The Belfast-born clergyman who had the honour of consecrating the Royal Irish Regiment’s new colours during an historic ceremony at Titanic Slipways on Saturday says he never thought he’d see such an event take place in his home city.
Rev Dr David Coulter, who has served as Chaplain General to Her Majesty’s Land Forces for the past four years, said it was “a huge privilege” to take part in the presentation of colours event – his last official engagement before he finishes his army career later this year.
The new colours, complete with updated battle honours, were presented to the soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the RIR by HRH The Duke of York in front of a crowd of more than 6,500 people. • Read related story here.
Speaking to the News Letter, Major General Coulter, who joined the army during the height of the Troubles, said he never thought he’d see such an event take place in public in Belfast.
“When I joined the army in 1976 Belfast was a very different place and it’s a credit to the people of Belfast that we are now in a much better place today and we’re in a position that we are able to do things like this,” he said.
Rev Coulter, the son of a police officer and a part-time shop assistant, grew up in Dundonald and attended Regent House School in Newtownards before going on to study for a history degree at Queen’s University, during which time he was a cadet officer with the Royal Irish Rangers.
Having completed his officer training at Sandhurst, he served in the Royal Irish Rangers until 1985 before leaving the army and going to St Andrew’s University to complete a theology degree.
After being ordained into the Church of Scotland in the late 1980s, Rev Coulter decided to go back to the army, this time as a chaplain.
The 60-year-old father-of-two, who now lives in Salisbury, has served as an army chaplain for the past 30 years – a role he has thoroughly enjoyed.
Looking ahead to leaving the forces later this year, he says he has loved his time in the army and would strongly recommend it as a career.
“I am leaving the army at the end of the year. It’s been great and I would thoroughly recommend it,” he said.
“In the military you go places that you never thought you’d get the chance to go to. I’ve been to Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Estonia, all over the place. It has been wonderful.
“It is a place of real opportunity and a place where people can grow and end up as better citizens because of it.”
Rev Coulter took over as Chaplain General to Her Majesty’s Land Forces in 2014 – a position he is extremely proud to have held.
“I’ve had lots of career highlights, six operational tours and lots of overseas exercises among them, but particularly the last four years,” he continued.
“I have been lucky enough to be Chaplain General through the 2014 - 2018 period and I’ve taken part in most of the big state national commemoration events and that’s been great, so everything from the Somme, Gallipoli, the 200th anniversary of Waterloo and through to today in Belfast.”
As he looks “back with pride and forward with great hope”, Rev Coulter said he is “now busy job hunting” as he searches for a new role after leaving the army – something which could possibly see him return to ministry with the Church of Scotland.