Representative of one of Ulster’s prominent families

Lt Colonel Denys Rowan-Hamilton was representative of a family whose ancestors first came to Ulster in the early 1600s.

His ancestor James Hamilton, was one of two Scots who settled large numbers of their kith and kin in the Province just ahead of what is termed the official Plantation of Ulster.

When he settled in Killyleagh Castle, James Hamilton built the courtyard walls of the distinctive home and his son, the first Earl of Clanbrassil, subsequently built a second tower as a sign of rising prosperity.

For Denys Rowan-Hamilton the history of the family was important.

When he handed over the keys of Killyleagh Castle to his son Gawn in 2001, he told him that he should ensure the property did not become a millstone around his neck.

But before the conversation had ended he also reminded him that the castle had been in the family for 400 years.

Lt Colonel Denys Archibald Rowan-Hamilton was aged 97 and was born in April 1921, the son of Brigadier Gawain Basil Rowan-Hamilton and Phyllis Frances Blackburn.

He was educated at Wellington College in Berkshire and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

He served during the Second World War and became Aide-de-Camp to the Governor of Southern Rhodesia in 1947, the same year that he was appointed as Member, Royal Victorian Order (MVO).

In 1952 he attended the Staff College in Canada and served as a Major with the 29 th Infantry Brigade in Korea the following year, later serving as Military Secretary to West Africa.

He was associated with the Black Watch Regiment for five years, the first as second in command of the 1st Black Watch Battalion between 1957 and 1959 and secondly as commander of the 45 th Black Watch from 1960 to 1963.

In 1964 he was appointed Defense Attaché to the British Embassy in Damascus and Beirut, a post he held until 1967, when he retired with the rank of Lieutenant.

In 1961 he married Wanda Annette Warburton, daughter of Lt. Colonel Rupert Warburton, and the couple came to live in Killyleagh. They had three children, Constance, Louisa Anne and Gawn.

She was awarded the MBE last year for her services to older people in the Killyleagh and Shrigley communities as well as work with organisations including the Soldiers, Sailors and Families Association (SSAFA). Her husband was very much involved in community initiatives and civic events in the Killyleagh area, including several commemorating the Great War anniversaries.

In 2014 he and his grand-daughter Tara Rowan-Hamilton had the honour of lighting a special candle to commemorate the start of the war at an event in Killyleagh; the candle was one of a number across the UK.

The family was also associated with a military tattoo at Killyleagh Castle to mark the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Royal British Legion in 2011.

The event, which attracted 800 guests was officially opened by Lt Colonel Rowan-Hamilton and culminated in an impressive fireworks display.

He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant of County Down and in 1975 served as High Sheriff of the county. In 1977 he was the first non-unionist or non-nationalist to chair Down District Council, having been elected to represent the Alliance Party. He served for eight years as a councillor.