Sunday, 31 August 2014

Belfast's Cathedral Quarter

This morning I motored to what is now known as The Cathedral Quarter, Belfast.

I parked at Donegall Street and walked the short distance to Academy Street, which is dominated at one side by Belfast Cathedral.

In fact, the Cathedral is enclosed by Donegall Street, Academy Street, Exchange Street West, and Talbot Street.

Exchange Street West
I turned right at Exchange Street West, where the recent development, Saint Anne's Square, is directly opposite the east end of the Cathedral.

Standing in Saint Anne's plaza, there is a good prospect of the Cathedral's east end and pinnacle.
There was a proposal to build a lady chapel, 76 feet in length and 30 feet wide, holding a congregation of about 200 people, at the Cathedral's eastern extremity, though this plan was never realised, presumably due to financial constraints.
Hill Street ends at the junction of Exchange Street West and Talbot Street.

Gordon Street begins at 43 Hill Street
This is one of Belfast's most atmospheric and distinctive streets. It used to be known as Pott-house Lane.

The beginning of Hill Street

Hill Street leads from Waring Street to Talbot Street, with Gordon Street, Commercial Court and Exchange Place off it.

Commercial Court, from 31 Donegall Street to Hill Street

Commercial Court is celebrated, of course, for the Duke of York bar and the relatively new Hadskis restaurant, which is related to the opulent James Street South restaurant in Belfast.

Exchange Place, from 25a Donegall Street to Hill Street

Whereas Exchange Place is more of a narrow entry which leads from Donegall Street to Hill Street.

The Duke of York has a back entrance or exit at Exchange Place.

Whereas Hill Street and its entries used to thrive with commercial warehouses and premises, today they flourish with marvellous theme restaurants and bars.

There are several hotels in the Cathedral Quarter, including the august and luxurious Merchant Hotel; the Premier Inn; and the Ramada Encore.

Lord Archbishop of Tuam

Coat-of-arms of the Anglican Archbishopric of Tuam

Sapphire, three persons erect, under as many canopies of stalls, their faces, arms, and legs, proper:
The first represents an archbishop, habited in his pontificals, holding a crozier in his left hand;
the second, the Virgin Mary, crowned, with our Saviour on her left arm;
and the third, an Angel having his right arm elevated, and a lamb on his left arm, all topaz

The last Anglican Archbishop of Tuam and Primate of Connaught was the Most Rev and Hon Power le Poer Trench DD (1770-1839).

The archiepiscopal Palace, at Bishop Street, Tuam, County Galway, was built between 1716-41, by Archbishop Synge.

The palace was described thus in 1837:
"Large and handsomely built, though not possessing much architectural embellishment."
The old palace is now a supermarket and restaurant. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Storm in A Teacup

My aunt and I caught up with each other this morning in Storm in A Teacup, at Massey Avenue, Belfast.

This bijou café is located in a former bank premises at the side entrance to Stormont, the seat of government in Northern Ireland.

We like it.

The room isn't large, though the loftiness of the ceiling, the plasterwork and ambiance enhance this place in an uncommon way.

Parking is easy.

This morning I ordered the toasted soda farls with butter and scambled eggs: perfectly seasoned eggs mixed with little cream, I reckon.

I enjoyed this breakfast with Earl Grey tea.

My aunt had a savoury scone with coffee.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

2 Royal Avenue, Belfast

2, ROYAL AVENUE, BELFAST, was built between 1864 and 1869 to designs by William Joseph Barre.

Barre, a Newry and Belfast-based architect, rose to prominence after winning the competition to design the Ulster Hall in 1859, and was one of the most prominent engineers of the mid-Victorian period, often coming into competition with his immediate contemporaries Charles Lanyon and William Lynn.

Barre’s other Belfast works include the Albert Memorial Clock.

The Irish Builder records that the Provincial Bank of Ireland remained uncompleted by the time of Barre’s death by illness in 1867.

