Maybe you forgot W.J. Mc Bride
They flew in from all corners of Ireland and Britain to pay tribute to the great man. Of course, his hale and hearty laughter, that familiar explosion of mirth, warmed the room like some human heater.
If ever a man exuded the notion of someone larger than life it is WJ McBride, a rugby player of renown for Ballymena, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions. His popularity seems to go on quite unaffected by the changing currents of human behaviour and fate.
At the Culloden Hotel yesterday, 480 people had lunch with the great man. For all who attended, paying
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Northern Ireland is a great place to live, and we’ve got plenty of sights, sounds and people that make a difference to all our lives. We’ve decided to start a bit of a showcase of just why we all rock, and why you can continue to be proud to live in Northern Ireland. In no particular order here are 100 reasons to love Northern Ireland.
Recognised for our kind nature around the world, Northern Ireland people are a unique, beautiful, intelligent race far superior to other nations. Fact.
Seriously though, you won’t find a friendlier more welcoming country, and for that we should be very proud.
Northern Ireland folk as you’ll see later in this article have done some wonderful things both past and present, and for that reason, our people makes the list.
The Northern Irish accent has been voted one of the sexiest, according to a poll and we’ve awesome folk like Jimmy Nesbitt, Barry the Blender,Christine Bleakley and *cough* Nadine Coyle?! (with her own dialect) speaking the native tongue as Northern Irish brand ambassadors around the world. Go Team!
Northern Irish folk are always up for a bit of craic and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We have a dark self-deprecating sense of humour, and we are pretty quick witted at times too.
Northern Ireland has its fair share of comedians, and funnymen, as you’ll see later on.
We also beat England in 2005 in a football match (see David Healy) and we’ll never let them forget it.
Nutty Crust high fibre plain bread is well recognised and renowned as the perfect Northern Irish way to keep you regular.
Irwin’s bakery is based in Portadown, and respected for it’s nutritional benefits fromLord’s and Ladies alike.
Both Nutty, and Crusty, its not unlike some of the wonderful people of Northern Ireland.
The irish weather is a wonder in its own right. Generally speaking the way we tell the difference between a good and bad day is to measure the temperature of the rain.
To accompany the unpredictable nature of our climate, we’ve also developed our own rare collection of Northern Irish sayings to describe just how bad or good it is. Classics such as “She’s lashing out of the heavens.” or “It’s bucketin’ down.” – (the rain is heavy), “S’terrible close.” – (Humid) and “Sun’s splittin’ stones.” – (Sunny), make it that bit more entertaining for tourists attempting to get the forecast from locals.
Famous food from Northern Ireland. Doesn’t get any tastier than these badboys.
If you haven’t tasted the wonderous potato snack well, you aren’t living the dream. It is widely known in Northern Irish circles that the magical potatoey snack are simply the best crisps IN THE WORLD. An inspired choice amongst many Norn’ Iron snack fans, the classic crisp sandwich isn’t complete without some Tayto Cheese and Onion.
Plus – you haven’t yet lived if you haven’t taken a wee trip to Tandragee to visit Mr. Tayto in Tayto Castle. What a guy.
No one can deny the revitalising and thirst quenching qualities of Northern Irish classics such as the Pear Picking Porky, Joker, Mr Frosty, Polly Pineapple, or Choc pop. All lollypops born and bred on this fine soil.
Mauds Ice Cream originally started as a part of a family grocery business in Carnmoney, Co. Antrim. It was named after Maud, the head of the family business at that time and produces quite possibly the best honeycomb ice-cream known to man.
‘Pooh-bear’ is a Northern Irish delicacy mixing creamy ice-cream from local cows, with honeycomb chunks from local bees. Delish.
Portstewart is home to the famous Morelli’s ice-cream parlour, and is something of an institution in the town. Founded by Italian Angelo Morelli, folks from Northern Ireland have long recognised the brand, with an empire of cafes and shops across Northern Ireland, including Portrush and Portstewart. Gelato, or Italian ice cream, is one of those treats that actually tastes as good as it looks and smells and Morelli’s is definitely one of the best examples in Ireland.
Veda bread, while very much a Scottish invention, has become a Northern Ireland phenomenon. For those of you not in the know, it is malted bread sold primarily in Northern Ireland. It is a small, caramel-coloured loaf with a very soft consistency when fresh. Allied Bakeries Ireland launched its first Veda loaf back in 1930 and the brand continues to grow from strength to strength.
Significant engineering achievements by Northern Ireland people and companies.
Titanic was designed by some of the most experienced engineers, and used some of the most advanced shipbuilding technologies available at the time. She was the largest passenger steamship in the world, and even though Titanic was one of the world’s most prolific tragedies, it is still one of Northern Ireland’s greatest exports, and highlights the engineering skills that have underpinned companies such as Harland and Wolff.
It is one of the more widely recognised things that many people associate with Northern Ireland.
Whilst a relatively short lived automotive manufacturer, the contract to manufacture the famous Gull wing DMC-12 was given to a Dunmurry company.
The car shot to worldwide fame in the Back to the Future movie trilogy as the car made into a time machine by eccentric scientist Doc. Brown, although the company had ceased to exist before the first movie was made.
Only 6000 were ever manufactured before the company went bust, and they have become somewhat iconic in Northern Ireland’s engineering history.
Frank Pantridge was born in Hillsborough, County Down, and was educated at Friends School Lisburn and the Queen’s University of Belfast, graduating in medicine in 1939. He had introduced CPR , and invented the defibrillator, transforming emergency medicine and paramedic services.
Harry Ferguson was a famous Northern Irish engineer hailing from Dromore, county Down. As both an engineer and inventor he was widely recognised for his role in the development of the modern agricultural tractor, and for becoming the first Irishman to build and fly his own aeroplane.
Massey Ferguson tractors was the resulting merger between Massey Harris and the Ferguson tractor company in 1953. Keep ‘er country!
The Short SC.1 was the first British fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft paving the way for aircraft such as the Harrier jump jet. Whilst the patent for VTOL was granted to a Serbian physicist and electrical engineer, Shorts manufactured the SC.1, and its first test flight took place in Northern Ireland.
The ejector seat was invented in 1945 by Sir James Martin, who was born in Crossgar, Co Down, in 1893.
A brilliant engineer, in 1924, aged only 29, he set up the Martin Baker Aircraft Company in England along with his friend, Captain Valentine Baker. The idea for the ejector seat came after Baker died in an accident whilst testing one of the Martin Baker aircraft. In 1944 the firm was approached by the Ministry of Defence and asked to investigate ejection systems for high-speed fighter aircraft, a task made all the more poignant by Captain Baker’s own death.
