Kerr's Corner

Kerr's Corner is a regular feature in East Antrim and Newtownabbey editions of The Wizard. David Kerr would like to hear your memories of life in your own area. Maybe you'll trigger some thoughts for a future column.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Notes In The Margin

SOME TIME AGO, George from Greenisland asked me how Greenisland got its name. He wondered if it was an island at one point.

I have to thank Billy, a lifelong Greenisland resident, for the following information. He she says that Greenisland is named after the small island off the shore at Seapark (between Greenisland and Trooperslane). You can see it if you are walking along the Shore Road or from the Knockagh Hill.

This island is not very big, but about 25 years ago he used to walk out to it at low tide to fish from it. (And, yes, he “always did catch fish as it was a super spot!”) However, one had to stay on it until the next low tide to get back. Billy feels that this island is now a seal colony. Can anyone confirm this? The name of the island is Greenisland and he believes that is how Greenisland got its name.

I found Billy’s information very interesting. I actually had a question of my own concerning the area: where did most people originally come from whom now live in Greenisland? Billy tells me that Greenisland - like Rathcoole - was really an overspill from Belfast. He says that a lot of younger people who moved to the area have stayed and are now raising their own families!
Billy has also kindly agreed to help answer any questions readers have about Greenisland. As he says, “I’m sure I could answer most questions as I would have some knowledge of totally useless stuff!”

Therefore, if anyone else out there has any questions about Greenisland, please let me know. I’ll forward your questions to Billy and print his answers in the next East Antrim issue of Kerr’s Corner.

Additionally, if there are any other local historians out there who could supply information about their local area, please do get in touch. Just e-mail me at:

In Conversation with Underline

LAST YEAR Kerr's Corner spoke to Johnny Quinn, the energetic drummer from Snow Patrol - probably the most famous and successful band to emerge from Ulster since the Undertones.
In a wide ranging interview, we asked Johnny why Snow Patrol had done so well. His recipe for success was simply perseverance. Many bands give up before getting their chance of getting into the big-time comes up.

Johnny's advice was "don't give up!" Bands need a real determination to succeed. This requires hard work, time for rehearsal and a lot of luck. "It took us seven yaers to become an 'overnight success'".

Another local band who deserve similar success are Underline. A three-piece heavy rock band, they have already been compared to Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, Black Sabbath and Therapy.

Impressed with such illustrious comparisons, I wanted to find out more. To do so, I spoke to Underline's Bass player, Terry McDonald (30). He informed me that he and the other two band members - his brother Shane McDonald (28) on drums and David Kennedy (28) on guitars and vocals - all originally hail from Armagh. They have been playing on and off in different bands for over ten years. Finding themselves all in Belfast they formed Underline in March 2004.
I'm always interested in bands that play live, so I asked Terry about life on the road. He told me that they'd played around 40 gigs so far - a few of them very memorable indeed. "During a gig in Warrenpoint, a full-scale riot broke out as we were playing our last song, but we just carried on playing. It was a bit scary, but no-one was seriously injured, so we can laugh about it now". He also recounted how Underline drove all the way to Portrush - to play to a massive crowd of four people! That wasn't such a great night he mused. However, their most memorable gig so far "was playing with Therapy in the Limelight at the Tsunami fund raising gig in January. That was fantastic".

So much for the past. What then are the band's future plans? "We've our first gig in our hometown Armagh on 22nd October, so we're looking forward to that. Then we hope to take a few months off from gigs and write a few more new songs. Then we hope to resume playing gigs - and hopefully people will keep coming to see and support us".

In closing, terry mentioned that further information about Underline could be found on their web-site Here you can also download their first four track CD, Your Skinny Neck Friends. Their latest CD, Is This Yours? can be bought from Hector's House in North Street, Belfast.

Kerr's Corner would like to help promote local bands. I'm interested in all musical styles, so if you'd like to be featured, simply e-mail me at

Monday, November 21, 2005

In conversation with WWF-NI

WWF is probably one of the better-known conservation charities in the UK. It's probably best known for its work to preserve endangered species around the world - most notably the Giant Panda that appears on its logo - but also tigers, polar bears and great apes.

