ST COLUMB’S Cathedral was the setting yesterday, Tuesday, for a poignant Service of Thanksgiving for the life of the Late William ‘Billy’ Coulter, who passed away last wee after a long battle with illness. He was 85.
As a fitting mark of respect for the Late Mr Coulter’s membership and service to the Loyal Institutions, a Guard of Honour comprising members of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, led by the Governor of the Apprectice Boys, Jim Brownlee and Secretary of the Apprentice Boys, Billy Moore, formed up in the foyer before the start and at the end of the service.
The service was conducted by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Dr William Morton, assisted by the Very Rev Dean Cecil Orr and Rev Canon John Merrick, with a Scripture reading by family member Mr David Coulter.
His nephew, William Lynd, paid a personal tribute to his uncle, relating aspects of his uncle’s youth, including their move to the city from Limavady; his schooling at the Model Primary and the Technical College, before going on to train as a pharmacist serving his apprenticeship in Austin’s Medical Hall in The Diamond and Dixon’s at Waterloo Place. He became a pharmacist and went on to become the chief pharmacist at Altnagelvin Hospital when it opened, later moving to the North Eastern Board where he took responsibility for a group of small hospitals in Coleraine, Ballymoney and Ballycastle. The pharmacy for the smaller hospitals was centralised when Mr Coulter retired and the former pharmacy in Ballymoney became the centre and was renamed Coulter House in honour of Mr Coulter’s contribution.
Mr Lynd referred particularly to his uncle’s great love of gardening, his appreciation of fine antiques and collectables and his deep faith. He said that although his uncle never married his main preoccupation was his family circle and described him as “the focal point for the family,” and how he travelled extensively not just within Scotland and England but further afield to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States, maintaining contact with relatives. Mr Lynd also noted how his uncle had an expansive circle of friends with whom he meticulously maintained contact.
He also spoke of his uncle’s attention to detail, researching and recording the family tree, and how he had left behind him annotated tomes of the entire family dating back generations, so that the family history would be recorded for future generations. He said his uncle also had a great interest in history and particularly the history of the city, widely read he enjoyed collecting books on a wide range of subjects in addition to being the founder of the Apprentice Boys Museum and acting as tour guide.
Mr Lynd also referred to how his uncle was a long-serving member of the Loyal Orders, in addition to being the longest serving member of the Campsie Club, having recently received his 50-year Service medal. A Free Mason, he was also a founder member of the Credit Union in the Memorial Hall and held Credit Book No 1. He also assisted at the Eglinton branch.
“Although brought up a Presbyterian, and still declared himself to be one, he joined St Columb’s Cathedral when his own church at Great James’s Street closed and the congregation moved to the Waterside. His roots were in the city and he always had close ties to its history and this historic Cathedral,” said Mr Lynd, going on to describe how his uncle’s car resembled “a mobile shrub” as he drove to the Cathedral with greenery from his garden for the harvest floral arrangements.
He described his uncle as “a very private man” who was reluctant to discuss his illness: “He was a most hospitable person and loved to welcome and entertain the family and his friends at his home in Lincoln Courts.”
Thanking the many friends who helped support his uncle, Mr Lynd particularly paid tribute to the Richmond and Ferguson families who had helped him remain at home, where he wanted to be.
Mr Lynd also acknowledged the work of the staff at Foyle Hospice and Altnagelvin, and he also thanked the Dean and friends of the Cathedral for their support and assistance in the organising of the service and the Apprentice Boys for opening the Memorial Hall to the congregation afterwards, where refreshments were served.
The service featured hymns specifically chosen to reflect the deeply Christian aspects of the Late Mr Coulter’s life, namely ‘Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here,’ ‘O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder’ and ‘The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended’.
The psalm, No.121, ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,’ was sung by members of the male choir and the organist was Ian Mills.
Donations in lieu of flowers were taken up in aid of Foyle Hospice.
e Very Rev Dr William Morton, reinforced the sentiments expressed by Mr Lynd, and described the Late Mr Coulter as “an absolute gentleman”.
He said it was an enormous privilege to minister to Mr Coulter as a member of the Cathedral congregation.
“Indeed, in no small way Billy actually ministered to me by his very nature and example, by putting God first, whom he loved and served so faithfully,” he said, adding that Canon John Merrick had also ministered to Mr Coulter, and he was very pleased that the Canon had been able to take part in the service as well.
He also thanked his predecessor, Dean Cecil Orr for assisting with the service, noting his friendship with Mr Coulter had pre-dated his taking up the reigns as Dean before him.
“They like all of us, pay tribute to a wonderful friend and a faithful and dedicated parishoner,” he said.
Referring to Mr Coulter’s forbearance in the face of illness, he added: “What came across abundantly clear was the wonderful sense of peace and serenity Billy displayed. The quiet but sure trust in the God he so loved and served.”
Following the service the congregation were invited to the Memorial Hall, where refreshments were provided.
After the service Alderman Mary Hamilton paid tribute to the Late Mr Coulter, recalling how he had been a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, based at Bonds Street, and described him as “a dedicated worker right up to the end”.
“On a personal note, Ernie and my lives were greatly enriched by having him as a friend,” she said.
l To read tributes to the
Late Mr Coulter turn to Page 14.