Mrs Thatcher

Simon Barnes had an article in last week’s TIMES on Mrs Thatcher’s lack of interest in sport, and the same newspaper had various small anecdotes of our first woman Prime Minister. They  reminded me of how Mrs Thatcher, with no interest in chess, was persuaded to open the London-Leningrad KvK match.


“Why should I do this?” Mrs T asked.


“Because tomorrow your photo will be on the front page of every newspaper in the Soviet Union.” was the convincingreply.


Once I sat beside Ian Gow MP before he was due to address a meeting in Belfast. He volunteered an explanation of how the Anglo-Irish Agreement (which prompted his ministerial resignation) would have not got past him had he continued in his role as Political Secretay to Mrs T, had he not moved on to become Housing Minister. Gow gave 3 reasons –


a) the trumpteted constitutional offerings from the Republic of Ireland were nothing new;


b) the promises of “improved security cooperation” were worthless; and


c) the deal would not prove “generally acceptable to the people of Northern Ireland as a whole”.


Of course, Mrs T was coming under enormous pressure from Geoffrey Howe and Douglas Hurd.


Mrs T’s autobiography contained a sentence (written by her or perhaps another) which led observers to conclude that Mrs T no longer felt warmly of the AIA.


Perhaps so. She went off the Common Market aka EU as well.


Psalm 61

Psalm 61 (New International Version)

Psalm 61[a]

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.[b]
For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.


  1. Psalm 61:1 In Hebrew texts 61:1-8 is numbered 61:2-9.
  1. Psalm 61:4 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here.

Coates Family Tree 2

from information assembled by John Currans, Gerald Harbey & Nicholas Coates


[+ Gerald Harvey + Nicholas Coates]

Israel Coats (d. 1764, of Falls Rd., Belfast) m Grace Harris, dau of Edward Harris

[gtx4 grandfather]

Victor Coats b. 1760 d. 22 Oct 1822

[gt gt gt grandfather]

William Coates b. 1798 d. 31 Mar 1878

[gt gt grandfather]

Victor Coates of Rathmore m Margaret Airth Richardson

[gt grandfather]

Gerald Arthur Coates (1867-1925), lawyer & fabric broker, m. (1906,Paterson, N. J.) Henrietta Louise Kinsey, dau of Thomas Kinsey, purser with the American Line

[ grandfather]

Victor Airth Coates b. 1 Feb 1907, Sloane Maternity Hospital, New York, d. 1 Dec 2002, Belfast, only child


Nicholas Coates



Coates Family Tree

from information supplied by John Currans

Israel Coats (d. 1764, of Falls Rd., Belfast) m Grace Harris, dau of Edward Harris
[gtx4 grandfather]
Victor Coats b. 1760 d. 22 oct 1822
[gt gt gt grandfather]
William Coates b. 1798 d. 31 Mar 1878
[gt gt grandfather]
Victor Coates of Rathmore
[gt grandfather]
Gerald Arthur Coates
Victor Airth Coates
Nicholas Coates

Psalm 60

Psalm 60 (New International Version )

Psalm 60[a]

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lily of the Covenant.” A miktam[b] of David. For teaching. When he fought Aram Naharaim[c] and Aram Zobah,[d] and when Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.

You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
you have been angry—now restore us!
You have shaken the land and torn it open;
mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
You have shown your people desperate times;
you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
to be unfurled against the bow.[e]

Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet,
Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin,
on Edom I toss my sandal;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”

Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
11 Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
12 With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.


  1. Psalm 60:1 In Hebrew texts 60:1-12 is numbered 60:3-14.
  2. Psalm 60:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
  3. Psalm 60:1 Title: That is, Arameans of Northwest Mesopotamia
  4. Psalm 60:1 Title: That is, Arameans of central Syria
  5. Psalm 60:4 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here.


The Star Older than the Universe?

 Astronomers have discovered a star, in our own galaxy, which appears to be older than the present accepted age of the universe. Odd? In actual fact, it is of course impossible, unless our ideas of how the universe formed are totally wrong. So what have we got wrong: the age of the star, or the age of the universe?


   Well it’s not quite as simple as that. There is an error margin for the estimate of the age of the star, and the lower end of that margin puts the star just within the estimated edge for the universe. The mysterious ‘Methuselah Star’ appears to be between 14 and 15 billion years old, while the universe itself is thought to have come into existence 13.7 billion years ago. But it’s still a major mystery how a star can be that old. And the chances of one of the earliest stars in the history of the universe just happening to be so close to the Sun at this time are also rather remote. At magnitude 7.2, it’s easily visible even in binoculars, in Libra. See below for its position.


    And even after using new information about the star’s distance from us, its brightness and its structure, scientists are unable to place an estimate of its age much below 14.5 billion years – still older than the universe.


