BLACK MOUNTAIN WALK

View from Black Mountain: Photo © National Trust

View from Black Mountain: Photo © National Trust

This morning I ventured towards Divis and the Black Mountain. I was on my way back from Belfast International Airport via Hannahstown at 6am and the sun was shining, so I thought it would be a good chance to look at the area now owned by the National Trust. The property contains the peaks of Divis Mountain, Black Mountain, Mount Gilbert and Armstrongs Hill, and also the headwaters of the Clady Water, Forth River, Ballygomartin River, Collin River and the Crumlin River. The landscape is home to a host of wildlife and there are walking trails along a variety of terrain: through heath, on stone tracks, along boardwalks and road surface.

However I was not properly prepared for hill walking so I spent half an hour or so on the road leading up towards the two mountains. Having reached Divis Lodge I turned back. The house and farm was the home of the Dobbin family until the 1950s. The whole site used to be owned by the Ministry of Defence and was out of bounds to the public for over fifty years. The communications centre on the top of Divis Mountain was used during the Cold War and later during the troubles. It was also used by the British Army as a training area. As I walked from the car park, I was on my own enjoying views across towards Lisburn and beyond to the Mourne mountains. The only other occupants were some cattle in a field. It was a beautiful start to the day.

I noticed that a walking festival will be taking place there in a fortnight’s time, organised by the North West Mountain Rescue Team to raise funds for the service. Routes of 10k and 20k are being offered on the day (Saturday June 15th).  There will also be a vintage tractor and vehicle extravaganza from 1pm to 3pm with the vehicles making their way to the top of Divis Mountain. More details can be found on the website of the Belfast Hills Partnership.

View from Divis Mountain: Belfast Hills Partnership

View from Divis Mountain: Belfast Hills Partnership

On a clear day Divis Mountain allows views of Belfast and Belfast Lough, south-west Scotland, the Isle of Man, Antrim Hills, the Mournes, Lough Neagh, Strangford Lough, the Sperrins, Donegal and mid-Ulster. My neighbour, an experienced hillwalker, has often told me about this beauty to be found on our doorstep. From our houses we can see the other side of Divis and White Mountain. I must now take the opportunity to explore further this scenic part of Belfast.

The City Council has produced a useful guide to the different paths. The Black Mountain route is 6km return and can be done in under two hours. The trek to Divis is a further 2.3km. A walk around the perimeter of the National Trust property takes around six hours. For a list of all walking routes in the city, see here.

 

CLARE & MARY ROSE

From time to time on my blog, I republish blogs from other people that have caught my attention. If you read my reports from Bristol earlier this year, you may have noticed my coverage of the SS Great Britain which was recovered from the Falklands and then brought back to Bristol for restoration. It is now a museum and it is well worth a visit if you are passing that way. I have still to visit the restored clipper Cutty Sark in the dry dock at Greenwich in London, but I did pass by that famous ship during a walk along the Thames in April last year.

The Mary Rose: Geoff Hunt painting

The Mary Rose: Geoff Hunt painting

My interest in today’s story of the Mary Rose developed because at the time the warship was salvaged from the Solent in October 1982, I was a senior journalist in RTÉ News in Dublin. A colleague from County Meath who worked with me on the television news desk turned out to be a distant relative of Sir George Carew, commander of the Mary Rose, who died when she sank at the entrance to Portsmouth harbour in 1545. The commander had just been created Vice Admiral of the fleet by Henry VIII. The Mary Rose will open as a museum tomorrow Friday May 31st in Portsmouth. The building cost £35m.

George Carew painting by Holbein

George Carew painting by Holbein

Carew Coat of Arms

Carew Coat of Arms

So here is the story of County Clare and the Mary Rose, as told by Irish Waterways History:

Clare and Mary Rose

“A new museum dedicated to the Tudor warship Mary Rose will be opened in Portsmouth on 31 May 2013. Despite what the UK Independent says, the warship did not lie “undiscovered in the Solent until its exposed timbers were seen by divers in 1971″: the rather longer Guardian story points out that the Deane brothers dived on the wreck in the mid-nineteenth century. Charles Deane also worked on the recovery of the cargo of the Intrinsic, off the coast of Clare; he allowed Thomas Steele to wear his apparatus to descend on the wreck.

In September 1840, in the same issue that reported Mr Brunel’s rash wager of £1,000 that, when his Great Western Railway was finished, he could travel from Bristol to London in two hours [i], the Mechanics’ Magazine also reported that:-

‘Mr Steele, of the County Clare, in the prosecution of his new principle of submarine illumination of objects in dark and muddy water, has been this week down on the wreck in Mr Deane’s water-tight dress and diving helmet, making some observations and experiments’  [ii].

