Posts Tagged Carrickfergus

Thompson Brings Noir To Belfast

Take Care Gorgeous by Alan Drew Thompson 

TAKE CARE GORGEOUS is the début novelette of Carrickfergus (Co. Antrim) based author Alan Drew Thompson. A fast paced often violent but sometimes sentimental affair that finally brings the noir genre to Belfast.

Set against the tough backdrop of 1950’s Belfast, the book introduces a new kind of local hero Inspector James Forsyth of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. A man who will bend the rules of authority in order to do what is morally right.

In the first instalment of a promised trilogy Forsyth finds himself tangled in a complicated web of murder, blackmail and shifting identities.

The story is set around a prominent member of Belfast society who finds himself at the centre of a blackmail plot involving an attempt to get a highly dangerous renegade Irish Republican released from the Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast.

The exciting and unique feature of the story is that for the first time the writing styles of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are set against the violent Belfast backdrop. The customary femme fatale is also on hand, this time a beautiful woman from West Belfast who bears a striking resemblance to 1940’s film noir legend Veronica Lake.

Fast paced, enjoyable with a twist in the tail Take Care Gorgeous left me desperate for more.

Thompson has promised that the sequel entitled Farewell Handsome will be released in the near future.

Reviewed by Lisa Thomas

takecare

Click on image to buy Paperback!

by Alan Drew Thompson
ISBN-13: 978-1500285371 is available from amazon.co.uk priced at £2.75
Also available on KINDLE price £1.53

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Tales from the Castle Gate

Tales from the Castle Gate

“THERE is perhaps no more fruitful form of education than to arouse the interest of a people in their own surroundings”

– Joe Baker, Glenravel Local History Project, North Belfast.

I THOUGHT I knew a bit about local history, but even I was stunned to hear that French forces had invaded Carrickfergus! Indeed, from 21st February to the night of 25th – 26th February 1760, Carrickfergus was an overseas territory of the French realm of King Louis XV!

This event – and much more besides – can be found in an excellent book written by Charles McConnell (and published by Carmac Books, Carrickfergus in 2002). Called Tales from the Castle Gate it attempts to provide as much information as possible about the castle. As McConnell notes: “There are few buildings in Ireland with such a well-chronicled and long history as the town’s most compelling landmark and it was the strategic importance of the Castle as a military fortress that led to the succession of memorable events associated with the town’s history”.

There is so much to read in this remarkable book – chapters include The Castle Builder, Lord Edward Bruce, Roundheads and Cavaliers, The castle and the Williamite War – but the day Carrickfergus became part of France really captured our imagination! This is dealt in reasonable depth with a chapter entitled Under a Foreign Flag. It really is a fascinating account of the French invasion – and subsequent capture – of Carrickfergus.

On 21st February 1760 around 600 French troops – under the command of Commodore Francois Thurot – landed at Kilroot and advanced towards Carrickfergus. The castle and town were put on alert as soon as the French were spotted. Around 300 French Prisoners of war, captured from previous land and sea battles, were being held in the castle. (They had originally been held in Cork for two years. However, because of rumours of a French invasion of the southern coast of Ireland, they had been moved. These prisoners were first moved to the Irish midlands and then on to Belfast. Three Hundred were held in Barrack Street in Belfast and the remaining 300 held in Carrickfergus). When Thurot’s fleet was spotted these prisoners were mustered and marched off to Belfast!

During this period Carrickfergus Castle wasn’t as militarily impressive as it had been. Tales from the Castle Gate states that in “the relatively peaceful times of the first half of the 18th century in Ireland, complacency had developed about the Castle’s military role”. Thus it had fallen into a state of disrepair – indeed; there was fifty foot breach in the outer curtain wall where a section had collapsed six years earlier in 1754.

