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 www.visitballymoney.com 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 www.translink.co.uk ). 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 www.visitballymoney.com/how-to-get-to-ballymoney.aspx).

Details of accommodation in the area can be found at www.visitballymoney.com 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: museum@ballymoney.gov.uk.

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 nalilblog@gmail.com

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 robert@riversideroad.freeserve.co.uk

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 www.nationalarchives.gov.uk "

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?