   Fortunately for the team from Pennsylvania State University and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, there appears to be a margin of error of about 800 million years, or so – enough to just barely place the star below the age of everything else.


   Known as HD 140283, or TYC 5601-694-1, the star is the oldest object currently known to astronomers. It was first discovered a century ago, moving more than 800,000 mph relative to the Sun. It is on a long and looping orbit around the galaxy, and is only briefly passing through our neighbourhood.


    In the study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, astronomers said the star was born in a ‘dwarf galaxy’ which was swallowed by the Milky Way more than 12 billion years ago. Using new measurements the team was able to refine its estimate of the star’s position, and learn more about its structure.


   The study suggests that further research might bring the age of the star down even further. See:

 – from the newssheet of the Irish Astronomical Association, written by Terry Moseley 


Psalm 59

Psalm 59

New International Version (NIV)

King David King David 

Psalm 59[a]

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam.[b] When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.

Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
    be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
Deliver me from evildoers
    and save me from those who are after my blood.

See how they lie in wait for me!
    Fierce men conspire against me
    for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
    Arise to help me; look on my plight!
You, Lord God Almighty,
    you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
    show no mercy to wicked traitors.[c]

They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
See what they spew from their mouths—
    the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
    and they think, “Who can hear us?”
But you laugh at them, Lord;
    you scoff at all those nations.

You are my strength, I watch for you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.

God will go before me
    and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord our shield,[d]
    or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them
    and bring them down.
12 For the sins of their mouths,
    for the words of their lips,
    let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
    consume them in your wrath,
    consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
    that God rules over Jacob.

14 They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
15 They wander about for food
    and howl if not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.

17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.


a.  Psalm 59:1 In Hebrew texts 59:1-17 is numbered 59:2-18.

b.  Psalm 59:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term

c.   Psalm 59:5 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verse 13.

d.  Psalm 59:11 Or sovereign


Another Ullans breakfast with Martha

Yesterday, and a few days before St Patrick’s Day itself,   I attended the Ullans Academy annual St Patrick’s Day breakfast with Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar Martha Eisenhour from the USA.  The event took place in the magnificent  Banqueting Hall of Belfast City Hall, courtesy of Belfast City Council and in the presence of the Lord Mayor. As they entered, each guest was presented with a sprigs of shamrock.

Sammy Douglas MLA was Master of Ceremonies, there were speeches from three Ullans representatives, Dr Ian Adamson OBE (President), Mr Liam Logan (Executive Chairman) and Dr Ruairí Ó Bleine , while two local schools contributed musical entertainment.

I took photos of - 

a)     Martha with Ian Adamson, in front of the portrait of Ian as Lord Mayor which hangs in the corridor; and

b)    Martha with Liam Logan;

while another guest took a photo of Martha and me

Martha and Ian Adamson

Martha and Ian Adamson 

 Martha and Liam Logan

Martha and Liam Logan

Martha and me Martha and me 



Persecution in Pakistan, by Release International

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

PAKISTAN – Blasphemy cases converge on court in Lahore

Release partners in Pakistan are calling for urgent prayer as a series of blasphemy cases are due to be heard in court in Lahore today.

Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, is appealing her case at Lahore High Court. Final arguments in the Martha Bibi case are also due to be presented. Martha, who has six children, was accused of blasphemy in 2007 after an argument with local builders. 

A decision is still awaited in the case of Younis Masih, who was arrested eight years ago after complaining about the level of noise at an Islamic ceremony.  At his last High Court hearing on February 27 demonstrators called for everyone found guilty of blasphemy to be put to death. Release partners say the intention was to pressure the judges to find him guilty. Younis, who has four children, recently suffered a heart attack.

Lahore High Court will also decide today whether to grant bail to Ghazala Khan, who has also been accused of blasphemy.

(Source: Release partners)

• Please pray for all the Christians who are due to appear in court. Pray that God will give courage to the judges tospeak boldly and act justly. Pray for protection for the accused as they attend the court hearings, and for safety for their legal representatives.


Sir George Quigley

The death has been announced of Sir George Quigley.  Quigley has a senior Civil Servant who was passed over as its Head in favour of Kenneth Bloomfield. Quigley then left the Service to become Chairman of the Ulster Bank, and later other high-profile appointments.

In my 20s I was asked to comment the “Quigley Report” on the NI economy and to update some of its wide-ranging statistics. That was one of my first exposures to the man and his achievement. But then he lived for a time opposite my parents’ home, where he was often to be seen, in good weather, reading on the front steps of his bungalow.

On one occasion I was invited in to learn that he and his wife, Moira, had some 40 books borrowed from various libraries. He recommended one in particular, BURR by Gore Vidal, which I read with great pleasure.

Later in life I would bump into Sir George on occasion when he had kind words to say of my father. RIP.