Category Archives: Northern Ireland

Another end-of-the-2016-road-side attraction

Over the next few days newspapers columns will be filled by the more sensational pickings from the annual release of State Papers.

Just remember, though: what we get is what they allow us to know.

One or two are coming along already. Perhaps the most titillating:

thatcher

That turns out to be no more than a question of whether the flat in Downing Street was a home, or a second home or something entirely different.

And then there is this one:

robinson

I hate to say it, but we were close to knowing that already.

The Thatcher-Fitzgerald accord was the moment for lighting the True Blue touch paper and retreating. The Loyalists quickly buried hatchets (not, for once, in each other) and set about raising funds to buy arms. There was the July 1987 raid by Ulster Resistance, the UDA and the UVF on the Northern Bank in Portadown: £325,000 raised. Brian Nelson, who may or (less likely) may not have been also in the paid employ of the Force Research Unit, was despatched to South Africa to blow the kitty. This brought 200 assault rifles, 90 Browning pistols, 500 grenades, 212 RPG7 rocket launchers and 30,000 rounds of ammunition ashore in County Down. Similar buying trips went to Israel and across the European continent.

On 3rd August 1987, the Sunday News had an interview between John Coulter and an unnamed “independence strategist”, which outlined the intents of a group calling itself “the Ulster Movement for Self-Determination” (MSD). The programme would be excluding Dublin and all its works from Northern Ireland, no place for anyone even suspected of republican or nationalist tendencies, security controlled by loyalists, who would also be sealing the Border. Bottom line:

Our goal must be to bring about a completely new situation in this country.

To create a free Ulster for a free people, no longer at the mercy of either Republican terror gangs or appeasing and treacherous English politicians who do not understand us and do not wish to do so.

This same “independence strategist”:

 warned that the time was fast approaching in the Loyalist community when Unionists would hire paid-for contract killers to assassinate known Republican “trigger men”.

… Loyalists would have a “slush fund” to pay such hit men in much the same way as gangland bases or Mafia chiefs operated.More likely the hired assassins would be former SAS personnel who had served in Ulster. The Loyalists themselves would compile a dossier on the intended IRA victim and hand it, along with the cash, to the would-be assassin.

Tellingly, the accompanying graphic was a map of the nine counties of Ulster:

iu While the MSD spokesman outlined that the initial solution to the present Troubles would be found within a Northern Ireland context, he did make a sinister remark about possible encroachments into Éire.

“We want to undo the injustices which were done to our Protestant forefathers when Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan were excluded from the original Northern Ireland settlement. We were robbed of our rightful heritage in the 1920s.”

In all truth, the Ulstermen of 1920 couldn’t get rid of the three other counties quick enough. The more thoughtful (yeah: a paradox in connection with those boneheads)  even considered dispensing with anything beyond the Bann. What Northern Ireland consisted of was so much — and no more — where a sound Proddy majority existed.

A further moment of interest: a month later John Coulter had the chair of the Ulster Clubs, Alan Wright, named and on the record.

Wright stated that Ian Paisley and Jim Molyneaux were no longer in favour: instead he expressed a preference for Peter Robinson or David Trimble  neither of whom was greatly known or appreciated outside the loyalist mindset.

  • Robinson was a founder of Ulster Resistance in 1986, and infamously the “Peter Punt” who led the incursion into Clontibret in August 1986.
  • Sure enough, in February 1988 Trimble published a pamphlet, What Choice for Ulster?, arguing for independence.

So, if we can now firmly tie Robinson to MSD, is anyone greatly surprised?

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Books and Bokes of the year

Boke? Or do you prefer Boak? Look it up!

One of the many aspects of the “festive season” (Bah! Humbug!) that I sincerely, utterly, quiveringly loath is the lists of “best books of the year”.

The New York Times one is up already, so I know what will puff out the “Culture” pages of the weekend papers and magazines.

