Saturday, 31 December 2011

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

From Bushmills to St Louis with Love

Missouri History Museum is currently publishing a collection of love letters from James Edwin Love to his fiancée, Eliza Mary (Molly) Wilson back home in St Louis, Missouri, on the 150th anniversary of the date on each letter. These letters were written during the course of the American Civil War and give a flavour of the events he experienced as well as his feelings for Molly, a native of Islandmagee, near Larne, Co Antrim..

As a child, James lived with his Grandmother Steel at Bushmills, visited his Grandmother Love at the Love homestead outside Derry, and explored the caves and cliffs of the Irish countryside in the region of Ulster, from Larne to Colraine. Many years later, and in another country, James would meet and fall in love with a girl from Larne, Eliza Mary “Molly” Wilson.

According to the Museum archive, James' father William and mother Esther were cousins and they married in 1829; Esther's Bushmills parents were Samuel Steel and Eliza Moore. James was born in Bushmills in1830 and experienced family loss at a very early age; his siblings were born in Ballymena. His father died in 1839 and his mother just three years later in 1842; his sister Mary E. also passed away in 1842, aged 9, and his other sister Jane in 1848, aged 13. James departed for the USA in 1849, aged 20, along with his younger brother Samuel Alexander, aged 12, just as the Irish famine was nearing its end. From the introduction, some uncles and aunts had previously emigrated to the USA.

In May 1849, James and his brother, Samuel, traveled to America, arriving in New York in July. Several of James’s relatives had already come to America, including his aunts and uncles, James and Mary Jane Adams*, and John and Eliza Forsyth, who settled in St. Louis in 1836. Another uncle, Robert A. Love, had settled in Cincinnati in the early 1840s. James and Samuel traveled by boat from New York to Cincinnati, where James lived with his uncle Robert.

We know from the US censuses in 18801900 and 1910 that James and Molly married about 1865, had four children and that James, who had been an office cashier, died sometime between 1900 and 1910.

Love and Wilson - May 2, [1865,] at the First Presbyterian
  Church, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., by the Rev. Henry
  A. Nelson, Captain E. Love, U.S.A., son of the late
  William Love, Esq., Ballymena, [Co. Antrim?], to
  Eliza M., second daughter of the late Alexander
  Wilson, Esq., Islandmagee, [Co. Antrim?].
(Transcribed by James Tuff.)

MHM Love Letters on Twitter : "Don't miss the next James Love Letter coming January 3! The letters will be more frequent next year when James joins a new regiment". The letters have been archived in reverse order so go to the last page to read the first letter: Civil War Love Letters: June 16, 1861

On May 2, 1865, he married Miss Eliza (Molly) Wilson in St. Louis, where he spent the remainder of his life. He died December 27, 1905. ... Love Papers (1859-1865)

Might the following be Molly's mother?:

WILSON -- July 18, at her residence, St. Louis, Missouri. Mrs. Eliza Wilson, widow of the late Captain Alexander Wilson, and daughter of the late Rev. John Murphy, Islandmagee, aged 76 years. ... The Witness - Friday, 14 August, 1874

Wilson Erected by Eliza Wilson in memory of her husband Alexander Wilson who died 31 Jan 1846 aged 49 years. And their son Joseph who died in infancy. Also in memory of her father, the Rev. John Murphy, 53 years minister of the Presbyterian Church, Islandmagee, who died 12 Jun 1842 aged 87 years. Jane Brown his wife died 29 Apr 1833 aged 78 years. Robert B. Murphy died 10 Apr 1813 aged 19 years. Margaret Murphy died 15 Aug 1841 aged 52 years. Arch. Dounan died 30 Aug 1850 aged 59 years. ... Ballypriormore Graveyard, Islandmagee

The answer appears to be yes:

Molly Wilson was born in 1833 on Island Magee, about 50 miles southeast of Bushmills, and moved with her mother to St. Louis about 1850. One of her brothers** married one of Love's cousins. Love and Wilson, both Presbyterians, were engaged shortly before he joined the 5th U.S. Reserve Corps in St. Louis, which was formed to fight rebels in Missouri. ... Tim O'Neil, STL Today

**Perhaps it's this William Wilson in the 1880 US census who is married to Eliza, daughter of James and Jane Adams [see * further up]

Molly Kodner, associate archivist at the Missouri History Museum, explains the background to the collection.

Love story 2

"Dear Molly" - Bushmills, Ballymena and Islandmagee origins

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Bushmills - Terms of Endearment

Shopping is more than just an exchange of cash for goods - it's also a social experience. Some might find it overly intimate but I welcome the warmth of 'pet', 'love' and 'darling' across the counter alongside the customary exchanges about the weather or the occasional bit of banter. Long may it continue!!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Great Bushmills and Downpatrick Christmas Tree Disease

Last year Downpatrick hit the headlines; this year it's Bushmills turn.