By the time of his death in 1981, Sir James Martin’s invention was in use worldwide and had already saved 4,700 lives. Martin-Baker is still in existence and continues to supply the ejection seats that save so many lives.
Clever folk that have made significant discoveries from Northern Ireland.
William Thompson was a Belfast born mathematician and physicist recognised for the creation of the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept, and as a result, his name was attributed to the unit of measurement used to describe this. The Kelvin scale is a thermodynamic temperature scale accredited to the work Thompson performed.
John Stewart Bell was another Belfast physicist who derived ‘Bell’s Theorem’ and called by some as “the most profound Theorem in science”. Loosely described Bell’s Theorem stated ” No physical theory of local hidden variables can ever reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics.” or in other words, no measurement of its kind can take place without detracting from the end result. He single handedly rendered Einstein’s “hidden variables” irrelevant using Bell’s inequality, although never seeing near as much recognition. Together with Thompson, John Stewart Bell’s concepts and theorems live on with vigour in the field of Quantum Physics.
Prof. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, is a Northern Irish Astrophysicist who as a post graduate student discovered the first radio pulsars, one of the greatest astronomical discovery of the 20th century with her thesis supervisor Antony Hewish. Hewish later went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics to much controversy, Bell not included as a co-recipient.
Jocelyn was originally born in Belfast, where her father was the lead architect for the Armagh Planetarium, and she still has links with the organisation.
She has since received many honours and awards from American and British scientific bodies for her contributions to science. She has been President of the Royal Astronomical Society and in 2008 became the first female President of the Institute of Physics.
Comedy geniuses from Northern Ireland, guaranteed to make you chuckle.
One of Northern Ireland’s more favoured sons, Patrick Kielty is a Northern Irish comedian from Dundrum who’s career started whilst he was a student at QUB. He became well known for his political comedy and mocking of the troubles at open mic nights at Comedy Club the Empire, and later picked up awards such as the Guinness ‘Entertainer of the year’. His talent’s later got him noticed at the BBC where he went on to become the warm up for Gerry Anderson’s ‘Anderson on the box’. When this was cancelled, PK tonight helped propel his career further and he is now widely recognised as a celebrity figure both locally and nationally.
Jake O’Kane is a Belfast-based stand-up comedian, and a resident compere of Northern Ireland’s biggest and longest running comedy club The Empire Laughs Back at The Empire Music Hall in Belfast.
O’Kane has toured extensively, working with some of the biggest names on the comedy circuit and has also appeared at some of the country’s top comedy clubs including The Stand, Jongleurs and The Comedy Store.
Colin Murphy is another regular at the comedy central that is the Empire Strikes Back, and has advertised various local produce such as Harp.
He is also a regular on the Northern Ireland show ‘The Blame Game’ alongside fellow funny man Jake O’Kane. Both of whom, are hero’s of the local comedy scene.
Lovin’ your work lads.
Frank Carson is one of the more famous old school Northern Irish comedians renowned for his comedy timing and catch phrases, such as ‘It’s the way I tell ’em’ and ‘What a cracker’. Frank was born and bred in Belfast, and having numerous local television appearances and recognition, moved to England to work the comedy circuit.
He was spotted by a BBC television producer where he was brought to the screen in ‘The Good Old Days’. Many people however still associate Frank with winning the talent show ‘Opportunity Knocks’ three times.
Roy Walker is a well known T.V presenter and comedian famous for his involvement in ‘Catchphrase’. Roy co-hosted Catchphrase with his computer character friend that he created, Mr Chips, from 1986 to 1999.
He coined all his own catchphrases for the show such as “Say what you see” “It’s close, but it’s not the one” and “It’s good but it’s not right!” and his voiceovers have seen something of a renaissance in recent years through Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles, reinventing the show as ‘Carpark Catchphrase’. Legend in our books.
Another mainstay in Northern Ireland’s vibrant comedy scene, the hole in the wall gang was a Northern Irish comedy group, who came to prominence in the mid 1990s with the popular sitcom Give My Head Peace.
The comedy documented life from both’s sides of the political divide, meeting in the middle with Dympna and Billy’s relationship, with often hilarious consequences.
May McFettridge came to life during a Downtown radio show presented by Eamonn Holmes. Wanting to spice the current format up a bit, Holmes phoned John Lineham – a relative, and asked him if he would participate in a fake telephone call. Lineham agreed, and pretending to be a Belfast fishwife, the banter between the two resulted in an huge volume of calls for the comedy skit to become a regular part of the show.
The name May McFettridge was created by Lineham ad libbing at the time, using the first name of his mother in law, and the last name of a hurler whose exploits in a Hurling league game had made the headlines in the Irish news, which just so happened to be on hand at the time of the call. May McFettridge is now a household name in popular Northern Irish culture, and Lineham has went on to star as the character for twenty consecutive years in Christmas Panto’s at the Grand Opera House in Belfast.
STAGE AND SCREEN
Famous folk from Northern Ireland working in television, film and performance.
Eamonn was Born in Belfast one of five brothers, he originally studied Journalism at BIFHE, and worked as a business journalist prior to joining Ulster Television.
He later joined GMTV as a presenter, working alongside Anthea Turner, which turned out to be a torrid and tempestuous on screen relationship.
John was born in Belfast, and attended Campbell College prior to studying journalism, again at BIFHE. Prior to joining ITN he worked for both the Tyrone Constitution, and UTV. He is best known for his work as a war correspondant in the middle east, providing nightly updates for ITN.
For his notable work during this time he picked up the Journalist of the Year award in 2003. During the devastating Tsunami in Phuket, he was holidaying with his family where he also provided coverage after being caught up in the event himself.
Ahh. Northern Ireland’s star of the little screen. Julian is well known as one of the many faces of UTV, and recognised for his God-awful introductions to his own favourite T.V. Soap, Coronation Street. They really should give him a cameo role.
Unsurprisingly, he was voted as one of the most recognised characters in Northern Ireland’s vibrant television and media scene.
Sam Neill was born in Omagh, Co. Tyrone, to New Zealander parents – later returning to New Zealand when he was 7. At the time of his birth, his father was stationed in Northern Ireland, serving with the Irish Guards.
Sam has played numerous movie star roles, but is probably most famous for his part as ‘Dr. Alan Grant’ in the box office smash Jurassic Park. He has also been Awarded the O.B.E. for Service to Acting (1993) and nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe awards several times.
