010
Festival held Sept / Oct 2010
End of Festival report submitted to Council Monday 1st November 2010
Full payment made by cheque by Council Thursday 4th November 2010

Loughries do intend to hold a festival again in 2011, I am not sure what form it will take, however the grant process was smooth and without any problems.

If you are interested in taking part in an Ulster Scots Festival in 2011 in the Ards please drop me a line and let me know your thoughts!


Charity Donation

In recent years a man made contact with me from Dundee, Tayside, Scotland, Andy Burns.

Andy is a Baptist Pastor working with Urban Impact Christian Ministries - originally from Lurgan, Andy was called to work in Dundee.

Why me? Well Andy was very interested in learning the Lambeg Drum and through the Internet I was able to help a little and since then we have become firm friends.

Through Loughries we supported Andy's work and he came over one evening to talk on his work in Dundee, which basically deals with people leaving night clubs drinking, drugs, etc. Andy also comes in to contact with many of our Soldiers coming home from theatres of war like Afghanistan and Iraq.

I sent Andy a personal donation to help with all the bits n pieces he needs - with his team of volunteers, items needed blankets, woolly hats, gloves, flip plops (barefooted women - glass) and other items.

Here is their web link - if you are curious


Unislim - 8

Sorry, not much time to blog this week but I have enjoyed reading other blogs.

My diet has now concluded for the moment - since January 10 I have lost 3 stone (42lbs) and since the start of my Unislim class mid August 2 stone 7lbs (35lbs). A great achievement in any one's book.

I spoke with Nicola, Unislim leader and she agreed that I don't need to loose any more weight at the moment, other than to sustain the weight loss. I still intend to attend the classes every week if not fortnightly to keep my weight under review.

However, thanks to everyone for their words of encouragement during this adventure!


Monday, 1 November 2010

Remember This - Robinson Crusoe TV intro (1964)

Remember this famous TV programme? My goodness 1964, the year I was born!

This programme was on TV many, many times and I always watched it, yes it was dubbed but the story was electrifying.

Well, I place an order with Mrs. Anderson for a copy of the famous novel to read over Christmas - with the logged fire burning, rain, sleet and snow bouncing of the window and me relaxing reading this wonderful story!

Can't wait!

You will be whistling this tune all day!


Sunday at Montalto

Sunday 31st October over 20 members of the Anderson Clan gathered on Reformation Sunday at Montalto House Ballynahinch.

Welcoming tea and coffee preceded a long walk around the estate, through the trees and lands that make up Montalto.

David's hospitality was once again exceptional as we were treated to pumpkin soup, Tai chicken curry, lasagna, sausages, rice, potatoes, vegetables and a selection of breads. Tea, coffee, apple pie, apple crumble, ice cream, fresh fruit, buns, cakes - and that was just on my plate.
My mum, Mrs. Anderson Snr, informed me that I had lost enough weight and that I should consolidate what I have lost - I agreed and got stuck into the feast provided.

There was a pumpkin parade just after dark and 10 Chinese lanterns were sent into orbit, which was very exciting for the kids and the adults alike!

Great to see another brother there - wee Clarkie (Clarke) he enjoyed the company of his extended family for the first time in a while!

Another clan gathering has been planned for Christmas between Christmas day and the New Year - hope it snow’s like last year.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Ulster Scots - Lambeg Drums 23

I don't know too much about this drum, other than it is a Bust of Lord Craigavon - with the drum owned by M. Hayes from Lisburn Co. Antrim and called 'The Challenger'

A theme that emerges from these drums with famous people depicted is that they are prominent figures in Ulster History.

