Right Royal day as Garvagh marks historic visit
Fri, June 30, 2023
Prince Edward, The Duke of Edinburgh visited the borough today for a series of engagements hosted by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council – including the first ever Royal visit to Garvagh.
His Royal Highness touched down by helicopter in Garvagh this morning, where he was greeted by Mayor, Councillor Steven Callaghan QPM, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant for Co Londonderry Paula McIntyre MBE and East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell. He met first with several local groups at Garvagh Forest and heard about the new mountain biking and walking trails that have been developed at the site, which covers over 200 hectares.
He was also shown the unique Garvagh Pyramid – thought to be the only Egyptian-style pyramid in Northern Ireland – which was initially created as a burial chamber for Lord Garvagh in the 19th Century, but was never used for its intended purpose.
HRH then rode the short distance into Garvagh village on a Victorian Carriage, courtesy of Clydesdale and Vintage Vehicle Club, who also showed off some of their vintage vehicles. The next stop was a meeting with members of the Royal British Legion at the War Memorial on Main Street, which commemorates the 32 men from the district who lost their lives fighting in the Great War of 1914-1918, as well as those who died in the Second World War.
Hundreds of local primary school children had lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the Royal visitor, and HRH took the time to chat with many of them. He also met representatives from Garvagh Women’s Institute – the oldest WI in Northern Ireland, dating back to 1932 – and was treated to a cookery demonstration.
HRH was also entertained by pupils from Hampsey Harp School, which took its name from Denis Hampsey, the great blind harper and former resident who had the distinction of having lived in three centuries (he was born in 1695 and died in 1807). The school was formed in 1995 and currently has three teachers and an impressive 25 harps.
Representatives from Garvagh Museum were also on hand to explain its unique collection comprising almost two thousand artefacts, which trace the history of the Bann Valley from 3000BC through to the first half of the 20th century.
Finally, HRH met with representatives from Garvagh Development Trust Ltd. This group, formed in 1997, successfully funded the complete restoration of what is now known as the Garvagh Community Building, which now hosts a variety of local groups, businesses and classes in a modern, well-equipped facility.
Following his visit to Garvagh, HRH made the 30-minute journey by car to Downhill on the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route. He was welcomed with a warm drink by local business Al’s Coffee, before making the short walk to Downhill House, where he was accompanied by Patrick Nelson, Chairperson of National Trust and Heather McLachlan, National Trust Director for Northern Ireland.
Here, HRH had the chance to sample some local produce at Taste Causeway stalls, including chocolate truffles from The Chocolate Manor, special edition Coronation-inspired ice cream from Braemar Ice Cream, Giants Basalt Rock Gin from Bushmills-based Basalt Distillery, and rapeseed oil from Limavady business Broighter Gold. The Council wishes to thank Stretch Tents and Canopies Ltd for housing the Taste Causeway producers during the inclement weather conditions.
Next, HRH paused to take in the stunning views of Downhill beach and beyond. The final stop on the Council-hosted tour was a visit to Mussenden Temple, where HRH was entertained with choral pieces by Counterpoint Choir, who were accompanied by local violinist Zak Hassan.
Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, Councillor Steven Callaghan said: “It was an honour to welcome His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh to the borough. Today is extra special for the people of Garvagh, as it represents the first Royal visit to the village.
“During his visit to Garvagh Forest, HRH met a number of local groups including Carn Wheelers Cycle Club, Garvagh Forest and pupils from People’s Forest School, and learned about the many activities that take place there on a regular basis.
“He also met pupils from several local primary schools, included Garvagh PS, Carhill Integrated, St Patrick’s & St Joseph’s, Kilrea PS and Gorran PS. I am sure the visit will be fondly remembered by all those who were present and will go down as a historic day for the village.
“It was also a pleasure to be able to showcase the stunning scenery of the Causeway Coastal Route during the visit to Downhill. The performance by Counterpoint Choir at Mussenden Temple was a fantastic way to cap off the visit.”