Freedom of Derry: Town he loves so well honours cherished son Phil Coulter

Councillors were singing of the same hymn sheet when they unanimously agreed to confer the honour of the Freedom of the City on Mr Phil Coulter.

The renowned musician, songwriter and record producer who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, has amassed 23 platinum discs, 39 gold discs, 52 silver discs and a plethora of other awards including the Gold Badge from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

The accolade comes less than a year after Phil Coulter was named as the 2021 recipient of the Derry Journal’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual awards last September.

Bringing the motion forward Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle spoke of his shock to discover that Phil Coulter had not already been included on the roll of Freemen of the city.

Derry legend: Pictured at the Foyle Legends bus unveiling in Guildhall Square back in 2017 were Phil Coulter, James McClean's wife Erin McClean and James McClean's children, Allie-Mae and Junior McClean.

He said: “One of the things people know about Phil is that he is a proud Derry man and we obviously know the many accolades he has been awarded over the many years, not just for his songwriting but also for his singing.  He is much-loved throughout Ireland and further afield.

“When I looked at the great names of recent times on the roll of Freemen it would be remiss of us as a city not to point to Phil and express our pride in him, pride in his work and pride that he is from this city and he is a major ambassador for music, talent and entertainment right across the music and entertainment scene.

“He is also someone who has never forgotten where he comes from and recently he has been playing gigs here in the city. When I spoke to him about five or six weeks ago and told him that I had planned to do this and to seek his permission, he was blown away and I think that’s the measure of the man.

“I want to say to Phil, thank you, I want to say to his team thank you and in recognition of all of those things on behalf of the town he loved so well I would like to move forward and award him the Freedom of the City.”

A son of Derry: Phil Coulter.

Seconding the motion Alliance Councillor Rachael Ferguson described Mr Coulter as a ‘son of the city’, praising the work he has done ‘highlighting the good that comes from the city’.

She added: “I think this is a great way that we, as a city, can show him our appreciation for all that he has done for the city and district. He has always been a shining light on our city highlighting the many talents and the culture that we have and he has been a huge ambassador for the north west.”

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney spoke of a special moment he experienced with his sons.

“I was very privileged to spend some time in the Guildhall last year with my two sons when Phil was recording ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ for his good friend John Hume which was aired on St Patrick’s Day and it was really, really moving,” he said. “It was a privilege for me to spend that time and that special moment with my two sons.”

Councillor Tierney recalled later chatting to Phil Coulter in the Mayor’s Parlour adding: “A lot of that time Phil was telling me how at the stage of life he is at now, he is helping, encouraging and supporting younger musicians coming up from Derry and across Ireland. I think that’s the mark of the man who has done all and has achieved all he has in his own career.”

There were many plaudits for the award winning songwriter and performer with Sinn Fein Councillor Emma McGinley calling him a ‘proud son of Derry’ and UUP Alderman Darren Guy describing him as ‘an absolute gentleman’ and very worthy of this award.

The Mayor, Alderman Graham Warke and other councillors spoke about how they were all looking forward to the day when Phil Coulter will receive this award before Councillor Doyle summed up adding: “This is something many people in the city would like to attend and if we could do that then it would be fantastic.”