Lord Craigavon - was born at Sydenham, Belfast, the son of James Craig (1828–1900) a wealthy whiskey distiller; he had entered the firm of Dunville Whisky as a clerk and by aged 40 he was a millionaire and a partner in the firm. James Craig, Snr. owned a large house, Craigavon, overlooking Belfast Lough. His mother, the former Eleanor Gilmore Browne, was the daughter of Robert Browne, a prosperous man who owned property in Belfast and a farm outside Lisburn. He was the seventh child and sixth son in the family; there were eight sons and one daughter in all.
He was educated at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, Scotland; his father had taken a conscious decision not to send his children to any the more fashionable public schools. After school he began work as a stockbroker, eventually opening his own firm in Belfast.
Military life - He enlisted in the 3rd (militia) regiment of the Royal Irish Rifles on 11 January 1900 to serve in the Second Boer War. Military life suited him well, but he became impatient with the lack of professionalism and efficiency in the British Army in this, its most severe test. He was seconded to the imperial yeomanry, becoming a lieutenant and then a captain, was taken prisoner in May 1900, but released by the Boers because of a perforated eardrum. On his recovery he became deputy assistant director of the Imperial Military Railways, showing the qualities of organization that were to mark his involvement in both British and Ulster politics. In June 1901 he was sent home suffering from dysentery, and by the time he was fit for service again the war was over.
Politics - On his return to Ireland, having received a £100,000 legacy from his father's will, he turned to politics, serving as Member of Parliament for East Down from 1906 to 1918. From 1918 to 1921 he represented Mid Down, and served in government as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Pensions (1919-1920) and Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (1920-1921).
Craig rallied the Ulster unionist opposition to Irish Home Rule in Ulster before the First World War, organising the paramilitary Ulster Volunteers and buying arms from Imperial Germany. The Volunteers became the nucleus of the 36th (Ulster) Division during the Great War. He succeeded Edward Carson as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in February 1921.

In the 1921 Northern Ireland general election, the first ever, he was elected to the newly created Northern Ireland House of Commons as member for County Down.
On 7 June 1921 (over two weeks before the opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament), Craig was appointed the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. A dedicated member of the Orange Order and staunchly Protestant, he famously stated, in April 1934, in response to √Čamon de Valera's assertion that Ireland was a "Catholic nation"

The hon. Member must remember that in the South they boasted of a Catholic State. They still boast of Southern Ireland being a Catholic State. All I boast of is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State. It would be rather interesting for historians of the future to compare a Catholic State launched in the South with a Protestant State launched in the North and to see which gets on the better and prospers the more. It is most interesting for me at the moment to watch how they are progressing. I am doing my best always to top the bill and to be ahead of the South.
He was made a baronet in 1918, and was in 1927 created Viscount Craigavon, of Stormont in the County of Down. He was also the recipient of honorary degrees from the Queen's University of Belfast (1922) and Oxford University (1926).
Craig had made his career in British as well as Ulster politics; but his premiership showed little sign of his earlier close acquaintance with the British political world. He became intensely parochial, and suffered from his loss of intimacy with British politicians in 1938, when the British government concluded agreements with Dublin to end the 'economic war' between the two states, on terms highly unfavourable to Northern Ireland.
He never tried to persuade Westminster to protect Northern Ireland's industries, especially the linen industry, which was central to its economy. He was anxious not to provoke Westminster given the precarious state of Northern Ireland's position. His desire to have Ulster treated like the rest of the United Kingdom was seen in April 1939, and again in May 1940, when he called for conscription to be introduced in the North (which the British government, fearing a nationalist backlash, refused). Lord Craigavon was still prime minister when he died peacefully at his home at Glencraig, County Down in 1940. He was buried on the Stormont Estate, and was succeeded as leader of the Northern Ireland Government by the Minister of Finance John Miller Andrews.
Home - His wife, Cecil Mary Nowell Dering Tupper (Viscountess Craigavon; died 1960), whom he married on 22 March 1905 after a very brief courtship, was English, the daughter of Sir Daniel Tupper, assistant comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's department of the king's household. They had twin sons and a daughter. A president of the Ulster Women's Unionist Council, she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1941.
Craigavon was succeeded as second viscount by his elder son, James (1906–1974).


Ulster Scots - Lambeg Drums 22

The next in a series of Lambeg Drums will feature 'Bust' drums, that is paintings in memory of people such as family members, Orangemen, famous people from history. There are many varied people depicted - so hope you like the selection.