Three photos taken on December 21

Downpatrick splashes out this year. What will Bushmills do next year?

Added December 22

A sprinkling of lights has finally appeared after a week in darkness - and three days before Christmas.

Added December 24

Yes, you've guessed it - the lights have gone out. The Christmas tree at the Diamond in Ballycastle looked almost as pathetic.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wallaces and Craigs of Castlecat, County Antrim

Wallace Craig's Wallaces and Craigs were near neighbours in Castlecat, Co Antrim, about two miles south of Bushmills.

Northern Ireland's first Prime Minister was Sir James Craig but Castlecat produced its own Sir James Craig in the same era. He was a doctor in Dublin who also represented Trinity College in the early Daíls.

Dr James L Nevin (writing in 1902):

"On the other hand there were Fergusons, Wallaces, and with whom there was little amiss. A second cousin of mine, Mrs Craig, (formerly Wallace and whose mother was Laughlin a sister of my grandfather) has a son James Craig MD who has attained an eminence in the medical profession in Dublin. My grandfather, John Laughlin, having only one brother as already stated, and having no son who came to maturity, one can easily understand how the Cluntice Laughlins died out, and the Cosey branch for the same reason."

This Sir James died in 1933

"The President*: Members of the Dáil will have learned with deep regret of the death of Deputy Sir James Craig, who represented the constituency of Dublin University. Until his health began to fail, Deputy Sir James Craig was constant in his attendance and assiduous in his attention to the work of the House. His keen interest in matters of public health and his work for the improvement of our hospital system demanded the respect of all his colleagues, while his relations with his fellow-Whips and his contribution to our debates were marked by unfailing courtesy. I ask you, a Chinn Comhairle, to convey to Lady Craig and her family an expression of the sympathy of the Dáil with them in their bereavement.

Deputies rose in their places."

* Éamon de Valera was President of the Executive Council of the then Irish Free State in 1933.

Sir James was the son of Johnston Craig and Ellen Wallace and they were married in Bushmills Presbyterian Church on 18 August 1859.

From PRONI records:

"23 December 1868

Description : Lease for 20 years, and ?counterpart, William Trail of Ballylough, esq., to Johnston Craig of Castlecatt, farmer, property inCastlecatt in trust for Sarah Reynolds, wife of John Reynolds of Billy or Curramoney, rent to be reduced by half provided no ardent spirits are sold on the premises. (One of two documents)."

Johnston Craig died on 24 December 1893 and a copy of his will can be viewed in PRONI Will Calendars. His widow and Sir James were the two executors. Wallace Craig's grandfather Robert Howard Craig (born 24 May 1870) - who emigrated to St Louis, Missouri, where he sold Irish lace - was Sir James' brother.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Giants Causeway School - 1935 and 1937



Bushmills Grammar School - 1927 School Photo

THE NEW SCHOOL (now Bushmills Residential Centre) - BUSHMILLS 1927

From left

Back Row: John McCallum, Neill Glass, Sam Twaddle, Sam Mackey, Tom Palmer, Dan McConaghy, Robert Wilson, Joey Atkinson, Albert Maclaine

Second Row: Maud Kane, Lily Esdale, Rachel Mackey, Eleanor Carson, Margaret Blair, Grace Moorehead, Bridie Moonan, Jean Huey, Sally Blair, Myra Hatty, Kitty Forbes, Maud Watt, Jean Cooper, Gretta Anderson, Emily Quigg

Third Row: Miss E. Hall, Annie Forgie, Sadie Forgie, Gretta McKaig, Elsie Sharpe, ? Shaw, Isobel Cooper, Mr. Wm. McNeill (headmaster), Emaline McConaghy, Sadie Shaw, Rachel McGoogan, - , Eva King, Rachel Boreland, Miss E. Eakin

Front Row: Sam Montgomery, James Carson, Alex McKaig, Eddie Atkinson, Sam Forgie, Jim McAllister, Tom Montgomery, Jim Kane

The former Grammar School, also known as ‘The Memorial School’ designed by Clough William-Ellis, was built in 1927 which together with its gates and railings and those fronting Klondyke, is listed.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Carry On Up Torr 4 - Ballycastle Chronicle - 01.12.2011

Click image to enlarge

Financial cutbacks and the subsequent reduction in specialised staff (about 17 were released in May 2011) may well mean that even less protection for our heritage will be available in the future. Yet our heritage is an important part of our tourism appeal.

