Phil Coulter opens up about devastating loss of brother, sister and father
"That is a picture that will stick with me forever.”
Phil Coulter (Image: Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Derry native Phil Coulter has opened up about losing his brother, sister and father within a year.
The songwriter emotionally revealed to Miriam O’Callaghan on her RTE Radio 1 show about his siblings’ deaths, saying he was “relieved” his father wasn’t alive to see the death of his daughter.
The 80-year-old recalled how he "had enough" of funerals after three of his close family members died.
“The curious thing is they both happened in Lough Swilly. They were two unrelated incidences about a year apart," Mr Coulter said.
“First was my brother, he was windsurfing. He was very confident in windsurfing and went windsurfed all around the world, but this was in the wintertime.
“Normally, they go out in pairs but on this particular occasion, when Brian called for his partner that he normally windsurfed with, he said, ‘Look, I’ve got a birthday party going here with one of my kids. You go ahead Brian and get on the board. I’ll be down in an hour’.”
However, within that hour, a galeforce wind emerged with Phil explaining: “He was blown out to sea and drowned.
“The sad thing is that people on the shoreline could see this windsurfer being knocked off the board. Some even called the guards, but there was no lifeboat, no boats in the water.”
Phil, with the support of friends, established the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to put a boat on Lough Swilly - which to date has saved more than 70 lives.
However, more heartbreak would appear for the Derry musician when his sister Cyd also drowned after she went missing for two days.
“My sister Cyd, not even a lifeboat could have saved her, I’m afraid," he said.
“She was a wonderful girl, very spiritual, very kind and I never heard her say a bad word about anybody. She was just one of those caring, endlessly gracious kind of girls.”
He explained how his Cyd was a counsellor for people with “drug and alcohol problems” and was called to help a client.
Mr Coulter said: “The family were celebrating Cyd’s son’s tenth birthday when she received a phone call that there had been an emergency with one of her cases.
"She told them she would be back and they could then cut the birthday cake.
“But she never came home. I discovered subsequently that it’s not unusual for addicts to obsess about their counsellor and that’s what happened.
“This particular client was on a suicide trip, he was past the point of rescue, but he was determined to take her with him.
“The car was driven off the edge of the pier in Buncrana into Lough Swilly.
“She was missing for a couple of days and that was probably the worst, the darkest hours of all.”
Phil Coulter on Lough Swilly | The Late Late Show | RTÉ One
Damage to the pier in the area prompted the guards to send a Sub-Aqua unit.
Phil emotionally said: “We stood there on the pier as the crane just lifted the car out of the water. Seeing my young sister in the car was a really, really dark hour.
“It was like an out of body experience. I thought I was up there looking down on it. It was just so surreal. That is a picture that will stick with me forever.”
Around the same time, Phil lost his father but he says he was “relieved” he died before Cyd passed away.
“I was kind of relieved that he had passed away before my sister, that would have killed him.