Here are 2 x drums owned by Mrs Irene Jamison from Newtownards. Irene is a close friend of my mum, and the daughter of Hugh Gordon McRoberts, a well known local drummer from Newtownards. These two drums were originally owned by LOL 1054 an Orange Lodge in Newtownards, unfortunately the drums had not been used for quite some time, Hugh sadly died and the drums fell into disrepair. Irene subsequently purchased the drums from the Lodge and restored them to their former glory.

The two drums - Lord Carson Bust and Lord Kitchener Bust, are stored in Irene's house -where a special extension was added to the house with the sole purpose of storing the drums.

I intend organising an exhibition of local drums, drumming memorabilia, art work, paintings, crafts etc all attributed to the drumming tradition in 'The Ards' hopefully in 2011 or 2012 as part of Loughries festival programme - so watch this space.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Understanding the Ulster Covenant

The Ulster Scots Community Network (USCN) are an organisation that promotes and develops many aspects of the Ulster Scots Tradition through, advice & guidance, booklets & publications historical talks, lectures etc.

The booklet that I have been given to read, is one of their most recent publications, in fact a full box made their way to Bangor on Thursday -this booklet is titled 'Understanding the Ulster Covenant'.
In 2012 we plan to celebrate the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant - a local and highly respected politician described this historical occasion as the 'Birth Certificate of Northern Ireland' - at an event that I attended back in July, and I strongly agree.

Loughries, with the help of a few local historians and writers, will produce a publication similar to this booklet, however concentrating on a local angle 'The Ards' In fact Loughries plan a series of events in 2012 to commemorate this significant event in our history - again more on that later!

The 1798 Rebellion - in the Ards

Following on from Betsy Gray or Hearts of Down, I am reading another booklet on the same subject - The 1798 Rebellion in the Ards.

The booklet is an examination of the local events and individuals that shaped the 1798 Rebellion in the Ards. The booklet was compiled by Ards Council, Newtownards Historical Society, Upper Ards Historical Society and N.I. Family History Society.

It is an excellent booklet and something every historical society should look at publishing as local history is so very important and needs to be promoted and preserved by local people, for local people.

Loughries Historical Society, of which I am a founding member have a lot of projects coming up that will promote 'The Ards' in a number of way - more on them later!


Schomberg Society - Kilkeel

Thursday night I travelled to Kilkeel to take a couple of classes on the drum and fife - for the Schomberg Society Group.

I have to say they are a very talented group and a pleasure to teach, as they listen to what they are being told and carry out the instructions when asked. I have been teaching them Beggarman rhythm and a Colonel Sharp's Advance one of my fifing tunes.

Oh to have a group of lads like the Schomberg in my home town of Newtownards - perhaps in time!

The group are also very much into their Culture and History - many excellent painting/murals adorn the walls of their excellent premises. A lot of credit must got to James Donaldson, who is the main leader at the group and has over the years, moulded the Schomberg in to a highly professional fife and drum group.

Looking forward to my next visit in 2 weeks time.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

North Down Council Offices

When out for my regular walks, (this photo was taken on Sunday Morning) - anything between 3 and 8 miles I pass this building, it is a beautiful building and worthy of a photograph and blog entry.

This imposing building built in 1852 for Robert Edward Ward. It is presently the headquarters of North Down Borough Council who use the mansion’s spectacular grand saloon as the council chamber.

The building was completed in 1852 for The Hon Robert Edward Ward, this imposing building is an elegant mansion in the Elizabethan-Jacobean revival style. It had no fewer than 35 bedrooms and incorporated a huge saloon for musical recitals.

When the then municipal authority, Bangor Borough Council, acquired the Castle and grounds, the music saloon became the Council Chamber. Situated in Castle Park the gardens have won many awards for their outstanding blooms.


Also in the grounds of Castle Park stands this old tree stump - once a mighty tree sadly the years have taken their toll, however back in 1690 it was believed that The Duke of Schomberg tied his horse to the tree - on a welcome break just prior the long journey to Oldbridge at the River Boyne, for a famous military victory.

