Sunday, 18 May 2008

Giant's Causeway Railway Fires

I got a call at 3:28 this afternoon to say that there was another and more extensive fire alongside the trackbed of the Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Railway.

It turned out that there were two fires, a small one just over one hundred yards or so from the station and a much more extensive one just to the west of the gates on the Sand Rodden and between the track and Blackrock Strand. A stiffish breeze from the east was slowly carrying the fire through the whins and grass on the dunes.

Five fire tenders arrived and one of them had reversed down the Sand Rodden as far as the track gates. I'm told that the fire was reported about 2:40pm and the first of the tenders was there by 3pm. The firefighters didn't have a key to lower the bollards; I understand one was eventually delivered by a member of the railway staff about 3:40pm just before I'd arrived. Had there been no obstruction the tender might have been able to drive down the Sand Rodden instead of reversing and turn in the small car park below the crossing gates.

The bollards were put in place last year by Moyle District Council but it seems that they hadn't got around to supplying the essential services with the requisite keys. The firefighters had attended an earlier fire near the same spot just a few weeks ago and walked down the track from the railway station.

A local told me told me that there had been another fire earlier today a few hundred yards from the Bushmills end of the track but it turned out to be just a small stretch of grass beside the track.

The train continued to run as the undergrowth smouldered and burned and the smoke spiralled up into the sky. The fire seems to have begun whilst Shane, the steam engine, was pulling the carriages but it was Rory, the diesel engine, that did the 4pm run from the station. The train leaves the station on the hour and Bushmills on the half-hour.

Let's hope the authorities get these problems resolved just in case there is a much more serious incident where lives are at risk.


The issue was raised at a meeting of Moyle District Council on Monday, May 19, by local Councillors McConaghy and Graham. Apparently council officials were unable to say who'd been issued with keys or who had provided the key on Sunday.

At the Council Meeting, Price McConaghy said there was an issue about access to the area as a bollard blocks a pathway.

The councillor said it was fortunate no lives were in danger but he said if there was an accident at sea emerency services could be restricted by the bollard.

A spokesman for Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said: "Firefighters have tackled a small gorse fire in the Portballintrae area*.

"The fire broke out at 1.50pm on Sunday, May 18. One appliance from Portrush attended the scene, using beaters to extinguish the flame.

THE CHRONICLE, May 22, 2008
*Perhaps this was the earlier reported fire near the Bushmills end of the track.

A friend of mine last autumn was struck by the number of private signs that he spotted in a stroll around the Giants Causeway hinterland. Perhaps there's a conflict between the desire for privacy and the need for public safety and local convenience.

I see no reason why the bollards should not be removed. If there is a problem with rail safety then a safer option to deal with it should be adopted.

I've had another look at the photos and I've spotted another safety issue, the failure to close the crossing gate to road traffic coming from the direction of Runkerry House as the train approaches the station. Photographic evidence indicates that this gate has been left open on a number of occasions during the past year as the train has passed over the crossing.


I'm told that David Laing, a previous manager of the railway, maintained a fire tender in a state of readiness in the station sheds in case of fire and hauled it to the scene of an outbreak using a diesel engine.

Is that tender still on the premises? Is it ready to be taken promptly to the site of a fire? If it is, why wasn't the Sunday service brought to a halt and why weren't all the resources deployed to tackle the various fires that had broken out along the side of the track?


In light of the more recent fire on Friday, May 23, and the discovery of a large piece of clinker and what appear to be parts of metal plating on the track. Perhaps the responsible railway inspectorate officials need to take a look at the safety of rolling stock, especially engine Shane, and other parts of the operating system. Shane was formerly fuelled by peat but coal is used now. Could there be a problem with the ash box?


I received an email today that sheds some new light on the end of April fire by the 50p hut:

Oh, yes, we saw it pass by at least 3 times before the fire. We did not recognize that it was a train at first, but then we realized it was a train. Maybe we should have had a ride on it. But then we might have been involved in the fire!


A principal inspector from the Health and Safety Executive has been appointed to examine a range of issues raised in this blog and elsewhere.

A number of complaints have been raised about the quality of coal being used to fuel the steam engine. The smoke has become much blacker and washing has had to be relaundered after having been splattered with particles of soot and exposed to obnoxious odours.


It was all go on the railway this afternoon, Thursday June 12.

Shane, the blue steam engine, was hauling empty carriages and Rory, the diesel, was rumbling up and down the track. There was a fire tender filling up at a hydrant on the Ballaghmore Road and I wondered, "Surely not another fire".

As we headed for the golf club lane, firemen could be seen directing their hoses onto a trackside fire below the golf course, not far from another recent outbreak. The damaged pedestrian crossing had been repaired but the decking looked higher than it should be. Perhaps that was why the protective angle-iron strip had been knocked off and the metal item in the sketch left lying between the tracks.