Liam Neeson has a long and distinguished acting career. Hailing from the Co. Antrim town of Ballymena he cut his acting teeth in Belfast’s Lyric theatre, and later went on to great stardom and success, being cast in blockbusters such as Batman Begins and Star Wars.
He was nominated for Academy awards and Golden Globes for his role as Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s list, and was honoured with an OBE in 1999.
James Nesbitt was born in Ballymena, and grew up in the nearby village of Broughshane. He initially wanted to follow a path in teaching, but discovering a talent and love for acting he pursued this and transferred to the Central school of speech and drama instead. He was cast in the Northern Ireland production Ballykissangel alongside Colin Farrell, although his first big break has been attributed to the t.v. drama ‘Cold Feet’.
Film work followed with major roles in ‘Waking Ned’ and the film adaptation about Bloody Sunday. Jimmy is also a major supporter of Coleraine FC, and has saved them from the verge of bankruptcy with numerous donations.
Amanda was born in Ballougry, Co. Londonderry and is recognised for her role as ice queen forensic scientist, Sam Ryan in ‘Silent Witness’.
She has played numerous roles in peak time dramas such as Minder, Inspector Morse, Boon, Medics, Van Der Valk, Stay Lucky, and Lovejoy. She now plays Head Teacher ‘Karen Fisher’ in the BBC one drama Waterloo Road.
Born in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, character actor Gerard McSorley has played a number of Northern Irish characters in his career. He has starred alongside Jimmy Nesbbit in ‘Bloody Sunday’, and played the criminal John Gilligan in the Veronica Guerrin story.
He has also appeared in a huge range of screen and TV movies from Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, The Constant Gardener with Rachel Weisz and Meryl Streep’s Dancing at Lughnasa to historical dramas such as The Tudors, Angela’s Ashes and Ordinary Decent Criminal.
Gerard attended school in the county town of Omagh, and later played an acting role in the depiction of the film ‘Omagh’ about the 1998 bombing atrocity which occurred in his home town. More recently, he has appeared in the 2010 film ‘Robin Hood’ alongside Russell Crowe.
Best known for his work in Shakespeare adaptations, Kenneth Branagh was born in Belfast to working class parents, prior to moving to England at the age of 9. His talents brought Shakespeare to the masses, and at the age of 23 joined the RSC where he took on starring roles. At 29, he directed and starred in the film Henry V (1989), which costarred his then-wife, Emma Thompson. The film brought him Best Actor and Best Director Oscar nominations.
Branagh has been nominated for four Oscars, and has won numerous Bafta, making him a proud export of Northern Ireland.
No Northern Irish celebrity line up would be complete without the somewhat infamous Jim McDonald of Corrie fame. Charles Lawson, the Enniskillen born actor who plays Jim is a well known representative of our wee country, and was recognised in the soap for both his violent nature and his passionate love for Liz McDonald.
After leaving Campbell College, Belfast, Charles had originally intended to join the Merchant Navy, but a teacher at the college persuaded him to train at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. This led to work at a number of theatre companies, including the Royal Shakespeare company. With a clear vision and foothold in the acting world, he later went on to achieve many film and TV apperances.
Born in Belfast, Derek Thompson is best known for his role in the t.v. series Casualty, where he played Charlie Fairhead – the longest serving member of the team, described by the producer of the show as the important character, and core to the show’s success.
A keen musician – Derek began his professional career in the late fifties, when together with his twin sister Elaine, they worked the church and concert halls in Northern Ireland as a close harmony singing act, billed obviously as Elaine and Derek. They moved to London in 1964, still in their mid teens and had moderate success within the confines of their own soft pop world, before appearing in musical sci-fi films. This lead to further screen work over the years, and Derek landed the part of ‘Charlie’ in 1986, becoming an integral part of the show for the next 12 years.
Born and raised in Northern Ireland, Paul attended Methodist College in Belfast before embarking on a career in acting. He was a member of the Ulster Youth Theatre in the mid-eighties and made his professional screen debut aged sixteen in Frank McGuinness’ 1987 television play ‘Scout’, based on the life of legendary Belfast football scout Bob Bishop.
Paul had numerous onscreen roles before and after Emmerdale, get his first major break in ‘the Darling Buds of May’ alongside Catherine Zeta Jones, and later appearing in tv drama’s such as ‘The Bill’ and ‘Heartbeat’.
Jayne Wisener is a Coleraine actress best known for playing Johanna in the film ‘Sweeney Todd’ making her big screen debut alongside Johnny Depp.
Jayne was born in Ballymoney, and grew up in Coleraine, where she attended Coleraine high school for girls. She is currently filming an adaptation of Jane Eyre, where she plays the role of Bessie Lee – due for release in 2011.
A relatively lesser spotted beauty from N. Ireland.
Zoe Salmon is a former Miss Northern Ireland, from Bangor, who landed her television break as a presenter on Blue Peter. She has since went on to appear in numerous television roles, including more recently appearing as a contestant on ‘Dancing on Ice’ where she made it through to the 9th round.
Zoe is a qualified lawyer, but the entertainment industry beckoned, and she hasn’t looked back since. She made her first film appearance this year, momentarily appearing in Russell Brand film ‘Get him to the Greek’.
Christine started her media career at CityBeat as a presenter, starring alongside radio hero’s such as Stephen Nolan and Stuart Robinson before moving into television at BBC Northern Ireland. Her ‘Sky High’ series for BBC Northern Ireland saw her flying around various locations in Northern Ireland in a Helicopter in 2004, and she also participated in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in 2008.
Whilst Christine was widely recognised within Northern Ireland, her UK appearance on the One Show with Adrian Chiles, resulted in much greater exposure. The on screen magic with Chiles evident from the get go, Christine is now set to move to GMTV – co-hosting the breakfast show with him.
Named after actress Gloria Swanson, Gloria Hunniford is a veteran of Northern Ireland stage and screen, and probably best known for her fundraising efforts over the years for cancer charities, following the loss of her own daughter, Caron to the disease.
Born in Portadown, Hunniford has had a distinguished career presenting on radio and TV. Not only was she the first woman to present a daily show on Radio 2, but she ended up hosting the programme for 13 years.
Originally a singer, she was popular in Northern Ireland and worked in Canada, and made many records before returning to Northern Ireland to work as a BBC production assistant in Belfast. Following the death of her daughter, she has since dedicated herself to fundraising and charity events.
Northern Ireland’s answer to Delia, Jenny Bristow is a cook and cookery writer. Brought up near Coleraine, on her parents dairy farm. She now lives with her husband Bobby and their 3 children at their farm near Cullybackey in County Antrim which is also the backdrop and location for recording the TV cookery series.