The bank premises were consequently completed under the supervision of the architects Turner & Williamson.

When finally completed in 1869, Barre’s design was described and, indeed, praised as being a peculiar adaptation of Venetian-Gothic.

The Irish Builder remarked that the Provincial Bank was built by Henry Fulton, a local builder; whilst the interior and exterior stone carving was by a Mr Barnes.

In 1901-2, the bank was depicted as a rectangular-shaped building situated along the recently laid-out Royal Avenue.

When originally constructed, it did not possess its current rear return, which is a modern extension added ca 2005.

The present building replaced an earlier bank building that had originally stood on the same site, but was demolished about 1864.

The bank manager resided at the site, in a small house to the rear of the building.

The bank contained two sets of rooms: four rooms for the manager's house, and two rooms for the porter's house, both located at the rear of the building.

It was described by Brett as an ‘extraordinarily exuberant building’, and is significant as the only building to survive the Royal Avenue redevelopment of the 1880s.

Hercules Street was narrower than Royal Avenue

Prior to this date, Donegall Place and Hercules Street (the precursor to Royal Avenue) were divided by a line of buildings that formerly stood along the eastern side of the current street.

These buildings were demolished by Belfast municipal council in 1880-81 by the town surveyor, J C Bretland (who in the process re-housed over 4,000 people).

The demolition and clearance of Hercules Place and Hercules Street created the long open boulevard which now extends from Donegall Square to York Street.

However, it caused the destruction of almost all the buildings on the street pre-dating the 1880s.

2, Royal Avenue, continues to occupy the original line of Hercules Place (a narrow square that linked Donegall Place to Hercules Street), and, as a result, is set further back than the adjoining buildings.

Barre’s design for the Provincial Bank clearly displays the influence that the architectural critic John Ruskin had on the Belfast architects of the Victorian period.

Throughout his career, Ruskin remarked on the eclectic quality of northern Italian architecture; how it mixed materials to produce a polychromatic effect; and how it also mixed Gothic tradition with the classicism of Ancient Rome.

Hugh Dixon notes that Barre
was principal among those who put Ruskin’s theory into practise … [his Provincial Bank] an outstanding illustration of what could be achieved. The basic classicism of the building readily identified by the symmetry and the central triangular pediment. 
Yet the decoration is medieval. The faces of hairy Lombard warriors look out from foliage beneath deep, rounded, Romanesque arches. Colonnades flank the openings, and even the balustrade along the roof line is adapted from an interlacing Saxon arcade.
Larmour states that the completed building is notably less ornate that Barre’s original design, which employed greater use of sculpted figures; however, due to rising expenses, Barre was forced to amend his intended design prior to his death and so the pediment has remained bare of statues.

The exterior façade is also much more polychromatic than Barre envisaged as, due to the decay of the white Cookstown sandstone employed, since the 1880s the façade has required painting repeatedly.

The interior of the building was fully realised from Barre’s original design.

Larmour notes that the stucco figures in the groin angles of the circular dome each represent Mechanism, Engineering, Art, War, Law, Navigation, Architecture and Industry.

Throughout its history the Provincial Bank of Ireland has been a prominent landmark in Belfast city centre.

Prior to the completion of the City Hall in 1906 the bank, with its large open area in front, was utilised as a public venue and witnessed a number of important processions; for example, in 1901, large crowds gathered outside the Provincial Bank to welcome home Boer War veterans.

The Provincial Bank continued to occupy the building for over a century until the late 1980s, when the Allied Irish Bank took over possession of the site.

It remained a financial institution till the 1990s.

The premises are now occupied by Tesco stores, which sympathetically renovated the building and constructed the large extension to the rear, undertaken by Chapman Architects ca 2005.

Tesco undertook a major restoration of the building in 2008.

The fine, Cookstown sandstone has now been revealed for all to see, having been covered in paint for a very long time - perhaps even since its original construction.

It particularly interests me because I worked there for a brief period in the early 1990s.

