Downpatrick Treasure Hunt 2019

The Downpatrick Treasure Hunt was held on Friday, 19th July and despite some inclement weather at some points during the evening this did not dampen anyone’s spirits and everyone had a great night. Around 120 people took part travelling round a new and exciting route devised by Anna and Marion with 36 fiendish questions as we traversed the countryside around Ballydugan lake. The weather was good when most of the cars were out and when it did rain everyone was protected by the marquee where Renie entertained everyone with her playing while the participants enjoyed their hog roast. It was a great night at the Lakeside Inn hosted by Margaret and Geoffrey and a big thank you goes to them and to the many people who worked hard to make the night the success it was. So far the evening has raised about £725 for church funds.

TH cars setting off

Cars preparing to set off

TH Margaret

Margaret preparing to time the start

TH start indoors

Thelma and Robyn received and timed in all the participants

TH hog roast

Hog roast

TH crowd 01

TH crowd 04

Inside the marquee

The red telephone boxes of south county Down

One valued feature of our streetscapes is the red telephone box. Designed by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott they are usually described as ‘iconic’ but apart from anything else they are simply a good design which fits so comfortably in our minds of how the world should look. By far the most popular and widespread version is the K6. The original prototype was made in 1924, the K6 is a slightly smaller design dating from 1935. The first versions of this carried a Tudor crown, after 1953 they featured the crown of St Edward used in the coronation.

But while a red telephone phone box undoubtedly has a place in many people’s affections it is unlikely that many people really have any use for them. I would think you have to be aged at least 40 to remember what it was like to need to find a phone box or be distraught at finding one and then discovering it didn’t work or having to stand outside waiting for one to be vacated. These days you are as likely to see one as a feature in someone’s garden as you are on the road but you do still see some of them in their original surroundings.

In fact their numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years. The total number of public pay phones in Northern Ireland is now 1,660 of which just 184 are red telephone boxes. Or at least that was the figure given in 2018, and even that is a reduction of 17 from just two years before that. BT have an ‘adopt a phone box’ scheme and this is quite big in some places where the boxes can be used as bars, coffee shops even libraries. I am not sure how much take up of this there is in Northern Ireland but a particularly useful adaptation is to use them to house defibrillators of which there is an example in county Down, although not in a K6 box.

Some red telephone boxes are now listed buildings and 27 are listed in Northern Ireland. There are places where they are seen as essential features of the landscape, their disappearance would be missed and they remain popular with tourists from overseas. But it is hard to avoid the suspicion that they are very largely redundant in terms of their original purpose. They were once essential and must have been particularly important in rural areas. I remember once – before the advent of the mobile phone – breaking down in the car near Rademon. I had to knock on someone’s door to call the AA. Even then it would have been a long walk to the nearest payphone in Crossgar but in county Down there are still some examples of the K6 red phone boxes in their original positions.

But yesterday, as I travelled around county Down, I kept an eye out for telephone boxes and determined to record some of them while they are still there. So we start in Ardglass where a K6 box sits in front of Jordan’s Castle.

PB Ardglass 01

This is actually a listed building, but whether it complements Jordan’s Castle I leave to others to decide. A close inspection of it reveals a high degree of dilapidation, there is no glass at all in one wall, and the interior, even if the phone still works, does not look at all inviting.

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PB Ardglass 03

With a view of the harbour at Ardglass

The phone box in Ardglass is one of only two K6 boxes listed in this part of county Down. The other is in Strangford. Apart from the fact that the box in Ardglass has a moulded Tudor crown and so must date from between 1936 and 1953 I am not sure what criteria was used to ensure that those two were listed and not the other two that I pass quite frequently. Near Ballee is the only red phone box which I saw which is clean, well-maintained and looks entirely usable. It sits at its rural cross roads and looks entirely fitting. It would seem to me to have a higher claim to being listed.

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The phone box at Ballee

At Woodgrange, in a very rural area, there is a splendid view across the fields to the mountains of Mourne.