Not only is Jenny a great cook, she also is an established cookery writer, achieving significant success with the book to accompany her series. “Jenny Bristow Cooks Gloriously Good Food” went immediately to the top of the local bestseller list, and remained in the top five for an unprecedented seven months, also establishing Jenny as a Sunday Times No.1 best selling author.
ARTS AND CULTURE
Northern Ireland has a vibrant cultural heritage and history. The people mentioned here have made significant contribution to our Arts and Culture in Northern Ireland.
C.S. Lewis was one of Northern Ireland most famous novelists, writing fiction in a wide variety of genres, although his most notable work was the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ a series of seven fantasy novels written for children.
His own childhood experiences in Belfast are reflected in much of his work, although parts of Irish mythology, anthropomorphic fascination and superstitution are also apparent. During his life Lewis was also heavily influenced by JR Tolkien and both were close friends, although in some instances disagreed over Lewis’s strong Christian undertones which were obvious in his work. Tolkien, whilst converting Lewis to Christianity, prefering a much more subtle approach.
In 1998, a statue was erected at Holywood Arches library in east Belfast to mark the centenary of Lewis’ birth. The life-size bronze depicts Digory Kirke, the writer’s fictional alter ego, entering Narnia through the magic wardrobe. Long after his death, he continues to be an important part of Northern Ireland’s cultural heritage.
Seamus Heaney is an irish poet, writer and lecturer who was awarded the Nobel prize in Literature. He was born near Castledawson, before moving to Bellaghy.
Heaney often deals with nature and beauty in his poetry, particularly focusing on the surroundings around which he was raised in Northern Ireland. Allusions to Northern Ireland’s sectarian strifes are also sometimes apparent, though by no means dominant in his poetry. Described as one of the most important poets of his generation, his writing, works and books make up two-thirds of the sales of living poets in the UK.
Another famous poet to emerge from Belfast, was John Harold Hewitt. His poet influences ranging from the irish W.B Yeats, to the more romantic era of William Blake. and is noted as being the most significant Irish poet to emerge before the 1960’s era that included Heaney.
His later poetry takes inspiration from both the political landscape in Northern Ireland and in politics generally, with his own view points being very much liberally left wing, and a focus rather than an undertone in his work.
Honorary doctorates were conferred upon him by both the University of Ulster and the Queens University of Belfast. His lasting contribution to the arts in Ulster is celebrated at the John Hewitt International Summer School held each year in Garron Tower on the Antrim Coast.
Brian Friel is an Irish playwright, born near Omagh, Co. Tyrone. He is most recognised for writing famous plays such as ‘Philidelphia here I come’ and ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’, the latter of which was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep.
Other notable works include ‘Translations’, which was staged in 1980 in the Guildhall, Derry – and featured Liam Neeson as one of the cast members.
‘Philidelphia here I come’ launched Friel onto the international stage, and within it Friel largely depicts the world of his childhood, and growing up in rural Irish society. Constrained by the isolated and backward rural lives, his characters often seek solace by indulging in ultimately disappointing illusions.
MUSICIANS PAST AND PRESENT
Notable Northern Irish musicians past present and future.
The story of the Undertones rise to stardom has the perfect mix of rock and roll and good old fashioned luck. Having formed as a five piece punk outfit from the Creggan Estate, the Undertones played small time gigs around Derry, prior to recording their first four track EP in Magee College at a price of £200.
Having sent numerous copies to record companies in the hope of securing a deal, the band did not achieve any recognition until they sent a copy to the late great John Peel. Peel played the song twice in a row on his Radio 1 show describing it as ‘The best pop record ever’, and was the first time a debut single was ever played twice in a row on the BBC. Hearing the record on Peel’s show, the band were signed to Sire Records – and the rest is history.
Tenatively formed in 1989, when childhood mates Tim Wheeler and Mark Hamilton received guitars for Christmas, the foundations of Ash were initially formed as a metal act named Vietnam.
Hailing from Downpatrick the band have since sold over 8 million albums worldwide, with three of their singles hitting the Top Five in the U.K indie charts prior to the band even being out of high school. In 1995, Ash left school and released their breakthrough singles “Kung Fu”, “Girl From Mars” and “Angel Interceptor” to critical acclaim, going on to play to worldwide audiences.
Van ‘the Man’ Morrison, real name George Ivan Morrison, is one of Northern Ireland’s most famous singer songwriters. His music is respected both compositionally, and lyrically, with many putting him alongside such songwriting greats as Bob Dyan and Leonard Cohen.
Born in Belfast on August 31st 1945, his iconic fusion of soul, jazz and Celtic rock can be traced to his childhood. As the only child of a Harland and Wolff ship worker (with a keen ear for American Jazz), and his mother being a singer in local clubs, Van Morrison grew up listening to influential musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Boy Williamson, leaving school to join the local R&B band ‘the Monarchs’.
He later formed his own band ‘Them’ who relentlessly toured the US, creating the classic rock and roll anthem ‘Gloria’ – a track that was covered by artists such as Patti Smith, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and others. Morrison’s solo career was the result of encouragement by Bert Berns’s (Them’s producer) to return Stateside to record solo. During this time, the classic ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ was recorded and released, reaching number ten in the US charts in 1967, laying the ground work for Morrison’s meteoric album ‘Astral Weeks’ released in 1968, widely recognised and being placed on many lists of best albums of all time.
The Divine Comedy are a Baroque pop indie band fronted by Neil Hannon, from Enniskillen. Formed in 1989, Hannon has been the only constant member of the group, playing, in some instances, all of the non-orchestral instrumentation, with the exception of the percussion.
Hannon’s father is a retired clergy, ironic considering that The Divine Comedy wrote the theme music for Father Ted, and also contributed the music for the comedic anthem ‘My lovely horse’, which despite pleas from numerous fans to be released as a Christmas song, made it’s way onto the EP “Gin Soaked Boy” as a B-side. In total, nine studio albums have been released by the band and a compilation Album ‘A secret history’ – made its way to number three in the UK charts, and number two in the irish charts.
It would be hard when discussing Northern Ireland’s musical heritage not to mention Snow Patrol, who’s monumental success has heavily influenced the thriving local music scene.
Starting life as very much an alternative rock band, the quintet rose to national fame with the release of Final Straw in 2003, which went five times platinum in the UK, eventually selling over 32 million copies worldwide. Further success was propelled with the release of Eyes Open and its single ‘Chasing Cars’ the precursor to becoming the 6th best selling artist of the decade, behind Michael Jackson in a list released by Amazon. Overall the band have now achieved sales of over 75 million records since the release of Final Straw.