It may be, therefore, that it was a Clare man who cast the first light on the Mary Rose for almost three hundred years”.

From The Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette No 867 Saturday March 21 1840

From The Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette No 867 Sat. March 21 1840

[i] italics in the original

[ii] “Submarine Operations” in The Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette No 893 Saturday September 19 1840

WEMBLEY DRAW

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

Wembley stadium in London is the venue for tonight’s soccer international between England and the Republic of Ireland. An interesting game for a number of reasons, mainly because it has been 18 years since these near neighbours have met. The last occasion was at the old Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin in Fenruary 1995. With Ireland leading 1-0 the match had to be abandoned after 27 minutes as a section of the English fans in an upper stand began a riot, throwing seats, bars and other missiles down onto the Irish fans, Gardaí and stewards beneath them.

But as RTÉ sport recalled, in the years preceding those appalling scenes, the Boys in Green and the Three Lions had become familiar foes, playing out a series of intriguing competitive games between 1988 and 1991. I was in Germany for Euro 88 when in the golden era for Irish soccer for nine years under Jack Charlton, Ray Houghton’s early header decided the opening game for Ireland against the old enemy in Stuttgart. In the Euro 92 qualifiers the sides were again facing each other. Although England took the lead in both games, Tony Cascarino (Aston Villa) headed in a late equaliser in Dublin, while Niall Quinn levelled in Wembley, a match Ireland should have won.

Just like their rugby counterparts, this game means more for the Ireland players than it does for England, where most players get a regular taste of Champions League, World Cup and European Championship action. Kyle Walker, Tom Cleverly and Andy Carroll all dropped out, while Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Darren O’Dea and Aiden McGeady have all travelled considerable distances for the chance to step out at the famous stadium.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

HALF TIME: ENGLAND 1 REPUBLIC of IRELAND 1

Ireland got off to a good start and took the home side by surprise by going ahead after twelve minutes. A beautiful header from West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long inspired Trapattoni’s men. But their lead lasted for only ten minutes as Chelsea’s Frank Lampard scored the equaliser. Although both teams had their chances in the second half, there was no change in the score and at the end of the day a draw seemed the fairest result. The green army went away in happy mood singing “you’ll never beat the Irish!” Hopefully the game will have given Trapattoni the opportunity to consider his options for the next friendly at home to Georgia on Sunday then back once more on the World Cup 2014 qualifying trail with a home game against the Faroe Islands on Friday 7th June.

FULL TIME: ENGLAND 1 REPUBLIC of IRELAND 1England Football LogoFAIlogo

NARROW WATER BRIDGE

In March I wrote about the ongoing controversy over the plan for a new cross-border bridge at Narrow Water linking County Down near Warrenpoint with Omeath in the Carlingford peninsula in County Louth. Now the project has been given the go-ahead by the Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson of the DUP and the way has been cleared for funding of €17.4m to be obtained from the Special EU Programmes Body under the INTERREG scheme. The BBC reports that the scheme for the bridge 660 metres (2,165 feet) long will be subject to various conditions in relation to its upkeep by Newry and Mourne Council as well as Louth County Council.

Proposed Narrow Water Bridge

Proposed Narrow Water Bridge

They have been talking about the project since 1976 when the East Border Region committee was formed by ten councils on both sides of the border, years before the Anglo-Irish agreement or the Good Friday agreement. The provisional EU offer of help last year was welcomed by the EBR Committee Chair, Councillor Jackie Crowe, a Sinn Féin member from Monaghan.

Proposed Bridge

Proposed Bridge

The approved scheme is for a single carriageway cable-stayed bridge across Carlingford Lough, which will be able to open to enable tall ships, leisure craft and other marine vessels access to Victoria Lock and the Albert Basin in Newry. The total length of the scheme is 660m while the towers have a height of 90m and 37m respectively. The design is by Roughan O’Donovan Consulting Engineers, who were also responsible for the new Boyne Bridge on the M1 near Drogheda.

Margaret Ritchie MP

Margaret Ritchie MP

The SDLP MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie has taken a keen interest in the project since her involvement with the East Border Region Committee as a Councillor in 1985. She paid tribute to people such as her predecessor Eddie McGrady, Jim McCart, Donal O’Tierney and Barney Carr, who she said had never faltered from their belief in the bridge and who had shaped the economic debate for it and kept the project alive during very difficult political times in the North. In March she had raised questions with Sammy Wilson and accused him of dragging his feet in approving the Stormont contribution to the project.

Following a meeting with the Minister today Ms Ritchie said  she was delighted to confirm that residual funding had been secured to allow the construction of the Narrow Water Bridge, which she described as one of the most important North South projects to be brought forward.