Anderson & McAuley's department store was still trading then, too.

Tesco deserves credit for keeping this important Belfast landmark in such good repair.

First published in 2008.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Schoolhouse Barbecue: II

We all enjoyed a splendid day today at the old schoolhouse, Mount Stewart Estate, County Down.

The schoolhouse now serves as a base for the National Trust's Strangford Lough team.

In the morning fifteen of us tidied up the rear garden, digging, weeding and raking.

Fortunately for us it remained quite sunny, dry and mild.

There was an abundance of bangers, burgers, chicken legs, salad, puddings and good company.

During the afternoon we were delighted to receive members of the Trust's regional administration.

Later, we went for a stroll in the woodland behind the schoolhouse.

Schoolhouse Barbecue

We are having a late summer barbecue today in the gardens of the old schoolhouse.

Volunteers and staff of the National Trust Strangford Lough group have been invited.

We are meeting at the old Schoolhouse on Mount Stewart estate, County Down.

The former estate schoolhouse is located at Portaferry Road on the Ards Peninsula.

Half of it is now used as an office and tool-store; the other, as accommodation.

I made some fresh coleslaw as my modest contribution towards the occasion (white cabbage, onion, carrot, a little mustard, pinch of caster sugar, seasoning).

There is an interesting stone plaque at the front entrance, which proclaims 
This School was Founded ..... 1813 by the Viscountess Castlereagh. The Governors of Erasmus Smith Schools. 

Two years ago (in June, 2012) I was presented with a special badge and certificate for twenty-five years' voluntary service with the National Trust.

This thrills me and I do appreciate this kind gesture from a charitable establishment which is dear to me.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Honorary Freemen of Belfast: 1980-

Honorary Burgesses of the City of Belfast


Ulster Defence Regiment ~ 1980

Royal Ulster Constabulary and Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve ~ 1980

John Hewitt ~ 1983

Northern Ireland Fire Brigade ~ 1992

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service ~ 1992

The Merchant Navy ~ 2002

Dame Mary Peters CH DBE ~ 2012

George Ivan (Van) Morrison OBE ~ 2013

Michael Longley CBE ~ 2015

First published in August, 2012.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Freemen of Belfast: 1960-79

Honorary Burgesses of the City of Belfast


65  Royal Sussex Regiment ~ 1961

66  Thomas Gibson Henderson ~ 1964

67  Sir Peter Malden Studd GBE KCVO DL ~ 1971

68  Lady Studd ~ 1971

69  The Rt Hon Ralph Francis Alnwick [Grey] Baron Grey of Naunton, GCMG GCVO OBE PC ~ 1972

70  The Rt Hon Esmé Mae [Grey] Baroness Grey of Naunton ~ 1972

71  Ulster Division, Royal Naval Reserve ~ 1974

First published in August, 2012.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Darragh Island

I've spent the day on Darragh Island, a property of The National Trust, on the western side of Strangford Lough, not far from Killinchy and Whiterock, County Down.

Our boat took us from Whiterock, passing Braddock Island and Conly Island. Darragh Island is close to Conly Island.

Today we were excavating and dredging a series of ponds; and spraying bracken with a selective herbicide.

Darragh is a great example of how the correct management can produce species-rich grassland with superb displays of wild flowers and insects.

The National Trust uses a purpose-built barge to bring cattle out to this island, whenever possible.

This ensures that the grass is grazed to the optimum height to maximize biodiversity.

In the summer, the island is carpeted in colourful meadows – a rare sight in the countryside these days.

There are the remains of a kelp-house at the southern end (see photograph above).

This simple stone building was built at the end of the 18th century and similar structures would have been common on many of Strangford Lough's islands.

Back then, many local farmers supplemented their income by harvesting seaweed from the shore and burning it in stone kilns.

The residue that was left after burning (called kelp) was an important source of sodium carbonate, which was used in industrial processes such as the production of glass and soap.

It was also used as a bleaching agent in the linen industry.