Peter Wilson aka Duke Special’s talents are just that. Special. His intimate musicality is a vaudeville extravaganza, himself describing his sound and image as ‘hobo-chic’. The romanic piano tones combined with his distinct irish lilt are embellished with theatrical live performances that capture the imagination, and heart of the listener. His distinctive dreadlocks, eyeliner and outfits alongside some more bizarre percusionist styles helping to transport the audience to another era.
Born in Lisburn, Peter has supported various acts including Van Morrison, Snow Patrol and the Divine Comedy. In January of this year, he launched a campaign on Pledge Music, where his fans were able to donate and fund the promotion of his triple CD, The Stage, A Book & The Silver Screen (comprising Mother Courage and Her Children, The Silent World of Hector Mann and Huckleberry Finn).
With a distinct grittier and more punk sound than the Clash who they are often compared with, Stiff Little Fingers were famous for rock classics such as ‘Alternative Ulster’ and ‘Suspect Device’ reflective of life during the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland.
The band’s second single ‘Suspect Device’, was sent to John Peel, and in much the same way as the Undertones received their break, John’s influence led to a distribution deal through Rough Trade. They have toured extensively, and are still together at the present day, although the lineup has changed dramatically over the years. Jake Burns, the lead singer is the only member of the originally line up to remain.
Therapy? are an alternative metal band from Northern Ireland. The band was formed in 1989 by guitarist and vocalist Andy Cairns from Ballyclare and drummer-vocalist Fyfe Ewing from Larne, Northern Ireland. The band initially recorded their first demo with Cairns filling in on bass guitar. To complete the lineup, the band recruited Larne bassist Michael McKeegan.
Although now vanished from the charts and wide media attention, Therapy? continue to release material, gaining enough attention to enable them to tour and entertain a small loyal following. Their most notable success was seen with the release of the Shortsharpshock EP catapulting the band into the Top 40, peaking at nine, featuring the lead track Screamager. The single led to the first of several appearances on the UK music show Top Of The Pops.
The youngest of ten children, David Holmes began DJing in the clubs of Belfast at the tender age of 15. Holmes worked as an underground concert promoter and wrote a fanzine as well, though he was still just a teenager when the house and techno boom hit Britain in the late ’80s. Soon he was integrating the new dance music into his mixing, and his club night Sugar Sweet became the first venue for serious dance music in Northern Ireland.
His work is recognised globally amongst the best in a growing genre of experimental instrumental dance music, and his skills have crossed over into soundtrack production at a professional level, producing numerous musical scores for film and t.v, including Holywood feature film Out of Sight and Ocean’s Eleven.
Another songwriter with tremendous vision, and ability to craft a story around his lyrics, is Bangor born Foy Vance. He combines a multitude of styles to create songs of epic proportion, with a blues, folk and gospel fusion of hope and humility.
Well known for powerful melodies and lyrics, he has achieved an overwhelming response from US and Canadian Audiences, with two of Foy’s songs have made their way into American popular culture. “Homebird” and “Gabriel and the Vagabond” were both featured in the second season of the US TV drama Grey’s Anatomy.
Belfast born musician Sir James Galway (OBE) is virtuoso flutist, nicknamed “The Man With the Golden Flute”. He became one of the first flute players to establish an international career as a soloist and is arguably the most influential flutist of our time.
He has played in prestigious orchestras as the Sadlers Wells and Royal Covent Garden Operas, The BBC, Royal Philharmonic and London Symphonies, and taking up the coveted position of solo flautist with the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert Von Karajan.
Sir James has played for such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth II, Pope John Paul II, President Clinton, President George W. Bush, President George H.W. Bush, President Mary McAleese, Prince Charles, HRH The Princess Royal, The Empress of Japan, The Queen of Norway, Princess Diana, TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex, TRH The Duke and Duchess of Kent, and most recently President Shimon Peres. He performed with Pink Floyd in their memorable concert at the Berlin Wall, was part of the Nobel Peace concert in Norway and performed at the G Seven summit hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace.
Emerging young artists Two Door Cinema Club are an Electropop/Indie Rock band from Bangor and Donaghadee formed in 2007. They are signed to French record label Kitsuné Music, through which they released their debut album Tourist History on 1 March 2010.
One of the many bands to achieve exposure through MySpace, two of the band’s singles have already been featured in television commercials furthering their exposure. Something Good Can Work, I Can Talk and Undercover Martyn were all featured on television advertisements for Vodafone and Meteor.
Phil Coulter is an Irish musician with an international reputation as a successful songwriter, pianist, music producer, arranger and director.
Some of the more recognised work that Coulter has worked on includes the Eurovision Song Contest entry ‘Congratulations’ co-written by Bill Martin and performed by Cliff Richard, which at the time came second in the competition. Other notable songs are ‘In the Arms of an Angel’ – later recorded by Westlife and achieving chart success, and ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ – written about Derry, and Coulters childhood growing up alongside the troubles.
He is one of the biggest record sellers in Ireland and this success has seen him achieve significant recognition both locally and internationally. Most recently, he was awarded the prestigious Gold Badge from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors in 2009.
Brian Kennedy is another Belfast born singer songwriter who represented Ireland at Eurovision 2006 having come to prominence as one of Van Morrison’s backing singers, for a period of six years including singing vocals on the hit ‘Days Like This’. The experience gained from performing alongside notorious artists such as Bob Dylan cemented a path for Brian’s solo career.
With his irish heritage, Brian has performed numerous irish traditional tracks, bringing a contemporary yet uplifting feel to the songs. He performed at George Best’s funeral – singing an emotionally fuelled rendition of Vincent and You Raise Me Up in note perfect fashion, a fitting tribute from one of Northern Ireland’s best known male artists.
A relatively unsung guitar hero hailing from Finaghy, near Belfast- Def Leppard Vivian Campbell is a Northern Irish rock guitarist and a member of Def Leppard, who has previous played with several bands including Whitesnake.
Vivian was asked to join Def Leppard in 1992, to fill the spot that Steve Clark left after his tragic death in 1991. After being officially introduced at the Freddy Mercury AIDS-awareness gig at Wembley Stadium, his first job was to accompany the band on their “ADRENALIZE”-tours in 1992 and 1993.
SPORTING EVENTS AND CELEBRITIES
Notable sporting events and celebrities who make Northern Ireland a great sporting nation.
The North West 200 is the largest annual sporting event in Ireland, typically attracting over 150,00 visitors from all over the world. Held over a nine mile road circuit and running between the towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine, it is a week long festival of sport attracting competitors from all over the world.