“Narrow Water Bridge will enable, not only many jobs to be provided in construction, but also will be a vital gateway to the Mournes on completion. It will be an important catalyst for economic investment and tourism not only in South Down and the Cooley Peninsula but throughout the island of Ireland. The project is a shining example of how far we have come as a community and in our North South relations. It also symbolises the future of our economy, which is in our tourism product, and this is now something, thanks to the peace process that we can export worldwide“, she said.

The MP said she had been making robust representations to secure funding for this project for considerable time and previously had met with all other funders including the Taoiseach, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement Committee in Dublin. She said today was a very positive day for the Narrow Water Bridge project, the people of Warrenpoint, Kilkeel and the Mournes and she thanked everybody who she said had worked so hard to bring the project to this now very advanced stage.

Narrow Water project

Narrow Water project

 

LOURDES RETURN

Defence Forces members on International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes

Defence Forces members & Minister of State Paul Kehoe TD on International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes

The 300-strong Irish contingent that took part in the 55th international military pilgrimage to Lourdes returned to Dublin this afternoon, having travelled on Wednesday to the famous shrine of Our Lady in the Pyrenees in southern France. Over 25,000 military personnel and their families and friends participated in the 2013 Pilgrimage. Since 1958, the shrine has seen soldiers from all over the world come in peace to venerate Mary. The tradition of the International Military Pilgrimage (IMP) began in 1958, after what was initially a regional then national pilgrimage was made international to recognise officially the many soldiers that had been arriving. The only glitch was a baggage handling delay at Lourdes-Tarbes airport, which meant that the departure of the two Dublin flights was two hours later than expected.

Air Corps cadets & chaplain Fr Gerry Carroll

Air Corps cadets & chaplain Fr Gerry Carroll

Along the way we met groups including young helpers from Ossory (Co.Kilkenny) and Raphoe (Co.Donegal) taking part in their diocesan pilgrimages. From England, there were groups from Middlesborough (staying in our hotel), Birmingham and Plymouth dioceses (staying in the hotel next door, where the UK contingent from the Royal Navy, RAF and British Army were based). The young people were a credit to their respective groups and in the case of the Defence Forces, the cadets from the 89th class at the Curragh Training Centre along with the Navy cadets from Haulbowline and Air Corps cadets from Baldonnell represented Ireland with distinction, along with the DF pipe band, who never seemed to go to bed and a group from the Civil Defence

Parading the Colours: Ireland with UK and Hungary

Parading the Colours: Ireland (Navy) with UK (RMAS) and Hungary

MONAGHAN AT THE MAZE

Tom Cloonan, Castleshane with helper Charlie Barker, Ballybay

Tom Cloonan, Castleshane with helper Charlie Barker, Ballybay

Even in a crowd of thousands the chances are you will always meet someone with a Monaghan connection. So it was at the new-look Balmoral Show, transferred by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society from its usual venue at the King’s Hall in Belfast to the Maze/Long Kesh development site near Lisburn. Amidst the rubble of the H-Blocks and with some of the watchtowers and remainder of the security wall from the former high security prison in the background I came across Charlie Barker from Derryvalley in Ballybay.

The former nurse at St Davnet’s hospital is a volunteer with the Riding for the Disabled Association Ireland, based at Geraldine Bellew’s Cloncaw Equestrian Centre in Glaslough. He was helping Tom Cloonan from Castleshane to take part in a riding display involving games in one of the outdoor arenas. It was organised by RDA groups from the North.The Monaghan group meets every Tuesday morning and helps a dozen or so people with learning difficulties to enjoy riding a pony, in this case “Major”, which Geraldine had transported to the show. Keeping them company was Mary Foley from Lemaculla, Ballinode.

Trevor Keith, Glaslough, Hugo Maguire, TMC Ltd., Brendan Greenan, Ardaghy, David Boyd, Glaslough, Eddie Rafferty, Tydavnet, Paddy Rafferty, Monaghan at TMC stand

Trevor Keith, Glaslough, Hugo Maguire, TMC Ltd., Brendan Greenan, Ardaghy, David Boyd, Glaslough, Eddie Rafferty, Tydavnet, Paddy Rafferty, Monaghan at TMC stand

Another Glaslough connection encountered at the new Balmoral Park was David Boyd from Mullaghduff, a Holstein cattle breeder and dairy farmer, who had a number of them entered in the show. He has been on the Irish judges’ panel for the past twenty years and has judged at shows throughout Ireland, England, Portugal and Italy. In March he was a judge at the European Holstein Championships in Switzerland. It was Holsteins that took the two top spots for the dairy interbreed section at Balmoral. David was among the visitors at the Town of Monaghan Co-op stand, where chairman Hugo Maguire from Clones was on hand to greet suppliers, their families and friends and provide them with a welcome cup of tea and delicious scones with cream and jam. The visitors included another Glaslough man, Trevor Keith, along with two brothers, Paddy Rafferty from Monaghan and Eddie from Sheetrim, Tydavnet. They were accompanied by Brendan Greenan from Ardaghy.

