Belfast Telegraph

'It was the scene of some of most painful experiences in my life' - musician Phil Coulter on how brother and sister drowned in separate accidents

Phil Coulter
Phil Coulter

By Geraldine Gittens

Musician Phil Coulter spoke about how he lost one brother and one sister in separate drowning accidents.

The tragedies would later be immortalised in the laments "Shores Of The Swilly" and "Star Of The Sea" which he wrote in their memories.

Derry-born Coulter appeared on RTE's Late Late Show on Friday. He told host Ryan Tubridy about his sister Cyd and brother Brian's death after they drowned in Lough Swilly in Donegal in separate incidents.

He spoke about Lough Swilly, the sea inlet that lies between Inishowen and the Fanad peninsula, and how it has formed both happy and tragic moments in his life.

“It was the scene of some of the happiest times of my life with my two brothers and two sisters, when we were kids," he said.

“We would rent a little house on the shores of the swilly in Inishowen and we’d learn to swim in that stretch of water on play for those endless days in the summer together, and then in adult years it was the scene of some of the most painful experiences in my life.”

He went on to describe how his brother Brian, who was an experienced windsurfer, got into trouble on Lough Swilly’s difficult waters.

“In two separate, unrelated incidents, both my brother and my sister were drowned on Lough Swilly. My brother was wind surfing. He had windsurfed around the world. It was in the month of November/ December so there were no boats in the water, and people could see from the shoreline, the wind had got up very quickly. And Lough Swilly can be very treacherous, and they could see that he was in difficultly.”

“They called the guards etc etc, but it was too late. The tide and the wind had blown him out.”

Coulter then described how his sister Cyd, a counsellor, died because she was trying to help one of her clients.

“With my sister, if anything it was more painful because she was a counsellor for people with addiction problems and she was called away from one of her kids 10th birthday party. She got this panic call and she said I’ll put the ice cream cake in the fridge and we’ll finish this when I come back but I gotta go and see this client.

“Well unfortunately he was on a suicide trip and was determined to take her with her, and that’s what happened,” he told Ryan Tubridy.

The singer also described how he felt moved to write his famous song "The Town I Loved So Well" when he visited his home city of Derry, after some time away.

"There was a pall of gloom over everything and I thought 'this is such a tragic period in the history of our city that there should be a song about it."

Irish Independent


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