Added 3 December 2011

Memorandum of Understanding between CIG and NIEA - 19 April 2011

and some words on the MoU at the time:

Paul Logue (NIEA Archaeologist) added “Heritage is an important part of who we all are and where we come from. It is also an increasingly important part of the economy, attracting tourists from within our island and from abroad. We hope that this agreement will both safeguard heritage and allow us to help the construction and quarrying industries provide much needed investment and employment”.

Paul was informed about quarrying at Torr clachan:

"Your messages about this matter have been passed to me and I intend to visit the area / site tomorrow morning. I have no further details at present than ‘a digger may be sitting on a mound waiting to dig it’. I will try to find out what is occurring and let you know." ... Paul's email 23 August 2011.

"On my visit yesterday I did not observe any digger damage to the children’s burial ground or any other currently recorded archaeological site." ... Paul's email 25 August 2011.

The initial damage at Torr clachan was reported to NIEA on 31 July 2011, was assessed by two archaeologists from the Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Coleraine, on 10 August 2011*, further major damage was reported to NIEA and blogged on 23 August 2011 yet Paul failed to comment on this destruction in his 25 August 2011 email.

"While we have no definitive evidence to prove that this is a genuine archaeological site without testing we believe there is enough circumstantial evidence to argue its potential." ... CMA archaeologists, 10 August 2011.

Surely the first thing to have done was put an immediate block** on further excavation and resolve the evidence later. The CMA archaeologists had a choice of two mounds in the NIEA records for the townland of East Torr; the one they opted for doesn't fit the farm layout in the Griffith's maps circa 1860.

[* 11. Development at Torr – write to the Enforcement section of the Planning Service detailing quarrying and vandalism in the AONB. Also inform NIEA. (Requested by Councillor P McShane) ... Moyle District Council - agenda for 8 August 2011

** I'm told that enforcement would also have required action by the Planning Service]

Added 14 January 2012

Councillor Cara McShane and other councillors have raised this problem and other site planning issues both at council level and with various government departments and agencies. Sometimes the response is too little; sometimes it is also too late.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Myths and Legends of North Antrim - The Sorrowing of Conall Cearnach

Steve McDonagh's version of the tale and an earlier one from Ethna Carberry.

Northern Ireland Audit Office and Harbourgate - News Coverage

This BBC news story and Teresa Townsley's letter to the Public Accounts Committee [pdf file] at Westminster once again question the independence of the Northern Ireland Audit Office and the ability of the media to give all concerned a fair deal.

BBC: "The audit report said that £25,000 of this went to one of the institute's board members, Teresa Townsley. She had not told any of the other board members about the payment.

The money was paid into an overseas bank account controlled by Mrs Townsley and her husband. She did not co-operate with the audit office investigation."

I think this non-cooperation needs to be set in the context of Ms Townsley's earlier dealings with the NIAO as well as the claim in The Detail that she withdrew her co-operation during the course of the BTI investigation.

PAC: "The final draft of this NIAO Report, which I received on 24 January 2006, clearly shows that the invitation to investigate my assertions and look at the related evidence appears not to have been taken up. I am further concerned by changes and additions to this current draft Report from the last draft which I consider add innuendo and forms of wording which could be misleading. I was informed by the NIAO in a letter dated 20 January 2006 that "it is not normal to engage in repeated rounds of third part clearance". I was also informed in the same letter to address all further correspondence regarding procedural aspects of the Report to a London firm of solicitors.

I do not believe there has been "natural justice" to date and I write to you, as Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts at Westminster to seek to attend when this Report is presented and I would be willing to be questioned.

Teresa Townsley

26 January 2006"

A right merry muddle. But a merry-go-round that just keeps on turning

Why didn't PAC take up Ms Townsley's offer to be questioned in light of her challenge of the NIAO report? PAC's 'Mrs Townsley’s detailed comments, which were appended to the NIAO Report, fall far short of an adequate explanation' IMO falls far short of the need to check the veracity of the facts being assessed.

Does the media, old and new, treat ALL sides to a dispute equitably? Remember that not all parties are in a position to defend themselves when confronted by public service bodies funded by the tax-payer.

Do politicians need to take a serious look at the independence of the NIAO?

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Route Back Home 2012

Family History Conference
Ballymoney, Co. Antrim
19-22 September 2012


Following the success of the first Route Back Home conference in 2010, Ballymoney Borough Council will be hosting another in 2012. The conference will run from 19-22 September and will be based in Ballymoney Town Hall.

As before, the programme will be designed to assist delegates with their research into families from Ballymoney and district. It will include lectures by prominent genealogy experts and the opportunity to meet people from across the world who share ancestry in North Antrim, a region traditionally known as "the Route”. Delegates will also visit the Local Studies Service, Ballymena, Ballymoney Branch Library and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast.


Delegates must pay the full booking fee of £170 to be allocated a place at the conference. Only 35 places are available and bookings cannot be confirmed until receipt of a completed booking form and full payment. The conference fee includes lunch and refreshments each day and an evening meal and drinks reception on Friday, 21 September.