There were an additional two tenders on the path across the tracks from the fire and the firefighters had just about extinguished the flames. It's just as well the three vehicles were not needed for more important work elsewhere. I've lost count of the number of tenders that have been to these fires in the past few weeks.

The plates linking the rails had recently received a coating of oil - something a friend noted had not been seen for ages!!

More images with captions here.

Moycraig National School

Snippets from the archives
Roll No: 8915
Location: Junction of Moycraig and Lisnagat Roads just north of Mosside, Co Antrim.
References ED9/5390; /10562; /8776; /11692; /11891; /12495
These are held in the National Archives, Bishop Street, DUBLIN 8 Tel: 478 37121
ED 9 / 5390
In 1888, there was a local row over the appointment of a teacher by the Rev J R Moore, when he was minister of Toberkeigh. He had since moved to Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone. Details of the disagreement had been forwarded to Dublin by Thomas Taggart (solicitor) on behalf of the management committee. [This Taggart family had its roots in Moycraig] Dr. Dunlop had consented to be the new manager of the school.
The previous principal, Agnes Taggart, had left on 16/2/88. She was succeeded by Lizzie Hayes on 16/2/88. Lizzie had trained in Marlboro St., Dublin (1882-1883) and had taught in Billy, which she left on 1/7/86. It was claimed that the school numbers had fallen considerably since the appointment of the new teacher. The school roll was 27. The assistant teacher was Lillie McCaw, but she was currently away on training (in Dublin?).
ED 9/10562
Correspondence from Dr Dunlop (Straidkillen) on the health of the principal, Mr Milliken.
“Mr Milliken is on sick leave. Ms Annie Brown is substituting.. .25/11/96.”
“Wilson Milliken certified to be suffering from extreme nervous debility - quite prostrate... .3/12/96.”
“Mr Milliken committed to Derry asylum as a dangerous lunatic... .c. 5/12/96.”

William Erigena Robinson's "The Irish in America"

I am searching for a book, "The Irish in America", written by William E(rigena) Robinson. It was published in America about 1878. One of the families mentioned is Clinton! [Erigena means native of Ireland.]

William Robinson was a member of Congress for Brooklyn in the 1870's and, as a newspaper columnist, was known as Richelieu of the Tribune - according to the New York Sun, of the 22nd September 1878. He had a brother James in Coleraine and a brother John in the neighbouring town of Ballymoney. Both of these towns are about ten miles from here.

The Sun tells us that William devoted much of his research to "the immigration to this country from Ireland prior to the Revolution" (War of Independence).He claimed that the Irish were pioneers of American education and that one particular Irishman (unnamed) gave presidents to Hampden, Sidney, Princeton and Union Colleges.

In his book "The Irish in America" there are full accounts of Carroll, Livingstone, Preston, Meade and Clinton plus details of Adams, Aiken, Alexander, Alison, Armstrong, Beatty, Blair, Black, Brown, Burke, Butler, Caldwell, Calhoun, Campbell, Chambers, Clarke, Crawford, Davidson, Ewing, Finlay, Floyd, Fulton, Gibson, Graham, Hall, Harper, Houston, Iredell, Irvin, Jackson, Johnson, Johnston, Kennedy, Logan, Lynch, Morton, Marshall, McDowell, McKean, Montgomery, Moore, Morse, Nelson, Porter, Polk, Pollock, Patterson, Read, Reid, Rodgers, Rutherford, Rutledge, Smith, Speight, Stewart, Tennent, Thompson, Vance, White and Wilson.

Many of the above names are in existence in north Antrim. The Pollocks are still called Polk (pronounced as poke!), by older people. Irvin has become Irwin.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Loss of Biodiversity Along the North Coast Shoreline

I was given a copy of some remarks by Professor Amyan McFadyen, Emeritus Professor Biology at the University of Ulster, Coleraine on the state of our coastline:

I have been a regular observer of the seashore fauna and flora for the last 37 years.

When I first came to the area the seashore was rich in most groups of invertebrate animals, especially Molluscs, such as Nudibranchs Gasteropods and Aplysioids, Echinoderms including Ophiuroids Echinoids and Asteroids and a wide variety of brown and red Algae with very limited amounts of green species.

Today few of these invertebrates can be found at all and there is a great predominence of green algae, generally regarded as indicators of excessive nutrients especially nitrates and phosphates.

Today if one lifts a stone in the rocky intertidal region anywhere from Portstewart to Ballintoy the likelihood is that one will encounter black mud and anoxic conditions inimical to any form of life requiring Oxygen

Over the years I have attempted to draw attention to the situation both with the National Trust, in connection with their "Enterprise Neptune" scheme and also the D.O.E. On one occasion I was quoted water analysis readings taken many miles offshore, which were totally irrelevant.