Joyce Blackburn, Monaghan & Ann Connolly, Tydavnet

Joyce Blackburn, Monaghan & Ann Connolly, Tydavnet

In another part of the 65 acre complex beside the main arena I met Ann Connolly from Tydavnet, who was with Joyce Blackburn from Monaghan, enjoying a break after a long day at the show. Their excursion might have brought them into contact with Liz McGuinness from Tydavnet, who brought her range of Kiwi Country Clothing to the shopping village. She told me that after one year in business she was now exporting her goods to a number of countries. In another part of the complex, Castle Leslie in Glaslough was promoting its leisure breaks.

Kiwi Country Clothing Stand

Kiwi Country Clothing Stand

But one of the most impressive displays from Monaghan was from McAree engineering of Ballinode, regular exhibitors at the trade stands. Eamonn McMeel and Noel Kiely were busy showing their range of V-Mac silos, hoppers and tote bins to prospective clients. The company used the show to test the water for its latest product, which immediately caught my attention when I visited the stand.

V-Mac one ton bag hopper

V-Mac one ton bag hopper

The V-Mac bag hopper with adjustable “legs” can be transported on a tractor with a buck rake or grab to collect a one ton bag of meal from the merchant and then bring it back to the farm and store it. The hopper has a chute at the bottom to dispense whatever amount of feed is required. Hopefully this design will prove to be another success for the company and we can expect to see more of them in use around the county.

Noel Kiely, McAree Engineering Ballinode, chatting to clients

Noel Kiely, McAree Engineering Ballinode, chatting to clients

McAree Engineering, Ballinode, stand at Balmoral Show

McAree Engineering, Ballinode, stand at Balmoral Show

The Balmoral show had something to attract all ages and when I saw a young lad in a Monaghan GAA top I immediately went over to his parents to discover it was Joe McCarey from Dundian, Carrickroe,   enjoying a day out with his wife Pauline and three sons, one of them a baby, Páidí, named after the great Kerry footballer who died last year. Cathal (standing in the front of the picture) is becoming a media personality, having appeared in the Irish News and also on the RTÉ Sport coverage of the Monaghan v Meath division III final when the camera zoomed in for a close-up of him, apparently!

Joe McCarey, Dundian, his wife Pauline & three sons, baby Páidí, Darragh and Cathal

Joe McCarey, Dundian, his wife Pauline & three sons, baby Páidí, Darragh and Cathal

Over at the childrens’ farm, earth science expert Gretta McCarron from Monaghan had set up a stand for the Open University iSpot programme, encouraging people to identify and record wildlife and plants. All in all it was a very successful show at the new Balmoral Park, with a strong Monaghan presence.

Gretta McCaron, Monaghan, at the iSpot stand for identifying plants and wildlife

Gretta McCarron, Monaghan, at the iSpot stand for identifying plants and wildlife

LOURDES

89th Cadet Class ready to march to shrine

89th Cadet Class ready to march to shrine

Brigadier Michael Finn (right) joins parade to shrine at Lourdes

Brigadier Michael Finn (right) joins parade to shrine at Lourdes

I travelled to Lourdes to see the shrine to Our Lady for the first time. I flew from Dublin with a group from the Defence Forces to take part in the 55th international military pilgrimage. Minister of State at the Department of Defence and government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe TD (Wexford) joined the group two days later. The military pilgrims were led by Brigadier Michael Finn GOC 2nd Brigade (formerly Eastern), who was also making his first visit to the shrine in the Pyrenees.

Sgt Liam Bellew helps prepare the DF pilgrimage candle

Sgt Liam Bellew helps prepare the DF pilgrimage candle

 The tradition of the International Military Pilgrimage (IMP) to the French Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes began in 1958, after what was initially a regional pilgrimage and later national pilgrimage was made international to recognise officially the many soldiers that had been arriving.

Pipe Band prepare to lead parade to Shrine

Pipe Band prepare to lead parade to Shrine

The Irish contingent arrived on Wednesday 22nd and this year’s international pilgrimage took place from May 24th-26th. I am now updating this blog following my return. Major events during the stay in the foothills of the French Alps included a parade on Friday, adoration in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and on Sunday a Mass in the large underground Basilica of St. Pius X  followed by a closing ceremony in the afternoon, in which all the bands particpate. Many other activities took place within the individual national groups, including the Irish.

An Army Cadet & Brig. General Carl Dodd read out names on the UN Roll of Honour during Mass in Upper Basilica

An Army Cadet & General Carl Dodd read names on UN Roll of Honour at Mass in Upper Basilica