Sunday, 28 October 2007

Ballintoy, Knocksoghey and the Blackside

On my grandfather's birth certificate, the place of birth is given as Blackside, Ballintoy, Co. Antrim. The problem is that I can't find Blackside on a map, either on the new OS map or on old ones. I've also searched on the Internet without success. I've tried spelling it differently too. Can somebody help? Peter Corrigan, Sweden

I've only just recently heard of the Blackside. It's in the townland of Knocksoghey - Cnoc Sochai - "hill of the host/army", about one mile east of the village of Ballintoy. Apparently, the sun isn't visible above Knocksoghey from about the beginning of November to the beginning of February.

The Jamieson family have been living at the Blackside for several generations. Visitors to the rope bridge at Carrickarede used to take the old winding path that led from their farmyard down to the bridge. This old pre-1940s postcard [click to enlarge] shows the farmyard with the cornstacks on the east side/right.

The site of the long low narrow building to the west of the Jamieson property featured* in BBC NI's Spotlight programme, "Ian and the Giant", on Tuesday, October 23 past; #111 appears in its 'west wing'.

"A site meeting had been arranged with the planners to lobby and get approval for the site. I was there, Dr Paisley was there, Ian Paisley jnr was there, and Seymour Sweeney, the owner of the property was there" ... Cllr Price McConaghy, Moyle District Council

There was also a picket of local people in attendance that Saturday, September 4, 1999: 'Sometime in the future there will be no-one here but holiday home owners. There will be no natives to tell visitors the history of our area'. [Ballymoney Times]

I'm told that only a very small number of people were permitted onto the site and it's not clear whether or not anyone went inside the buildings to carry out an inspection.

The Schedule of Accommodation page from the planning file matches the following minutes yet, as far as I can see, there was only one dwelling - #111 on the map - and some out-buildings compared with a request for the two replacement dwellings shown on the schedule:

"E/2006/0083/F Sweeney 6 Seaport Avenue, Portballintrae, BT57 8SB. Location 111 Whitepark Road, Ballintoy. Proposed alterations and extension to underground area of extant planning approval E/1999/0380/F (presently under construction)." ... Moyle Council Minutes, 21 August 2006

Didn't the planners and those lobbying for the application spot the discrepancy? 'Presently under construction' is hardly a useful description for a large hole in the ground with a tracing of concrete; there's not much to see for eight years work. And there's more ...

Property #4, in the 1901 Census - see comment #2 - shows one dwelling, a stable, a cow house, a piggery, a barn and a shed. Local people say that the dwelling was at the west/left end and the stable, barn, piggery and byre were to the right of it. The barn once had an indoor threshing mill and the horse-walk was on the seaward side.

I'm told that prior to the site meeting contractors 'refurbished' the outbuildings; apparently #111 had been improved with a Housing Executive grant in the mid 1980s.

We've all heard about old time farming where the pigs were kept in the parlour but who'd have expected to find a bathroom suite in the piggery!! Whoever thought of this wheeze apparently had only arranged for the connection of a cold water supply and, as there was no connecting door, the lady of the house would have been expected to make her way to the cold ablutions via the garden or yard - a blue Blackside backside in the parish of Ballintoy!!

The late Cllr Bertie McKay of Portbraddon told me that the authorities were invited to check the plumbing but it seems that the planning service and the lobbyists may not have got the message.

The 4th and 5th revaluations at the (former) Valuation and Lands Agency site show a #111 and #111a, VLA Property References: 2113061201110004 and 2113061201110101. The old sow, OOPS, lady of the house would have got a bit of a shock if a bill from the rates collection folks for 111a had dropped on the floor. An acquaintance of mine has queried the bill for 111a and was told that if anyone was that anxious to pay rates the office would happily have supplied a bill - or words to that effect!!

The buildings were tumbled shortly after the 'successful' site meeting and there's now a huge hole in the ground where the imagined dwelling used to be. There's a splendid view out to Sheep and Rathlin Islands but what exactly is the purpose of the hole. If it's for a lower level apartment then an extensive amount of rock would need to be quarried on the north side of the hole.

It's difficult to see how the planning service would permit this quarrying considering current regulations. Who knows? The some time lobbyist who failed to spot the peculiar plumbing in the piggery is now the First Minister and the Minister for the Environment belongs to the same party. This may be the story of a dripping tap rather than a smoking gun and a Dr Yes rather than a Dr No.

Yes, First Minister ....

*I'm told this was edited out of the broadcast program.