The only military forces defending Carrick at the time was a detachment of General Strode’s regiment, the 62nd Regiment of Foot. This consisted of about 160 young recruits undergoing training. There was barely only enough ammunition for each soldier’s training and there were no guns mounted! They were under the command of Colonel John Jennings. (According to Tales from the Castle Gate, the commander of Carrickfergus Castle, Colonel Jennings, later described it as “an old fortress little better than a heap of ruins”.)

The majority of those soldiers defending Carrick – the 62nd Regiment of Foot – were deployed at Joymount where the main French attack was expected. Others were deployed at North Gate, West Gate and the castle itself. A lack of ammunition saw the British troops retreat to the castle. And a series of running battles saw some of the French invaders get into castle. The bulk of the French troops had marched into Market Place. Some were then deployed on to West Street then to Cheston Street where they could fire directly at the outer castle gate. Other French forces were concentrated in Castle Street. The web-site of Carrickfergus Borough Council http://www.carrickfergus.org also notes that whilst the French were on route to the castle “the silver in St Nicholas church was stolen”.

Those defending Carrickfergus castle found themselves in an impossible situation. The lack of ammunition (which had prompted their initial retreat) meant that there was more powder than ball. Therefore, half the powder from each cartridge was fired with the bullet – the other half was used to fire a metal button from their tunics!

It wasn’t too long before the French invaders charged. Led by Captain d’Esterees they attacked the castle door, which had not been closed properly. This led to hand to hand fighting in which d’Esterees was the first to fall. Senior British officers – including Colonel Jennings – and about fifty men with fixed bayonets repulsed this initial French attack. They were aided by their comrades who although they didn’t have any ammunition threw stones and bricks at the French!

Given the inadequate state of the British defence, it’s surprising that they were able to hold off the French for several hours. However, it was clear that Colonel Jennings would have to surrender. His men were outnumbered three to one and were completely out of ammunition. Despite fighting against overwhelming odds the British defenders had two killed and five wounded. At the same time, the “French lost a surprising number of, about fifty being killed, including three officers, and about the same number wounded”. (Interestingly, one of those wounded during the fighting was Brigadier General Flobert. He originally wanted the diversionary invasion abandoned but was overruled by Thurot. Flobert was so badly wounded that he had to stay ashore to recover). Additionally, it was only a matter of time before the French discovered the massive breach in the defensive wall. This would have led to the French completely overrunning the castle and possibly killing all of its defenders.

In Tales from the Castle Gate, McConnell notes that the terms of capitulation were generous. “The garrison were allowed to march out with drums beating and flags flying and be on parole till they were exchanged for an equal number of men. The Castle was to be delivered up with the stores in it. The town was neither to be plundered nor burnt, nor the inhabitants misused.”

Once the French had occupied Carrick Castle they demanded provisions and stores from Belfast. They stated that if nothing arrived they would burn Carrick to the ground and kill all of its the inhabitants. The provisions were slow in coming so Commodore Thurot threatened to march on Belfast. The local authorities relented and met his demands – enough food and fresh water was supplied to see them back home. The French invaders also took what they could from Carrick – including any clothing they could find to protect them from the bitter winter. To ensure their safety they took some local dignitaries as hostages.

The brief French occupation of Carrickfergus ended when – on the night of 25th – 26th February – Thurot’s forces left just as the advance guard of the British reinforcements approached. However, Because Carrickfergus lies within Belfast Lough, they had to wait two days for a favourable wind to take them out to the open sea.

However Commodore Thurot never reached home. Three ships of the British fleet having been alerted, intercepted the three French ships off the Isle of Man and in the ensuing battle the French were defeated and Thurot killed.

Reviewed by John Jenkins.

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A TOUR OF EAST ANTRIM.

A TOUR OF EAST ANTRIM.

By Doreen Corcoran.
Friar’s Bush Press, Belfast. 1990.
ISBN o 946872 38 4

A TOUR of East Antrim is a selection of historic photographs from the William Alfred Green (1870 – 1958) Collection in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. It illustrates life in the coastal towns of Larne, Whitehead, Carrickfergus, the town of Ballyclare and the then picturesque villages of Gleno, Glynn, Carnmoney, Ballynure and Ballycarry.