My reasons for this dyspepsia are:

  • the lists prove what an illiterate, narrow-minded swine I am;
  • are usually full of stuff I see as detritus;
  • induce guilt that I didn’t read the one or two worthy items on the list;
  • and I’ve not caught up with the last century, let alone the last twelve months.

Taking the NYT as an example, I see just the one there that I intend to read: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railway.

My own list?

Well, it would have to include:

  • Ian Rankin’s latest, and 21st, Rebus: published on 3rd November, arrived, courtesy of Amazon Prime, a day early, read and shelved within a couple of days. One of the very few “newly-published” novels I’ve bought this year, along with the latest Donna Leon and Philip Kerr.
  • Under “military history”, Trevor Royle’s Culloden. Royle did a synopsis for The Scotsman, and that sold it to me.
  • A weekend in Belfast coincided with the Linen Hall Library pop-up second-hand shop, filled with cart-loads of rubbish. Still, I rescued a (apparently unopened) biography of Joseph Walshe and a couple of other items. Nolan on Walshe is a decent effort, not without faults, but it helps to join the dots. Across Fountain Street, a couple of doors down from the Linen Hall itself, is Waterstones. Any large “provincial” Waterstones is always worth a rummage, to see what the locals are keeping to themselves: there, three years late, I found Roger Courtney’s Dissenting Voices.
  • My expensive habit of buying exhibition catalogues means I now own You Say You Want a Revolution, Records and Rebels 1966-1970 from the Victoria and Albert. The whole exhibition seems to spring from the record collection of the late John Peel, padded out with ephemera. If you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there, of course. I was, and I do. Nice to meet old friends (and sing along with Country Joe).
  • Theatre: as age affects the hearing (and the Siemens earpieces help only a little) I tend to buy play-scripts. Confession time: I had never tackled Fletcher and Bill Shagsper’s Two Noble Kinsmen until a weekend in Stratford. Yeah, but nowhere near the exuberance and sheer fun of Aphra Benn’s The Rover in the afternoon matinee (my copy of that script goes back to the RSC production of 1986).
  • Oh, and two real goodies, thieved from one of those pubs which decorate with aged and crumbling books. Also always worth a rummage: there are treasures among the Farmers’ Handbooks for 1922 and the discarded law manuals. One was Anthony Hope’s wry, charming The Dolly Dialogues (a first edition, “reprinted from the Westminster Gazette“, 1896) and RLS’s St Ives.

Eccentric. Eclectic. Pompous. Guilty as charged (even of those last two slight volumes).

Only then do I start to wonder what I’ve missed.

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Getting there: the generation game

This Poo Beresford continues to hang in the air, bear down on my mind, and burden my conscience, as it has now for a couple of weeks. I tried sneaking up on it, through the start of the Plantation of Ulster. Now I’ll try to move on and up the line of descent.

What I hope will show is how the Beresfords climbed the social ladder, with a speed and success that outran the other planters.

The pain now arriving at platform one …

iu

Don’t rush past the map of newly-minted County Londonderry, by Thomas Raven (and there’s one of greater definition on-line here). It shows how the twelve great liveried companies found themselves lumbered with swathes of countryside, about which they had little knowledge, but which they were committed to pacify and populate.

So, in 1610 two thrusting chancers arrived as the advance party: John Rowley and Tristram Beresford. The former was the overseer at Derry, deputed by the Goldsmiths; the latter by the Clothworkers at Coleraine. On paper, it might seem Rowley had the better prospects … but watch and learn.

A bit of begatting

And Tristram Beresford (about 1574-1666) begat Sir Tristram Beresford, 1st Baronet of Coleraine.

baronetsAnd Sir Tristram Beresford (?-1673) married Anne Rowley, daughter of aforesaid John. He thereby begat a son (Randal) and two daughters. He was MP for the County of Londonderry in the Irish Parliament in 1634, 1656-58 and 1661-1666. By his second marriage to Sarah Sackville he begat a further three sons and three daughters. The baronetage dates from 1665.

