Mystery of old key’s links to Banbridge Hospital

Ray Friend holds the key presented to the Duchess of Abercorn in January 1933 to mark the opening of Banbridge Hospital. US1451-502cd  Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Ray Friend holds the key presented to the Duchess of Abercorn in January 1933 to mark the opening of Banbridge Hospital. US1451-502cd Picture: Cliff Donaldson

A Lisburn man has revealed a mysterious connection to Banbridge after he found an old key recently.

The key, which is described as ‘quite ornate’, isn’t just any old key, however.

In fact it has links to Royalty, having been presented in 1933 to the Duchess of Abercorn, who was the great-grandmother of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Ray Friend contacted the Leader after he started going through his mother’s belongings and he came across the key.

He commented: “It was in a box of coins and photos and stuff, the key was in the bottom of the box, I’d never seen it before.

“My mother died six years ago and there were lots of boxes of photos and belongings and it was up to me to sort through it all but I never got around to it.

“It’s a bit of a mystery,” he added.

“The key is quite ornate, it has two shields on it. On one side it says ‘Presented to Her Grace, The Duchess of Abercorn, 11th January 1933’. On the reverse it says, ‘On the occasion of the opening of Banbridge Hospital’.

“I don’t know how my mother got it. She worked in Belvoir Park Hospital in the 1970s, but only as an orderly, she wasn’t medical at all.

“We have no connections at all to Banbridge to my knowledge, it is a bit strange,” Ray said.

“My daughter will now keep the key as a keepsake of my mother. However, it would be nice to know where it came from and how it got here. Did the Duchess forget it?

“When I was trying to find Banbridge Historical Society on the net I found links to Lady Diana, which is interesting.”

A quick web search revealed that the Duke of Abercorn in 1933 was James Hamilton, the 3rd Duke of Abercorn, born in Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, London in 1869.

The Duke was a British peer and unionist politician and he was the first Governor of Northern Ireland, a post he held between 1922 and 1945. He was a Great-grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Duchess, to whom the key was presented, was Rosalind Hamilton, a British aristocrat and Duchess by marriage.

She was the great-grandmother of Princess Diana.

Lady Rosalind was the daughter of Charles George Bingham, 4th Earl of Lucan and Lady Cecilia Catherine Gordon-Lennox.

The Duchess was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) by Queen’s University, Belfast in 1944.

If you know anything about the history of the key, how it may have ended up with Ray’s mother, or the opening of Banbridge Hospital please contact Stacey Heaney at the Leader on 92679111, or email stacey.heaney@jpress.co.uk