Green – from a middle class urban background – was destined for a career in the family tea business. Poor health forced him to find an occupation which would take him outdoors. He therefore became an apprentice assistant to RJ Welch, Ulster’s leading photographer of the day. In the early 1900s Green went into business himself and found himself drawn to observing country life and customs. However, only a few of the pictures featured in A Tour of East Antrim reflect this interest. This is because Green was a working photographer in a competitive business and he took many pictures that were to be later reproduced as postcards.

William Alfred Green took many black and white photographs of Whitehead, Carrick, Eden and Ballycarry. They all represent fascinating and evocative glimpses of a bygone era.

FOR FURTHER information about the famous photographer William Alfred Green, why not view this site: http://www.ulsterhistory.co.uk/wagreen.htm

– Reviewed by John Field.

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Under the Big Lamp – Historic photographs of the county and town of Carrickfergus

Under the Big Lamp – Historic photographs of the county and town of Carrickfergus

By Sheela Speers of the Ulster Museum.

Friar’s Bush Press, Belfast.  1989.  ISBN 0 946872 22 8

THE LAYOUT, format and content of Under The Big Lamp – Historic photographs of the county and town of Carrickfergus is simple but effective.  The first few pages give a historical overview of Carrick from Medieval times.  This is followed by page after page of black and white photos (complete with explanatory captions) taken between 1870 and the late 1930s.

What makes it different is that it resists the natural temptation to focus exclusively on the castle and harbour.  “The history of the town and people of Carrickfergus (though influenced by the presence of the castle) is a quite distinct story, encompassing eight hundred years of urban development and change”.  Thus it remains a “town-centred view of Carrickfergus and the surrounding district; the castle is seen more distantly, as a backdrop to the life of the locality and its people”.

Carrick grew up around the castle, which was built by John de Courcy to defend the Anglo-Norman principality, which he established in east Ulster in the last quarter of the twelfth century.  Two other buildings also dominated Carrick: the parish church of St Nicholas and the friary of St Francis.  These three buildings formed a triangle – within this triangle were the streets, dwellings and market place of Medieval Carrickfergus.

Between the Thirteenth and Sixteenth centuries, the layout of the town remained virtually the same.  Wealthier families built stone tower-houses, but the majority of dwellings were single story thatched houses.  During this medieval period, Carrick was Ulster’s main port and it enjoyed trading contacts with Europe.  The town was granted borough status in the Thirteenth Century.  “This gave the town independence from the lords of the castle and made it a self-governing community with a mayor and corporation”.

During the Sixteenth century, Carrick was the headquarters of Queen Elizabeth’s royal armies.  The Seventeenth century saw the town’s reconstruction – it had virtually been destroyed by fire in 1573.

The Eighteenth century saw the building of the Co. Antrim courthouse, gaol and custom’s house.  The county of Carrick was largely rural (apparently cheese making was a speciality!) although increasing numbers were employed in linen bleaching and hand loom weaving, and in cotton print works.  The Nineteenth century saw dramatic change – Carrick ceased to be both a garrison town and county town of Antrim.  Against this saw the growth of linen industry, the establishment of salt mining and the opening of the shipyard.

After this brief historical overview comes the main section of the book – around 100 black and white pictures divided into different chapters, each with a different theme: Castle and Harbour, Churches, Town and People and so on.

The book has so many interesting photo’s it’s virtually impossible to describe them all.  I was really interested to read about the salt mines at Duncrue, Maidenmount, Frenchpark and Eden.  I’d heard of them, but didn’t know too much about them.  Therefore the pictures of the mines are very interesting – salt mining looks to be a physically demanding and an arduous job.

Under The Big Lamp left me gobsmaked when I read about the Carrickfergus Shipyard.  Sadly, there’s not too much information about the yard, although the first ship launched from the yard was the David Legg in 1845.   Whilst the Carrick yard was nowhere the size of Belfast’s Harland & Wolff, a picture shows the workforce to be about 100 strong.  It appears that Legg Park is now situated on the old yard site.  Indeed, a picture of the park taken in 1930s shows an outdoor swimming pool in the park – believed to be constructed from the yards former dry dock.

Another connection with the Carrickfergus Shipyard is a wonderful picture of the Result.  This steel, three-masted topsail schooner was designed and built at the yard in 1892.  Sadly it’s now reduced to just a rusting hulk at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, in Cultra.

Other fantastic photographs include one of children playing on the main road in Eden, with just a horse and cart for company; Barn Spinning Mill at Taylor’s Avenue and Robinson’s Butcher’s Shop in Market Place.  This last photo is remarkable in that most of the produce is hanging outside the shop on open display.  God knows how many European Health and Safety laws this would contravene today!

– John Field

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BY THE LOUGH’S NORTH SHORE

BY THE LOUGH’S NORTH SHORE

Paintings by John J Marshall.  Text by Robert Armstrong.

Cottage Publications, Donaghadee.  2002.  ISBN 1 900935 28 7

FEATURING a lovely padded cover and full of beautiful illustrations, By The Lough’s North Shore is an excellent read.  It forms part of a much-complimented illustrated book series on various areas of Ulster and Eire.

By The Lough’s North Shore, would be of great interest to anyone who knows the general South East Antrim area – specifically Carrickfergus – as it prominently features Carrick Castle, the Andrew Jackson centre and the King Billy statue by the castle.

The book starts with an extensive and fascinating history lesson.  Entitled The People of the North Shore Part 1 it recounts how – around 7000 BC – nomadic people travelled across Europe searching for a new homeland.  It’s believed that they first set foot in the area around Larne.  The history lesson continues with a detailed look at the invasion of the Celts (in the 5th century BC) and the introduction of Christianity, by Patrick in the 4th Century and the later arrival of the Vikings and their descendants, the Norman’s.

The book is cleverly set out in a geographical manner – starting with Belfast Castle and ending with Black Head Lighthouse.  It means that readers can ‘do a tour’ of the area.  Sites visited have two pages devoted to them – one of text, the other an excellent painting of the subject matter.  This combination works really well, it makes you want to turn the page to find out what’s next on the ‘tour’!

There are a lot of areas that would be of great interest to those who want to know more about Carrickfergus itself.  For instance, Carrick gets its name from Fergus – the son of Eric of Armoy – who left Ulster to form a kingdom in Scotland but because he suffered from leprosy returned from time to time to bathe in a well which apparently had healing properties.  On one of these visits he was shipwrecked on the rock, on which the castle is built thereby creating the name ‘Carrickfergus’, meaning ‘the rock of Fergus’.  Incidentally, it’s believed that Fergus’ healing well is the one still surviving within the Castle.

And there’s no doubting the importance of this site:

“The importance of Carrickfergus Castle in a international context is epitomised by the involvement in its story (at various times) of a German General (Fredreich Schomberg), a former Dutch Prince (King William III), a French Commodore (Thurot) and an American Privateer (John Paul Jones) who is credited with being the ‘founding father’ of the American navy.

The book also takes in the statue of King Billy, Carrickfergus Town Hall and The Andrew Jackson Centre.

It ends with another detailed history lesson, The People of the North Shore Part II.  This looks in some detail at the Norman influence in Ulster.  The Plantation, King William III, the United Irishmen, Home Rule, the Somme are also examined.  There’s some interesting social history as well – such as the development of Rathcoole and the rise and fall of multinational companies such as ICI at Kilroot.

By the Lough's North Shoreprovides an excellent snapshot of the general South East Antrim area.  It’s guaranteed to make readers want to learn more about the general area and the specific sites it highlights.

– John Field

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