Tributes to Colonel Rowan-Hamilton – a giant in Killyleagh

Tributes to Colonel Rowan-Hamilton – a giant in Killyleagh

16 May 2018

TRIBUTES have been paid to Lieutenant Colonel Denys Rowan-Hamilton, of Killyleagh, who has died at the age of 97.

Formerly of Killyleagh Castle, Col Rowan Hamilton enjoyed a distinguished military and diplomatic career before he came to Killyleagh in 1967. 

From the moment he arrived to take on the family’s ancestral seat, he made an enormous contribution to public life in the area and holds the distinction of being the only Alliance chairman of the former Down Council. 

He was elected the district’s first citizen in 1977 and was also a former High Sheriff of Co Down and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the county.

Two years ago, Col Rowan-Hamilton joined Killyleagh’s Somme anniversary celebrations and in 2014 was given the honour of lighting a lantern to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War.

Col Rowan-Hamilton’s own military career saw him follow in his father Guy’s footsteps and after service in the Second World War and the Korean War, in which he was seriously wounded, he commanded the Black Watch between 1960 and 1963. He was Defence Attache to the British Embassy in Damascus and Beirut between 1964 and 1967.

Despite his distinguished public service, his greatest pride was in his family. He was particularly proud that his son Gawn, daughter-in-law Polly and family carry forward the Rowan-Hamilton name at Killyleagh Castle.

He is survived by his wife, Wanda, children Constance, Louisa and Gawn and wider family circle.

A private family cremation service was held yesterday at Roselawn. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Downpatrick councillor, Dermot Curran, who served alongside Col Rowan-Hamilton when he was elected to Down Council in 1973 — following the reorganisation of local government — described him as a “diplomat.”

He said the Col Rowan-Hamilton was someone who could “always see the big picture” and was keen to see the development of sports provision across the district and secure new jobs for local people.

“Denys had great vision and was a chairman who wanted to get the business done efficiently,” Cllr Curran continued.

“He was a very fair chairman and councillor and was highly respected. Denys was not one for wasting time during the meetings and the business was conducted expeditiously. As a council chairman and council colleague, he was courteous to us all and a very pleasant man who was always engaging.”

Cllr Curran also revealed that one Christmas Col Rowan-Hamilton invited all of the 23 councillors to Killyleagh Castle for dinner which was both a surprise and a delight.

He added: “I know the thoughts and prayers of many will be with the Rowan-Hamilton family at this sad time. Denys has certainly left his mark on the area, none more than so in Killyleagh which was home for many years.”

Councillors Billy Walker and Terry Andrews have also paid tribute to Col Rowan-Hamilton.

Cllr Walker described him as “one of Killyleagh’s true gentlemen” and revealed he got to know the Colonel after he entered local politics to represent the Rowallane area.

“The Colonel was one of three war veterans in Killyleagh alongside Andy Andrews and Martin Charters and I was delighted the three of them were able to attend a reception I organised at the council’s headquarters when I was the district’s first citizen,” he said.

“I was a young man when the Colonel was a member of the council and he was the man who was able to help secure Killyleagh’s sports pitches. My thoughts and prayers at this time are with his wife, Wanda, and the family circle.”

Cllr Andrews extended his sympathy and support to the Rowan-Hamilton family.

He added: “The Colonel left his mark on Killyleagh and was highly regarded by people across the town and surrounding area. He will be sadly missed, none more so than by his Wanda and the close family circle,” he said.

“The Colonel was the epitome of service not self and did so much for Killyleagh and its people over many years. Our thoughts are with his nearest and dearest.”