Phil Coulter says he's 'primarily a Derry man' on being awarded freedom of town he loved so well

Phil Coulter says he's 'primarily a Derry man' on being awarded freedom of town he loved so well

The freedom of Derry has been conferred on musician Phil Coulter (Paul Faith/PA)

Musician Phil Coulter has spoken of his love of Derry as the freedom of the city was conferred on him.

At a special ceremony in the Guildhall the honour was bestowed upon the songwriter and composer after being unanimously approved by members of Derry and Strabane council.

Mr Coulter is one of Derry’s most famous sons having co-written Sandie Shaw’s 1967 Eurovision Song Contest winner Puppet On A String as well as Congratulations for Cliff Richard, which was runner-up the following year.

He also co-wrote a number of hit singles for the Bay City Rollers.

One of his most famous songs, The Town I Loved So Well, pays tribute to his native city.

Whatever else I am - an Irishman, a northerner or an Ulsterman, I am primarily a Derry man. That has always been to the forefront of my thinking.

At the official ceremony, he said he was thrilled and flattered to be told that the vote among councillors had been unanimous.

He said: “At my stage in life I have lived through many configurations of this august body, going right back to the Londonderry Corporation, and for a long time it seemed that councillors could agree on nothing.

“Whatever else I am, an Irishman, a northerner or an Ulsterman, I am primarily a Derry man.

“That has always been to the forefront of my thinking.

“I owe a great debt to Derry and I have often said that my first smart move was being born in Derry.

“Derry made me what I am as a person, as a man and as a musician.

“The benefit of growing up in this city has meant a lot to me.

“I have kept close ties with the city and I always look forward to coming back.”

The musician recalled a civic reception which had been organised for him in Derry after his song won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1967.

Musician Phil Coulter spoke of his pride in his native city as he was awarded the freedom honour (Niall Carson/PA)

“My fondest recollection of that Eurovision period was not Sandie Shaw, not winning Eurovision or being number one in the chart.

“It was when the mayor’s chauffeured car pulled up in Abercorn Terrace to collect the family.”

He added: “This honour is something I will treasure.

“This is very different from gold and silver albums.

“This is very special, from my own people and my own place.

“This is something which means a lot to me. Deep in my heart I will cherish this.”

For all of your success internationally you always found time to give to those closer to home

The Mayor of Derry and Strabane Sandra Duffy, described it as a “special occasion” for the city.

She said: “In what as been a truly illustrious musical career spanning 55 years, Phil has gathered numerous accolades including two Grand Prix Eurovision awards, five Ivor Novello awards, three American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers awards, a Grammy nomination and a meteor award amongst others.

“He has collaborated with some of the world’s finest musicians, moving seamlessly between musical genres, building a repertoire across folk, traditional, pop and classical.

“His astounding ability as a composer and a songwriter has seen him amass 23 platinum discs, 39 gold discs and 52 silver discs.

“Mr Coulter, you have been busy.

“For all of your success internationally you always found time to give to those closer to home.

“You may have gone far but you have never left us.”

As part of the City of Derry International Choir Festival members of the public are being invited to join Mr Coulter for a special performance of The Town I Loved So Well on Saturday.

It takes place at Ebrington Square at 2pm.

The event is also a celebration of the musician’s 80th birthday year.

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