Booking forms are available on-line at or by contacting the Museum Manager at the address below.


Ballymoney is one hour by road from Belfast and a comfortable 90 minute journey by train or bus (see ). There are three airports within easy reach (Belfast International, Belfast City and City of Derry) with direct flights from a number of international destinations. Ballymoney can also be reached via international connections in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland (see

Details of accommodation in the area can be found at and staff at Ballymoney Tourist Information Centre are available to assist by telephoning + 44 28 2766 0230. Ballymoney is close to the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland with Bushmills Distillery, the Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle nearby. Visitors can also enjoy golf, watersports, horse riding, angling, cycling, beautiful countryside walks or the golden beaches.

For further information on the Route Back Home 2012, please contact: Keith Beattie, Museum Manager, Ballymoney Museum, Ballymoney Town Hall, 1 Townhead Street, Ballymoney, BT53 6BE, Tel: +44 28 2766 0230 or Email:

BBC's Countryfile from County Antrim

Portballintrae and Black Rock Strand
[click images to open albums]

BBC's Countryfile from County Antrim

Countryfile - available on BBC iPlayer until December 4

Glenariff Forest Park and  Ess-na-Larach Waterfall - Virtual Tour

Moyle Visitor Attractions - Causeway Coast and Glens

Friday, 25 November 2011

Colvin Indenture, Cozies, Parish of Billy, Co Antrim


Please send suggestions for the meaning of this name to

Loughsisooley is in the north-east of the townland of Cozies/Cosey, Parish of Billy, County Antrim; it's about three miles south-east of Bushmills and less than one mile north of Liscolman. The personal names in the 1796 indenture - Alexander McAlister, James Twaddle, James Clark and John Colvin - also appear in the 1803 Agricultural Census which is extant for the north of County Antrim. As Twaddle's farm in the Cozies was on the north side of John Colvin's in 1796 it's possible that Loughsisooly is in John Colvin's portion #7a in Griffith's Valuation circa 1860

Colvin Indenture, Cozies, Parish of Billy, Co Antrim

The personal names in the 1863 indenture can also be found in the Griffith's Valuation of the Cozies (John Colvin and Robert Clark) and Carnmoon (John Ross and Margaret Ramsey) circa 1860. The associated Griffith's valuation and map locate the homes and fields for each lessee as well as the lessors they paid their rent to and the cottier tenants they collected rent from.

The Tithe Applotment for the Parish of Billy in 1824 has the corresponding names, James Twaddel, Rob Clark, James Clark, John Colvin, John McAllister, James McAllister and Alex McAllister snr in the Cozies and Thos. Ross and Widw Ramsey on the other side of Magherintendry Burn in Carnmoon.

Added 16 December 2011

Could this be the site of the lost Loughsisooly?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Moyle District Council and New Memorial for Robert Quigg VC 2

Lord Belmont's blog

The initial contact with Moyle District Council was followed up by a meeting between Robert Thompson, Keith Beattie (Ballymoney Museum) and Aidan McPeake, the Council's Technical Services Manager. Possible locations for a memorial were discussed as well as Planning Service issues.

This image was scanned from a booklet of war poems published by Thomas Irwin McKaig, Islands of Carnmoon, in December 1916. Here are the final two lines from TI's poem about Robert:

We'll honour his memory in ages to come, his duty he did not shirk;
We'll remember the name, 'Bob Quigg V.C.', and his old home at Carnkirk.

If you have other photos of Robert please get in touch with Robert Thompson at

Monday, 14 November 2011

Moyle District Council and New Media

Moyle District Council

14 November 2011


8. That Council look at providing a recording system for Council Meetings

Can we expect such recordings to be put on-line alongside Council agendas and minutes?

Council meetings are open to the public so on-line recordings would certainly bring Council business to a much wider audience.

The Northern Ireland Assembly produces Hansard reports of its business and there are an increasing number of audio and video recordings available.

Alan in Belfast's audio recordings from the recent SDLP hustings and those from the Assembly give you an indication of the quality of on-line reproduction you could expect from a Council meeting.

Added 2 December 2011

Belfast City Council has just begun webcasting so, presumably, other councils will follow its lead. Moyle councillors, unlike their Belfast counterparts, speak from the seated position - a much more sensible arrangement.

Moyle DC and NIEA Response to Heritage Vandalism in Moyle

Information has been passed to Moyle District Council and the NIEA in a timely fashion by members of the public but the official response has been less than adequate.

NIEA: Our aim is to protect, conserve and promote the natural environment and built heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.

Our vision is that we will have a healthy and well protected environment and heritage in Northern Ireland which contributes to the social and economic wellbeing of the whole community.