PB Woodgrange view 01

The view at Woodgrange

There is also a K6 phone box which like a medieval ruin is gradually being reclaimed by nature and which fits into the landscape itself in quite a charming way.

PB Woodgrange long view 02

Ivy creeps in and out of the box and I didn’t attempt to open the door. Partly this was because it looked like it hadn’t been opened in years but also I didn’t want to interfere with the delicate ecosystem which seemed to be developing inside. There was a modern card phone unit but the place was filled with cobwebs. To misquote C.H. Spurgeon slightly, it looked like a good place for spiders.

PB Woodgrange ivy view 02

PB Woodgrange right view 02

A few miles away at Kilmore there is a more modern box, what is known technically as a KX100. Presumably, given its location with more housing around it, it gets more use but it does not look particularly well maintained.

PB Kilmore

Kilmore

And in Crossgar there are two KX100s, although one is converted, usefully, to a place to house a defibrillator.

PB Crossgar

Crossgar

The KX100 is not a very attractive piece of street furniture but they are cheaper to erect and maintain than the old K6 boxes. But they can never give the kind of visual appeal that comes from Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design. Only about 20% of the original K6 boxes survive over the whole of the UK so it is nice to know that at least some remain in rural county Down.

PB Woodgrange long view 01

Woodgrange

Clough Children’s Day 16th June 2019

Clough Children's Day 01

Children of the Sunday School who led the service at Clough

The annual Children’s Day service at Clough was held at the morning service on Sunday, 16th June. With songs, readings and prayers the children led the service on the theme of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and prizes were awarded for attendance and participation in the recent denominational exhibition held in All Souls’ Church, Belfast when Clough Sunday School were awarded a magnificent total of 17 prizes. At the service the Rev Dr David Steers thanked retiring Sunday School Superintendent, Elsie Nelson, for the tremendous service she has given to the children and the church over recent years.

Clough Children's Day 06

All the children’s work was displayed in the church

 

Buildings of South County Down

I was very pleased to be among those invited to the launch of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society’s  new book Buildings of South County Down at Ballydugan Mill on 1st May 2019. It is a splendid book written by Philip Smith and beautifully illustrated throughout in colour by Alan Turkington. It describes itself as not claiming ‘to be an exhaustive record of its particular area, but rather a selection giving a broad overview of the built heritage of the southern half of Down’ and it is a very comprehensive collection of significant buildings both large and small, public and private.

Ballydugan Mill on the day of the book launch

The churches section numbers 25 buildings and contains no less than three Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches which is a very significant representation and indicates the historical importance of what is, nevertheless, quite a small denomination. Both Downpatrick and Clough feature in the book, the Clough meeting house being photographed just before its recent repainting which means it doesn’t look its best but that can’t be helped. Leafing through the book it is interesting to see the number of other buildings that have a link with Downpatrick and Clough churches – the Murland Mausoleum has a photograph and a number of houses appear which were once the homes of prominent members including the homes of the Murlands themselves and the nearby houses of Nutgrove and Mount Panther, once the dwelling places of leading members of the church. Both Nutgrove and Mount Panther are painted on the First World War memorial in Clough.


Dr Edward McParland, Vice-President of Ulster Architectural Heritage introduces the book

The book contains much information that is new to me. I didn’t know that the now ruined but still impressive edifice of Mount Panther was named after the ‘local legend of the “Great Cat of Clough” a monstrous feline said to have once terrorized the area’. I also did not know anything about Marlborough House which seems to have originally been built by Rev Thomas Nevin sometime before 1728. The entry on the Downpatrick Church states that ‘the church is said to have been built in 1711 at the beginning of the ministry of the Rev Thomas Nevin’ but it seems clear from the presbytery minutes that the new building and the new ministry did coincide quite closely. However, one interesting thing about Marlborough House is that it was built quite near to the site of the original seventeenth-century meeting house, although Buildings of South County Down says that Nevin acquired the land from Brice Magee, a local apothecary, so it can’t have been the site of the original manse.

