Derry City Council finally pay their [ground rent] debt

As they promised at the time, the BBC report an update on Derry City Council’s attempt to frustrate the legacy of Raymond Saville Conolly de Montmorency Lecky-Browne-Lecky. 

After his death in 1961 the amateur actor’s dying wish was that two charities, the Actors’ Charitable Trust and the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, would benefit from revenues from his estate – including the ground rents from properties he owned in Londonderry. 

One of the ground rents involved was for the City Swimming Baths on William Street, run by Derry City Council.  But the Council hadn’t paid the required £600 per year for some time…

As the BBC’s Julie McCullough now reports

Sharon O’Connor – the chief executive of Derry City Council – said all the money they were due has now been paid.

“We hadn’t been invoiced for almost a decade – so we had no idea at all that anyone was owed anything so when the BBC ran this story I asked people to have a look.

“We had to research our files and to liaise with the legal team acting on behalf of the charities.”

The two charities have received £6,840 between them.

[No idea at all?! – Ed]  That’s not quite how the situation came about in the first place.  As I previously noted from the November BBC report

The BBC has the documents to show that the council was liable to pay these ground rents as far back as 1962.

We also have the documents to show that they had been paying it sporadically as late as the early 1990s – but then the council sent a letter asking for proof that they owed the money.

They wanted a copy of the deed – but solicitor Hugh Logan – who has been looking after the estate for around 30 years – said that wasn’t something they were able to produce.

“The actual document couldn’t be turned up but the fact that the ground landlord, and we are acting on behalf of the ground landlord, couldn’t produce what is called the counterpart deed – the copy deed – the original deed would be in the hands of the person who holds the ground, ie. Derry City Council.”

And the BBC has seen a copy of that deed belonging to Derry City Council – and it clearly says on it that the ground rent is to be paid forever. [added emphasis]

ANYhoo… As the latest BBC report points out

…the two charities will now continue to receive almost £600 every year from the council as part of Browne-Lecky’s legacy.

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  • Surely no story.

    Unless an invoice is provided, and verified, the local authority cannot (or should not) cough. Were the authority to do so, the councillors could individually be surcharged for ultra vires outgoings.

    At least, that’s how it worked through the decade-and-a-bit when I sat on a local council.

    Moreover, if a solicitor cannot shift his … elegant posterior, and access the deeds (by asking the local authority for a shuftee, in this case), that’s also actionable on the grounds of negligence.

    But Derry is where they do things differently.

  • Pete Baker


    Fair enough points, as far as they go.

    But there is the additional factor of Derry City Council seeking proof that the Council was liable to pay these ground rents in the early 1990s. When they had the proof in front of them. And they had been paying the ground rents on that basis since the 1960s.

    That’s the time-frame of interest in this story – not what the current chief executive has to say on the matter.

  • Canny See It Sur

    As a Derry City Council ratepayer I for one think that it’s fantastic that the rates of a city, which include many areas with high child poverty, fuel poverty and just about any other kind of poverty out there, are going towards two charities with no direct link to the city*.

    Lethal, Beezer, Belter!

    *other than a despicable ground rent scam**.

    **no other word for it readily springs to mind.

  • sharon.oconnor

    Derry City Council did not exist in 1962 so whatever arrangements applied then are irrelevant.

    The BBC made a lavish meal of a non story and good luck to them. ( three separate Newsline pieces, website and radio.)

    I first heard about this from the BBC, I was not contacted in the first instance.

    We cannot pay out money without an invoice, perhaps the charities formerly sent in claims (until the 1990’s) and stopped doing so but then it that was the case there is no big, bad Council story?