Aim and Vision are little more than pious platitudes if regional and local public officials fail to carry out their duties or are prevented from doing so, duties that are paid for out of the public purse. 

Financial cutbacks and the subsequent reduction in specialised staff may well mean that even less protection for our heritage will be available in the future. Yet our heritage is an important part of our tourism appeal.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Department of the Environment - Northern Ireland Environment Agency - A Problem

Copied from DOE website

Protecting Archaeological Sites and Monuments through the Planning Process

Last updated: 15 June 2010
Waring StreetOur built heritage is a finite resource which requires effective care so that it may be enjoyed today and passed on to future generations.
Continuing development of new housing, roads and infrastructure can threaten our archaeological sites and monuments, but we work closely with Planning Service to ensure they are protected from inappropriate change or damage from development. Planning policies for protection and conservation of archaeological remains and features of the built heritage are contained in Planning Policy Statement 6 (PPS 6)Opens in new window..
Measures to protect historic monuments can include sympathetically designing new developments to carefully integrate archaeological sites and monuments and to protect their settings. In many cases archaeological impact assessments and field evaluations are carried out in advance of large-scale development proposals to identify potential impacts upon recorded, and previously unrecorded, archaeological remains.
Aerial picture of CorrstownIn cases where archaeological remains will be damaged or destroyed by development, planning conditions will require that appropriate excavation and recording takes place. Some 200-300 licensed archaeological excavations take place each year in Northern Ireland, the majority of which as a requirement of the planning process.
Our staff also contribute to the preparation of local Area Plans, whereby recorded archaeological sites and monuments and other features of the Built Heritage such as Registered Parks, Gardens and Demesnes of Special Historic Interest, can be identified and appropriately protected from future planned development.
We have produced a guidance booklet Development and Archaeology (.PDF 499Kb)Opens in new window. which provides advice to developers about fulfilling archaeological planning conditions and other archaeological matters which may arise during the planning process.
Why did the protection process fail the ancient man-made mound at Torr clachan, Moyle, Co Antrim?

Mound Marker Stone

NIEA - Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record - Search facility

Aim and Vision are little more than pious platitudes if regional and local public officials fail to carry out their duties or are prevented from doing so, duties that are paid for out of the public purse. 

Financial cutbacks and the subsequent reduction in specialised staff may well mean that even less protection for our heritage will be available in the future. Yet our heritage is an important part of our tourism appeal.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Carrickmore Road, Ballycastle - Some Correspondence

Local people and many visitors would consider Carrickmore Road, Ballycastle, to be part of the public roads network, a network that is maintained by the Roads Service of Northern Ireland. Local historians like Danny McGill have demonstrated that this road, formerly known as Old Colliery Road, has been a public road for many generations; it is marked as such on an old deed map. Old postcards and photographs show the road continuing past 'Marconi's Cottage'. Local historians are quite clear that the Marconi radio transmission experiments were carried out, not from this old coalyard site but from one in the down, down by the harbour.

To the best of my knowledge, this site and the land across the road are currently in the possession of Alan Fraser, developer son of the late Fred Fraser. Povall Worthington, on behalf of the owner, made a presentation to Moyle District Council on 29 July 2011, seeking the acquiescence of the Council to the abandonment of about 40 metres of road to the west of the dwelling.

[* Danny gave Alan an onsite detailed account of the location in 2009.]

[Council] Members were shown a slide of the proposed site plan.  This displayed a proposed gate posts and barrier at the end of the existing car park allowing pedestrian access only beyond this point.  Mr Humes stated that this measure was to stop the access of vehicles and that there was no intention to stop pedestrian traffic. .. He stated that Roads Service had been in agreement with the concept of abandonment but that any such abandonment would have to include a long term agreement for pedestrian access.

Council rejected the request made by Mr Fraser's agent and shortly afterwards Danny Kennedy, the DRD Minister responsible for roads, backed the Council position.

Two Freedom of Information requests and other correspondence have shed some light on the background to this saga:

Brian W Murray Ltd - 4 December 2009: "This is a privately owned access cul-de-sac road .." [source p1]

Had it been privately owned, the developer would not be seeking abandonment of varying stretches of it. Has the land on the south side of the road got development potential?

The map [source p4] shows that the initial request was for the abandonment of about 300 metres of road west as far as the North Star Dyke. Roads Service consulted internally the same month [source p5].

Brian W Murray Ltd - 21 December 2009: "The client has asked that I follow this matter up with you to see if there is anything more I could do for you in order to help the process progress further" [source p7]

Roads Service - 19 January 2010 - Consent to carry out excavation in, or break up the surface of the road - Consent No BM3/10: Receipt No 852964: "The works shall be completed within a period of 6 months from the date of the consent. .. You shall maintain the road or footway affected by your works as required by the Department and carry out reinstatement of any damage arising from your works".
[source p 9]

10 November 2011 - The road has yet to be reinstated as so required.

Povall Worthington submitted a series of Planning Service permission drawings to Road Service on 20 January 2010 [source p10] In the plan the public road on the deed sketch and on OS maps is labelled 'existing lane'. [source p 13]. Why did PW make this mistake and why was the error not corrected by PS? Why has part of the road in front of the house been grassed over, seemingly without permission?

Roads Service - 25 January 2010 to B W Murray Ltd: "As you are aware Carrickmore Road is a public road. .. In the mid '90s a similar but much smaller scale proposal failed for the same reasons as noted above. Unless the 'applicant' can demonstrate the acceptability of abandonment [of part of this public road] to Council/local owners/local public, etc, we do not intend to progress this request any further [source pp15-16]

B W Murray Ltd to Roads Service - 28 January 2010 [cc PW]: "I was hoping to chat through the possibility of the abandonment being reconsidered but on a much smaller scale. .. Please note that our client is very keen to achieve some level of privacy and moreover security to his property. Therefore would be open to any suggestions you may have eg a compromise such as only abandoning the last 30-40-50m say." - 9 February 2010 [ccPW]: "Again as mentioned previously, our client is very keen to get some level of security to his property, so any compromise would be welcome." [source p 17]

Why did the client/owner and/or his agents not approach Council as directed following the Roads Service response dated 25 January 2010 instead of continuing to pressurise Roads Service?

Roads Service to B W Murray Ltd - 26 February 2010: "Unfortunately, Roads Service is not prepared to commend the abandonment process for a revised area until your client can clearly demonstrate that full agreement on such a proposal has been agreed not only with Moyle District Council but also any other landowner/s beyond the cottage. .. One possibility for discussion with Council and others would be for a proposed abandonment at the eastern end of this area, retaining the parking area within the public road." [source p 19]

Roads Service to Contractor - 2 August 2010 [cc D Worthington, Pragma]: "I would now ask you for the confirmation of the date when you will remove all barriers, gates, deposited spoil, site offices, etc. and to ensure that the full extent of this adopted public road is returned to its former state without defect or blemish as was the case prior to the commencement of your work." [source p 27]
[to be continued]

Friday, 4 November 2011

Northern Ireland Water - Lack of Transparency and Accountability 2

The current hiatus over the position of the current interim Chief Executive of NI Water, Trevor Haslett, led me back to the company website and its failure to deliver on openness and transparency:
NI Water is a transparent and open organisation. We publish a great deal of continually updated information about what we do on this Internet site, which you can access by using the search facility clearly marked on each page.
The last NI Water Board minutes** published online are dated 20 April 2011 and they’re still not user friendly ie there’s no simple ‘copy and paste’ facility. These are two further examples of NI Water bad practice.

However there was a discussion on pay back then which might be relevant to the conversation taking place on Slugger O'Toole:

"The Board noted the background to and submission of a pay remit to DRD on behalf of the organisation. There followed some discussion in relation to the approach being taken within the Civil Service in relation to cost of living increases. The Chairman agreed to clarify this position. The Chief Executive noted that the 2 year pay freeze in relation to the Company was due to end in March 2012. The Board noted the potential risk for key staff leaving the organisation as a result of the pay freeze. It was agreed that business cases might be needed to support the retention of such key resources. The Board also agreed that an update should be provided to staff in relation to ongoing performance related pay issues.”

With such a long chain of decision making from the NI Water Board through various parts of the Department for Regional Development , starting at the Shareholder Unit, and on to the Department of Finance and Personnel it's hardly surprising that a topic being discussed in April or earlier still hasn't been resolved.

** Despite this commitment, "In this section you will find links to Executive Team minutes from April 2007 (when Northern Ireland Water was first established) to date. In line with the Model Publication Scheme the minutes provide an overview that would be of interest to the public", Executive Committee minutes were last published on 17 September 2010 - the Executive Team had been rebranded the Executive Committee on 16 November 2009.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Northern Ireland Audit Office Reports - Not User Friendly 2

The story so far: Northern Ireland Audit Office Reports - Not User Friendly

Please find attached a pdf copy of the report with “copy and paste” access, as requested.
Thank you again for raising this issue. [09:09 - 02/11/2011]

Many thanks, NIAO, for such a prompt response. I hope a security solution can be found that doesn't inhibit ease of public access.

For some strange reason my emailer was not impressed - it dumped the NIAO email with attachment into the SPAM tray :(

Here are images of the two security settings:

Copy and Paste Not Allowed

Copy and Paste Allowed

Altering one setting for the convenience of those who wish to quote from the document appears not to have compromised the document's authenticity.

