Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Diaspora - Homecomings and Gatherings and Shortcomings

The ties that bind have friendship as well as tourism potential

I dabble in genealogy so I often meet members of the Diaspora. One of the big things that sets them and me apart is the spread of their root origins. Should I look back two centuries I would find very few ancestors who were born more than ten miles from that chair in the Bushmills Inn; Diaspora roots often spread for thousands of miles and through many countries and states; I feel very rooted; they often have a strong desire to locate their roots; my roots may be local but my connections are global - thanks to modern media.

In these parts we are rich in scenery and in hospitality but we are poor in records, especially their availability and accessibility; what records we have could be used more as a tourism attraction than simply as a source of tourism or genealogy income.

Lyle was here recently from Pennsylvania but didn't have enough time to link-up with his distantly-related cousins or 'freens', as they are known locally. He bumped into a friend of mine and the latter passed on some details to me by email. There was enough detail for me to see that Lyle and I were related by various marriages, if not by blood. When I mentioned the detail to a shared relative the latter produced a violin, a violin that was made by Lyle's grandfather - his name and year of making are visible inside the body! Some modern media connections have since been established and I'd imagine it won't be too long before some particular members of the Diaspora turn up on these shores.

Lyle's reaction: "The pictures of the fiddle really got to me as growing up my grandfather Daniel was always working on making them! He made 4 that I know of and his sons have them. He would go out into the woods (he picked to live here in the woods and hills of Robesonia PA because he said it always reminded him of home, just without the sea), pick a tree, cut it down, make boards, and start the year long or so of hand carving and such. They all play beautifully. .. All my Uncles are also very excited and we all want to get together and go over the things I've found out as none of them knew!"

Lisa and I haven't met but we are now Facebook friends. She is from British Columbia, was recently at a Clan Maclean gathering in Scotland and then popped over here to have a look for her McLean roots; Fergus McLean, a weaver, who left from Coleraine in 1775 was the father of Judge John McLean; locating Fergus' roots will be a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Lisa's reaction: "I feel that the best discovery of all is new acquaintances."

The Links tab at the top of the blog contains links to numerous genealogy and other sources.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Japanese Knotweed on the Causeway Coast, County Antrim 2

and other places besides

"Jim Allister MLA: To ask the Minister of the Environment to outline the protocols for dealing with Japanese knotweed on (i) public; and (ii) private property.

Alex Attwood MLA, Minister of the Environment: It is widely recognised that invasive alien species, such as Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), are the second biggest threat to biodiversity loss worldwide.

The Wildlife Order (NI) 1985 (as amended) Article 15 makes it an offence for any person to plant or otherwise cause Japanese knotweed to grow in the wild. This legislation does not, however, give the Department the power to enforce a landowner to undertake control. Where the growth occurs on either public or private land it is the decision and responsibility of the landowner or manager to undertake control.

The protocols for controlling Japanese knotweed can be variable depending on the site’s intended end use, the size and location of the growth and the herbicide selected for use.

For example, where a site has a pressing development requirement, typically more expensive short term solutions, such as deep excavation and deep burial, would be used. For other sites, which do not have such an urgent development requirement, control is typically achieved through the repeated use of a systemic herbicide over a number of years. The location of the growth, such as growth near water or other mature vegetation, will determine which herbicide can be used and the optimum time of application.

To assist both public and private landowners to undertake control officials in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) have developed a range of best practice management guidance documents which outline the range of control options available for Japanese knotweed. These documents are available online on the Invasive Species Ireland website and the DOE website.

In addition officials in NIEA have provided training on identification and management of Japanese knotweed to District Council staff across Northern Ireland."

The ministerial statement seems a very limp response to the threat described.

The Biodiversity Unit in NIEA is responsible for implementing the policies designed to protect Northern Ireland's Biodiversity. By working with landowners, groups with a vested interest, conservation organisations, delivery groups and other government agencies, they produce both Species and Habitat Action Plans and oversee the work of the Local Biodiversity Officers.

The NIEA Biodiversity Unit oversees measures taken to conserve, protect and enhance our local biodiversity. This includes supporting other stakeholders and landowners both practically and through grant aid to carry out the requirements of the Species and Habitat Action Plans. One of the large scale contracts they are lead partners in, along with National Parks and Wildlife Service, is the Invasive Species Ireland project.

I suspect it will take a much more pro-active approach at NIEA level to contain, let alone reduce this menace to the environment.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Happy Birthday - and welcome to Bushmills

Hope you had a great ^^th birthday bash in the Big Smoke!

Portrush - In the Doldrums 2

Environmental Improvement Scheme
Vandalism of a Tourism Asset?

This perspective 'flattens' the foreground

To protect key environmental assets for the tourist industry.