My walk also takes me through the beautiful walled garden at Castle Park - a delight all the year round.


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A Racing Icon

Thanks to Keith Lyttle for this post:- Partly taken by me from Colin's Web-Site

Colin Turkington is the current British Touring Car Champion and one of the hottest properties in UK motorsport. Born in Newry, now living in Portadown Northern Ireland, he currently drives a BMW 320si with the West Surrey Racing Team and has completed a number of meetings as part of the World Touring Car Championship with some stunning podium places at Brands Hatch, BRNO and Portim√£o.
Colin is recognised as one of the leading Touring Car drivers in the world and hopes to race a full WTCC programme next year.
Off the track Colin is an Ambassador for Go Motorsport and an advocate for road safety in Northern Ireland where he has fronted a number of high profile TV and radio and press ads on behalf of the Department of the Environment

Colin is immensely proud of his Ulster Roots and here proudly lofts the Ulster Flag above his head following his winning race to become British Touring Car Champion

Here meeting DECAL Minister - Nelson McCausland at a Stormont Reception

I am not a motorsport follower or fan - until now! Matthew, Christopher (my children) and I can now watch the British Motorsport Championship and cheer on Colin - hopefully, and I am confident he will - inspire my Children to be the best they can in life and not to be embarrassed by their Ulster Heritage - and to fly their flag with confidence!

Monday, 25 October 2010

A few words of scripture

Over recent weeks and months I have been concerned by matters, not of my own making. I have been trying to figure out why recently, some things are not adding up! What do I mean? Some folk who had been friendly in the past were dry and somewhat distant and 'other things not being what they seemed.
Tonight I visited Greenwell Presbyterian Church, I normally attend in the mornings with my wife and children, however being a somewhat troubled, I went to church on my own - really to think matters through, as I suspected that the tongue of slander has been busy in the background – with my professionalism being undermined and my character questioned.
The service was going well, and then the Minister read Romans Chapter 3 verse 9-19.

Romans 3 Verse 9 - 19 reads:-

9 What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Thankfully the penny has now dropped with me!
I am not one to quote from the Scriptures or use the Bible as a sword or shield - however words of wisdom were bequeathed upon me tonight.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Harvest Time 4

Harvesting the remainder of my homegrown produce. This is the biggest onion that I have grown since I began my vegetable garden 4-5 years ago.

Hope it tastes as good as it looks!

Betsy Gray Novel

I spent the last few day's reading Betsy Gray 'Hearts of Down' and I really enjoyed the read.

This is a reasonably new addition and it looks like George Patton and Michael McCullough on the front cover!

Having recently visited Betsy Gray's cottage, I got a real sense of being there and being part of a wonderful but fateful and inevitably tragic story.

Highly recommend - if you are not familiar with the story.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

Selective Memory

This report appears on the BBC Website - News

Bloody history of the 1641 rebellion is published online. Up to 12,000 settlers are thought to have died in the uprising, the bloody history of the Catholic uprising of 1641 has been brought back to life on the internet.


Testimonies from thousands of eye-witnesses to one of the most significant events in Irish history have been transcribed and made available for free online. The three-year project, led by researchers at the Universities of Cambridge, University of Aberdeen and Trinity College Dublin, all involved transcribing all 19,000 pages of the original depositions, many of which are almost illegible.

The uprising of Irish Catholics in October 1641 followed decades of tension with English Protestant settlers and many thousands of men, women and children lost their lives. The Protestant death toll was most recently put at between 4,000 and 12,000, mainly in Ulster.
However, there have been allegations that accounts of the killings were exaggerated for propaganda purposes.

One of the most famous of the depositions is that of Eleanor Price, a widow and mother of six from County Armagh, who was captured by insurgents who drowned five of her children, along with other settlers, in the River Bann at Portadown Bridge.

The account tells how the rebels "then and there instantly and most barbarously drowned the most of them: And those that could swim and come to the shore they either knocked them in the hands and so after drowned them, or else shot them to death in the water."