The other Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in the book is Rademon which has a number of very attractive photographs included with its account. The photograph of the interior of Downpatrick taken by Alan Turkington did not make the final cut but it is interesting to look at the interiors of Downpatrick and Rademon. Although the buildings are separated by over 75 years and it is not at all difficult to differentiate one from the other it is instructive to compare the two interiors which are very similar in layout and design and probably also dimensions:

Interior of Downpatrick (Photo: Alan Turkington)
Interior of Rademon (Photo: Alan Turkington) page 30

But the book contains much more than churches. As well as houses (grand, middling-sized and small) there are antiquities and fortification, public buildings, commercial buildings, follies, monuments and memorials. Anyone who enjoys looking at the built environment around them will enjoy this book and find plenty to enlighten them about buildings in the locality of south Down.

Candlelight Carol Service at Clough

This year’s joint Candlelight Carol Service between Clough, Ballee and Downpatrick congregations was held on Wednesday, 12th December at Clough. We were again delighted to welcome the Laganvale Ensemble and their conductor Gareth Downey to lead our worship. The Christmas story was re-told through a succession of readings which were given by readers from each of the churches – Thomas Rooney, Elsie Nelson, Sarah Rooney, Sophia Cleland, Marion Moffett, Jayne Caven, Tierna Kelly, Annabel Cleland, and Mary Stewart. Alfie McClelland played the organ. It was a wonderful evening, the sound of the band filled the church most effectively.

Candlelight Band 02

The band playing during the service

Candlelight Readers 01

All the readers on the evening plus the band with conductor Gareth on the right and organist Alfie on the left

Candlelight Band rehearsing01

The band rehearsing before the service

Clough Harvest 2018

 

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The annual service of Harvest Thanksgiving was held at Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 21st October at 3.00 pm. The visiting preacher was the Rev Dr Heather Walker, minister at Rademon, and special music was provided by the well-known choir, the Clare Chorale, under the musical direction of Sheelagh Greer. The choir sang six pieces which were a wonderful accompaniment to the beautifully decorated church. Clough Harvest corn dolly

Clough Harvest table

Clough Harvest window

Clough Harvest pumpkin

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The Clare Chorale in the hall after the service

Clough Sheelagh Greer

(left to right) Sheelagh Greer, musical director of the Clare Chorale, Rev Dr Heather Walker, visiting preacher, and Rt Rev Colin Campbell, the father of Dr Walker and the current moderator of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church who was present at the service

Ballee Harvest 2018

Ballee Harvest 04

Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church held their annual service of Harvest Thanksgiving on Sunday, 14th October at 3.00 pm. The church was beautifully decorated by church members with the theme ‘World Harvest’, with special displays depicting harvest from the five continents. The special preacher was the Rev Dr Will Patterson, who led the worship, with special music contributed by local singing group Harmony. It was a wonderful occasion and following the service all the non-perishable produce was distributed to the Downpatrick Foodbank.

Ballee Harvest 05

Ballee Harvest 03

Ballee Harvest Organ

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Window display showing the Harvest of the World by continent

Ballee Harvest

Members of Harmony with the visiting preacher, Rev Dr Will Patterson, outside the church after the service

New St Patrick’s Cross at Down Cathedral

 

Cross long view

I was very pleased to be amongst those present for the Civic reception for the new High Cross erected at Down Cathedral on 24th September. Based on fragments of an ancient cross kept in the Cathedral it is carved from Mourne granite, weighs five tonnes and towers over its immediate surroundings. It is an impressive structure, a work that eloquently reflects the legacy of St Patrick so close to his grave. The fragments that are inside the Cathedral were originally found on the site that is now marked as St Patrick’s grave and are thought to date from the eighth century. The pieces were digitally scanned and the decoration carved onto the new Cross to create a pristine replica of what may once have stood at the entrance to the Benedictine monastery which originally stood on the hill.

Cross reverse view

Cross front view

Cross speeches

Cross hand print

Hand print at the foot of the Cross for pilgrims