And Sir Randal Beresford (?-1681), 2nd Baronet of Coleraine, married Catherine Annesley, daughter of Francis Annesley, 1st Viscount Valentia.

Pause for thought: Annesley was an intimate of Lord Deputy Chichester (who was, in turn, no great fan of the Ulster Planation — in large part because he was not a prime beneficiary). So: two generations on, the Kentish Beresfords are in close proximity with the on-the-spot rulers of Ireland, who via Annesley have control of the Irish exchequer.

And Sir Randal, with Catherine, begat Tristram, the third baronet, two other sons, and two daughters.

And Sir Tristram Beresford (1669-1701), 3rd Baronet of Coleraine, married the eccentric Nichola Sophia Hamilton (she had all kinds of spiritual traumas with the Earl of Tyrone), daughter of the Baron Hamilton of Glenawly, and by her begat four daughters and a single son. This Sir Tristram was “out” with the Williamites, attainted by James II, and “restored” after the Glorious Revolution. He knew which side his bread was buttered; and we might notice how the Beresfords are now, most assuredly, in good odour and deep with the Ascendancy … and with the Whigs now running the show in Westminster.

If you were with me in that preceding paragraph, you’ll have notice that the bold Sir Tristram pegged it, aged just 32. His heir, Sir Marcus Beresford (1694-1763) now the 4th baronet, was still barely an infant. His “guardians” were the Viscount and then Viscountess Dungannon (i.e. the Trevor family). I’m feeling the urge to post on how the Dungannon title was rapidly resurrected after Marcus Trevor’s death (8th November 1706): and it bodes to be on the salacious side.

Anyway, back to the begatting.

tyroneAnd Sir Marcus Beresford, 4th Baronet of Coleraine, scored all the jackpots. Barely of age, he became MP for Coleraine: though Lodge’s  Peerage of Ireland (page 302) puts it, somewhat drily (long ∬s and all):

… before he attained his full age, was cho∫en to parliament for the borough of Coleraine, which he continued to repre∫ent, until K. George I was plea∫ed to advance him to the peerage by privy ∫eal, dated at St Jame∫’s 11 June, and by patent at Dublin 4 November 1720.

In 1717 he married Lady Catharine Power, the only child and heiress of the last and 8th Earl of Tyrone.

The Powers descended from the Anglo-Normans who arrived with Strongbow. The surname “Power” was anglicised from “le Poer”, and now was as good a moment to revert to the Frenchified, poncified form. From the “le Poer” side, the match with a warranted Williamite (now Hanoverian) Whig happily expunged any hang-over from the messy business involving the execution (for being a Jacobite colonel) of the 6th Earl.

The bold Sir Marcus, now making his mark in London society and being a bit of a weighty number in Anglo-Irish politics, deserved his Hanoverian  silver balls and ermine — so, on 4th November 1720, he was advanced to Earl of Tyrone, Viscount Tyrone, and Baron Beresford. And all that before his 27th year was completed.

And the Earl of Tyrone, with the Baroness-le-Poer-in-her-own-right, begat three sons, who all died young, before the fourth, George de la Poer Beresford (born January 1735) would survive and inherit. A fifth, John, followed the money, became a barrister, a commissioner of the revenue, MP for Waterford and member of both UK and Irish Privy Councils. As well as taster of wines for the port of Dublin. A seventh son (#6 also died an infant) went into the church, became Bishop of Ossory and spawned a total of ten sons and six daughters.

And Sir George de la Poer Beresford succeeded to the Earldom, 4th April 1763. His first appointment was as Governor and Keeper of the Customs of Waterford (that’s the de la Poor connection). He took his place as a member of the Irish Privy Council and became a knight of the Order of St Patrick. All of that signified he was a heavy hitter, at the apex of the Irish Ascendancy.