Professor John Morrill, from the University of Cambridge, one of the project's principal investigators and chair of the management committee, said: "The events of 1641 transformed Irish history and, as a result, can be justly said to have transformed British and world history as well." " Then and there instantly and most barbarously drowned the most of them” Eleanor Price Witness to the 1641 Uprising. Traditionally, historians have viewed the rebellion as the natural consequence of the plantation which began about 1610, however, in recent years researchers have begun to view the situation as more complex and nuanced.

The rise of puritanism in England, the success of a revolt in Scotland and the rise of parliamentarians threatening to eclipse the power of the King have all been put forward as factors which led to the uprising.

The rebellion proved short-lived, but it heralded ten years of bloody turmoil that ended in Oliver Cromwell's brutal conquest of Ireland which began with in 1649. In the aftermath of the violence half of all land owned by Irish Catholics was confiscated and given to Protestants from Britain.
To punish those who had taken part in the uprising, 5,000 sworn statements by witnesses to the massacre were written down to determine whose land should be confiscated.

Trinity College Dublin took possession of the archive in 1741. Although the information in the depositions is of invaluable importance to historians, economists, linguists and other researchers, the poor condition of the documents and the volume of material they contain meant that they have never been fully studied. Now, thanks to the digitization project, scholars and interested amateurs all over the world can investigate this event which holds such significance for Irish, British and European history.

However, as the inconsistent spelling, poor grammar and chaotic punctuation of the original records has been preserved, the documents are not recommended for bedtime reading.
The project, which began in 2007 and ended in September 2010.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Unislim - 7

For those of you out there watching my weight, sadly I did not get weighed in on Tuesday, I had to work at Coleraine College.

However, my weight continues to creep down, I weighed my self on Tuesday and for the first time in 10 years my weight has slipped below 16 stone - I will keep going.

By the way, Nicola - Unislim has requested I keep a weekly blog for Unislim, so I will give it a go and hopefully it will inspire a few men to loose weight and become a little healthier

Too many fish suppers for some I am afraid!


Movilla High School

Thursday 20th October 2010 after a very, very busy week - early starts and late nights, tonight I was invited to Movilla High School's Prize Night.

I am a past pupil of Movilla High School back in the 1970's, goodness am I that old! The principal and music teacher Mrs Ferris requested that the boy's do a short performance on the fife and lambeg drum and we all agreed.

The assembly hall was packed for the event and the boys fifed and drummed 2 x tunes (I fifed with the boy's) and one of the lads performed a drum sole - the performance got a rousing cheer. Well done to the boy's - who although nervous performed very well indeed.

A word of thanks must also go to Miss Brown & Mrs Ferris for their hard work and dedication to the Ulster Scots initiative within the school - which I am confident will grow into a great success.

I took several great photographs, sadly due to child protection issues I can't publish them.


Monday, 18 October 2010

Last Post

On Thursday last in a shop in Portadown, I bought this 3 x disc audio book. Following on from the best selling Forgotten Voices of the Great War, Max Arthur traced and interviewed the last 21 British veterans of the First World War.
The oldest of the men interviewed was 110 the youngest 105. In their own words they describe the extraordinary changes which occoured during their lifetimes. The words of these last remaining few men speak for an entire generation.
Each week, I travel between 500 - 700 miles and I do get bored listening to music on the radio or CD, now and again I listen to an audio book - it is great and takes you away from a tedious trip.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Loughries Ulster Scots Festival

On Friday 15th October 2010, the third and final part of Loughries Mini Ulster Scots Festival took place as planned at the Londonderry Room, Town Hall, Newtownards.

The Musical Evening, which brought the mini festival to a close, attracted a great crowd who packed into the room to enjoy the following performers: - The Thompson Brothers, Newtownards Orange Male Voice Choir, Lord Londonderry's Own CLB Band, poet and writer Wilbert Magill, with the evening compared by Mr. David Anderson MVO MBE.

At the conclusion of the evening, light refreshments were served - with a retiring offering, raising £250.00, for the Asha Koran Special School in India.

