Carnlough’s Londonderry Arms Hotel celebrates Winston Churchill links

Denise O'Neill of the Londonderry Arms Hotel, Carnlough, pictured with Stephen White, Stephen White, chairman of the NI Association of Churchill Fellows.  INLT 26-676-CON

Denise O'Neill of the Londonderry Arms Hotel, Carnlough, pictured with Stephen White, Stephen White, chairman of the NI Association of Churchill Fellows. INLT 26-676-CON

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A Carnlough hotel has hosted a special event celebrating its close ties to Sir Winston Churchill, half-a-century after his death.

The Londonderry Arms Hotel was briefly owned by the former Prime Minister in the 1930s, and it continues to retain its strong association with the man to this day.

Before his death in 1965, Churchill was adamant that he did not wish to have another statue as his memorial, so he approved the setting up of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust as his living legacy for the benefit of future generations.

Since its inception, over 5,000 men and women in the UK have been awarded Churchill Travelling Fellowships. The programme provides a unique opportunity for UK citizens from all backgrounds to acquire innovative ideas abroad in their own field of interest and return home with enhanced expertise.

The late Frank O’Neill – one of Ireland’s most renowned hoteliers who ran the Londonderry Arms for many years – was himself a Churchill Fellow, having travelled to the USA to study the hospitality sector in 1987. The hotel is now run by his widow, Denise.

In honour of the hotel’s connections with Churchill, members of the NI Association of Travelling Fellows gathered for a special dinner.

Adding an extra layer of significance to the occasion was a letter from Churchill’s great-grandson, Randolph Churchill, paying tribute to the O’Neill family.

In his letter, Mr Churchill welcomed the Fellows to the event said it was “fitting” that for the past 60 years, the hotel has been run by the family of Travelling Fellow Frank.

Meanwhile, Fellows were also treated to the sight of a famous Churchill quilt on display in the hotel.

Made over 25 years ago by Mary Maynes, the eye-catching quilt once hung on a wall of the Bletchley Park Mansion in Buckinghamshire, but now adorns a wall in the Londonderry Arms.

Henrietta Price, outgoing secretary of the NI Chucrhill Fellows told the Times: “We had a very nice time at the Londondeery Arms and it was lovely to see the beautiful quilt on display.

“We also received a very kind letter from Randoplh Churchill, which was framed and presented to our outgoing chairman, Stephen White.”

Denise O’Neill added: “My staff and I were honoured and delighted to host this event. For some of our long-serving members it brought back happy memories of when Frank travelled to study in the USA.”