Many areas which are important to the tourist industry owe their attraction to the exceptional quality of the landscape or particular features of the built environment. Examples include Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Conservation Areas and historical and archaeological sites. It is important however to protect the qualities of such areas from unnecessary or excessive development. There is a delicate balance in many cases between exploitation of a natural resource and over development which would destroy its intrinsic character and quality.

This Strategy sets out policies to protect various areas of quality landscape and important features of the natural and manmade environment. In some cases, tourist development may be acceptable in an area of stricter planning control - see Policy CO 5. Other individual tourist assets may not be protected by such policies. In all situations the policy will be to protect important assets for the tourist industry, including scenic routes, and to prevent their damage or destruction for short term gain and exploitation.

Snippets from a 2006 Planning Appeals Commission Report re.Portballintrae [PDF file]
[Portballintrae and Portrush fall within the remit of Coleraine Borough Council and the Coleraine Divisional Planning Office]

6.1 SPG-ENV 2 relates specifically to the coastline, requiring its conservation.  This guideline seeks to “keep open those strips of land or spaces right on the coastline where the public can walk along the seaside or just enjoy the views out to sea” (page 183).

5.32 ... The views along Beach Road towards Runkerry Point are dramatic and, contrary to the appellant’s claim, they are of more than local amenity value.  The presence of street furniture along Beach Road does not detract from these views because so much of the promontory is seen.

5.34 The best solution would be to maintain the  appeal sites free of further development even though there are no protective policies in force to retain their prevailing sense of openness. Approval of house-building here could set a precedent for other schemes between the coastal road and the shoreline.

6.31 When the ‘Salt Pans’ corner on Beach Road just past the harbour is turned, the vista changes from the horse-shoe bay with its sheltered anchorage to the extensive seascape views that stretch from the Skerries in the west to the stepped sequence of Causeway headlands in the east.  If permitted, the appeal proposals would, for the first time, create a very substantial and continuous barrier along the northern side of Beach Road, completely severing the intimate relationship that has always existed between this part of the village and the superb sea and coastal views.


It would appear that this Planning Appeals Commission report has fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes in Coleraine Borough Council and in the Coleraine Divisional Office of the DOE Planning Service as erosion of the visual landscape and seascape has been acquiesced to in Portrush and Portballintrae

The new 'street furniture' off Kerr Street in Portrush doesn't just detract from the view; it blocks it.

But to end on a more positive note: Causeway Coast - A Place of Inspiration

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Portrush - In the Doldrums

Maritime Theme Blocks Maritime View

Planning Permission?
** C/2012/0260/LDP is now online [23/06/2012]

[click images to enlarge]

Why did the architects and planners get it so badly wrong? Did it not dawn on them that visitors to the Station Square development would be looking straight into bedroom windows on Kerr Street? Did Coleraine councillors fail to highlight this invasion of privacy? Did DETI and DSD check planning decisions  as distinct from proposals - including the views of supporters and objectors -before they decided to allocate funding?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 
Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

And the reason for the protest: The high prow of the maritime theme

that blocks part of the maritime view

Why didn't they make the prow a more sensible height

and also leave more of a sea view in the 'sitooterie'?

Added 21 June 2012

So what did they make of the protest banner and the issues highlighted? Minister McCausland, I'm told, was sympathetic to the points that were made but said that such issues were a matter for Coleraine Borough Council and the Planning Service. The Planning Minister, Alex Attwood, is currently struggling to evade the media spotlight.

Do we have a severe lack of joined-up government? Would the DETI and DSD ministers need to keep a closer check on projects that involve significant sums of public money? Their names have been linked to public realm projects in Ballycastle and Portrush where, in the case of Ballycastle, what was constructed doesn't coincide with the tender drawings - part of one of the stone tables has already collapsed - and, in the case of Portrush, part of what was constructed - the East Strand esplanade - collapsed apparently when the sea washed away some of the supporting sand. There would also appear to be a lack of relevant expertise in the design, implementation and supervision of these projects.

The Planning Service website contains the following:

NOTE: For reasons of confidentiality, Planning Service may choose not to display certain Planning Applications.

Presumably such a note would not apply to publicly funded public realm projects. An official in the divisional office in Coleraine very courteously provided me with all of the reference numbers for applications on the Station Square site off Kerr Street: C/2011/0260/LDP**, C/2011/0431/F, C/2011/0434/F and C/2012/0112/A

C/2011/0260/LDP - Proposal: Public Realm Space proposed for Station Square, Portrush with the introduction of natural stone paving, timber seating, feature lighting and planting works. LDP: Local Development Plan. Permission was granted by the DOE on 20 June 2011. There are no details of dates of Council consultations or neighbour notifications nor are there any associated documents such as drawings online**.

