An Appreciation: Annesley Malley

Mon, Jan 16, 2012, 00:00

AS Derry prepares to become the UK City of Culture 2013, it has lost a hero of heritage-led regeneration; a generous, quietly-spoken champion of heritage awareness and conservation for the whole of the northwest of this island. To simply call Annesley Malley a historian would not do him justice. In a world in which heritage is often neatly compartmentalised, he gave equal status to, and fought for, the built and natural cultural legacy of this corner of Ulster in a quiet and unassuming way, but with the kind of confidence which flows from thorough research, skill and knowledge.

Born in Co Down, Annesley was educated at Regent House School in Newtownards and lived with his grandmother at her farm at Ballybeen House, Comber after his father was killed in a plane crash coming home from Italy during the second World War. With his agricultural background he had an abiding interest in the rural environment and its preservation. After grammar school he moved to the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester where he qualified as a chartered surveyor. He was land agent at estates in counties Down and Tyrone in the early 1960s and then moved to the public domain.

Working firstly with Londonderry Development Commission and then the Lands Service at the Department of Environment until 1983, Annesley in 1984 became head valuer at the Valuation and Lands Agency, where he remained until taking early retirement in 1996.

Retirement for Annesley was not for sitting back; he was to serve on many governmental and voluntary committees concerned with the built and natural heritage of all of Ulster including the Woodland Trust, the Historic Monuments Council, the North West Archaeological and Historical Society, the Agricultural Heritage Society, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside. As founding member of the Foyle Civic Trust in 1989 he was one of the key players in establishing an organisation whose underlying motivation is civic pride and a desire to treasure the precious heritage of the city and its environs. He served on the National Trust Regional Committee for Northern Ireland for some 25 years. For many, Prehen House is synonymous with Annesley and the opening of Prehen House to the public was something he was particularly proud of. In 2007 he received the MBE award for his services to the environment.

Annesley was a wonderful teacher and mentor and lived and led in the best way possible, by example and encouragement; and he managed all of this without pomposity. He seemed such a formidable character until he gave you a wink with one of his wry smiles.

It was fitting that his funeral service was in St Columb’s Cathedral on his beloved Derry Walls as he had contributed so much to the heritage awareness of this sacred and ancient site, having served as Rector’s Churchwarden. It was also most appropriate that after his burial in the graveyard of the historic church of St Canice in Eglinton that family and friends returned to Prehen House, overlooking his beloved city, to celebrate his inheritance. He is survived by his wife Dorothy and daughters Siobhan and Deirdre.

Derry and indeed the whole of the north west has lost a champion, but as it approaches the year of culture 2013 the legacy of his achievements will endure and inspire.