I believe that the combined nutrient load derived both from sewage and from farming runoff has caused severe eutrophication of the intertidal waters which is not surprising considering that organic wastes from both urban and farming sources have greatly, increased over the period under consideration.

Contributions on this theme can be sent to the NALIL blog address in the right panel.

Discharge at Portcoon

Discharge at Runkerry

Discharge at Portballintrae

Community Against Racist Attack

A short notice invitation from Portballintrae Residents' Association:

On Thursday 15 May 2008 at 2.30pm Portballintrae will show its support for all people in the village against violence. We will announce the formation of CARA: Community Against Racist Attack at the Beach Road site.

The Mayor of Coleraine, elected members of Council and other distinguished guests will be on hand for this press event.

Please come out and show the world that we will not allow these attacks in Portballintrae.

There have been a series of attacks on the homes, cars and businesses of newcomers to Bushmills and district during the past year or so. Let's hope that the authorities, public representatives and neighbours can, in their different ways, help to bring such attacks to a speedy end and that everyone can enjoy a measure of peace and prosperity together, not apart.


Portballintrae Residents' Association Statement

Many people in Portballintrae were disgusted by the incident at the weekend when two cars belonging to a Bulgarian family were set alight and lives were put at risk.

This is not the first racist attack in the village and we feel that a united effort must be made to show that this community does not condone such behaviour.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Griffith's Valuation of Ireland

You can search this AskaboutIreland site by family name and placename [has gone offline at present]. The valuation of NALIL territory was carried out about 1861 and the revised records are available at PRONI.

PRONI also has some old land registry records and I found a will belonging to one of my great grandparents in the files. The land registry reference is of the form NI/xxxx where x is a digit from 0 to 9 and the reference can be found in the certificates held at Land and Property Services.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Charmed by County Antrim

My first visit to Northern Ireland happened about one year ago in 2007 when my husband, Patrick Kelley, and his three brothers and wives - all eight of us - visited and toured Ireland, Scotland and a wee bit of England by rail and by ferry. We had a glorious time but were on a definite and tight schedule.
I had made it known that a cousin had connected with my McKeeman family in County Antrim and that I’d love to zip up there to connect and to see the birthplace of my Great Great Grandmother McConaghy of Deffrick and Great Great Grandfather McKeeman of Ballyoglagh, never thinking that any of my brothers or sisters-in-law would want to join on that part of the trip. But, alas, they did not want to miss a thing and so the eight of us left Belfast in two rental cars to spend one day in County Antrim.
We met Nevin and Agnes, two local members of NALIL, and were greeted warmly and whisked off to visit farms, cemeteries and the marriage site of my grandparents. It was quite a humbling experience for me and, though we had only a brief whirlwind tour, I was won over by the warmth of our hosts, as well as by the natural beauty of the land. Leaving there so soon in order to return the rental cars to Belfast, my heart was heavy; I felt pulled to stay in the area longer than time would permit.
Imagine my joy, then, to have the invitation from my cousin Jane to tour Northern Ireland this spring of 2008 and to be able to linger and to enjoy the area for a longer period. Jane and her husband, Dan, flew from Tucson, Arizona; a good mutual friend, Marjorie, flew in from Fort Wayne, Indiana; I flew from Greenville, South Carolina; and we all met up at Dublin Airport. It was a bit of a reunion for us; Jane, Marjorie and I had been schoolmates during our high school years!
More (DOC) or More (PDF)
Bonnie Kelly, South Carolina, USA
What can I add to Bonnie's wonderful letter! She almost said it all. But Dan and I want to add our love and good wishes to all those who so beautifully entertained us and introduced us to the homeland of our ancestors. Thank you one and all so very much.

Our tummies are full, our eyes have seen so many wonders, our ears have been soothed with traditional music and we have met some of the most gracious and kind people on this earth. We wish we could drop in for a visit every so often. But, lo, we live so very far away. We really hope some of our dear new friends will come to see us in Arizona one day.

And to all those who are our County Antrim friends: God be with you till we meet again!

Jane and Dan Hodgson

Nevin adds:

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Giant's Causeway Railway Fire Caused by Arson?

Some American friends of mine were dining at the Giant's Causeway Hotel on Wednesday, April 23, when they spotted smoke billowing into the sky from the direction of Bushfoot Strand.

A fire tender arrived shortly afterwards, parked on Runkerry Road near the little railway station and the firefighters walked down the track beside the rails towards the scene of the fire. Perhaps they didn't have a key to the bollards that currently block access via the Sand Rodden. Luckily, the incident wasn't a more serious one.

A concrete base is all that now remains of the '50p hut'; it's visible in the forty or so yards of scorched ground just to the right of the train. According to the Ballymoney & Moyle Times, PSNI officers believe that the fire was caused by three or four youths.