The kelp was stored in the kelp-houses until it was sold and transported to the various factories and mills.

The remains of a kelp kiln is found just a short distance from the kelp-house.

There are other kelp kilns on the National Trust islands of Taggart, Chapel and South.

Interestingly, they are all built to slightly different designs.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Freemen of Belfast: 1951-60

 Honorary Burgesses of the City of Belfast


55  HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, Countess of Ulster ~ 1952

56  Rt Hon William Spencer [Leveson-Gower] Earl Granville, KG GCVO CB DSO ~ 1952

57  Rt Hon Rose Constance [Leveson-Gower] Countess Granville, GCVO ~ 1952

58  Royal Ulster Rifles ~ 1954

59  Sir James Henry Norritt JP DL ~ 1955

60  Mrs Margaret Lawson OBE ~ 1955

61  Rt Hon Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill KG OM CH TD DL ~ 1955

62  Sir Cuthbert Lowell Ackroyd Bt JP DL ~ 1956

63  Lady Ackroyd ~ 1956

64  Royal Air Force Aldergrove ~ 1957

First published in August, 2012.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

BBC Concert

Ulster Hall

I motored into Belfast at about five-thirty yesterday, endeavouring to get into the right lane - or avoid so-called bus lanes - for Howard Street.

Last week I found a space on Brunswick Street, right outside Deane's; and yesterday the same space awaited me.

How remarkable.

Howard Street restaurant is a hop and a skip from here. In fact, it's opposite the Presbyterian Assembly building.

I enjoyed a really good meal at Howard Street, comprising Stilton Fritters, Pork Belly, and Rhubarb crème brûlée. Three courses cost £19.95.

Having detached the ancient nose-bag an hour or so later, I strode briskly onwards, along Brunswick Street, taking a sharp left turn at James Street South, emerging at Bedford Street and the august Ulster Hall.

This Victorian edifice looks particularly impressive at night, though my photograph has not done justice to the lovely colour-scheme.

Last night's concert was for BBC Radio 3. It comprised works by Sibelius and Nielsen.

Sharon Bezaly and Esa Heikkilä

The conductor was Esa Heikkilä and the soloist was the celebrated flautist - with her golden flute - Sharon Bezaly.

Our Ulster Orchestra performed excellently as usual. I particularly enjoyed the final piece, The Wood Nymph, by Sibelius.

Friday, 15 August 2014

New DL

Mr David Lindsay, Lord-Lieutenant of County Down, has been pleased to appoint:


To be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County his Commission bearing date the 6th day of August 2014.

Lord Lieutenant of the County

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Hamilton Crest

During my perusal of Burke's genealogical and heraldic dictionary of 1834 - I was researching the Hamiltons, Dukes of Hamilton and Brandon - I encountered the legend of the Hamilton crest, viz,
"Out of a ducal coronet, an oak-tree, fructed, and penetrated transversely in the main stem by a frame-saw."
The legend is as follows:
having expressed himself at the court of EDWARD II in admiration of King ROBERT THE BRUCE, received a blow from John le Despencer, a favourite courtier of the King, which led, the following day, to an encounter, wherein Despencer fell; and Hamilton sought security in Scotland, about 1323.

Being closely pursued, however, in his flight, he and his servant changed clothes with two woodcutters, and taking their saws, were in the act of cutting through an oak-tree when his pursuers passed by.

Perceiving his servant notice them, Sir Gilbert hastily cried out to him, "Through"; which word, with the oak, and saw through it, he took for his crest, in commemoration of his deliverance.
"This detail is, however, liable to many objections", according to the narrative.

First published in November, 2013.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Melissa Hamilton


Born at Belfast, Melissa trained at the Jennifer Bullick School of Ballet in Lisburn.

Here is a two-minute clip of Melissa giving a short interview.

Aged 16, she joined Elmhurst School For Dance, where she was taught by Masha Mukhamedov who, after she left the school, trained her privately.

She won the Youth America Grand Prix in 2007.

Melissa won the 2009 Critics Circle ‘Most Outstanding Female Performance’ Award and was nominated for the Times Breakthrough Award at the South Bank Show Awards.

In 2009, she was ranked by The Sunday Times as one of the ‘Top 30 Power Players under 30’.

She has been described as British ballet's brightest hope.

Melissa, who comes from Dromore, County Down, admits her rise to the top was not a "straight line":
"I left home at 16 and trained in England for two years and then gave up school in Birmingham and moved and trained privately with a teacher in Athens for 10 months and then I joined the Royal Ballet Company," she said.
Meeting her teacher Masha Mukhamedov was the tipping point:
"Previous to that I kept being told I would never make it," she said. "That is why I left my school in Birmingham because some people don't have an eye, some people are unable to look at something in front of them and see the potential.
It was whenever I met my teacher, she literally saw me for two seconds and said that she's a ballerina and she completely took me under her wing and I'm a product of her."
The life and hours of a ballerina are relentless:
"You sell your soul to your vocation. I call it a vocation, it is not a job, it's a complete lifestyle," she said. It is incredibly hard. Our hours are incredible, I mean we start our days at half past nine, if we have a show we don't finish until half past ten, we're not home until after 11 and then we're straight in the next day to do the same thing.
We rehearse all throughout the day. We finish rehearsals at half past five and then start into getting ready for our performance at half past seven."
 First published in December, 2011.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Freemen of Belfast: 1940-50

Honorary Burgesses of the City of Belfast


44  Dr James Dunlop Williamson JP DL ~ 1942

45  The Rt Hon Bernard Law [Montgomery] Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG GCB DSO PC ~ 1944

46  General Dwight D Eisenhower ~ 1945

47  The Rt Hon Harold Rupert Leofric George [Alexander] Earl Alexander of Tunis, KG GCB OM GCMG CSI DSO MC CD PC ~ 1945

48  The Rt Hon Alan Francis [Brooke] Viscount Alanbrooke, KG GCB OM GCVO DSO ~ 1945

49  HRH The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh [HM The Queen] ~ 1949

50  HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh ~ 1949

51  Sir William Frederick Neill JP DL ~ 1949

52  Lady Neill ~ 1949

53  The Rt Hon Basil Stanlake [Brooke] Viscount Brookeborough, KG CBE MC PC ~ 1950

54  The Rt Hon Cynthia Mary [Brooke] Viscountess Brookeborough, DBE ~ 1950

First published in 2012.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Steinway Model D-274

I enjoyed a splendid concert at Belfast's Ulster Hall last night, as part of the BBC's summer series for Radio 3.

Earlier I found a parking space at the beginning of Brunswick Street, adjacent to Deane's Restaurant.

I enjoyed an "Early Bird" meal at the Grill Bar of James Street South Restaurant, which is at the corner of James Street South and Brunswick Street.

The music, soloist and conductor were all Scandinavian, viz. Niklas Willén, the conductor; Christian Ihle Hadland, pianist; and music by Grieg, Tellefsen, and Alfvén.

The Hall was almost full and I managed to get my usual seat on the balcony overlooking the double bassists.

It's always a joy to watch this mighty instrument disappearing into the basement on the stage during the inrterval.

Does the Ulster Orchestra possess the same Steinway Concert Grand piano, the model D-274, that I wrote about five years ago?

The Orchestra's piano was most generously funded five years ago by a local charity called Ulster Garden Villages.

Similar Model D-274 pianos cost approximately £100,000 in 2009.

Steinway and Sons hold a royal warrant.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Freemen of Belfast: 1930-40

Honorary Burgesses of the City of Belfast


37  Sir John Lavery Kt ~ 1930

38  Sir William Frederick Coates Bt JP DL ~ 1931

39  Lady Coates ~ 1931

40  HRH The Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, Prince of Wales ~ 1932

41  William Macartney JP ~ 1935

42  HRH The Prince Henry William Frederick Albert, Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster ~ 1935

43  The Most Noble Rosalind Cecilia Caroline [Hamilton], Duchess of Abercorn DBE ~ 1935

First published in August, 2012

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Chapel Island

I spent this afternoon with four other National Trust volunteers and staff on Chapel Island (above) today.