Troubled times

Let’s lift our eyes from Irish simplicities, where the divisions (and opportunities for divide-and-rule) were clearly defined. Things across the water were complicated by the accession of George III and the congealing of the British parliamentary two-party system. Basil Williams, for the Oxford History of England, had it like this:

On 25 October 1760 the old king, George II, died. A choleric, obstinate little man with violent prejudices and a great sense of his own importance … For the last six years of his reign he was bewildered by the intrigues and incompetence of Newcastle and still more by the masterful assuredness of Pitt. But, though vastly preferring his gemültlich little electorate [Hanover], where he had no worries and everybody was deferential, he was a good constitutional king in always recognizing, after much preliminary blustering, his own limitations and the necessity of acceptin[g] the advice of ministers supported by ‘that d____d House of Commons’…

The new king, George III, in his first public act showed his anxiety for peace and his antagonism to Pitt’s bellicose humour. In his declaration to the privy council on his accession he spoke of ‘this bloody and expensive war’, softened down, it is true, on Pitt’s demand, in the published version, to ‘expensive but just and necessary war’. [pages 367-368]

So the diplomatic card-game began, with Pitt holding the trumps (not just the Canadian and Caribbean conquest, but even Belle Île, a fraction of France itself) but marked cards (the French negotiator was Castelnau, who had been one of Newcastle bought informants).

With the Peace of Paris, Bute and Fox departed the political arena. Fox had run the national exchequer as an adjunct to his own; and it would take twenty years to settle scores. Grenville was a clean skin, but prickly about his reputation, and suspected — with reason — that Bute had open channels to the king. Grenville attempted to impose himself, and crack down: Wilkes was the prime target. While Greville was stabilising the national finances, the partisan cleavage was widening.

A bit more begatting

For the Beresfords (now Poer Beresfords) to rise higher, George de la Poer Beresford needed a good political marriage. He found it in Elizabeth Monck, daughter of Henry Monck and Lady Anne-Isabella Bentinck (herself daughter of the Duke of Portland). Note those surnames: the Poor Beresfords had chosen sides in the developing political trench-fighting. The marriage produced four sons and four daughters.

Thus we arrive at Poo Beresford and his equally-remarkable brother: neither of whom were legitimate. But that’s another story …

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Ulster’s “New Men”, 1610

Here I am again, slip-sliding gently towards a promise on Sir John Poo Beresford, (1766–1844).

Getting there involves getting my mind around the Beresford family, and that was where I was starting.

New Men

What was in my mind was how the Ulster Plantation represents another dimension of the “New Men” of the Renaissance and its aftermath.

The conceit starts in ancient Rome. A novus homo would be, precisely, the individual, the first person in a previously-undistinguished family, elected to the Senate.  Seneca, in Epistle XLIV, laid down the rules (or lack of them):

… who is well-born?  He who is by nature well fitted for virtue. That is the one point to be considered; otherwise, if you hark back to antiquity, every one traces back to a date before which there is nothing. From the earliest beginnings of the universe to the present time, we have been led forward out of origins that were alternately illustrious and ignoble. A hall full of smoke- begrimed busts does not make the nobleman.  No past life has been lived to lend us glory, and that which has existed before us is not ours; the soul alone renders us noble, and it may rise superior to Fortune out of any earlier condition, no matter what that condition has been.

The notion was serially revisited by Boethius (a civil servant under Theodoric), Dante (whose background is cloudy), Petrarch (son of a lawyer), and Chaucer (a background from Ipswich shoe-makers). It regains currency in the Italian fifteenth-century, and the ideas are current in Elizabethan England.

Enter the Beresfords

Another point of departure was John Lodge, The Peerage of Ireland, revised by Mervyn Archdall, vol 2, pages 296-7:

Tristram Beresford, Esq., the third son, was born before the year 1574, and coming into Ireland as manager for the corporation of Londoners, known by the name of the society of the New-Plantation in Ulster, at the time they made the plantation in county of Derry, in the reign of James I, settled at Coleraine in the coiunty of Londonderry, having issue by the daughter of _____ Brooke [*] of London, two sons and three daughters, viz:

(1) Sir Tristram, his successor.