Northern Ireland has a deep seated heritage in road racing, with the Ulster Grand Prix, Bishopscourt, Kirkistown, the Cookstown 100, the Mid Antrm 150, Armoy Road Race, and the Dundrod 150 all notable events and destinations in the race calendar. The North West triangle circuit however is one of the fastest road circuits in the world, and is recognised world wide.
Weaving through towns and villages, past many a private house, the death-defying balancing acts of riders in The North West 200 have to be seen to be believed.
Taking place annually at Peatlands Park, Dungannon, and now in its sixth year, the Northern Ireland Bog Snorkelling Championship has gone from strength to strength, with a wide variety of competitors. It has received press coverage from around the globe, and is now well recognised as a very Northern Irish event.
Entrants are required to swim at least two lengths of a 60-yard bog drain with the aid of a snorkel, mask and flippers and without using any conventional swimming strokes.
On of Northern Ireland’s most famous sons, George Best was a Northern Irish football international who is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He played for Manchester United between 1963 and 1974, helping them to win the Football League Championship in 1965 and 1967, and the European Cup in 1968. The same year, he was named European Footballer of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year. He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals, playing mainly as a winger and was known for his dribbling skills and accurate passing.
Best has often been called the most naturally gifted player from the British Isles, rivaled only by Pelé and Diego Maradona on the world stage. Maradona himself has frequently named Best as his all-time favourite player. Pelé once stated that George Best was the best player he ever saw play and named him as one of the 125 best living footballers in his 2004 FIFA 100 list.
His cult status in Northern Ireland is rivalled by none, and numerous adorations and commemoratives have been created since his death. Belfast City Airport was renamed ‘George Best City Airport’ and one million George Best fivers created by the Ulster Bank were launched – some selling on ebay for up to £30 each.
Joey Dunlop was a world champion motorcyclist from Ballymoney in best known for road racing. A reluctant hero, and known to many just as ‘Joey’ he was a hero to young and old alike, inspiring generations of young Irishmen to take up the sport.
Joey was everything you expect in a superstar, modest and unassuming, yet approachable he not only won races, he won the hearts of the Irish people, and both sides of the community supported him. Although awarded the MBE for services to motorsport, Joey’s humanitarian work in Romania, Albania and Bosnia earned him the OBE, for which he admitted brought him more pride than any achievement in his very successful racing career. His charity work was performed under his own volition and all at his own expense often travelling around the Ballymoney area in his own van collecting food and clothes from locals in his race transporter. The people’s hero, Joey was a true gentleman, and legend of Northern Irish sporting history, a commemorative statue in his home town of Ballymoney stands as a proud reflection of his achievements, and respect of friends and fans alike.
Born near MoneyGlass, Co. Antrim, Tony McCoy is widely regarded as one of the best jump jockey’s of all time. His wins included the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, King George VI Chase and more recently the 2010 Grand National, at his fifteenth attempt.
Breaking numerous records since he was granted a British licence, Tony’s first win in England coming at Exeter on 7 September 1994. He was soon off to a flying start by claiming a record 74 winners, and thus the conditional jockey championship, in the 1994-1995 season. The following season he was champion jockey, a feat that he has repeated in each of the twelve following seasons.
During that run he has also set a new National Hunt record for winners in a season (253) and also become the fastest jockey to reach the 1000 winner mark. On 3 October 2006 McCoy became the first jump jockey to ride 2,500 winners. He is however currently 3-1 outsider to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year but the chances still look slim despite his Grand National win.
Although not born in Northern Ireland, Barry McGuigan is still a respected figure in Northern Ireland’s sporting history, having represented Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games at Edmonton 1978.
He attracted an enormous and loyal following in the mid-1980s, particularly to the King’s Hall in Belfast which he normally packed to the rafters. This, and the media attention that surrounded him, is evidence that not since Rinty Monaghan in the 1940s had the city seen such a popular boxer.
Born in Liverpool, she moved at an early age to Northern Ireland, which she regards as her roots. Through a strong work ethic, which remains her hallmark, Mary converted raw talent as an athlete into an international career spanning nearly two decades.
In the pentathlon and the shot she turned in performances of a consistently high standing in international competition: fourth in the Olympics in 1964; second in the shot at the Commonwealth Games in 1966; and first in the Commonwealth pentathlon in 1970 and 1974. Her career was crowned with a gold medal and world record in the pentathlon at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
At the end of 1972 Peters had been announced as BBC’s sports personality of the year. In 1973 Mary was made an MBE. In the same year she became a member of the Northern Ireland Sports Council, a position she maintained for 20 years.
Rory McIlroy is a professional golfer from Holywood, Co. Down. Undoubtedly a rising star, Rory has become a force to be reckoned with in the international golf scene, achieving notable success in several world class tournaments.
Turning professional at the age of 18, his best professional performance to date is the PGA Tour, winning with a margin of 4 strokes. The round set a new course record, and he became the first player since Tiger Woods to win a PGA Tour event prior to his 21st birthday.
Another golfer from Northern Ireland who has made significant impact on the international scene is Graeme McDowell. He has represented Ireland at both amateur and professional levels, and his most notable achievement was his recent U.S. Open win. McDowell is the first Northern Irishman to win one of golf’s majors since Fred Daly won the 1947 U.S. Open.
Living in Portrush, Graeme was born and raised around Golf, playing at the town club of Rathmore at the age of eight. Both Darren Clarke and Graeme benefited from learning their trade on the Dunluce, a seaside links paradise and home to the only Open ever to be played outside Scotland or England.
In recent years Darren Clarke has set the standard in Ulster’s golfing prowess. With friendly rivalry between McDowell, and McIlroy, the three amigos have put the feelgood factor back into the European game. McDowell is the first to point to the advice Darren gave him growing up, while McIlroy looks upon him like an older brother.
Born in Dungannon, and like his rival McDowell, he also played golf in the U.S., attending Wake Forest University. He was ranked in the top 10 golfers in the world between 2000 and 2002 and represented Ireland in the World Cup and Alfred Dunhill Cup. He has played for Europe on five consecutive Ryder Cup teams 1997, 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2006. Darren is a dedicated worker for charity, he set up his own Darren Clarke Foundation, which not only helps further the development of junior golf in Ireland, but also now raises money for Breast Cancer Awareness.
Dennis Taylor has always been a powerful force in world snooker beating legendary names throughout his career, remaining in the Top 16 World Rankings for over 20 years. He is highly respected by his fellow professionals and peers and is now certainly one of the most recognizable faces within snooker.
