The Protestant rectory at Redford, Culdaff was the social hub of east Inishowen in the early nineteenth century. It was far removed from the great events of the period, such as the 1798 Rebellion,the passing of the Act of Union in 1800 and the Napoleonic Wars. The first occupants were Rev. Edward Chichester, a Clonmany man born and bred, and his beautiful young wife, a landlord’s daughter, Catherine Young of Culdaff House. Catherine’s family connections ensured that that the rectory had its share of distinguished guests, such as the Montgomerys of Moville, the Harts of Muff, the Lawrences (with their Indian associations), and the Harveys of Malin Hall to name but a few. Visitors had to be entertained and Catherine was the perfect hostess as she looked after her guests and her four young sons.
But her husband, Edward, also played his part and his particular contribution was in the world of music. His father, William, rector of Clonmany, played the violin, which can be seen hanging in the drawing room (see earlier post). A century earlier, the Vaughans at Buncrana Castle gave lodgings to celebrated harpers including O’Hampsey, Carragher and others. But by the early 1800s the modest rectory at Redford had replaced Vaughan’s impressive pile as the best place to hear good music in the peninsula, if not the north of Ireland.
The unknown and unreported world of the Redford musical arcadia came to light ten years ago during an auction at Christies in London. An auctioneer produced an unknown Haydn Mass and the bidding started at £10,000. It was an exciting discovery in the world of classical music and before the hammer struck, the Mass was sold for £140,000. The manuscript had originally come from Redford rectory. The Chichesters later moved to Shane’s Castle, Co. Antrim, where they took the title of Baron O’Neill and the manuscript was hidden in a scrapbook. A portrait of Caherine Young still hangs in Shane’s Castle, a reminder of the links with Redford rectory. (Thanks to Lord’O’Neill for this information). The manuscript had escaped the fire in 1922 that destroyed the great Music Room at the Castle and was discovered in the roof of a property owned by John McClintock, Red Hall, Ballycarry, a relation of the Chichesters. His great-grandfather was Rev. William Chichester, who was the first to hold the title Baron O’Neill. William was the son of Rev. Edward mentioned above.
McClintock had struck gold. He was experiencing financial pressures as he attempted to restore the roof of the Red Hall when he made the discovery. The Redford scrapbook also contained letters, autographs, and compositions of Mendelsohn, Beethoven and Schumann. They fetched a further £19,000. With a fine new roof over his head, he was indeed laughing all the way to the bank.
The Haydn Mass was originally bought from Haydn’s publisher, Artania, by the publisher, Novello in Vienna in 1829 for six florins. The departure of the Chichesters from Redford in the mid-eighteenth century brought a great silence in its wake. New tenants arrived but the building was demolished around 1900. Thankfully the walled garden was left intact. You can still visit the garden and see the islands of Jura and Islay through its bare window-style openings. You won’t hear any music apart from the sounds of the waters below, but if you have your iphone, you can turn to You Tube, listen to Haydn and re-create another world.
A former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Capt. Terence O’Neill, great-great-grandson of Rev. Edward Chichester, spoke lovingly in his autobiography of the family’s great musical traditions, which are still alive in the O’Neill households. He was familiar with the rectory at Redford. Or perhaps it may be argued that it all began in Clonmany with that violin hanging on the wall. Perhaps I am showing some bias, as Redford rectory is a few yards from where I live. Well, let’s put it this way…..the honour can be shared by both Clonmany and Redford. Now, try Haydn’s Mass on You Tube.