Here's a small snippet from the user-friendly version of the report:

3.6.12 In forming my opinion on the DRD 2010-
11 resource accounts, I am required to
confirm whether, in all material aspects,
the expenditure and income have been
applied to the purposes intended by the
Assembly and the financial statements
conform to the authorities that govern
them. On the basis of my findings above,
expenditure of £4,710,180 incurred
by NI Water in 2010-11 which failed
to conform to the relevant financial
delegations set by DRD and procurement
regulations is irregular. My audit opinion
has been qualified as a result.
Added 3 November 2011

Follow-up from NIAO today:

 "Following receipt of your enquiry, we have done some research to clarify the matter.

My colleague has informed ne that public sector bodies, like other copyright owners, are not under any automatic obligation to allow the re-use of any document they hold.  This is in line with the protection of intellectual property rights, as set down in the Berne Convention. NIAO does permit, free of charge, the re-use of our information.

Where re-use is permitted there are regulations governing how that re-use should be conducted. The regulations came into force on 1 July 2005 and implement an EU Directive on the reuse of public sector information approved by the Council of Ministers on 17 November 2003.

The aim of the Regulations is to encourage the re-use of public sector information by removing obstacles that stand in the way of re-use. The main themes are improving transparency, fairness and consistency. In doing so it will help stimulate the development of innovative new information products and services across Europe, so boosting the information industry.

The Guide to the Regulations and Best Practice explains the PSI Regulations and provides information about existing best practice and sources of help - I will forward this to you in a separate e-mail when I receive it.

The oversight of this area of information management is carried out by the National Archive. Further information can be obtained at "

HM Coastguard Control Centres - News from Liverpool and the Isle of Man

Fight for Liverpool 999 coast service

Published on Tuesday 1 November 2011 11:45

FIVE THOUSAND people from the Isle of Man have signed a petition to help save Liverpool Coastguard station.

Last week UK MP Bill Esterson submitted a 51,000 signature petition to the UK’s Parliament on behalf of the Save Liverpool Coastguard Campaign.

Three thousand signatures were collected by the Steam Packet, other signatures came from the yacht clubs in Douglas, Ramsey, Peel and Castletown.

The Isle of Man may be forced to look at providing all of its sea search and rescue mangement and co-ordination on its own, should plans to cut back most of the UK’s coastguard stations come to fruition.

At present, Liverpool Coastguard provides the service for the island, under a memorandum of understanding with the UK.

But a consultation document issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has detailed plans to reduce the number of Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres across the UK from 18 full-time stations to just two main centres open 24-hours-a-day and a further five sub-centres, most of which will be open during daylight hours only.

This plan would also call for nearly a 50 per cent reduction in full-time Coastguard staff within four years.

All of this would directly affect the island’s agreement with Liverpool.

Director of harbours Captain Mike Brew has moved to allay any fears in the Isle of Man, saying the island had for some time been responsible for its own maritime rescues and that there had been extensive planning to prepare for the closures.

The staff and supporters of Liverpool Coastguard thanked everyone who has supported and continues to support the campaign. They vow to continue the fight.

Have their colleagues and our elected representatives in Northern Ireland continued to support Liverpool and other centres threatened with closure and/or a significant reduction in manpower and other resources?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Northern Ireland Audit Office Reports - Not User Friendly

The Northern Ireland Audit Office annual reports are available online in PDF format to read and to print out. However should a member of the public wish to copy a section of the report to use in, say, a blog conversation or as part of a query he/she will find that the customary ability to copy and paste has been blocked.
I’ve tried to do so using Adobe Reader and Foxit Reader but failed. Content copying is not permitted, according to the security setting, and the Text Viewer and Snapshot icons are immobilised on Foxit. The image above is a screenshot.

Surely it’s time this nonsense was stamped on in the interests of open and accountable government.
"The Consumer Council supports the availability and re-use of government information.  We are aware that its re-use is provided for by legislation ( and should be done under licence/copyright arrangements." [CCNI - 28 October 2011]
The NIAO approach would also appear to be at odds with Information Commissioner Office's Model Publication Scheme's direction that information should be 'easily identified and accessed by members of the public'.

Added 01 November 2011

I sent the following email to the Belfast Office of the Information Commissioner:

"Have you tried to highlight, copy and paste from this Audit Office report?

I’ve tried to do so using Adobe Reader and Foxit Reader but failed. Content copying is not permitted, according to the security setting, and the Text Viewer and Snapshot icons are immobilised on Foxit.

Surely it’s time this nonsense was stamped on in the interests of open and accountable government.