Chapel Island lies directly west of Greyabbey in County Down.

This is a small island on Strangford Lough, barely a dozen acres I imagine, with the remains of a ruined chapel, once attached to Movilla monastery.

Strangford Lough has another island of the same name further south, beside Jackdaw Island and near Audley's Castle.

At low tide, the island is accessible by foot from the mainland, the short walk taking about fifteen minutes.

All that remains of the chapel is a pile of stones spread across a small area; and it's totally obscured by bramble, nettles and other weeds.

Today we removed electric fencing in preparation for a new fence.
EARLIER we spent some time weeding the garden at the old schoolhouse, Mount Stewart estate.
There remains an old water pump, manufactured by Miskelly & Co, of Ards.
Can anybody recognize the tree below?
This Blonde kept her eye on me.

Barony of De La Warr

The founder of this family,

SIR THOMAS WEST, knight, lived in the reign of EDWARD II, and was in high favour with that monarch and his successor.

He married Eleanor, daughter and heiress of Sir John de Cantilupe, of Hempston Cantilupe, Devon; by whom he obtained the manor of Snitterfield, in Warwickshire.

Sir Thomas was subsequently summoned to parliament as Baron West in 1342, and participated in the wars of EDWARD III.

This nobleman died in 1342, and was succeeded by his son,

THOMAS, 2nd Baron, who was not summoned to parliament, though served at Crécy in 1346. His son,

THOMAS, 3rd Baron, was summoned to parliament in 1402; and dying three years later, in 1405, was succeeded by his son, 

THOMAS WEST, 4TH BARON, who took a distinguished part in the French wars of HENRY V.

Dying without issue, in 1415, he was succeeded by his brother, 

REGINALD WEST, 5TH BARON who, in the reign of HENRY VI, on the death of Thomas, Lord la Warr, his uncle, had livery of the lands of his mother's inheritance, and was summoned to parliament as 6th Baron De La Warr, on the death of his uncle in 1426.

Dying in 1451, he was succeeded by his son,

RICHARD, 7th Baron, a staunch supporter of the house of LANCASTER in the war of the Roses.

Following his decease in 1497, he was succeeded by his son,

THOMAS, KG (c1457-1525), 8th Baron.

His lordship's lineal descendant, 

WILLIAM WEST, having served in the English army, at the siege of St Quintin, in Picardy, was knighted at Hampton Court in 1568; and created, at the same time, Baron De La Warr (2nd creation).

He had also, by act of parliament, a full restitution in blood. His only son, 

THOMAS, 2nd Baron, was succeeded by his son, 

THOMAS, 3rd Baron (1577-1618). This nobleman was governor and captain-general of Virginia.

The State of Delaware takes its name from Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr.
In the United States, Thomas West, 3rd (or 12th) Baron, is often named in history books simply as Lord Delaware. He served as governor of the Jamestown Colony, and the Delaware Bay was named after him.
The state of Delaware, Delaware River and Delaware Indians were so called after the bay, and thus ultimately derive their names from the barony. Many other US counties, townships and the like derive their names directly or indirectly from this connection.
His lordship died, in 1618, at Virginia and was succeed in the title by his son, 

HENRY, 4th Baron; whose grandson,

JOHN, 6th Baron, one of the tellers of the exchequer, and afterwards treasurer of the excise, married and was succeeded by his only son,

JOHN, 7th Baron, KB, a general in the Army, and Governor of Guernsey.

His lordship marred twice, firstly to Lady Charlotte, daughter of the Earl of Clancarty.

This nobleman was created Viscount Cantelupe and EARL DE LA WARR, in 1761.

