Joe Mahon visits Lissan near Cookstown on Lesser Spotted Journeys on Monday at 8pm, where he pays a visit to Lissan House, seat of the baronetcy of the Staples family for over 400 years, before eventually being bequeathed to the public in 2006.
One of the current trustees, Tony McMinn, takes Joe on a tour of the house as he regales him with tales of some of the house’s more colourful owners – like the millionaire who had his own live-in orchestra, and the artist who went barefoot everywhere.
Tony also shares the story of perhaps the most remarkable owner of the house – its last, Hazel Radclyffe-Dolling, who was denied the baronetcy because of her gender, but became a merchant navy sailor, an RAF pilot, and single-handedly kept the estate running for years, despite her lack of fortune.
Joe learns about the complicated life cycle of a freshwater pearl mussel, and their dependency on bigger lifeforms for survival, as he accompanies Frank Mitchell and David Bell from the Ballinderry Rivers Trust on their inspection of their experimental scheme to determine if these mussels can be re-introduced into the river.
Finally, Joe meets Dan Neeson, who used to work on the Lissan estate when Hazel Dolling was still alive. Locally renowned as a poet, Dan chats to Joe about his interest in preserving local townland names, and is even persuaded to give him a verse of the song he was commissioned by Hazel to write - in which he lists no less than 30 of these townlands!