Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Seven Wonders: Five more contenders for our most treasured asset

A dish of local seafood
Strangford Lough
Youngsters enjoy the craic over a frame of snooker

This is your chance to tell us your favourite wonder of Northern Ireland. Every day this week we will be featuring five entries — each chosen by a well-known personality from the province — on what makes this place unique.

It may be our scenic wonders, such as the Mountains of Mourne, the Antrim Glens, Fermanagh’s lakeland or the Antrim Coast Road.

Or it may be a trait among the people of Northern Ireland that makes us remarkable, such as our humour, our sense of community or love of home.

On Friday, once you have read all 25 submissions by our advocates, send us your choice of which one you regard as the greatest wonder of Northern Ireland.

Your votes will then be considered alongside the choices of a panel of judges to provide the definitive Seven Wonders of Northern Ireland.

These will then be published by us at a later date.

To register your vote, visit belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sevenwonderspoll.


A land of down-to-earth and open-hearted folk

OUR WARMTH AND KINDNESS

Rosemary Scallon is best known as Derry-born singer Dana who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970. She later turned to politics, |becoming MEP for Connacht-Ulster from 1999-2004 and running unsuccessfully for office of Irish President in 1997 and again last year.

From my earliest recollections of performing in feis around the country, I remember people being very supportive and interested in how I was getting on. There was a great warmth from them. That, of course, was really shown when I came back to Derry after winning Eurovision and people came out to welcome me.

I went back to Derry to get married on October 5, 1978, and I could not believe the number of people who were there to support us on our big day.

That, I think, is the hallmark of people here. They are very down-to-earth and open-hearted.

When my mother Sheila Brown was dying, local people, including her carers, showed her and our family tremendous kindness.

Even when we would go down to the local chemist’s shop for medication, people would ask after her and offer their sympathy.

Her carers were like friends rather than health workers just doing a job.

I will never forget the kindness of people at what was a very stressful time for our entire family. But the warmth and kindness of people is not unique to Derry.

I found the same attitudes when I moved to Co Down after my marriage to Damien. It is the people who make Northern Ireland unique.




We never lose the ability to laugh at ourselves

OUR HUMOUR

Dennis Taylor, former world champion snooker player, celebrates the humour of the people of Northern Ireland

When I left Northern Ireland to work in England I was a very shy 17-year-old and I could never have imagined that one day I would end up making my living in front of millions of people, both as a snooker player and as a broadcaster, often making jokes. One of the funniest men I ever met was Jim Joe Gervin, who ran the snooker hall in Coalisland where I learned to play. His speech was peppered with ‘Irishisms’ — “the first time I was ever up a ladder, it was down a well”. Once, when I was playing an exhibition match in Belfast, I borrowed my dad’s car to travel to the club. When I came out, the car was gone, stolen. This was during the Troubles. The club organised a lift home for us and the taxi man assured us that “you’ll get your car back, maybe through the post, but you’ll get it”.




A haven of spectacular beauty with so many different moods

STRANGFORD LOUGH

Lord Robin Eames (74) was Primate of the Church of |Ireland from 1986-2006, who also helped |produce the Eames-Bradley consultative document on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles

Whenever I came back to Northern Ireland from my travels on behalf of the Anglican Communion, one of the first places I saw from the air was Strangford Lough. It always reminds me of home. I also know it well from sailing on it, and to me it represents so much of life here.

It is a place of many contrasts. At low tide you can see a reputed 365 rocks and islands. It is a place of solitude where one can be alone with one’s thoughts or it can be a challenge, especially at the mouth of the lough where the waters rush strongly. One can see the magnificent Mourne Mountains to the south and the drumlins of Co Down.

The contrasting shades and moods of Strangford Lough are like the contrasts in my own professional life here, ministering to people during 30 years of terrorism when they suffered bereavements and when fear stalked the homes of many people. I’ve seen people in sorrow, but also at times of hope and opportunity.

During my work I have visited countries where people suffered because of hunger, civil war and violence and I was always struck by the contrast between their lives and those of people living in lands of plenty like the USA or Australia. Those are the thoughts that recur to me every time I see Strangford Lough, either from the air on when sailing on it. No matter where you travel, it is a well-known location associated with the best side of Northern Ireland.




It’s a pleasure to work with such great produce

OUR SEAFOOD

Danny Millar (39) is chef-director at Balloo House Hotel, Killinchy, and was awarded Best Chef in Ireland at the 2010 Irish Restaurant Awards. He is a regular on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen

My earliest days as a young chef were spent at the Portaferry Hotel and what sums up Northern Ireland for me is that smell of the sea.

I now live in Killyleagh, just one mile from Strangford Lough.

On the Ards peninsula there are scallops, prawns, lobsters, oysters and mussels and it is a great pleasure to work with such good food.

A bit of butter and lemon is all you need with these ingredients.

For the recent Strangford Seafood Week, however, I devised a Strangford crab and cauliflower Martini.

I put cauliflower puree at the bottom of a Martini glass, followed by white crabmeat with pickled shallots, a light crab bisque frothed into a foam with a Parmesan puff attached.

That is a refined dish from the restaurant, but I love the langoustines we get from Strangford Lough which have simply been blanched, cooked for a minute or so in boiling water, cut in half and had some garlic butter and lemon added.

With wheaten bread and a pint of Guinness, it is a plate of home.


We’re not perfect but we’re always sociable

A SENSE OF HOME

Eamonn Holmes (51) is a Northern Ireland- born television broadcaster best known for his stints on the GMTV and This Morning |programmes

The most influential Wonder of Northern Ireland to me, is something that is all around. I am always aware of it, I constantly experience it, I look forward to it, I bask in it, I could show it to you, but yet I can’t touch it. It’s a feeling of belonging ... it’s the feeling of ‘home’. What I’m saying is that when you’re from Northern Ireland you know the score — you know the territory, the people, the scenery, the food, the craic, the bad weather, the bad times, but most importantly ... the good times.

We are not perfect but we are extremely sociable — and don’t underestimate what an amazing quality that is. That’s one of the reasons that we travel so well.

Others like us. We have little to export outside people, and for that alone we should be one of the richest countries in the world. But, sadly, we are not.

However, whoever they are, or wherever they are, I bet, like me, they only refer to the six counties as one thing — and that’s home.

Now isn’t that a True Wonder?

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