The other applications are final ones for the tensile fabric canopy over the stage and for the two masts. These applications are viewable online.

Was no planning permission given or even sought for the fully detailed Station Square project plans? Were the public in general and the local residents in particular consulted about these plans? If not, is such an arrangement acceptable for an expenditure of £2.3 million pounds?

Here are two images from Google street view taken in 2009 before the alterations to Council and other structures on the seaward side of Kerr Street:

Before the prow

Added 22 June 2012

DOE Minister Attwood Stung by a Bee? 2

It's all a bit of a muddle.

The belated news release appears to have been an after-thought 
when the National Parks story looked like an attempted news diversion

DoE news Releases

Why didn't the UK Department of Culture Media and Sport insist that the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment resolve the issues raised in the UNESCO request dated 20 December 2011** BEFORE making an announcement about the Bushmills Dunes golf resort? After all, it is the department responsible for the protection of UK World Heritage sites, including their status.

Added August 26

The muddle continues:

Can you believe after they demanded the Bushmills Dunes decision be brought to a Judicial Review, the National Trust wants to postpone it?

As a friend has put it, “another delaying tactic or preparing to back down?”

Added January 1, 2013

** Paul Blaker, DCMS WHS: "In fact, UNESCO did not request any information on 22 December and at the meeting in St Petersburg, the World Heritage Centre made clear that this was a factual error on their part. The letter requesting information is actually dated 31 January 2012 and it was sent to me on 2 February."

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

DOE Minister Attwood and the Giants Causeway World Heritage Site 2

 UPDATE 19 & 20 June 2012

[correspondence from UNESCO to DCMS and DCMS to DOE is absent]
[hopefully it will be made available in the public interest]
[for a clearer understanding of the issues]
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The Department did however advise the Department for Culture, Media, Sport and Leisure (DCMS), which is the Government body responsible for all World Heritage properties in the UK, immediately once my decision was taken. DCMS in turn advised UNESCO which is the parent body of the WHC." ... Minister Attwood 16 March 2012 [PDF file]
".. a brief report on the state of conservation of the World Heritage Property of Giant's Causeway  and Causeway Coast will be presented for examination to the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session, which will take place from 24 June to 6 July 2012." [UNESCO statement June 18, 2012]
Whilst some local politicians have been condemning the National Trust for taking Minister Attwood's Bushmills Dunes decision to judicial review exchanges have been taking place [PDF file] between UNESCO and the Department of Culture Media and Sport, the department responsible for the protection of World Heritage sites in the United Kingdom alongside related discussions between DCMS and DOE:


C. Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) (C 369) 

47. On 22 Feb 2012, a planning application for the development of a golf resort including an 18-hole championship golf course, clubhouse, golf academy and driving range, 120 bedroom hotel and 75 guest suites at the World Heritage property Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland was granted. On the same day, the State Party of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland submitted a state of conservation report following the World Heritage Centre's request of 20 December 
2011 for information on this development proposal. According to the report, the proposed development lies within the buffer zone of the World Heritage property, a designated Distinctive Landscape Setting for which protective policies have been proposed in the draft Northern Area Plan.

48. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend to the World Heritage Committee to request the State Party to halt the development project until the potential impact of the proposed development on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage property has been assessed, and until it has been confirmed that no impact on Outstanding Universal Value will occur.

Draft Decision:  36 COM 7C 

The World Heritage Committee,

Other conservation issues not reported on at the 36th session under Items 7A and 7B

12. Requests furthermore the State Party of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and 
Northern Ireland to halt the proposed development of a golf resort at the World 
Heritage property “Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast” until its potential impact on 
the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage property has been assessed. 

DOE Permanent Secretary, Leo O'Reilly, could have been more explicit in his dealings with DCMS:

"The Department  carefully  considered  the application. It  fully  assessed  the  development proposals  and  the  environmental  information  contained  in  the  Environmental  Statement and  subsequent  Addenda,  the  comments  of  all  consultees,  letters  of  objection  and support"

According to the Planning Service application E/2007/0075/F, there were 27 letters of objection and 2 letters of support - in the latter case, not one from an elected politician, not even from those who are currently tearing strips off the National Trust!!

National Parks story - was it an attempted diversion from the rather disconcerting UNESCO intervention?

Monday, 18 June 2012

BBC TV Northern Ireland - The Travelling Picture Show

Special Request from the BBC

This summer, BBC Northern Ireland is filming for a new four-part series called The Travelling Picture show. Each programme will feature the people and film archive from a particular region, town or village.

I am the producer of the series and I’m keen to speak to anyone from Ballymoney and the surrounding area who has home movie footage and a story to tell. I’m interested in anything related to the town itself – the businesses, shops, markets and industry – from 1950s through to 1990s. Also I’d like to speak to anyone who has any film of events, celebrations, Church outings and music and drama relating to your area. Farming over the decades and holidays and homelife that shows how much the area and the way we live has changed would also be really interesting to me. Crucially I want to know about films that have a story and someone who can tell that story – perhaps it’s your mum and dad at harvest time, or you in a play at the drama festival or your Granny at a WI cake sale.

Once we’ve edited the films we will bring them back to the town where they came from  - so if we have enough material to make a film based around Ballymoney, then one day in August we will set up a mobile cinema in the town and invite you to come and see films that may never have been seen in public before and we’ll film the event, getting local peoples’ reactions to how their town looked in decades past, the people they know on screen or the places they worked.

If you think you might be able to help, or know anyone who can please call me – Jane Magowan at the BBC – Tel 07813701001 or email me at

Yours sincerely

Jane Magowan

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Japanese Knotweed on the Causeway Coast, County Antrim

[Linda Stewart's second article]
47-57 minutes in
available until June 18]

Alex Attwood
DOE minister responsible for protection of the environment

Be Plant Wise
but where's the enforcer, Alex?

I'd have thought the NIEA would have been best placed to be the lead agency
for the control of this very invasive species and that NIEA should have a series
of protocols to be observed by other central and local government bodies. There
should also be local as well as regional contacts to allow members of the public
to submit information that could then be acted on promptly AND professionally.

Linda Stewart's article on the 'dreaded alien invader'
Belfast Telegraph, Saturday 9 June 2012

Linda Stewart's second article
Belfast Telegraph, Tuesday 12 June 2012

BT editorial comment, June 12: "... And it has its enemies in disarray. No single agency is responsible for its eradication, in spite of its invasive qualities, a shortcoming that could see it spread unchecked. It is time that a concentrated and cohesive strategy for dealing with the weed is drawn up and implemented"

Locations of several sites of infestation jk1 - jk7
The sites can be viewed on Google Satellite and Google Earth
with the aid of plug-ins; some can also be seen on Google Streetmap

[Click images to enlarge]

site jk1 - grid ref. C985415

Isle Road, Bushmills - between Straid Road and Drumnagee Road
Several clumps extending for over 100 metres mostly on the west side of the road.

site jk2 - grid ref. D081407

Straid Road - near its junction with Novally Road - in Carnsampson, Ballycastle
Many clumps towards the rear of a fenced off former dump site

site jk3 - grid ref. C937409

Ballaghmore Road, Bushmills - near the tramway terminus

site jk4 - grid ref. C937408

Ballaghmore Road - Dunluce Road junction, Bushmills
Just south of site jk3

site jk5 - grid ref. C942405

Between Elmwood Car Park in Upper Main Street, Bushmills,
and the River Rush

site jk5

Just upstream of previous image

site jk5

Small clump overlooking the River Bush

site jk6 - grid ref. C934417

A clump behind No.6 Tee (winter) on Bush Foot Golf Course, Portballintrae

site jk7 - grid ref. C893317

Several clumps on Ballyvelton Road, Coleraine, in the townland of Ballynagg

Assembly Question

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Ballycastle Marina - Fisheries Protection Vessel - 'Dun na Salar'

The Dun na Salar, the fisheries protection vessel, was launched in May 2004 by the then Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Angela Smith MP:

"Salmon stocks across the North Atlantic are at dangerously low levels and are under great pressure and it is essential to help ensure that returning salmon can reach river catchments to spawn.

"That is why offshore enforcement of legislation to protect and conserve these stocks is essential and this new vessel will play a vital role in that work. It will also support existing conservation measures being taken including my Department’s buyout of commercial salmon nets and the Fisheries Conservancy Board’s salmon management plan."

The FCB Chief Executive was skippering the £150,000 craft when it ran aground off the Antrim Coast just two months later.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Bushmills Welcomes the London 2012 Torch Relay


I understand Moyle councillors have not been informed about the arrangements for Monday, June 4!

Estimated arrival times - 10:08 am - Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge; 11:33 am  - Giants Causeway; 12:28 pm - Dunluce Castle; 13:23 pm - Coleraine.

Victoria Walsh's nomination story
"She is determined and generous. Not only has she made it her personal mission to lose a stone in weight (which she has) by taking up running to keep fit, but she has been running marathons for different charities, including one on behalf of my family."

Crowds thronged the route

Monday, June 4: Carrickarede, Giant's Causeway and Dunluce Castle

"Now, keep her lit" - at Carrickarede Rope Bridge

Peter Jack holding the torch aloft at the Giant's Causeway

Mark Simpson (hand on thigh) reporting for BBC Newsline

A special moment for one little boy at Dunluce Castle