Few people are aware that the WWF has a regional office here in Northern Ireland. The office, in West street in the centre of Carrickfergus, has been open for about five years in order to lobby on conservation and environmental issues to local councillors, the (phantom) Northern Ireland Assembly and the local media. There is now a staff of four full-time workers and one part-timer. Prior to that, the WWF here was just another voluntary action group.

I spoke to Sara McClintock, the Communications Officer for the WWF-NI about the group's work in the province. Her job is to make the important issues of endangered species and conservation relevant to ordinary folk here in the likes of North Belfast or Fermanagh where it's often hard to see what they can do to save the polar bear or the orang-utan.

These things, she says are all inter-related. We need to preserve habitat in order to save wildlife. For example, climate change means that melting ice makes it harder for polar bears to find food. "Polar bears are starving" she says. "Sea ice in the Artic is forming later and melting earlier and more quickly as our climate warms up. The thickness of Artic summer sea ice has decreased by 40% in the last 30 years. The sea ice allows polar bears to hunt for seals, their favourite prey. Without the sea ice, the polar bears can't reach the seals so when there is less ice around and for a shorter period of time, the polar bears will have less to eat". They have to travel further and go for longer gaps between meals. This has a knock-on effect on the population as bear numbers decline alarmingly.

Weather changes in Costa Rica affected a species of toad that lived in the upper branches of humid forests. The Golden Toad is believed to be the first species to become extinct because of climate change. As amphibians toads need moisture to survive. The Golden Toad thrived on the rain and temperatures in this habitat. Climate change made this area hotter and drier, killing the toads.

Another species to be affected lives on cool, moist mountaintops in North America. The Pika now has nowhere to go. "As temperatures rise due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide, scientists expected to see pikas migrating/moving to new places to live. This didn't happen though as there were very few suitable places for the pikas to move to and so the species have seen a rapid decline in numbers".

The WWF-NI works to create greater awareness of the dangers of climate change and the need for sustainable development. This allows space for endangered species to survive and in time thrive. In Northern Ireland it works alongside the Ulster Wildlife Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to help protect endangered native Irish species and their habitat. One on-the-ground project in the Cookstown area aims - working with residents and farmers - to clean up a local river inside a year. Sara says that the farmers have responded brilliantly. Sometimes such projects are just a simple matter of redirecting waterspouts or separating clean rainwater from dirty run-off water. Even little changes can have a positive impact.
Another local project involves a joint marine partnership with the UWT to monitor the number of porpoises in Belfast Lough. This entails seeding six or seven 'T-pod' monitoring devices across the mouth of the lough in a rough line from Carrick to Bangor.

Anyone can help the valuable work of the WWF-NI. The Walk for Wildlife, which talkes place in Ballyboley Forest in Larne on October 8th aims to raise funds and awareness of the issues. This year's theme is the orang-utan. Find out more by visiting the website or ringing Sara on 9335 5166. Alternatively, you can just drop into the offices at 13 West Street in Carrick. If you're reading this in time you can also visit the WWF-NI stall at the Green living Fair at Castle Espie on September 18th 2005.

Notes In The Margin

SOME TIME AGO, Norman from the Shore Road asked me about enamel badges. He wanted to know how they were made. He recalled that Birmingham in the West Midlands used to be the badge capital of the world and wondered if thie was still the case?
Thanks to Mark from the West Midlands who saw Norman's query on the Kerr's Corner Blog site - - for the following information.
Mark tells me that years ago, the Hockley jewellery quarted in Birmingham was the place to go to get enamel badges made. Sadly, there's only about five badge firms left in the area and all now import their badges from China.
He also informed me that under European standards, enamel (cloisonne) is now illegal as it contains lead. Cloisonne badges can be imported from China but they are very costly. Most badges these days are made from soft enamel, or du enamel, which is a synthetic material noted for its really smooth finish.
Mark's brief information is fascinating. I would like to know a bit more about it. Does anyone else out there know anything more about the production of enamel badges? If you do, just e-mail me as usual on: