Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Capper Series: I

Wilfrid Capper MBE (1905-98) was a former Northern Ireland civil servant whose true passion was for the preservation and conservation of the countryside.

He conceived and created The Ulster Way.

The following article is a selective extract from Caring for the Countryside: A History of 50 Years of the Ulster Society for the Preservation of the Countryside, published in 1987.


IT has never been the policy of the Society to acquire land or property itself, though it has helped to raise funds for special places.

However, we made an exception for Coney Island in Lough Neagh, in rather unusual circumstances.

I had come to know Lord Charlemont, the owner, through the Youth Hostel Association and he rang me up one day to ask me if  I would like an island.

I was rather taken aback and asked what island.

"Coney", he said, "I think you would appreciate it."

I thought it was rather like offering a pet dog to someone he thought would look after it.

Lord Charlemont then found he could not give it away and would have to charge even a nominal sum for it.

The minimum price he could charge was £300 and I could have it for that amount.

In 1946 I had not even £300 [about £12,400 in today's money] to spend on an island so our society undertook to raise the money by public subscription.

We then gave the island to the National Trust and allowed the Portadown Scouts to use it for training purposes.

Oddly enough I did later buy an island in Strangford Lough [Inisharoan Island] for the same £300.

I failed to acquire an island in Lough Erne, so as Hitler once said, "This is my last territorial claim."

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