Thursday brought a whole new day of adventures for Deirdre, Desi and I. We enjoyed our breakfast at the guest house then climbed in the car and drove to the Parliament Buildings, “the house on the hill” as it were, at Stormont. Deirdre had made all of the arrangements ahead of time for us to meet with one of Northern Ireland’s Parliament members (MLA), Paul Frew at 10 o’clock and get a personalized tour! That’s like saying we had a meeting with the Senator of Oregon in Washington D.C. This was a big deal!
We walked into the revolving front door and entered into a beautifully italian marbled corridor with a colorful ceiling.
The paint on the ceiling is the original paint from 1932. The Italian artist guaranteed that it would last forever and so far so good! 84 years later and it looks like it was painted yesterday!
Paul Frew wasn’t able to join us as expected. He had some important appointments to keep so we were given the tour by another guy that was quite entertaining and very knowledgeable. He escorted us into the Assembly room, instructed us to take a seat in the members chairs and proceeded to explain what each person did, what roles they played and explained their whole democratic system. Very interesting indeed!
He also explained that the entire building’s architecture and furnishings reflect a lot of symbolism throughout. For instance, because there are 6 counties in Northern Ireland, the number 6 is used everywhere 6 columns in the Assembly hall, 6-pointed stars in the railings of the staircase and the Flax flower is also incorporated because it is such an important flower to the Irish because flax is what linen is made out of! Below in the carpeting, and motifs on the woodwork are just a couple of examples.
After Paul was done with his “official duties,” he was able to join us and then he took us into the Senate where a committee was holding session so we could watch that in action, and see all the original paintings and furnishings in the “Red Room.” Very impressive and very fancy!
The Blue room in the Assembly had suffered a fire some years back so it was all rather new, but the Senate had all the old Victorian furnishing complete with linen wallpaper and original velvet curtains and wooden benches used by the Senators.
Paul invited us for “tea” in the private lounge used by the MLA and we had such a great discussion about family history, genealogy and the Frews! It was really great! He had to get back to work and so we said our goodbyes. What a treat it was to experience and tour Stormont and get to know Paul. What a great guy!
We climbed in the car and headed back down the road to the bottom of the hill, turned right and headed back to the town centre of Belfast off in the distance.
After a bite to eat at a little outside cafe our next stop was Friar’s Bush Graveyard in the Queen’s Quarter, just south of the college, the Botanic Garden and bordering the Ulster Museum (which we never did find time to visit)…
A very nice tour guide by the name of Adrian, met us at the front gates and our tour began. She is a gardener at the Botanic Garden and volunteers her time to give private tours at the old graveyard. She knows so much about the graveyard. We spent at least 2 hours there with her. It was amazing!
This particular section of the garden held great intrigue for me. My oldest known Frew relative, my 3rd great grandfather, John Frew, died in 1832 soon after his retirement from the military. He was in Belfast when he died of Cholera during the outbreak of the epidemic in the 1800s. This plot, called Plaguey Hill is very possibly the final resting place of John. Unfortunately, there were no records kept of the hundreds of bodies that were interred in a mass grave on this spot. Later, when other epidemics broke out, more bodies were added to this common ground burial spot. We haven’t been able to prove that he is buried here, and I had hoped to get some clues, but to no avail. Adrian did give me some other clues to follow up on when I get home, however, so all is not lost.
Just the same, I picked some nearby wildflowers and placed them on the area where he might have been buried in honour of him…
Adrian took us around to a few more significant grave sites and told us all about them.
It was an absolutely wonderful tour and we really enjoyed getting to know Adrian, the gardener, and volunteer tour guide.
We had a very full day. We spent the rest of the evening just chilling at the guest house eating junk food snacks and having a bit of girl time!
We needed to get rested up because we had yet one more day in Belfast together and we were headed to PRONI (Public Records of Northern Ireland) and the Titanic Experience! You’re going to love it!