(2) Michael of Dungarvan and of Coleraine, Esq., who was constituted, with his brother, and others, commissioners in the precinct of Derry, for examining the delinquency of the Irish, in order so the distinguishing of their qualifications for transplantion; and in 1654 he was sheriff of the counties of Derry, Donegall, and Tyrone, of which he was also a commissioner of the civil survey and revenue. He married Mary, daughter of Sir John Leake, Knt. and by his will, dated 5 July 1660, directed his body to be buried in the church of Coleraine, in his father’s sepulchre, which was done accordingly; and he had issue by her, who was buried at Temple-Patrick in the county of Antrim, one son Tristram, who died young; and four daughters his coheirs, viz: Anne, married to Thomas Whyte, of Redhills in county of Cavan, Esq.; Olive, first to _____ Thornton, and secondly to Sir Oliver St George, of Headford in Galway, Bart.; Elizabeth to captain Robert Shields; and _____ to Arthur Upton of Temple-Patrick, Esq.

(1) Daughter Anne was first married to Sir Edward Doddington, and secondly to Sir Francis Cooke, Knt, and was buried at Coleraine.

(2) Jane, to George Cary of Redcastle in the county of Donegall (descended from the Carys of Clonelly in Devonshire) and by him, who died 22 April 1640, had five sons and four daughters, viz. Francis of Redcastle (who married Avice, sister to Captain Henry Vaughan, and they both lie buried in the church of Redcastle, having had issue Francis; Chichester, who died unmarried; Margaret; Avice; and Letitia); George; Edward of Dungiven in the county of Derry, (who died 4 June 1686, leaving issue Edward, George; Tristram; Elizabeth; Mary; Anee and Jaen); Robert of Whitecastle in the county of Donegall, (who died in March 1681, leaving Robert; George; Edward; Tristram; William; Anne; Letitia and Mary);

(3) Susanna, married to _____ Ellis.

[*] Elsewhere there ‘s “genealogist” gossip which identifies her as Susannah Brooke or Elizabeth Brookes. Note the naming of the third daughter, which may help.

tree1

Already we can outline four generations, and we haven’t ventured beyond the seventeenth century.

We can start to draw some “conclusions”

The most obvious is that the leading Ulster planters were — very definitely — young men (typically younger sons) on the make.

[1] Many were sprung, like Tristram Beresford, from the London guildsmen. This again makes perfect sense. The London liveried companies were not over-pleased by having the whole plantation scheme descended on them:

When the embryo project was unveiled to the liveried companies in July 1609, and individuals invited to adventure, there was a marked lack of enthusiasm. The Mercers were perhaps the frankest. While thanking the king for his offer, they pointed out that ‘they are for the most part men that live by merchandise and therefore are very inexperienced in managing business of that nature and withal want means and ability for the accomplishment thereof. [So] this company are not willing to have a hand or intermeddle in the same’. The Ironmongers expressed their ‘desire with our best means to help the state and commonwealth, but what we would we cannot in respect of weakness’. When it came to attempts to generate subscriptions, members were curiously absent or unavailable because they were dwelling out of the city. Of the 46 men on the Ironmongers’ subscription list, 9 were absen, 10out of the city, and 2 allegedly ‘not of ability’. The story was much the same elsewhere.

[Source: Ó Ciardha & Ó Siochrú (eds): The plantation of Ulster, Ideology and practice, page 82]

Hence any overseers put in place by the London companies would be hungry young thrusters, hard of complexion and temperament.

