Golden palace and battered silver cup among Peter’s experiences

Master craftsman Peter McNally
Master craftsman Peter McNally

Master craftsman Peter McNally has, over the years, painted and decorated in Saddam Hussein’s golden palace in Iraq; been part of the team preparing Disneyworld Paris; worked on luxury cruisers in Germany; and worked on modern Channel ferries plying the waters from Dover to Calais.

Yet his most treasured memory over the years is finding a battered old silver cup that he discovered while working on a house in Upper Ballinderry on the main road between Moira and Lisburn!

Now 75, Peter has hung up the tools of the trade, and is seeking the history of the cup, on which are engraved the words – ‘Drumcree Nurseries, Challenge Cup, Presented by James Walsh and Sons Limited 1922’.

He recalled, “I’ve had a great career travelling to so many countries and doing such skilled work. I was self-employed, but did many jobs for the Portadown firm ‘De Luxe’. That led to the Iraq job when Saddam Hussein was in charge. We met him and I was actually interviewed by Iraq TV during that one.”

In Germany, they worked in the Bremen area, preparing the luxury liners, and the Disney job was a great coup.

Back to Northern Ireland, in one of their last jobs, they were working on the famous Glebe house, Ballinderry, for a family called Lilburn, and the old silver cup “was kicking about the spare room until one day I had a look at it.”

He then realised that the cup was donated by the Walsh family who ran a famed nursery along Ashgrove Road (aka The Borough Loanin’) and by coincidence Peter and wife Gabrielle live at Ashgrove Manor which is built on the old Walsh land. Peter reckons that the old cup was among the prizes at Portadown Agricultural Show, held at Shamrock Park in its glory days, then at Kernan where it never really appealed, after which it folded. Dick Robb and Jack Mathers were among the managers who ran it over the years.

“I haven’t a clue how the cup ended up in Ballinderry, nor have the Lilburns,” said Peter. “But they let me have it. And I actually met one of the Walsh family – the late Mrs Patsy Irwin who lived at Killicomaine Castle and she invited me up for a chat.”

Now that he’s retired, Peter is turning his attentions to restoring the battered old piece of silverware and he’s on the hunt for a proper base to go with – “and I’d appreciate any help I can get.”

He recalled that he served his time at Lambs of Bridge Street and the set off on a career that he loved – and he keeps his hand in by having perhaps the best decorated house in Portadown and giving friends a helping hand with their interior décor.