Sorry only one photograph taken at the event, our resident photographer, Bobby Magreechan was on holiday's - however it will give you a flavour of the venue and the audience at the event.

Loughries would like to thank Mr. Geoff Porter from Ards Borough Council Community Development Office, for providing the financial assistance - enabling Loughries to deliver a very
successful Ulster Scots Festival.


Ballycarry Primary School

Friday 15th October 2010 and following my weekly tuition classes in Movilla High School, I travelled to the village of Ballycarry in County Antrim. I had some company, Simon Menabney, one of my pupils from the Boys' Model School in Belfast, Simon was on work experience with the Ulster Scots Community Network - and came along with me for the experience.

We stopped for a quick snack at the village shop and paused to take a couple of snaps of a mural in the centre of the village - they up to the school.

The school sits at the edge of the village.

The school flies the Union Flag from a flag pole at the front of the school.

Inside the main entrance there are a number of displays of some old school / village artifacts.

The fife and drum workshop went very, very well - around 30 children stayed and it was great!
Simon drummed as I fifed a few tunes - all the kids listened intently throughout the workshop and all had a chance to play the drum, as did the teachers - they all went home rather excited and hyper!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Busy Thursday

Thursday for the next while will be particularly busy. Rathfriland High School 0845 - 1215 then travel to Portadown, Clounagh Junior High 1300 - 1600, then travel to Kilkeel to the Schomberg Society 1800 - 2100, then travel home.

Thanks to Jane at the Ulster Scots Agency for getting me into these schools etc.

Whilst in the Schomberg I came across this painting of the lambeg drums at an Arch in Kilkeel.


Thursday, 14 October 2010

Talkback - 14th October 2010

Big brother David, the shy, quiet and retiring brother appeared on Talkback - click here.

About 1hr 16min David gives his professional advice on 'flirting' - David has a degree in this subject.

Worth a listen!


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Unislim - 6

Now, I know quite a few folk are watching the blog regarding my adventures at Unislim Bangor!

Well this week I again lost 2lbs, that's 30lbs in 8 weeks. It is a lot but there again I had a lot to loose. Nicola brought along a 7lb bag and 1lb bag of fat and let all the folk feel the weight then relate to the weight they had lost. I lost 4 x 7lb bags and 2 x 1lb bags - quite remarkable when you actually see and feel what you have lost in body weight.

Once again I would encourage everyone, who like me wanted to loose a little weight to enrol with Unislim - it does work, so if I can do it you can do it!


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Minister's Pen - Nelson McCausland

Last night before I retired to bed I spent a few minutes checking e-mails and messages, I also checked a few blogs that I regularly visit and found an excellent blog post by Minister McCausland - A faded Cultural Memory.

Visit the blog entry here: -

I can say again from first hand experience, that many in the Education sector have been 'Awakened' by the prospect of bringing OUR culture into the classroom, there is no shame in that, we need others like Minister McCausland to support, enhance and develop a strategy aimed at telling OUR children OUR history allowing the children to learn about and play OUR music, etc.

For example - I worked in a school from January to June, teaching tin whistle and lambeg drum, from that small class the school explored many aspects of local Ulster Scots life such as history, music, language, dance, arts & crafts, cookery. The school held an exhibition and concert evening in the assembly hall, attended by local folk and packed to capacity - the school wanted more and more Ulster Scots because the children, parents, teachers and local community wanted it -there are many more schools like it.

I agree with all that the Minister put on this blog post - I have first hand experience of this, however a lot of great work is being carried out by dedicated, honest and hard working folk committed to the Ulster Scots Community. For example Keith Lyttle and myself - working for the Ulster Scots Agency, are aware that there is a large waiting list for the services of the peripatetic music tutors, particularly Keith Lyttle - Fiddle, who is in high demand.

Sadly our Capital City Belfast appears to be somewhat of an Ulster Scots wilderness -with so many schools in a 5 mile radius, yet virtually no Ulster Scots activities going on at all, that's a sad indictment!


