The letter arrived in September 1964, addressed to Mr. James Creagh, Fairymount House, Kildrum. The postage stamp showed Eastbourne, Sussex. The writer was Henry Coleman.
Fairymount House, was situated in the townland of Kildrum, on the right of the Letterkenny to Derry road, just before Alice’s Bar, known today as the Alt Bar, in the village of Killea.
It was a two-storeyed building with an adjacent single story, which at one time was another family’s dwelling.
Fairymount was owned by the prominent Neely family who were Farmers and Undertakers.
John (Jack) Neely owned Kildrum Farm, now William Monagle’s place. There were Neely’s also in Castruse and Altaghaderry.
The owner of the undertaking business, Robert Neely, lived at Creevagh House. Older people will remember coffins stored in the outhouses at Fairymount.
Robert Neely died in a tragic accident when alighting from his chauffeur driven car at his home Creevagh House on Christmas Eve, falling from the steps into the basement.
One of the other prominent families who lived in Fairymount were the McCann’s, the first Chief Preventive Officer (CPO) at Kildrum Frontier Post after partition.
James McMonagle, the first Principal at Altaghaderry NS, also lived there, as did James Creagh was CPO, also at Kildrum, with the Customs and Excise. His Grandson, Conal Creagh is the present owner
Henry Coleman lived in Fairymount House from 1916 after his marriage in the late Summer, to Emily Mary Louisa Baillie, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel John Robert Baillie of Red House, Urney, Strabane.
It was a society wedding as the bride’s father was a retired army officer and the land agent for the Duke of Abercorn. Her grandfather was Reverend Richard Aemilius Baillie was Dean of Raphoe in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe. His death is recorded as Glendowan Rectory, Letterkenny.
An Uncle was also a minister of the church, in fact when traced back the family had ministers in different parts of Ireland.
The newlyweds made Fairymount their home and enjoyed the pleasure of country life as seen from his letter, enquiring of the fruit trees they planted when they lived there. He mentions an old man called William, whom he describes as being stone deaf, living nearby, probably in Margaret McDaid’s house, who supplied them with vegetables.
He recalls William’s fondness for a weekend of taking a bottle and sleeping it off until Monday.
The Coleman’s house was run by a Housekeeper and a maid called Duncan.
On reflection, he wonders why they would have two, beside themselves. He recalls the Killea Post Office at the bottom of the hill that was beside the old hall where the garage is now.
The postmistress then was a Sarah O’Donnell. After partition, it was relocated beyond the Killea graveyard, where Mary McPherson was postmistress. The McCallion’s are fondly remembered, Alice and Johnny, but as neighbours.
Richard Henry Pinwell Coleman was born in Dartmouth and held various positions in English Cathedrals, learning and studying music under various accomplished organists in England, before coming to Derry in 1914 to take up the post at the age of 28.
Coleman was Organist and Master of the Choristers at St Columb’s Cathedral. He left in 1920. He also achieved a Bachelor of Music from Trinity, Dublin while here in Donegal.
Returning to England he too took up the same position at Peterborough Cathedral until 1944, where Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, first wife of Henry VIII is buried.
Coleman left Peterborough Cathedral under extenuating circumstances, mainly domestic, which were described in his obituary as not of his making. Henry and Emily divorced, and he took up a similar position in Brighton. There were no children, she died and her papers of Probate, which were issued in Wales, record her as a single woman.
Coleman is noted for his Organ compositions and books on organ music, including the 1935 ‘The Amateur Choir Trainer’ and ‘Anthems of the World’. He was also a distinguished organ recitalist.
In his letters to James Creagh, Coleman speaks fondly of his visits to Derry afterwards and his friendship with Mrs Hunter of Ballinacross, Fosters of the Glen.
He kept in touch with Derry with the weekly arrival of the Sentinel, sent by Joseph McConnell a former Choirboy, of McConnell’s Plumbing.
Creagh invited him to visit Fairymount and stay with them, but alas thrombosis had set in and travel was out of the question, regretfully he says, had he known of Creagh earlier he would have no hesitation in returning to a place he dearly loved.
Richard Henry Pinewell Coleman passed away a year after writing these letters in 1965 in Eastbourne, Sussex age 79.
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