[2] This was a new, a frontier society. The blueprint was already well-defined. It was a society of incorporated cities and boroughs, which is a prime reason why the liveried companies of London were the chosen means of delivery:

This use of urbanity for colonial purposes was not the mere product of over-ripe imaginations. Rather it was borne of experience and practice. Just as corporations were a crucial dynamic in the plantation of Ulster after 1610, so they had figured prominently in the wide-ranging social and economic reforms initiated in England since the 1540s. The origins of these reforms were many, complex and varied. However, in terms of sanction by central government, the driving force — including urban incorporation — was [Sir Thomas] Smith, [William] Cecil and other members of their sprawling Cambridge mafia who dominated the higher echelons of royal power for much of the Edwardian and Elizabeth eras. More to the point, one of the outcomes by the turn of the seventeenth century was a discernible ‘corporate system’ by which cities and boroughs — or ‘little commonwealths’, as contemporaries described them – had filled the topography of provincial England.

[Source: Ó Ciardha & Ó Siochrú (eds): The plantation of Ulster, Ideology and practice, page 69]

Consequently a main requirement imposed on the planters was the establishment of boroughs: 25 corporate towns (though by 1613 only 14 had been established — and only 16 were to happen) across the plantation. Derry was to have 200 houses, and room for 300 more; Coleraine to have 100 and room for 200 more (that came down to a quibble over what constituted a “house”) [see Ó Ciardha & Ó Siochrú, pages 84-85].

[3] The success (and failure) of the plantation was this focus on ‘urbanity’. Derry and Coleraine (the third largest borough was Strabane) may have been puny in global terms; but they were all that the planted territory could boast. Not that they didn’t do well enough:

… although they didn’t become the thriving metropoloi envisaged by the propaganda of 1609-10, they did enjoy a significant mercantile presence. Merchants from Scotland, Chester and London were soon frequenting the two ports, while as early as 1614-15 a merchant fleet of seven ships accounted for 18.5% of Londonderry’s exports. London derry boasted urban amenities not available elsewhere. Its street were paved: it had a town hall costing between £500 and £1,000; its school was founded by the London merchant Matthew Springham, its master receiving a salary of 20 marks per annum through the London Society; its cathedral church of St Columba, the first purposely built Protestant cathedral in the three kingdoms, costing at least £3,800 opened in 1633 with a capacity of 1,000 people. True, Londonderry lacked other key features found in Englishtowns: there was still no bridge; a recommendation that a bridewell should be built was resisted; and there were no almshouses: indeed there was little sign of any charitable activity at all. A key variable in determining the relative success of Londonderry and Coleraine was the fact that the landlord was directly involved in building whereas elsewhere in the plantation urban development was promoted through the granting of building leases. Urban settlements elsewhere were terribly under-capitalised.

[Source: Ó Ciardha & Ó Siochrú (eds): The plantation of Ulster, Ideology and practice, page 85]

In passing, I suffer a slight cringe over the attempt there to apply anachronistic and economic-history evaluations: “18.5%”, “a capacity of 1,000 people”, “key variable”, “under-capitalised”.

One could — in a more romantic spirit — extrapolate into group psychology. This is the earliest seventeen-century. The minds involved are still accustomed to think of social advance in terms of acquiring lands, rather than anything ‘entrepreneurial’ or ‘proto-capitalist’. Just as in Virginia and the Carolinas, a century later, that kind of social position is going to be found, carving out estates in the countryside.

[4] These interlopers efficiently established themselves, and built networks — those daughters seem to have been seeded very effectively to generate a nexus of power and possession.

Note, though, as far as Beresford genealogy goes, that it is a “west” Ulster concentration: Derry, Donegal, Cavan and Galway. There is not, as yet, a social top-tier: distinctions and titles beyond mere baronet or knight are not yet present. That will come a generation or two still further on.

We can look to a precise contemporary, the glove-maker’s son from Stratford, for the definition of the “new men”. He puts the words into the mouth of Brutus, the old republican patrician, somewhat scornful of the arriviste Caesar — but they could easily apply to himself, his generation, and the aspiring and arriving Ulster ascendancy:

But ’tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.

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Filed under Chaucer, History, Ireland, Literature, Northern Ireland, politics, Shakespeare, social class

“A delightful spirit” Bushmills tinplate advert

spiritThese are everywhere.