In recent years he has made the smooth transition from player to commentator and is now an intricate part of the BBC television commentary team. Best known for his over-sized glasses Dennis Taylors’ friendly character and cheeky Irish wit have made him one of the most recognised sporting faces in the UK. Although retired from professional snooker Dennis Taylors’ instantly recognisable face and endearing nature ensure that he regularly makes celebrity appearances on a range of television and radio shows Dennis Taylor is highly sought after for his exhibition evenings – when his combination of trick shots, humour and top-class snooker have made him popular with every audience.
‘Big Pat’ as he was , was born in Newry, and played 673 games for Spurs between 1964-1977 and another 300-plus at Arsenal before winding down his career in a second spell at White Hart Lane . He also played 119 times for Northern Ireland, including two World Cups.
Northern Ireland have always had a reputation of producing first class goalkeepers, but very few people would dispute that Pat Jennings is the probably the finest of them all.
One of his most famous moments was scoring in the 1967 FA Charity Shield. Ball in hand, Jennings punted it downfield, only for it to bounce in front of United goalkeeper Alex Stepney, over his head and into the goal, one of the most famous goals ever to be score by a keeper from within his 6 yard box.
Jennings glittering career spanned an amazing 22 years during which time he built up a reputation of not only being the best goalkeeper in Britain but undoubtedly in the world.
Often known as ‘Sir David’ by fans, Healy’sgoal scoring exploits for his national side have earned him the respect and adoration of fans. He holds numerous records with his national side, including being the first ever Northern Ireland player to get two hat-tricks, and the first player to score thirteen goals in a European Chamionship qualifying campaign. He is also the all-time leading scorer for Northern Ireland with 35 goals.
He was award the MBE in the 2008 Birthday Honours for services to “football and the community in Northern Ireland”
Born in Kilrea, Martin O’Neill began his career in England at Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough. He is a former player and current manager of Aston Villa. He was capped 64 times for the Northern Ireland national football time, and captained the side at the 1982 World cup.
O’Neill’s career has been prolific both on and off the pitch, with a managerial career spanning over twenty years, some of his most successful at Celtic. In his five seasons at Celtic Park, O’Neill won three League titles, three Scottish Cups, and a League Cup. He also oversaw a record 7 consecutive victories in Old Firm derbies, and in season 2003-04 Celtic created a British record of 25 consecutive victories. O’Neill was also awarded an OBE for services to sport in 2004.
Dave Finlay is a professional WWE wrestler from Carrickfergus. Known as Dave ‘Fit’ Finlay in wrestling circles he has held over twenty championships around the world throughout his career, including the Television Championship and the United States Championship.
He was called the Belfast Bruiser and his wrestling style showed why. He was trained by his father, a former wrestler, and ventured across the Irish Sea to pursue his career in Britain in 1978. Finlay was a quick learner and was soon trading blows with the best of them and became a television favourite.
Born in Belfast, Alex Higgins remains one of the most recognisable names in snooker. A troubled artist with a quick temper and sporting a bad boy image, he was a genius of snooker in his hey day. Winning the World Championship at his first attempt, he went on to become a household name during snooker’s boom years in the eighties, earning the nickname ‘Hurricane’ Higgins for his speed around the table, and alternate cueing technique.
He invariably smoked and drank throughout his matches, as did many of his contemporaries which seen him associated with tobacco advertising, but his battle with the booze saw his form dip drastically in the later stages of his career. The Irish Masters in 1989 was his last significant title, although he still played on the Snooker Legends Tour, alongside other retired or close-to-retiring professionals. Tragically Higgins lost his battle with throat cancer just a few days ago. (July 2010)
PLACES TO SEE, THINGS TO DO.
A selection of some of the amazing landmarks, attractions and natural beauty that make Northern Ireland great.
The Giants Causeway is an iconic landmark of Irish heritage. The basalt stones formed from volcanic eruptions 60 million ears ago offer unparalleled views of the coast, with outstanding scenic beauty.
As well as being declared the country’s only World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway continues to be the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
The dramatic sight has inspired legends of giants striding over the sea to Scotland, and place it firmly in the list of tourist destinations for years to come.
The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is located in the rugged mountainous uplands and the gentle rolling lowlands of counties Fermanagh and Cavan. Taking in the world-famous Marble Arch Caves, the Geopark boasts some of the finest natural landscapes in Ireland and offers a window into the area’s 650 million year past.
Covering a small section of the system, the Marble Arch Caves tour is a popular tourist attraction due to the cave’s accessibility and grandeur. The show caves were opened to the public in 1985 following work to make them more accessible the previous year. Tourists can partake in a seventy-five minute tour of the show caves, during which they travel through the first part of the caves in a specially designed boat floating on the subterranean Cladagh River, before walking through the rest of the chambers.
Originally a practical link to allow fisherman access to Carrick Island, a natural barrier to migrating Atlantic salmon, the bridge is now a seasonal challenge for the intrepid visitor.
‘Carrick-a-Rede’ means ‘the rock in the road’ and refers to the island as an obstacle faced by migrating salmon on their return to spawn in the Rivers Bann and Bush. A rope bridge has existed here in some form for over 350 years and provides the only access to Carrick-a-Rede Island. It was used originally by generations of fishermen to cross the 30m chasm to fish for salmon. Designs have varied over the years, and the latest model (engineered in 2004) is considerably safer than earlier versions, but the trepidation and exhilaration experienced by visitors remains the same.
Belfast Zoo is located on Cave Hill and offers stunning views over Belfast Lough. It is the top fee-paying visitor attraction in Northern Ireland, receiving more than 295,000 visitors a year. Located in north Belfast, the zoo’s 55 acre site is home to more than 1,200 animals and 140 species.
The majority of their animals are in danger in their natural habitat. The zoo also carries out important conservation work and takes part in European and international breeding programmes which help to ensure the survival of many species under threat.
Exploris is Northern Ireland’s only public aquarium. Located in Portaferry, it is popular both with tourists, and local folk in Northern Ireland.
It is home to a wide variety of species including deep water fish, sea bass and manta rays, Exploris also offers the only outdoor seal sanctuary in Northern Ireland.
Run by experienced guides at regular intervals throughout the day, touch tanks offer the opportunity to get up close and personal with a range of marine life including sea urchins and rays.
The Old Bushmills Distillery is a major tourist attraction in Northern Ireland, located two miles south of the Giants Causeway.
It is the only true legal malt whiskey distillery operating in the whole of Ireland and is visited by around 110,000 visitors per year.
Known worldwide for their distinctive warmth and taste, Bushmills single malt Whiskies such as ‘Black Bush’ and ‘Bushmills’ are well crafted products passed down through generations, and guided tours exist to take visitors on the historic journey of their creation.
