Belfast Telegraph

Phil Coulter reveals internment rage at heart of Derry anthem

By Ivan Little

Eurovision winning composer Phil Coulter has revealed how several of his most famous songs were inspired by his anger over internment and anguish over the tragic deaths of his brother and sister.

In an emotional appearance on RTE's Late Late Show on Friday night, Coulter also opened his heart about another song he penned about his Down's Syndrome son.

The musician, who was 76 last week, said the song Free the People was written after he visited his family in Derry on the weekend that internment was introduced in August 1971.

"Like most people in Derry we just felt violated," he said. "At that stage the intelligence the British had was very poor.

"They cast the net very wide and were dragging guys out of bed at four in the morning for no better reason than they spoke Irish or they played Gaelic football or they went to ceili dances - if they were tainted at all as being republicans. We were incensed and there was a kind of knee jerk reaction on my part to write Free the People."

Coulter, who'd been more associated with Eurovision hits like Puppet on a String, said that he found a pall of gloom hanging over Derry in the months after internment.

He added: "I thought this was such a tragic period in the history of our city that there should be a song about it."

And so The Town I Loved so Well was born and it's become an anthem of Derry.

The star spoke movingly about the pain of losing brother Brian and sister Cyd in unrelated drownings in the 1980s in Lough Swilly in Co Donegal.

He said: "Lough Swilly can be very treacherous, and they could see that he (Brian) was in difficulty. They called the guards but it was too late. The tide and the wind had blown him out."

Coulter then told how his sister Cyd died on the same lough.

He said: "With my sister, if anything it was more painful because she was a counsellor for people with addiction problems. She got this panic call and she said she had to go and see this client.

"Unfortunately he was on a suicide trip and was determined to take her with him and that's what happened."

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