No pub, built in the 1960s, and up-dated to the 1880s, is complete without them.

The young lady playing footsie simultaneously with the old rake and the young fella is one of the finest of the type.

I’m wondering just how far a modern version would go without the feminists complaining.

I’m told this is available as a poster. And all the better for that.

Because the version I saw came with a sticker telling me it was “Made in Germany”.

 

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No change, but only decay in all around I see …

I’ll get to that promised Sir John Poo Beresford thing, later rather than sooner. I promise.

Meanwhile, a sad thought from a long weekend.

The trip to the Lady in my Life’s ould sod was very curate’s eggy.

Good to see relatives, in fine form. Good to see Belfast bustling in some kind of consumer frenzy. Grand to have another Ireland win (though, was that really the Australian 1st XV?).

And a night, just one, at the gorgeous Bushmills Inn.

The gloom was seeing the slow dying of the towns of north Antrim.

The main street of Bushmills itself is an object lesson. Decent terraced houses selling (or rather not) for the price of a basic SUV. Pretend vinyl shop-fronts masking the gaps in the Main Street. Fine older buildings lying derelict.

And the finest of all has to be the Old Court House, built — as far as I can determine — shortly before Victoria acceded to the throne, with prison cells and apartments above for the peelers.

A bit further north along Main Road, sitting a bit back from the street, a fine “gentleman’s property”, boarded up, rank with the smell of decay.

Of course, north Antrim was never exposed to universal prosperity; but this is depressing in the extreme.

There is an indicator of worse to come: so many of the “improvements” across Northern Ireland (including the Bushmills Inn) come with a tag: European Structural and Investment Fund Programmes in Northern Ireland.

Yet the brain-dead of the DUP (who paradoxically do well in these parts) were loudly for #Brexit.

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Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig

Sounds a good definition of what I expect in a decent beer.

It’s the motto of Amsterdam, by the way.

Which is where my diary says I’m spending the next weekend, doubtless with Jacques Brel as ear-worm:

After that, up yours, David Bowie (I award a beat-plus), John Denver (a good gamma for sheer effort, but far too sweet), and lesser lights.

My other problem is the eternal Interbrew/InBev crisis.

orval-mugOne of my Red Lines is to avoid anything from that Leuven monster. So no Stella (as if …), Bud (snarf, snarf!), Boddingtons (the froth of “Manchester” — now fizzed somewhere out in Lancashire) or Bass. Only the last of those four is any great loss. Leffe: hmmm … but I’d prefer any genuine Trappist, especially Orval (I’ve still got the pot mug, bought 1967, and awarded originally to Dear Old Dad).

What’s going to make Amsterdam easier is I’m hearing good things about some new boys:

  • the Amsterdamsche Stoombierbrouwerij (an in-house brewery in De Bekeerde Suster, Kloveniersburgwal 6-8, Amsterdam);
  • Butcher’s tear, who allegedly do a sequence of seasonal beers, with the winter Ex Voto coming particularly recommended;
  • Brouwerij ‘t IJ, down by the docks, again with seasonals and a formidable triple Zatte.

There ought to be a PhD thesis in here somewhere, how the emergence of monopolies leads inexorably to a re-emergence of better, smaller rivals. Despite the heavy hand of InBev, the Low Countries have a flourishing small brewing industry. It happened, too,  in East Anglia, when Watneys took over both the remaining Norwich breweries (Bullards and Stewart & Patteson — the latter’s winter Old K-ale being another lost national treasure). As sure as night follows day, lesser lights eventually shone through the gloom — Woodforde’s of Woodbastwick do a more-than-decent winter ale, the Norfolk Nog.

And after Amsterdam, in almost weekly slices, the Black North of Ulster (highlight: back to Bushmills) and Prague (conveniently, but not accidentally, close to Novoměstský pivovar — The New Town Brewery).

Gezondheid! Guid forder! Na Zdravi!

It’s a hard life, this retirement business.

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