The two great yellow-painted gantry cranes Samson and Goliath have become icons of Belfast, dominating not just Queen’s Island but the entire city skyline. Constructed to service the vast new graving dock at Harland and Wolff, Goliath (the smaller at 315 ft) began work in 1969, the 348ft Samson five years later.
Each of the Krupp-Ardelt designed cranes can lift loads of up to 840 tons. Harland and Wolff were still one of the world’s great shipbuilders at the time and the building of the two cranes, during a difficult period for shipbuilding in Belfast, was seen as a sign of faith in the future. Now much beloved Belfast landmarks, their own future was assured in 2003 when they were scheduled for preservation.
Established in 1968, Armagh Planetarim is a world renowned planetarium and astronomical centre. It has had significant exhibitions contained throughout as well as a digital universe projection facility.
Educational and Tourism visits makes up the majority of footfall at the planetarium, and the centre is well recognised for its role in the introduction of astronomy to a variety of audiences.
The Digital Theatre is the centrepiece of Armagh Planetarium, and with their unique Digistar 3 projection system visitors can be transported to anywhere in the universe.
The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra is regularly rated as one of Northern Ireland’s top tourist attractions.
The Museum is split into two parts, the Folk part, which allows you to travel back in time and experience the Northern Irish way of life, and the Transport Museum which focuses solely on the methods of transport past and present.
With collections including Northern Ireland’s road racing scene, the Short SC.1 and the Delorean, it perfectly showcases the rich engineering talent that Northern Ireland has produced.
Located just outside Omagh, the Ulster American Folk Park gives a glimpse into life for irish immigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The park features takes visitors on a journey from the old world in Ireland, through to the new world in the states, featuring traditional thatched buildings, American log houses and a full-scale replica emigrant ship helping to bring a bygone era back to life.
The attraction has won numerous tourism awards, and continues to be a worthy attraction for foreign and local tourists.
Winner of the recent £100,000 Art Fund Prize – the most lucrative museum award, the Ulster Museum reopened in October 2009, following a three-year closure for a £17.2m refurbishment. Almost 60,000 people visited in the first ten days following its re-opening – the same numbers that were achieved in a three and half month period prior to refurbishment, proving it as a welcoming and worthy attraction.
Contained therein are a number of impressive exhibitions including collections of fine art and applied art, archaeology, ethnography, treasures from the Spanish Armada, local history, numismatics, industrial archaeology, botany, zoology and geology.
One of the first Norman castles in Ireland, Carrickfergus castle is situated on the shore of Belfast Lough. The castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in the whole of Ireland. Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the Castle saw action right up to World War II.
At the present day Carrickfergus Castle attracts numerous visitors every year, and hosts specific military re-enactments through the year. It stands proud as an important part of Northern Irish history, and remains an important tourist attraction.
A photographers dream, Dark Hedges is an an area of outstanding natural beauty located just outside Ballymoney.
The road is not without folklore,reputedly haunted by a spectral ‘grey lady’ these 300 year old beech trees line the road, reaching to each other with a mystical reaching of branches that has captured the imagination of numerous photographers.
It is increasingly becoming a tourist attraction in its own right, with photographs capturing the location even winning UK photography awards.
When someone says ‘Amusements in Northern Ireland’ probably the first location that comes to mind is Barry’s arcade situated in the centre of Portrush . This mainstay attraction of the Northern Irish summer is a well known family attraction for visitors to the area, and remains the largest amusement park in Ireland.
Rides in the park have changed over the years, although a few regulars such as Barry’s Big Dipper has remained since its (wooden) inception in 1939. Born as the result of romance between two entertainment masters (Italian circus director Francesco Trufelli and entertainer Evelyn Chipperfield) Barry’s remains close to the hearts of many Northern Ireland thrillseekers.
Another Northern Ireland sight that has proven popular amongst the photography community, is the Mussenden Temple at Downhill Demesne. Located just around the corner from one of Northern Ireland’s best kept beaches (Benone Strand), this National Trust heritage site sits right on the cliff edge.
Hezlett House and the Mussenden Temple forms part of the estate of Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol. It was built as a summer library and its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome.
Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park was given to Belfast by Lady Dixon in 1959, in memory of her late husband. Originally formed in the mid-eighteenth century as Wilmont Estate, this area was first inhabited by the Stewarts, a farming family from Scotland. In the mid 1800s the estate was bought by the Bristow family, who built a new house – Wilmont House, completed in 1859.
The estate then also comprised a walled garden, informal planting and gate lodges. The house and estate changed hands several times, finally coming to the Dixons in 1919.
The gardens are well recognised for their beautiful roses, hosting the Belfast International Rose Trials on several occasions. Located just outside Belfast, they offer a quiet area for relaxation and reflection from city life.
Mount Stewart is one of the most unique and unusual gardens in the National Trust’s ownership. The garden reflects a rich tapestry of design and great planting artistry that was the hallmark of Edith, Lady Londonderry. The formal areas exude a strong Mediterranean feel and resemble an Italian villa landscape; the wooded areas support a range of plants from all corners of the world, ensuring something to see whatever the season.
Situated on the shores of Strangford Lough, not only do the grounds offer stunning views and perfect climate for the plantation, the rich landscaping history is also sure to capture the imagination of any visitor. Sunday Jazz at Mount Stewart is a particularly popular event, occurring regularly throughout the year allowing revellers to enjoy a picnic on the front lawn, whilst enjoying the music.
A proper survivor of the Troubles, the Grand Opera House is undoubtably one of the jewels in Northern Ireland’s crown. An architectural masterpiece in its own right, the Opera House was designed by the most prolific theatre architect of the period, Frank Matcham opening on 23rd December 1895.
Situated close to the Europa Hotel (Europe’s most bombed Hotel) – the Opera House has been repaired and reconstructed on numerous occasions, and stands as an enduring symbol of Northern Ireland’s resilience to terrorism.
Christmas pantomimes are regularly performed at the theatre, starring Northern Ireland’s own May McFettridge, and it has become a tradition in many families holiday calendar.
Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. As one of the last walled cities to be built on, it has remained steadfast and true over the years, never seeing its fortifications breached, and withstanding several sieges including one in 1689 which lasted 105 days, hence the city’s nickname, The Maiden City.
The Walls were built during the period 1613-1619 as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. Measured at approximately 1 mile (1.5 km) in circumference and varying in height and width between 12 and 35 feet (4 to 12 metres), they are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city.
The city walls have undoubtedly played a part in the city’s recent City of Culture bid, another reason to love Northern Ireland.
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