As the Assistant Information Commissioner, do you agree that this NIAO and similar governance documents should be in a format that is user friendly and extracts can be easily taken from them? Is the NIAO approach consistent with the ICO Model Publication Scheme's direction that information should be 'easily identified and accessed by members of the public'?"

Here is the ICO reply:

Thank you for your email below. At present the ICO is reviewing its guidance on publication schemes. However our model publication scheme sets out the classes of information that we expect public authorities to routinely publish or make available. The duty at section 19 of the Freedom of Information Act in relation to publication schemes is to ‘publish’ the information. Indeed some information on a publication scheme may only be accessed by visiting the authorities’ premises following directions in the publication scheme. Whilst it is good practice for public authorities to make the classes of information available in accessible formats (indeed there may be other equality legislation which requires public authorities to provide information in formats for those with disabilities e.g. Braille.) if they make the information available, following the definition documents set out in our model publication scheme it is likely they will have complied with the duty at section 19.  

However I would suggest that you contact the NIAO and ask them to supply you with the information in a format that you can utilise. Under the Freedom of Information Act an individual in making a Freedom of Information request can express a preference as to how they wish the information to be supplied and the public authority must give affect to that if it is reasonable to do so (s 11 FOIA). If the NIAO cannot supply the information in the format you prescribe you can complain to us and we can investigate if they are in breach of section 11. If you wish to make a complaint to us, you can download our complaints form at the following link:

I'm an advocate of open, accessible and accountable government. This ICO response struggles to answer my fairly simple questions. Why should a member of the public have to make a complaint before the ICO acts (IMO) in the public interest?

Added 2 November 2011

NIAO response:

"I believe, that in terms of communication, you have raised an interesting issue, which we need to address.

My understanding is that in “locking down”  the pdf reports in such a way that they cannot be copied, it further enhances the security of the document and prevents unauthorised access of our website. Nevertheless, this must be counter-balanced by the needs of the wider public, and specifically the taxpayer.

In light of your request, I will contact our IT Manager later this morning with a view to releasing the report in the format you have requested. Furthermore, in the longer term, we need to establish if it will be possible to place all our forthcoming reports in this format, while retaining an appropriate level of security.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention."

Monday, 24 October 2011

Northern Ireland Civil Service - Selective Blocking of Blogs

Apart from occasional blogs here on NALIL, I'm a regular contributor to Northern Ireland's premier political blog, Slugger O'Toole, where I picked up the political blogger of the year award in 2008.

Imagine my surprise when I found out today that Northern Ireland civil servants could access Slugger O'Toole without limitation; I'd known for some time that NALIL was blocked. Slugger has a comment zone where participants could easily spend hours at a time whereas NALIL deliberately has no comment arrangement and most viewers are unlikely to spend more than a few minutes.

Here's a comment from a senior civil servant that a friend received:

I'm afraid our IT security prevents Civil Service staff from accessing blogs at work, but I'll forward this home and have a look at it this evening.

This senior civil servant seems to have been unaware that access to NALIL was available at work by raising a work request to IT Assist. A spokesman for IT Assist told me that clearance can be given in anything from two hours to two days and a civil servant in a Minister's office said that IT Assist's contact number is prominently displayed. At a time of declining budgets you might think that civil servants would take advantage of expertise that is available for free.

I also discovered that political constituency offices use the NICS computer network too and they can access NALIL as well as social networks such as Facebook.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Whooper Swans Beside the Bush Water

Recent Arrivals

Open all hours diner just north of Bushmills

Making the most of the wet conditions

After a long flight from Iceland, a bite to eat,
a quick preen and a welcome snooze

A twitcher writes: "Please do not disturb these wonderful birds - it's an offence to do so anyway - as their wintering sites have been reduced over the years. The grey birds are this years young. Families stay together for years."

Churnalism vs Journalism

"What a load of old tosh!"

That was the reaction by a Facebook friend to a recent local story that appeared in a newspaper.

And there's more:
Anyone who didn't know better could be fooled into thinking, on reading this article, that X actually did something for the benefit of the Ypeople!
I needn't go into the details as the malaise, otherwise known as churnalism, appears to be quite common.

From Wikipedia:

  • Churnalism is a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking.

  • In his book Flat Earth News, the British journalist Nick Davies reported a study at Cardiff University by Professor Justin Lewis and a team of researchers which found that 80% of the stories in Britain's quality press were not original and that only 12% of stories were generated by reporters. The result is a reduction of quality and accuracy as the articles are open to manipulation and distortion.

Those who are familiar with the facts will have no difficulty identifying a piece of churnalism; those who are not may well be taken in and so react inappropriately.

Switch on your critical faculties before you switch on your radio and tv and before you pick up a newspaper; what you hear, see or read may owe more to public relations than to journalism. Serious errors of fact should be passed to the relevant editor so that corrections can be published prominently and promptly.