Tour of the House
The Hall and Morning Room
The brilliant blue of the Hall gives a dramatic introduction to the house, and was chosen to match the blue in the two Chinese scrolls which Hill brought from Peking in 1936. By the front door hangs Study of Fruit by Louis le Brocquy while over the door to the morning room is a framed square of Willow Boughs wallpaper, designed by William Morris in 1897. The Morning Room continues the Chinese theme with wood-block prints of two warriors, scenes from traditional Chinese theatre and oriental bamboo and lacquer furniture. An old display stand contains Victorian and Edwardian postcards while the loving-cup on the table is a fine example of Wemyss Ware.
The Dining Room
Designed especially for evening use, the dark green wallpaper and the glow of the lamps give this room a cosy, relaxed feeling. The richness of colour is enhanced by the Turkish paper in the alcoves and the wealth of items in the room. The four paintings are by Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-73), famous for his ‘sentimental’ paintings of animal scenes. The inlaid dining table, of Continental make, depicts the various Arts. It dates from the mid-nineteenth century. The tiles set into the mantelpiece are by William de Morgan while the painting above the fireplace of the Dromara Hills in Co. Down is by the Antrim artist Basil Blackshaw.
The Drawing Room and Japanese Room
Warmed by the rich gold of the carpet and the Turkish paper in the alcove, the pale lavender of hte walls is complemented by the many purple and mauve objects in the room. To the left of the window, a display cabinet contains decorative pieces from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Above the fireplace, which came from Lough Veagh House, the painting, Evening Thames at Chiswick was painted by Victor Pasmore in the 1940s. On either side, the two small paintings are by the Italian painter Antonio Music. To the right of the fireplace a chines cabinet with ceramic insets holds a collection of shells. The two largest paintings ni the room are by Derek Hill. Over the couch is Donegal, Late Harvest (1959) painted from the bridge on the way to Church Hill; the other is of Hill’s favourite dog, Ceasar.
To the left of the fireplace, and archway opens into the Japanese Room. The oriental feel is enhanced by the Chinese Lacquer writing desk while the mainly nineteenth-century Japanese wood-block prints hanging on bamboo-printed paper include works by leading Japanese artists.
This has changed little since St Columb’s was a hotel. The dresser, containing a variety of Wemyss Ware has been brightened by painting it a deep red with blue and white stripes on the backboard. The pipe work has also been painted different colours. The paintings around the kitchen are mainly by the Tory Island Painters while, by the window, the portrait by Derek Hill is of his housekeeper, Gracie McDermott.
Back Hall, Stairs, and Landing
The walls of the back hall and stairs are covered with paintings, mainly the works of Hill’s contemporaries and friends. The wallpaper around the window on the return is a William Morris design called Apple. On the upstairs landing is a cartoon for a stained glass window, Christ in Judgement, by the Irish stained glass designer Evie Hone (1894-1955).
The Rose Bedroom
This bright and airy guest bedroom has strips of patterned pink and grey wallpaper at intervals around the room. These colours are continued in the selection of Wemyss Ware. The screen, made for an Edwardian nursery, is decorated with Christmas cards and pictures of interest to a small child. The two large windows allow fine views of the gardens and lake.
The walls and ceiling are covered with a William Morris Blackthorn design paper with bookshelves filled with books, periodicals, paintings, Staffordshire figures and family photographs. William de Morgan tiles surround the fireplace above which hangs Waves in Sicily by John Bratby (b.1928). The bronze head of Derek Hill was sculpted by John Sherlock about 1958.
The Morris Bedroom
The wallpaper, carpet and curtains are all William Morris and Co. products. The wallpaper is called Golden Lily, the carpet is hand-knotted and close in style to those produced by Morris in the 1880s. The Peacock and Dragon woven woolen fabric of the curtains was the most expensive produced by the company. The mahogany Half-tester bed was bought from Lough Veagh House and the American appliqué quilt from Alabama dates from the 1830s. Beside the bed hangs John Bratby’s Jean in Bed with Jaundice, the brilliant colours and feverish atmosphere characteristic of his work.
The Master Bedroom
Derek Hill’s former bedroom is hung in a striking blue and grey wallpaper. The bed was bought locally but the embroidered bedspread came from India. The large wardrobe of satinwood dates from around 1890. The many small paintings and drawings hanging in the room are by friends of Hill’s and served as mementos of them.