Loughries Ulster Scots Festival

The third and final part of Loughries mini Ulster Scots Festival takes place on Friday evening 15th October 2010 7.45pm at the Londonderry Room, Town Hall, Newtownards.

A full house is expected to see the following programme: -

Part 1
7.45pm - Introduction Mr. David Anderson MVO MBE
7.50pm - Thompson Brothers Part 1
8.05pm - N’Ards Orange Choir Part 1
8.15pm - Wilbert Magill Poetry Fa the Ards
8.30pm - Newtownards CLB Band
8.50pm - Intermission

Part 2
8.55pm – N’Ards Orange Choir Part 2
9.05pm – Billy Curry – Asha Koran School India Presentation
9.20pm – Thompson Brothers Part 2
9.35pm - Mr. David Anderson MVO MBE Closing Remarks
9.40pm - Conclusion of Entertainment - Refreshments Served.

If you would like to come along please, drop me a line at my usual contact numbers + addresses.

More detailed report to follow


Sunday, 10 October 2010

Lesser Spotted Ulster

Tonight Sunday Lesser Spotted Ulster came from Bailieboro Co. Cavan.

My wife's mother (my mother in law) and her family, were natives of Bailieboro, however at the time of the partition of Ireland, the family - like many Protestants, upped sticks and moved North.

It was a very interesting and enjoyable program and gave a great insight into the history of a particularly fascinating part of Ulster.



Where were you on
- 6/6/66
or - 7/7/77
or - 8/8/88
or - 9/9/99

Only numbers but today Sunday is 10-10-10 will it be a memorable day for you?

Betsy Gray - 3

Following on from my blog entry on Friday, I was sent 4 x items on Betsy Gray by 'Mark T' who very kindly allowed me to show them on the blog.

1/ Photograph of an old postcard showing the house with the late George Macartney, as you see the house was in a better state than it was on my visit on Friday.

2/ The 9th Edition of the book 'great cover' - setting the scene of the Betsy Gray story.


Saturday, 9 October 2010

Betsy Gray - 2

Well, as planned Noel Roulston and I, visited Betsy Gray's cottage at Ballygrainey (6 road ends)on Friday afternoon 8-10-10. We parked at Summerfields Private Nursing Home - owned by the Warden family and walked the short distance down narrow lane way to the old dwelling house.

From the car park Noel and I pick up a companion, a 3 legged collie (we named tripod) who accompanied us on the short walk to the cottage.

It was a dry, sunny and blustery Autumn afternoon - the trees around the cottage and lanes were being blown wildly in the gusting wind.

Sadly the cottage is in a very poor state of repair – I was rather shocked as to its dilapidated state. As you can see from a few of the pictures, it is a virtual ruin.
It is very sad that we as a society (or the powers that be) decide what is historical and worthy of restoration and preservation and what is not.
Noel is an architect and master builder (retired) - he pointed out many parts of the building and explained what the general function of the different areas of the buildings were used for – I was very interested and intrigued by Noel’s vast knowledge!

Having delved somewhat in local history place like the cottage should be preserved – this period in our history perhaps seems somewhat confusing to the general populous today, however it was the beginning of the shaping of our general society as we know it today. I am not going to get into the rights and wrongs of the political – social – religious realities of that era; nevertheless if you read some local history, I hope you would agree that this house would need to be looked at in a sympathetic and compassionate way.

A view from the Newtownards / Gransha side of the cottage - obviously an old road / track

A view of the front of the cottage from the 4 roads side - again another old road / track

Me posing at the front of the cottage - note the wellies!

Thanks to Noel for arranging the visit - Noel read one of the books about Betsy Gray - that he bought last week on out Aforenoon tour of the Ards and has caught the local history bug!

Hope you enjoyed the report and pictures.


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Loughries Mini Ulster Scots Festival - 2010

Following on from the report of last Thursday's Somme Event - here are a couple of photo's of the 2 x speakers and myself!

L to R - Philip Orr - Mark Anderson - Jack Greenald

Philip Orr - Road to the Somme