He died in 1766 and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN, 2nd Earl, who was an officer of high rank in the army, and appointed in 1766 master of the horse to The Queen.


William Herbrand [Sackville], 11th Earl De La Warr, is seated at Buckhurst Park, Withyham, Sussex.

Town residence ~ 14 Bourne Street, London.
First published in June, 2012.   Coat-of-arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Monday, 4 August 2014

WW1 Commemoration

The Duke of York will attend a service of Commemoration at Belfast Cathedral later.

The Cathedral, at Donegall Street, will be closed to visitors today after the 8.30am service and will remain closed until the service this evening to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the 1st World War.

The Commemoration Service at 7pm is open to invited guests only.

It will be attended by His Royal Highness; the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP; The First Minister, the Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA; and other representatives of civic and political life.

The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor shall not be in attendance.

The preacher is the Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke, Lord Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.

Friday, 1 August 2014

AB Simon

My Nauticalia  replica of Simon

Simon (ca 1947-49) was the ship's cat who served on the Royal Navy frigate HMS Amethyst.

In 1949, during the Yangtze Incident, he received the PDSA's Dickin Medal after surviving injuries from a cannon shell, raising morale, and killing off a rat infestation during his service.

Simon was found wandering the dockyards of Hong Kong in March 1948 by 17-year-old Ordinary Seaman George Hickinbottom, a member of the crew of HMS Amethyst, the Royal Navy frigate stationed in the city in the late 1940s.

At this stage, it is thought Simon was approximately one year old, and was very undernourished and unwell.

Hickinbottom smuggled the cat aboard ship, and Simon soon ingratiated himself with the crew and officers, particularly because he was adept at catching and killing rats on the lower decks.

Simon rapidly gained a reputation for cheekiness, leaving presents of dead rats in sailors' beds, and sleeping in the captain's cap.

The crew viewed Simon as a lucky mascot, and when the ship's commander changed later in 1948, the outgoing Ian Griffiths left the cat for his successor, Lieutenant-Commander Bernard Skinner RN, who took an immediate liking to the friendly animal.

However, Skinner's first mission in command of Amethyst was to travel up the Yangtze River to Nanking to replace the duty ship there, HMS Consort.

Halfway up the river the ship became embroiled in the "Yangtze incident", when Chinese communist gun batteries opened fire on the frigate.

One of the first rounds tore through the captain's cabin, seriously wounding Simon. Skinner died of his wounds soon after the attack.

The badly wounded cat crawled on deck, and was rushed to the medical bay, where the ship's surviving medical staff cleaned his burns, and removed four pieces of shrapnel, but he was not expected to last the night.

He did manage to survive however, and after a period of recovery, he returned to his former duties in spite of the indifference he faced from the new ship's captain, Lieutenant-Commander John Kerans RN.

While anchored in the river, the ship had become overrun with rats, and Simon took on the task of removing them with vigour, as well as raising the morale of the sailors.

Following the ship's escape from the Yangtze, Simon became an instant celebrity, lauded in British and world news, and presented with the "Animal Victoria Cross", the Dickin Medal, as well as a Blue Cross medal, the Amethyst campaign medal, and the fanciful rank of "Able Seacat".

Thousands of letters were written to him, so much that one Lieutenant Stuart Hett RN was appointed "cat officer" to deal with Simon's post.

At every port Amethyst stopped at on its route home, Simon was presented with honour, and a special welcome was made for him at Plymouth in November when the ship returned.

Simon was, however, like all animals entering the UK, subject to quarantine regulations, and was immediately sent to an animal centre in Surrey.

Whilst in quarantine, Simon contracted a virus and, despite the attentions of medical staff and thousands of well-wishers, died on the 28th November, 1949, from a complication of the viral infection caused by his war wounds.

Hundreds, including the entire crew of HMS Amethyst, attended his funeral at the PDSA Ilford Animal Cemetery in East London.

Simon is also commemorated with a bush planted in his honour in the Yangtze Incident Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.